Miniskirt Space Pirates:~ Shikkoku Nanpasen (ミニスカ宇宙海賊4 漆黒の難破船), Volume 4 of the Bodacious Space Pirates series, is the first novel of the series that did not have an accompanying anime arc – as a result it took me a lot longer to read this volume. ^_^
Volume 4 is also the first volume that engages in a little bit of space pirate otakudom. Instead of the seemingly inevitable long, lingering descriptions of sexy ships (which we’ve never had to endure, in fact) we get snippets of galactic war and the history of the various “original seven” pirate ships – of which two are Marika’s own Bentenmaru and Chiaki’s Dad’s ship, the Barbarossa*…and the Hakuoh Girls’ Academy Yacht Club training ship, the Odette II.
In fact, back during the galactic wars the Odette had been known as the Whitebird. Although we don’t yet know how Hakuoh got a hold of it (except that former club president Jenny had something to do with it), there it is. Marika’s captaining a second ship, while club president Lynn sits in the seat for Tactical, manning sensors, radar and electronic warfare. During the practice cruise, the Yacht Club receives an SOS from another of the original seven – the Blackbird, which had been lost a long, long time ago, or so we all thought. But there it is, transmitting an SOS.
Marika consults with Chiaki and her father and they come to the conclusion that the signal is a fake – but why? Back at school, the Yacht Club is visited by the most suspicious character ever, a man wearing a patchwork jacket and who is obviously lying when he says he works for the government as a tax collector, by the name of Jackie Celsius. Celsius is so extremely suspicious that Lynn, when Jackie enters the clubroom during a meeting, only introduces Marika and Gruier by their first names. Jackie proceeds to tell them a whopper about how they owe back taxes on the Odette. Thankfully, Lynn is cool-headed and doesn’t buy it. They send Jackie on his way.
This does not stop Jackie from trying Plan B – hacking the Odette’s controls. In order to escape “the hacker” (which they suspect is Jackie, but can’t yet confirm), the Yacht Club sneaks out of the midway station with an incredibly clever ruse. Marika pulls in a favor from the cruise ship The Princess Apricot, and the Odette leaves the dock in it’s shadow. This was a really good scene, full of fun tension.
Once out of the dock, Lynn turns her attention to reversing the hack and finding Jackie. Unfortunately, she’s unable to stop him from escaping her and getting hold of the Odette. Marika, Gruier and Lynn take Jenny’s Silent Whisper protoype and leave the Odette.
From this point on the book is intense and smart and impossible to animate, as almost all the action is talking heads. ^_^ Damn shame, because it was a great story!
Marika enlists the help of the Bentenmaru, and they track down Jackie – whose “real” name is Jackie Fahrenheit, orz . His ship is cloaked by the gravitation of a red supergiant…and so is what may in fact be the real Blackbird. Gruier takes center stage, as Marika and Lynn work in the background to detach Jackie’s paws from the Odette. Gruier talks to Jackie as Communications Officer, keeping so calm and so cool and not giving herself away, even when he threatens to call the Galactic Police on them. He gives up the fact that he’s contracting for someone…probably another insurance company, and that his real objective is to get to the Blackbird to acquire whatever weaponry it had.
Lyn wrests control from the odious Jackie and frees the Odette with the help of the Bentenmaru and a last minute ride down the hill from the Barbarossa. But Jackie himself slips out of their grip and disappears.
As the book winds down, Marika is pondering the genuine need to understand the Odette better and master her many secrets. “I wonder if we can find someone who knows about it…” she muses out loud. At which point a voices comes over the comm saying…. “I guess you could say I may or may not be that person…”
As Marika’s head explodes, the voice goes on to clarify, “This is Ririka, formerly captain of the Whitebird.”
Well, if Marika’s mother was the captain of the Whitebird, there’s one more connection between it and the Hakuoh Yacht Club….
Jackie was a loathesome, annoying bad guy – he was perfect. You have to despise him as he’s being super condescending.
Gruier was the real star of the volume, as her diplomacy skills cloaked Lynn’s cracking efforts…and I really cannot wait to begin the next volume! (I have to get through a few other things first though.) Ultimately, it’s the writing that really makes this series crackle. You keep coming up against things that could be handled stereotypically and the characters never do. They rely on their own skills and forge new, very exciting paths.
Art – 6 Meh. They still illustrate all the wrong scenes.
Story- 9 It got off to a slow start, but the last 100 pages, I was staying up way too late at night trying to get through them. ^_^
Characters – 10 The way these young ladies are written is perfect. We know everything about their leadership and decision-making skills, and nothing about the length of their skirts.
Yuri – 0 Except for brief mentions of Jenny, there ain’t nothing. waah( T_T)
Service – 2 Jackie gets a bit creepy. Which works, as he’s supposed to be unlikable. (There’s a subtle hint there, creepy=unlikable. ^_^)
Overall – 8
Captain Ririka! \o/
Skikkoku Nanpasen translates to something like “jet black shipwreck” in case you’re interested.
This novel is available on Kindle for those with Japanese IP addresses.
* Yes, yes, I know the official name is the Barbalusa. It should be the Barbarossa. :-P