Few things from my teen life are as memorable as my weekday afternoons watching Toonami. I was just starting out in high school in 1999-2000 when Cartoon Network acquired and began to air a block of anime series including Ronin Warriors, Gundam Wing, Dragon Ball Z and many others. This was my first proper exposure to anime, having only seen random mismatched episodes of Sailor Moon prior to this. About two years into this tradition, this promo appeared, and got me hyped for a new series called Outlaw Star.
The story of Outlaw Star follows the rebellious Gene Starwind and his young business partner Jim as they take on odd jobs throughout the galaxy to help pay the bills and keep food in their bellies. After a particularly dangerous mission they find themselves in possession of a top secret spaceship that uses a bio-android named Melfina as its engine. This spaceship, later renamed to Outlaw Star, is revealed to be the key in unlocking a vast treasure known as the “galactic leyline”, and so Gene, Jim, and their new allies (inlcuding an alien catgirl named Aisha and a skilled female assassin named “Twilight” Suzuka) set off on an adventure to claim the treasure for themselves.
Whenever this show is brought up, one of the quick judgments I often see is a claim that this is merely a Cowboy Bebop clone. Granted, it was released just a couple years after the monumentally popular series made it stateside on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” programming block, but I see this series as a more light-hearted adventure that is able to stand on its own. The theme of exploration and adventure in a new era of expansion sparks a sense of adventure in the viewer, and as a series it lays off a lot of the tropes that might otherwise turn off newcomers to anime. Whenever you encounter a series that would be good material to introduce someone to anime, you can be confident that you have a quality series on your hands. Outlaw Star is one such series, as the fan-service is kept to a minimum, and the focus on action and developing an engaging and rich storyline take the front seat in this rollicking space adventure.
The characters each fill a common archetype: the quiet professional (Suzuka), the brains (Jim), the loud-mouth/muscle (Aisha), the girl with a mysterious past (Melfina) and of course the captain/troublemaker (Gene). Though familiar tropes, they each fulfill their roles and play off of each other brilliantly across the 26 episode series, creating some hilarious and heart-felt moments that deepen the relationship of the crew and ultimately form a bond that allows them to overcome any obstacle.
The animation of this series aged well, with sweeping scenes of open space and fast-paced battles that take place both on the ground and in the air. Unfortunately it can be difficult to come across the box set for this series anymore, but if you can find it for a good price, make sure to grab it! You won’t regret adding this series to your collection.