On Jan. 8, 1998, Outlaw Star debuted in Japan. About two years or so later, it would make its way to America where it was almost an instant hit for the Cartoon Network, which was looking to fill its schedule by squeezing anime into its Toonami block.
About five or six years after its Toonami debut, I’m not exactly sure, a friend and I watched the entire series over the span of a few weeks. We’d usually watch it together on Tuesday nights, because I’d have Wednesdays off at that time. Before we’d watch it, we’d pick up two 12 packs of Natural Light. Natural Light was a cheep beer that didn’t taste bad, but it was still rather watered down to the point that you could probably drink an entire case and barely have a buzz, though, you’d probably spend more time peeing than drinking at that point.
The version of the series I had was a cheap Chinese copy that I got off Ebay for about $5. Not high quality and no special features.
So, what is Outlaw Star?
Well, it’s an anime about a guy named Gene Starwind who dreams of being a space ship pilot but is stuck being a hustler and general low life thug in order to scrape out an existence with his younger companion, a somtimes-irritating, kid named Jim Hawking.
Their lives get changed when they meet up with a woman space-outlaw named Hot Ice Hilda who is seeking to smuggle some precious cargo, a cyborg named Melfina. Melfina is the living processing unit of a very special ship called the XGP15A-II, which Gene thankfully redubs the “Outlaw Star.”
Anyway, from there they go on many adventures, eventually picking up two more women to fill out the crew: Aisha, a super-human alien woman who can turn into a beast, and Suzuka, a sort of generic honorable assassin character.
Along the way to their ultimate goal, they are dogged by a pair of bounty hunting brothers known as the MacDougalls, and find themselves drawn deeper into a conspiracy by shadowy figures looking to capture the Outlaw Star for their own ends.
Pretty basic stuff for your Space Opera/Space Western.
Most of this stuff is pretty cliche now. But back then, it was pretty fresh.
One of the things that stood out was that this wasn’t based around all of the women characters vying for Starwind’s affection, nor does he persue them. Instead, the crew is rather respectful to one another, aside from the usual driving eachother crazy.
It’s a world apart from the many Tenchi Muyo series that see the lead male character, often a geek and weenie, with a harem of women seeking to be the one he chooses to love.
In Outlaw Star, the female characters, save one, aren’t really interested in Starwind’s affections. Instead, they often spend their time deriding him and using him to meet their own ends. Sometimes, they actually come close to going into the opposite extreme of the harem, that is all the female characters being unbearable bitches, but don’t quite get there.
Another thing that stands out about it is the rather crazy universe. It mixes both magic and sci-fi technology. This is something that’s also pretty cliche for anime and often causes things to feel very disjoined as things go back and forth from laser guns to magic. Outlaw Star manages to avoid a lot of this disjointedness by integrating the magic in the series into the technology used by the characters. An example of this integration is Starwind’s “spell gun” which fires enchanted bullets that are pretty much spells. Sounds silly, but it works.
Outlaw Star is entertaining and presents the viewer with a colorful universe, which unfortunately seems to have been abandoned after the related series Angel Links. That’s unfortunate, because what Angel Links had shown is that the universe of Outlaw Star is bigger than anyone of its characters and probably holds a lot more stories to tell.
I would recommend Outlaw Star for those who have yet to see it. Sure, most anime is boring and derivative, but Outlaw Star has a fun spirit to it that still raises it above most that have followed it.