Outlaw Star is a twenty six episode anime series based on Takehiko Ito’s manga comic, which I have not read as it has never been officially translated into English. The series is one of the better sci-fi cartoons I have watched, although it is somewhat underrated by the general anime community as the legendary Cowboy Bebop, which also aired during the late nineties, overshadowed it in the television ratings. If for some reason you haven’t already imported the region one DVDs, viewers in the United Kingdom can finally purchase a UK copy from Anime Limited who are selling the complete series set for a bargain £23.
The show follows the adventures of Gene Starwind (cool surname) a gun for hire who is presently stuck doing odd jobs on a backwater planet named Sentinel. Gene is a breath of fresh air when compared to most anime protagonists, as he is a big hit with the ladies thanks to his roguish charms. He’s not shy about flirting with maidens, which is in stark contrast to the slew of teenage virgins that headline the majority of present day Japanese cartoons. Although Gene has no fears about asking the fairer sex for a date, he isn’t quite as courageous when it comes to space travel. The poor lad has a phobia of interstellar voyages after his old man perished whilst journeying the cosmos.
After a routine bodyguard job goes awry, Gene comes into possession of the Outlaw Star (a state of the art grappler spacecraft) that comes complete with an advanced android navigator named Melfina. Gene first discovered Melfina after finding her packed buck naked in a suitcase. It’s just as well that Mr Starwind has his own flying ship for travel, as I don’t think British Airways would approve of bundling a nude girl in your luggage. Getting past the X-Ray machine would be most awkward and I would imagine that her weight might incur excess baggage charges. Anyway, moving back on subject, Gene sets off in search of the fabled Galactic Leyline in the hopes of amassing fortune and fame. Hot in pursuit are the Space Pirates that Gene pilfered the Outlaw Star from. I guess they are not amused at being on the receiving end of looting yarrr.
Joining Gene on his merry star trek are Gilliam (the Outlaw Star’s sarcastic computer) and Jim Hawking the prepubescent tech whiz. Despite being considerably younger than Gene, Jim is the brains of the outfit and is often forced to compensate for his partner’s reckless antics. Along the way two lovely ladies named Aisha Clanclan and Twilight Suzuka supplement the Outlaw Star’s crew. Thankfully their appearance doesn’t signal the show’s descent into harem nonsense. Aisha is the comic relief cat girl whilst Suzuka is a badass assassin who is able to dispatch foes using a mere wooden sword. I’m not sure that a blunt weapon is the most effective thing to use against adversaries wielding ray guns, but whatever. Star Wars taught us that there is nothing cooler than sword fights in space.
My rating for Outlaw Star is a very high four out of five. Back when I originally viewed the show I would have ranked it as a five star release, but having re-watched it recently I find myself having to knock off a star, as it hasn’t aged as gracefully as I recalled. Although the artwork is still decent, the show doesn’t have the high production values of Cowboy Bebop so it hasn’t stood the test of time as well. There are a few parts were the animation is a little rough and the script has its moments of cheesiness that I managed to overlook in my youth, but notice now. The poor narrator in particular is tasked with delivering some cringe worthy dialogue during the episode introductions.
I can highly recommend Outlaw Star to anyone who enjoys action packed science fiction. The series has a nice blend of thrilling gunfights, humour and some touching moments too. Outlaw Star’s universe is a joy to experience thanks to its fun cast of characters and a world that combines the sci-fi western genre with a touch of magic. I especially enjoyed the unique technology used by the characters such as Gene’s Castor pistol (that fires spell charged shells) and the grappler ships, which in addition to blasting craft with lasers can also use their metal appendages to engage in hand to hand combat. Hopefully this UK release will result in more viewers discovering this nineties animation gem. Even if the Outlaw Star does not shine as brightly as Cowboy Bebop it is still well worth checking out.