A tale of action, love, and adventure (with an ample supply of comedy thrown in as well), Outlaw Star serves as an enjoyable anime for those who want combat. Following a dynamic duo of brains and brawn, the show thrusts you into a universe where three distinct powers rule: Pirates, Outlaws, and Military forces. Each major power is hellbent on finding an ancient and mythical location known only as the Galactic Leyline.
Outlaw Star begins by following the two “brothers” (similar to Simon and Kamina from Gurren Lagann) Gene Starwind and James/Jim Hawking, who live on the planet Sentinel III. Starwind and Hawking Enterprises, as their joint business is named, specializes in fixing, well... anything. Their troubles begin in the first episode, when a mysterious woman named Rachel contacts them in search of bodyguards. James and Gene escort Rachel to a farm on the outskirts of town so that she can “service local farm equipment.” Guild Pirates tail them along the highway in an attempt to kill Rachel for reasons unknown. She is forced to scrap her disguise and reveals that she is actually an infamous outlaw named Hilda. James, Gene and Hilda slowly beat back the pirates until they make it to the farm. At the farm, Hilda betrays the two by shooting Gene and then forces James to resuscitate a bio-android named Melfina, whom she had hidden in a barn. Gene manages to survive the shot through a stroke of luck and sneaks up on Hilda with his own gun. With no other choice, the outlaw takes the two locals with her.
Hilda and the others escape the pirates and continue on a search for an advanced ship called the XGP15A-II, which can only be piloted by Melfina. They find the ship but run into trouble with the Kei Pirates, who built the ship, and the infamous MacDougall Brothers. Needless to say, Hilda does acquire the XGP15A-II, and the ship is repainted and renamed Outlaw Star. Much of the show then moves into a search for money in order to pay off a massive debt to a man named Fred Luo, who makes repeated repairs on the Outlaw Star. Eventually, the crew of the Outlaw Star does make it to the Galactic Leyline which sets up for a thrilling three-way showdown that I won't spoil.
Hilda the outlaw.
The best part of the show was easily the characters. While somewhat formulaic in their character roles, the personalities of the crew of the Outlaw Star prevented the story from becoming stale. Gene and James are the stars of the show and successfully fulfill such roles. While Gene acts as a fairly standard action hero with a few interesting personality quirks, James' character is quite refreshing. James Hawking is the stark opposite of Gene: mature, intelligent, and constantly worried. Unlike other shows with similar “dynamic duo” leads, James actually has a large influence over Gene and is capable of keeping him from going over the top in a few instances. The writers definitely did a good job of making James as cool and interesting as Gene, albeit in different ways.
Other major characters include Aisha ClanClan, an alien female officer for the CtarlCtarl Empire, and “Twilight” Suzuka, an assassin that Gene successfully saves Fred from in an early episode. Though they aren't featured as prominently as Gene and Jim, they do play important roles in the story and ultimately save Gene quite a few times in combat. Personally, I enjoyed Suzuka's character; I found Aisha's personality to be irritating after a while, but not enough to detract from the show. Overall, Aisha and Suzuka were good support characters.
The crew of the Outlaw Star (Melfina in the back, Gene Starwind in the middle, Aisha ClanClan on the left, “Twilight” Suzuka on the right, and James Hawking in the front).
Beyond the characters, I thought the music was pretty good. The music ranged from something that sounded like a rock song from the 1980's to a very Western slide guitar and harmonica. It never felt out of place and at times even helped to add to the atmosphere of the show. I can not remember a time where I felt that the music was out of place.
My main complaint with the show was the final episode. The final fight was fairly lackluster and did not fit the show very well. The fight felt like a sudden and drastic change from the identity that the show had created for itself in the previous twenty-five episodes. I was incredibly disappointed in how it played out and felt too much like a cop-out than anything else. Beyond this, I have no major problems with Outlaw Star.
The infamous MacDougall brothers.
One thing I noticed almost immediately about Outlaw Star was how similar the show felt to Cowboy Bebop. Even the art style of the two shows are markedly similar, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in my eyes because I really enjoyed the aesthetics of each show. Also, the overall story layout of the shows were fairly similar. The crew of the Outlaw Star would spend a few episodes trying to scrounge up money to pay for debts, which was also the case in Cowboy Bebop. With both shows coming out in 1998, I don't think their similarities are due to Outlaw Star imitating Bebop because of its later critical acclaim; rather, both directors likely believed that such narrative approaches would enhance their respective shows. With that being said, I found that the differences between characters were great enough to separate the two shows. and did really helped to separate the two shows. I may enjoy Cowboy Bebop a little more, but Outlaw Star is still a great show and definitely worth watching.
Outlaw Star was an enjoyable thrill ride that not only satisfied my appetite for action and violence but also delivered enjoyable characters to follow. I was incredibly impressed by this show and would definitely recommend it to anyone who has not seen it, although I must say the show can be crude at times with occasional nudity.
* Outlaw Star is available for purchase at Amazon.com.