Critic’s Log - Earthdate: September 10, 2013. Review #57: Outlaw Star
This is ground control, calling Outlaw Star. Please inform everyone that your crew is going where no man has gone before. Outlaw Star, Liftoff!.
Gene Starwind and his kid partner Jim Hawking run a small business on the backwater planet of Sentinel III. However, all that changes the day that Hilda hires them for a bodyguard job. It turns out that Hilda is being pursuited by the Kei Pirates. Gene and Jim discover a girl in a metal box. And no, Joss Whedon did not rip that scene off when he made Firefly, that comparison turned out to be coincidental.
Now, thrust into a mystery beyond their comprehension, they're on the run from the cops, the pirates, an angry alien, and a mysterious assassin. But they've got one thing going in their favor...they have the Outlaw Star, the galaxy's most advanced ship. They fly the Outlaw Star in space to discover the mystery within the universe.
To be technical, this is a Sunrise production and the animation is mostly good in this show. The action scenes are fantastic and are nice to look at. But, it is often inconsistent with character designs. Don’t get me wrong, the characters look the same, but the way it’s animated at times is where I’m trying to get my point across. The animation is good for the most part, but it does have some inconsistencies. It may be old school, but there should be nothing wrong with that, right?. Usually referencing other animes may be a stupid move to make, but I think sharing this little observation wouldn’t hurt. Outlaw Star was made in 1998. This was not the only Sci-fi show to be made by Sunrise that year. Cowboy Bebop was made that same year in April of 1998. Now I shall get back on topic. The animation is not perfect, but damn...it’s done pretty well that it’s nice to look at because Outlaw Star is an entertaining show.
The music by Ko Otani is nothing too special I’m afraid, even though this is a late 90’s anime. If there’s an action scene, well… the music compliments the action scenes pretty well. That’s pretty much it. However, if there is a specific tune in the show that is worth noting about. It is the opening theme “Through the Night”. That opening theme is pretty catchy and this may be a fond memory for the American anime fanbase that remember the Cartoon Network block “Toonami”. The majority of 90’s kids probably know Toonami pretty damn well. I was a 90’s kid too and I loved Toonami years ago and still do now since it’s back. Outlaw Star did air on Toonami (albeit with edits being made because of content). I did not watch Outlaw Star because I did not get Cartoon Network on my cable at the time. Back on topic. The music fits, but is not too memorable to say the least. There’s a few good themes here and there but that’s it…
I could say the same with Japanese casting. Shigeru Shibuya is okay as Gene Starwind, Jim Hawking was an interesting voice to hear in the Subbed Version because he is voiced by Rica Matsumoto who often voices Satoshi in Pokemon before and since Outlaw Star. Oh… I forgot to explain. When Pokemon was brought into America. Satoshi was renamed Ash. You probably won’t ever hear Ash’s Japanese voice in the Pokemon releases because the only way to see it is to watch the edited Americanized version. Which in my opinion is still watchable by today’s standards compared to the newer material kids are getting these days. Outlaw Star has Ayako Kawasumi’s debut role where she plays Melfina and she’s pretty good as Melfina. The late Sayuri was great as Twilight Suzuka, and Yuko Miyamura fits the role as Aisha Clanclan. The Japanese cast is decent, so is the English Dub. Robert Buchholz (credited as Robert Wicks in Outlaw Star) is one of the memorable voices in the dub. Brianne Siddall is pretty good as Jim. But Wendee Lee gets the job done with a femme fatale voice that is pretty damn se… I’ll stop right there. So there’s the good voices. There are two voices I felt were off. One being underacted and the other being overacted. Bridget Hoffman (credited as Ruby Marlowe) was the voice of Melfina and I have heard better from her but she does underact a bit as Melfina. I will give her credit that she tried her best with the performance, but all I could say is that Melfina could’ve sounded better at times with the dub. Aisha is played by Lenore Zann (credited as Zan) and she overacts as Aisha in the dub, This is by far the only character in the dub that is hit and miss with the performance. I understand that because she’s a catgirl, they have to give her that feline-like quality to the performance. After comparing both the voices, Miyamura-san fits the role near-perfectly, Ms. Zann does not. She over-exaggerated on the feline quality to the voice. I may be nitpicking about this a bit much, but Aisha is annoying in the dub when the character herself really isn’t too annoying. She just acts on rushed impulses, much like you would expect in a catgirl character, it’s a common trope I guess, but the over-exaggeration in the dub does make the character sound pretty annoying at times. Noteworthy voice actors and voice actresses include Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as “Hot Ice” Hilda, Peter Spellos as Gilliam, John Snyder as Ron MacDougall, and Steve Staley as Harry McDougall.
