Reviewing Outlaw Star (a.k.a. Why you should all buy the box set in January)
I have never understood why Outlaw Star has been so vastly overshadowed by Cowboy Bebop. They were both released at similar times, and both shared similar themes, much like any mecha anime showdown, or perhaps even the more contrived comparison of Digimon vs Pokemon, Outlaw Star surely should have gained at least some publicity from the fact that it was similar to Bebop? Yet for some reason, it hasn’t; in fact, whilst Cowboy Bebop has become a household name, I struggle to find anyone who has even heard of Outlaw Star, let alone watched it. However, Beez entertainment have thrown the series a lifeline, by licensing it for release as part of their “Legends of Anime” line. Now is Outlaw Star’s chance to launch itself from the depths of obscurity into the collections of anime fans across the country.
Outlaw Star follows the adventures of reckless “jack of all trades”, Gene Starwind, and his child prodigy business partner, Jim Hawking. The pair run a business on the backwater planet of Sentinel III, offering any services required for the right price. After Gene claims another bounty from a bar fight, his reputation gets him a job as a body guard for seemingly innocent and angelic Rachell Sweet. However, nothing is ever as easy as it seems, and with the discovery of Melfina, a sweet-natured bio-android, Jim and Gene are launched into a space adventure that neither could have imagined.
Along the way they perilously cross paths the vengeful, and money-hungry Aisha Clan-Clan, the beautiful, and enigmatic “Twilight” Suzuka, and more Kei Pirates than you can fire a caster at.
It was love at first sight. From the first glimpse I got of an Outlaw Star episode, on a borrowed tape recording of CNX, there was no turning back. Outlaw had me hooked. It had everything I could have wanted, it was dark, it was funny, it was exciting, the characters were likeable, and the sci-fi fantasy universe provided escapism. There was little more I could ask for, except maybe more respect for the laws of physics.
The animation is impeccable too, even by today’s standards, and this comes into its own during the fight scenes. Both in the “grappler” ships and hand to hand, it’s fluid, flowing and flooring, and focuses on something deeper than the classic blood and gore approach, and don’t worry, over the 26 episodes, you are guaranteed plenty of artistic fight scenes to make your eyes water.
However, Outlaw’s main strengths lie in its formula. It is simple, and effective. It sets a goal and slowly leads you down the path towards it, using its diverse cast and minor sideplots to keep you interested, but sadly this also brings Outlaw’s weaknesses to the forefront. With a limited number of subplots, and very little sign of character development, the series seems to drag on just before it reaches its climax. You’ve already been introduced to the heroes, and you’ve already learnt a lot about the villains, all that’s left is to guide you down the home straight to a fairly telegraphed ending which offers few surprises.
But when it comes down to it, it’s not the ending that makes me love Outlaw Star. The ending is just there to tie up the loose ends, I love Outlaw Star for its exciting and encapsulating universe and its eclectic mix of characters that you just can’t help but adore, even when at their worst. Whilst it may not have the strongest plotline of any anime you’ve seen, and it may not toy with your emotions as much as it could, Outlaw Star succeeds in the most important area for any anime. It is enjoyable. It is one of those anime that you can’t help but come back to, and it is worth every ounce of mine, and your affection.
Jim, Aisha and Gilliam having some fun.
ADDITIONAL: Outlaw Star is now scheduled for release on 24th January