Finish or Fail 1 – Outlaw Star

In a recent post, I detailed the fact that I have a tendency not to finish a lot of the anime that I start. In response to this, Ghostlightning told me that I should make a comeback in the following year and finish or drop as many of the shows that I can which I have left unfinished. I have of course wanted to do this for a long time, and being as I never back away from a challenge, I decided to go through with it. Through the use of MyAnimeList and a series of checks and eliminations, I composed a list of the shows I needed to finish. Unfortunately, this list came to 225 fucking results, many of which are lengthy or have sequels. Obviously there is no way I will finish all of these in a single year, but I will nonetheless make an effort for as many as possible. My goal is to either finish each show or watch it to the point that I can no longer stand it and drop it. The first show is Outlaw Star.

I’ve actually been trying to watch this show for a long time because I only ever saw an episode or two of it on Adult Swim  way back and had always heard good things about it. There were no subbed streams of it available, but thankfully a torrent of the remastered version made rounds a little while back. It’s been sitting on Funeral’s terrabyte and I’ve been meaning to try it out, so I finally did… and it saddens me to say that the best word I can think of to describe this show is ‘disappointing’.

It actually gets off to a really great start. It introduces us to Gene Starwind, a bad mothafucka who gets into barfights with criminals, fucks bitches in brothels, and parties all night. His partner is a young genius, Jim, with whom he runs a sort of ‘anything goes’ repair shop. They take odd jobs, and the series begins with one Gene takes from a real bad chick on the run from the space mafia.

What we have there is the perfect set-up for some good old-fashioned sci-fi pulp. I’m a big fan of old-school pulp stories, so I was pretty happy to have a cool main character and the bad-ass broad who was dragging him into a big mess – it sort of hearkened back to greats like Space Adventure Cobra, of which we need more in this day and age. Things started going downhill, though, as early as episode 2.

The man that ruined the show.

And the biggest problem that I have is Gene Starwind himself. Once things get messy and Gene, Jim, badass babe Hilda, and recently-awakened Rei-type girl Melfina take off into space, we learn about Gene’s fear of space thanks to his father’s death in a ship attack that he witnessed as a child. What gets kind of embarasing is Gene’s attitude – he pretty much starts acting like a pussy bitch about the whole space thing and won’t get off of Hilda’s nuts about the why’s of their situation. I really would have thought that such a sly, slick dude would be able to keep his cool, but he keeps bitching and moaning. In the next few episodes, there is all kinds of space combat and Jim and Melfina both take active roles on Hilda’s ship while Gene sits with his thumb up his ass giving every excuse as to why he can’t help, to the point I wanted to reach through the fucking screen and throttle his ass.

However, these first four episodes were still held together largely by Hilda’s being awesome and the mild intrigue of the plot, and the setup seemed to suggest that Hilda would teach Gene to be badass. In episode four, Hilda meets her goal of procuring a certain special ship that she didn’t want the mob to have, and she ends up having to sacrifice herself to protect the ship and leave it in Gene and friends’ hands. Gene finally has a moment where it appears as though he will be taking on Hilda’s mantle of greatness and become a great pilot. However, this just isn’t the case. Gene continues to flounder about, getting by more on dumb luck and chance than any semblance of skill or trying. His response to most situations is pretty much ‘fuck if I know, we’re probably gunna die’ until he manages to pull something out of his ass to fight back with. Really, if it weren’t for the other characters constantly covering his ass, he’d be totally screwed.

Which brings me to the other characters, who are a bunch of bricks. Jim is a super-stereotypical genius kid who really seems to have nothing better to do in life than cling to Gene’s coattails. Melfina is mildly interesting (though I suspect it’s largely due to having the best vocal performance in the show, the debut role of Kawasumi Ayako. Oddly, most of the rest of the cast is totally drab with Gene’s voice being outright annoying at times. No surprise it’s his actor’s only lead role), being as she has the best personality and some mystery surrounding her, but not enough to keep me interested in solving it. The samurai chick, Suzuka, has no personality whatsoever. Probably the most exciting character (besides the unfortunately deceased Hilda) is Aisha Clan-Clan, the hyper-active catgirl who is just fun enough not to be annoying but has no great purpose in the plot. Oh! And I almost forgot about the ship’s computer, Giliam, who is actually pretty awesome. He has a dry wit and cool voice by Takaya Hashi, and ironically the most personality in the damn cast.

From left to right, 'brick', 'brick', 'funny', 'interesting', 'douchebag'

I might have made it through Outlaw Star in spite of it’s boring and occasionally annoying characters, though, were it not for the fact that the pacing was shot to shit after the first four episodes. What begins as a fast-paced action-packed space adventure quickly becomes the slow and grinding wait for excitement. Episodes 5 and 6 have the crew back on land trying to get their ship fixed alongside the additional formal introductions of Aisha Clan-Clan and Suzuka, both of whom pretty much dick around for an episode and accomplish nothing. Then it takes a whole 2 more episodes before the ship takes off as they rehash the points that gangsters are after the Outlaw Star and have some fighting between bouts of boring dialog.

