I'm terribly fond of Mito. I bought the DVDs years ago, watched them and loved them... or at least that's what my memory tells me. Here's what I wrote back then:
"I'm glad I bought it, but I didn't love it as much as I hoped I would. Don't get me wrong; it's entertaining and quite sweet. I even enjoy its kiddie-targeted storytelling and character designs, but it falls apart a little towards the end. The villain's not scary and there's too much running around, getting captured and escaping. You could cut a good few episodes from that running time, although that said I'm impressed by the attempt to create such a plot-heavy show."
I then went on to wibble about the last episode.
Hmmm. That's all true. The plotting's a bit unfocused in the later episodes, but ep.13's gloriously mental and I'm charmed by the relationships of Mito, her son Aoi and all the other pirates, space cops, galactic tyrants and would-be girlfriends. I'd forgotten the things I was more hesitant about. In my memory, it was fantastic.
Anyway, the show's second season took five years to come out on R1 DVD. I bought it, obviously, but then never got around to watching it. Years passed. Then, more recently, I was looking through my DVDs for anime that's fit to watch with a three-year-old in the room. (It's a shorter list than I'd expected.) My search brought up Space Pirate Mito and I leapt upon it. I remembered loving Season 1 and I still hadn't watched Season 2. It would also be perfect for Natsuki. Naturally I started by rewatching from the beginning, which brings us here.
Sometimes, when the memory cheats, it's right. This show is as fantastic as I'd been imagining, rather than as I'd thought on first viewing all those years ago.
I think my love comes partly from the title sequence. I know I've banged on about this kind of thing before, but this one really does set the show's tone. It's set to a bouncy poppy song that's so happy that you might find yourself singing it in the bath... but there's quite a lot of melancholy in the lyrics and even occasionally the visuals. I find it oddly moving to hear that bombastically upbeat song cheering on Miko as she wipes away a tear as she sits alone at a street food stall, late at night.
You see, this show is a kiddie cartoon with a heart. Miko's a space pirate with pigtails that look like draught excluders, while her crew are cartoon animals. Her enemies keep attacking her with ever-sillier giant robots. Aoi's problems include: (a) alien supervillains, and (b) what to tell his friends at school. His teacher defeats a galactic police assault team by lecturing them on how they don't have enough love, which makes them cry and rugby-pile her. This show is loud, brash and daft. Natsuki enjoyed it.
Underneath all that, though, it's about a son who refuses to admit that his mother is his mother. Aoi doesn't know he's half-alien. He thinks his mother is a top model who's always working in New York, whereas in fact that's a robot suit Mito's always worn when she comes to visit. (Mito's real form looks human, but she only looks eight years old despite being over 12,000.) Despite the space pirate antics, this show is and will always be about Mito and Aoi. There's even a series bible saying so. The show's creator wrote it for anyone who might choose to continue the show after him. It says that no matter what happens in space, the story must always be about Mito and Aoi and it must always be resolved in Aoi's little home town in Japan.
That's what I love about this show, that combination of no-holds-barred silliness and surprising emotional honesty. Ep.1 ends with Aoi catching what's apparently an eight-year-old space pirate climbing out of the robot suit that he'd thought was his mum, after a firefight with the galactic police. That's the kind of bonkers I cherish, but at the same time it's painful for both Mito and Aoi. This show really is mental. Let's start with Aoi's late dad, Souichirou. He married and had a child with someone who looks like a primary school student. What the hell? Is Mito's robot suit equipped for bedroom action? Only in Japan... and yet, when we eventually see how they got together in ep.5, it's actually quite moving and there's no ickiness at all.
Then there's the last episode, which is batshit enough to make me forgive some messy plotting in the last few episodes. I was too busy laughing. (On rewatching, though, its main development is better foreshadowed than I'd previously realised.)
I also like the alienness, which is a little more extreme than usual. Most of the important characters look human, but the space police on Earth have to wear oxygen neutralisers, think water is toxic and are vulnerable to mushroom infection. Fungi will randomly pop up from Mutsuki's head.
This show is a blast. It makes me laugh and always leaves me with a smile. The theme music is among my all-anime favourites. (Oh, and its visuals gave Tomoko a nostalgia rush for anime she'd watch when she was young. That'll be partly due to the show's vintage, but it's more specific than that.) Admittedly some viewers might have trouble processing a goofy, candy-coloured show that's also trying to play more sincere emotions in its characters. (The villain's galaxy police agents get this quite heavily, but even Ranban gets a little empathy moment in ep.13.) Personally I love that, though. I think it's worth drawing attention to the slow and frankly dull end credits, which ditch the wackiness and instead go delicate and elegaic. The last shot is domestic childcare items on a spaceship control panel.
"You're not my mother! You're an alien wearing my mother's face!"