As far as characters go. Every single character is not terrifically written and I will say that the main characters are at least “two-dimensional” and they at least get some character development in time. Gene is probably one of the most complicated characters in the show even though he’s got the “cool factor” in him. There is a part of him that isn’t seen much in the show but is thrown in nicely to see another side of him. Jim Hawking is a nice kid character and he’s fun to watch whenever he gets embarrassed about *ahem* “adult topics”. Again, kind of a common trope, but it’s still a bit funny. Melfina is interesting as the show progresses. Twilight Suzuka is a femme fatale that’s dead sexy. Aisha is well...a catgirl that lives up to the catgirl trope. As far as antagonists go, The MacDougall Brothers keep the show going but Harry is by far the more fascinating brother of the two. Don’t get me wrong, Ronald McDonald… Uh, I mean Ronald MacDougall is kind of intimidating, but Harry MacDougall was a lot more interesting than his brother. I don’t have a problem with the Kei Pirates or the Anten Seven. If there is a character that I found a bit one-dimensional was Professer Nyugen Khan (or Gwen Kahn). Why? Because he does play a part in the last third of the show, but his motives were a bit of a mystery, but the payoff was not far-fetched or cliched, but it wasn’t really all that thrilling. My problem is that he had a connection with Melfina and sided with the MacDougall Brothers to acheive his goal. The MacDougall Brothers really weren’t painted as the main villians in the show. No, not at all. If there was a potential main villian in the show, it would be KHAAAAAANNNN! Speaking of Khan’s name, did you ever think that the name could be a reference to Star Trek? Here’s a theory of mine that may support this. The main character is named “Gene”. The creator of Star Trek was Gene Roddenberry. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge of that. But I will say that the characters are fun to watch and do make the show watchable.
I will say that this show has one major problem. This show contains Outlaws, Bio-androids, a whiz kid, action, comedy, mystery, some fanservice, planets, the universe, The Past and the present, death, a female assassin, a catgirl, Space Pirates, Spaceships, Space battles, Laser gun fights, computers, cyborgs, Space Racing, A mind-controlling cactus, Terrorists, wrestling, a Prison break, a hot springs episode, and a revelation.
You’ll see this in the show, but it all fits into the universe of Outlaw Star, but here’s the problem. The story was off to a pretty decent start, but once the show starts moving after 4 episodes, the show then turns very episodically and almost goes nowhere until near the end. If you love Sci-fi, you probably will love this show because some things to love about Sci-fi is in Outlaw Star. The direction however is mostly bad and Mitsuru Hongo might be to blame about that. Does that mean that you should stop watching it and drop it? No! Absolutely not. If you are looking for something with a good blend of Action and comedy, this is a decent viewing. If Story and characters are more important to you. The characters are likeable but the story has no direction. I think most people agree that Outlaw Star is no Masterpiece, but it is a different viewing experience for some if they are used to plot and characters. I have noticed that this show may have heavily payed tribute to certain cliches or tropes because even the Deus Ex Machina cliche is in this show and there is literally a Deus Ex Machina in Outlaw Star. Even though the story is a mess, this is a ride worth sitting through if you are looking for something that isn’t a Masterpiece, but is a decent viewing. If you think that I’m being a little too judgmental with Outlaw Star now that I’ve said everything I wanted to say, I got two words for you buddy… BITE ME!
Outlaw Star was available by Bandai Entertainment, it was out of print for some time, at the time this review is being posted, Outlaw Star will be available by Funimation eventually since they rescued this anime from being Out of Print. The manga by Takehiko Ito has not been released stateside, The light novels such as “Chapter of the Galactic Dragon Vein" (which was written by Katsuhiko Tiba and illustrated by Takuya Saitou) and "El Dorado Covered With Clouds: Starward Warrior Knight Outlaw Star" (which was written by Sakai Miho and illustrated by Takuya Saitou) were never released stateside. The Outlaw Star spin-off known as Angel Links was available by Bandai Entertainment, like Outlaw Star, it was out of print until Funimation came along and rescued it. It will soon be available by Funimation.
With all that said, Outlaw Star is an action and comedy ride with lots of Sci-fi elements in it. It has some good animation, decent music, and fun characters. It does suffer greatly with the plot as a whole, but if you look past that. Outlaw Star is a decent viewing if you like Science Fiction or if you liked 90’s anime.
I give Outlaw Star a 7 out of 10. It is GOOD!.
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