Episode 8 was almost enough to salvage my interest because of another point worth bringing up – the animation. Outlaw Star’s animation is brutally inconsistent (which is really no surprise, as it is the case for many studio Sunrise works). In some episodes we get superb hand-to-hand or ship-to-ship combat that is fast, energetic, and fun, with the ship battles even carrying some originality in that the ships have grappler arms with which to manually carry weapons. There were some great scenes in the first four episodes, but the next three were hideously ugly. From talking scenes to action, characters were going off-model and moving in odd ways that made me cringe pretty hard. Episode 8 then featured the best and best-looking on-ground and in-air fights of the series yet, but then the following episodes flipped right back to zero action and some craptastic animation.

I finally ended up dropping Outlaw Star after the tenth episode. Now that the crew was back in space, had time to wrap their heads around the situations, and were set in their course, I thought things would finally pick up. Instead, episode nine was a violently boring filler episode wherein Jim is pissed at Gene for no particular reason and is abated for… no particular reason either. Then there was an episode that was setting up for a massive space race that was going to happen, but it dicked around in the setup and waited to the end of the episode to start the race and then began it with a really boring first obstacle. I wasn’t even interested enough to see the conclusion of the race – I’d had enough.

Outlaw Star – Failed

I really wanted to like Outlaw Star, but there are many better sci-fi pulp series like Space Adventure Cobra and Cowboy Bebop that I could be watching instead and having a much better time. For having boring characters, a slow plot, and inconsistent animation and pacing, Outlaw Star is dropped.

15 thoughts on “Finish or Fail 1 – Outlaw Star

  1. I’ve always wondered about the hype surrounding the show. Back when I watched it in 2000 via VHS (yeah, those things), I was neither impressed by the plot or the characters (well, most of them anyhow) and if you can’t hook me with either of those elements, I’m more or less gone as an audience member. And as you can probably guess, I can say that there’s very little about this show that was able to catch my attention and the only reason I even finished it was because of my local high school’s anime club :|

    • Ya. Back when it was airing, I didn’t know much about it and think I generally just never stayed up late enough to watch it. /a/ seems to love it which is what got me interested, but mayhaps they were more in a nostalgia high.

  2. “but there are many better sci-fi pulp series like Space Adventure Cobra and Cowboy Bebop”
    Thats only two, one that is watched by no one, and the other can barely be called sci-fi.
    In fact theres a distinct lack of sci-fi series in anime. Many old OVAs though.

    • Do you want me to comprise a whole fucking list of them? Come on god dammit, you know I don’t mean those are the only two, and the fact that no one watched Cobra is a complete non-issue. And CB is the fucking epitome of SF pulp, the word ‘pulp’ being what you obviously missed, and it being the most important in the phrase.

  3. Hm… I remember Outlaw Star being good, but then, I marathoned it with my two best friends, five years ago. So my judgment is somewhat suspect. (Five years ago was before I evolved anything resembling taste.) I do, however, remember how fucking awesome the Caster is. One of my all-time favorite fictional weapons, up there with the lightsaber. I mean come on. It’s a GUN that shoots MAGIC. That is AWESOME.


    • Yeah, the Caster was pretty badass but way underused. I wish they would have had like a bullet of the episode type setup.

      • The latter third of the series, the individual bullets got really important. They wound up traveling all over to hunt down some especially powerful bullets. … I don’t think they actually did anything other than EVEN BIGGER ENERGY BEEEEMU, though.


  4. It’s been a whole lot a years since I last saw Outlaw Star. I’ll just say it was one of those shows just interesting enough to get me to watch more anime in my early fandom. Can’t imagine getting so excited about some of that stuff now though.

  5. Outlaw Star is one of those series I missed out on when I was getting back into anime, and it makes some of my friends react like, “You haven’t seen Outlaw Star yet?!” As the years have progressed, its reputation has sunk just a bit lower each time I get an itch to watch it, so I never do, haha.

    • There are plenty of other great 90s shows to watch instead. I suggest Generator Gawl for one you probably haven’t seen before~~~

  6. I watched the dubs on Cartoon Network and enjoyed the show. Hilda’s death was pretty traumatizing for me. Even through the course of the show it’s still probably the most memorable moment. At the time the thing that was notable to the series for me is that they actually do accomplish their goals and I felt the show had one of the better endings of a show even now. Which is a feat especially for sunrise. I mean they actually do make it to the galactic ley-line and fight the evil mafia/pirate king. I guess I got sucked into the actual plot and became interested and invested in what happened to the crew of the Outlaw Star and the groups trying to get their hands on it. In the dub I don’t remember Gene being as you describe. Which doesn’t really mean anything. I vaguely remember him as one of the “too cool to actually be invested in the fight” type of characters, that spend their fight scenes acting like everything is just a huge inconvenience. Still…I enjoyed the show and especially the Ending Themes by Arai Akino…and I guess the opening theme was okay too.

  7. I saw this post yesterday, and took note of the line “My goal is to either finish each show or watch it to the point that I can no longer stand it and drop it.”

    I figured – why not? That’s a goal we can all strive for.

    Then this morning I watched episode 1 of Ladies vs Butlers and realized there was absolutely no way I could bring myself to do what you’re doing.

    Godspeed, good sir. God. Speed.

    As for Outlaw Star, I wasn’t a big fan, but pulp is not really my genre, anime or western.

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