Hit and runners
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 12/23/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When last we saw the Ship of Aurora, it had been smacked and scraped by a hit-and-run sub -- and the captain wants some revenge.
Fortunately the revenge quest doesn't darken the mood of the second volume of "The Mars Daybreak," which is still a fairly bright and sunny affair. The non-Gram pirates have some time to shine at last, and the writers also introduce a new sidekick and a few potential villains -- all while keeping the relaxed vibe very much intact.
The Ship of Aurora follows the kidnappers to an abandoned city ship, where the forces of idiotic student communism and gung-ho pirates clash as the city ship falls to pieces. Then a trip to a port goes horribly wrong when Gram and Enora encounter Kubernes, a lethal mercenary pirate hired to take Enora Taft back. Except she doesn't want to go back -- and Kubernes soon becomes far more interested in the mystery necklace Gram is wearing.
Not that they can get away from him for long. Both Earth Forces and the pirates attend a shipboard ball hosted by the pompous Niall Poe -- until they're attacked by Kubernes' very unique Round Buckler. He wants Gram to join him (cue slashy dialogue) because of the magic golden necklace.
Then there's something required in every anime -- during a special day where satellites cannot detect the sub, the pirates get to soak in in the deck's vast hot tub. After the required double-entendres ("Wow, I guess mine IS twice as big as yours"), they're interrupted by a vast manta-ray type creature -- but timid empath Megumi reveals that it's no average sea monster.
Finally the mystery of Gram's necklace is revealed when the Ship of Aurora visits the Mars Aborigines (who are a bit too modern and "normal" for Enora's taste). Gram rescues an old lady from a local mob boss's thugs, and in turn is given the key to his necklace's true purpose -- if he can get another magical Aborigine artifact. Of course, it isn't that easy.
After a bunch of standalone stories of Martian piracy, "The Mars Daybreak" develops something like a plot arc -- mysterious artifacts, stories of treasure, a backstory for the people of Mars, and a villain (Kubernes) who actually seems halfway competent (unlike the idiot president) and has a giant Round Buckler shaped like an evil mermaid.
Granted, the plot arc isn't terribly all-encompassing -- our heroes still have time to goof around on side trips and investigate strange creatures (the whole episode with Megumi and the mantas seems like a seaborne episode of "Star Trek"). And there's plenty of lighthearted dialogue ("So far we've been able to escape the sadistic oppression of the system!") and action both in and out of the water (including Gram's clever destruction of some construction equipment).
Gram is still the good-hearted, lovable hero of this series, but these episodes put a bit more emphasis on the other pirates -- the stoic sea witch Ester, flying porpoise Poipoider, the timid Megumi (whom Junior clearly has a thing for) and others. Even Elizabeth shows a different side... and that different side looks like a linebacker in a pretty dress.
These episodes also introduce a couple of other characters: the wry, dangerous mercenary Kubernes, and the annoying Terran president's granddaughter Enora. She may be smart, but her voice and manner could etch glass.
The second volume of "The Mars Daybreak" plants the seeds of a series-long arc, and helps viewers get to know the pirates as well. Lighthearted sci-fi fun."