Takashi Watanabe, best known for directing Slayers and Boogiepop Phantom, released a little gem called Space Pirate Mito back in 1999. The show never gained much popularity here in the west, despite being animated by the prestigious Triangle Staff studio. It may be due to its kiddish nature, or maybe because of its narrative absurdity. It’s a shame, because Space Pirate Mito is full of heart and charm. Its silliness is occasionally overbearing, but it’s balanced by fantastic action sequences and lovable characters.
The show revolves around a young teenager, Aoi, whose father passed away ten years ago. He’s eagerly awaiting his mother’s return from New York, where she’s been modeling for the past few years. Unfortunately for Aoi, his entire life is a lie. Her mother’s modeling job is a sham to cover up her true identity. Mito isn’t a tall slender magazine model, instead she’s a child sized alien who’s on the run from the Galactic Police. The mother figure is a space outfit that Mito uses to both disguise her identity, and combat her foes. The plot is silly from the very beginning, and it becomes more bizarre and harder to follow as the story progresses.
"Space Pirate Mito is full of heart and charm. Its silliness is occasionally overbearing, but it’s balanced by fantastic action sequences and lovable characters."
Since Space Pirate Mito is geared towards a younger audience, there’s little emphasis on common sense and overall coherency. In one of the earlier episodes, Mito explains that she and Aoi’s father fell in love many years ago, and that he knew of her secret all along. It’s also important to note that despite her childlike appearance, Mito is thousands of years old. Here’s where things get strange. Despite her age, Mito still has the appearance of a small, very small, child. This means Aoi’s father fell in love with an underage girl before discovering her alien identity. Weird and awkward? Yes, but it doesn’t stop there. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that something absolutely absurd happens to Aoi hallway through the show, and the only explanation we’re given is that there’s a biological oddity within Mito’s species.
"Its strength lies in the wonderfully animated action sequences and characters. Mito and her fellow space pirates have great chemistry, and the villains are equally entertaining."
There’s no point in trying to make sense of Space Pirate Mito’s storyline. It’s a mess, and it rarely makes sense, but that’s ok. In a way, Mito feels like a short season of Power Rangers. Its strength lies in the wonderfully animated action sequences and characters. Mito and her fellow space pirates have great chemistry, and the villains are equally entertaining. Aoi is arguably the weakest character, and his mopey attitude isn’t much fun during earlier episodes. His character grows and becomes more interesting later on, but the whole cliche sad-mystery-boy persona is irritating.
Space Pirate Mito deserves applause for its explosive action scenes. One of the enemies transforms objects into combat robots, and it’s exciting to see something like a soda machine turn into a massive weapon. The animation is fluid, and the entire show radiates with bright colors and meticulously painted backgrounds. Unfortunately, the show occasionally relies on awful CGI to save on animation costs. These scenes are brief, and they’re usually just a poorly animated shot of a space vessel, but they stick out like a sore thumb.
"The show is a rarity, and this complete DVD set is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy Watanabe’s quirkier work."
The DVD remaster isn’t as strong as Lucky Penny’s work on the Ranma 1/2 and Cat’s Eye series. The colors are washed out and the contrast ratio isn’t properly adjusted. As a result, the show looks older than it really is. Cat’s Eye originally aired in 1983, and Space Pirate Mito looks like it came out around the same time. However, this may not be entirely Lucky Penny’s fault. It’s possible that they’ve been given a poorly maintained original, and based on their previous work, I’m betting that’s the case. But even with the low-quality transfer, the show looks great. Its strong art direction impresses thoroughly, and the audio is clean without any distortions.
Space Pirate Mito may not be as thrilling as Watanabe’s Slayers, but it’s a fun pastime that provides plenty of laughs and cool action sequences. The show is a rarity, and this complete DVD set is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy Watanabe’s quirkier work. Horrid CGI aside, it’s a great looking show that boasts some of the most unique character designs I’ve seen in a long time. Despite its odd plot, it’s an enjoyable, albeit brief, adventure that’s sure to please both younger and older viewers alike.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Published by: Right Stuf | Review Format: DVD