The more I see of Glass Fleet, the more I slot it into what could be called the “good-bad-but-not-evil” category. Flawed or addled or fundamentally goofy as it might be, it is definitely not boring. It’s got plot contrivances you could drive the show’s trademark glass spaceship through, and it crosses Captain Herlock-style space opera withLe Chevalier d’Eon-style political intrigue to middling effect—but heck, it at least tries to stand apart from your typical middle-of-the-roadkill production. Give them gold stars for effort if nothing else.
The first disc introduced us—after some really exhausting plot gymnastics—to a whole spate of characters struggling for the fate of the universe. Michel Volban, leader of a contingent of space rebels, is our de facto hero, partnering with space pirate Cleo in an attempt to wrest control of the galaxy back from the Napoleon-esque emperor Vetti Sforza. Both sides have enough intrigue brewing to fill several coffee carafes. Vetti has been planning a marriage of convenience to further cement his power, and Cleo’s initial indifference to the plight of his hostage-turned-cohort Michel gradually melts and is replaced with … sympathy? Enlightened self-interest? Possessiveness? Mandatory plot development?
Maybe it’s the latter, because, as it turns out, my earlier complaint about Michel’s ambivalent sexuality turned out to be prescient. Michel isn’t “Michel” at all, but the sister of the real Michel Volban, long presumed dead. With the death of her brother, she disguised herself as him and stepped up to continue to lead her (her, his, whatever) people to victory—down to replicating the sword-fighting scars on her brother’s back. Heretical, to say the least (since women can’t hold political power in the Glass Fleet universe), but the way it’s delivered in the story has, oddly, no impact. Even though the men in this universe have a vaguely feminized air about them to begin with, the fact that s/he had a female voice actor kind of kills any potential suspense about the true nature of her character.
No matter. The story pushes boldly forward and introduces even more intrigue, some of which is actually—gasp—intriguing. Consider the object of Vetti’s feigned romantic interests, Rachel, the daughter of the galactic Pope. She sees right through Vetti and out the other side, especially when he stages a pathetic “abduction” to win her sympathy—sympathy garnered more directly by Vetti’s lover Ralph. Ralph makes a tearful plea to Rachel to go through with the marriage, as it might be the only thing that can save Vetti’s life. Yes, Vetti is dying, for reasons that remain unclear to everyone except him and the screenwriters.
There’s more. Oh, is there ever more. Michel and Cleo nip off to enlist the aid of “B.B.,” a duchess with piles of money and no specific political affiliations. What they don’t know is that Vetti arrived mere minutes before them and is also plying her affections and sympathies. The whole way this scene is handled is perversely fascinating, bordering on unintentionally hilarious, with one group ushered in and the other ushered out on cue as B.B.’s shuttlecocked back and forth between both parties. Or maybe she’s the one doing the shuttlecocking. With a show this fevered in its plotting, the descriptions of what going on are secondary to the way they’re played out—like how B.B.’s tastes in haberdashery are outlandish enough to make Yûko from ×××HOLiC look downright staid. Like I said, at least they’re trying to be interesting.
Most of us associate the word “melodrama” with a series like Boys Over Flowers (ack). Glass Fleet is every bit as melodramatic, even with its spaceships and galactic wars—and, in its own way, willing to run the risk of being ridiculous to be that much more entertaining. There’s something to be said for that—even if that something is just “Err…”