Hey, remember once upon a time I did a big post about my list of top anime, and I said I would do posts about it, but then I didn’t? Well, I’ve finally gotten back around to it, and I figured I may as well start here, with my most-watched anime. Outlaw Star ranks in my “top-tier”, although like everything else I’ve ever seen, it is below Revolutionary Girl Utena. But RGU is a little more than I feel like getting into at the moment, whereas my adoration for Outlaw Star is a lot more straightforward.
I first saw Outlaw Star back in my early days of fandom, a more innocent time when anime aired every afternoon on a quaint little block known as Toonami, and where anime also aired overnight in Midnight Run, Rising Sun, which was basically a Toonami subset. In fact, I got to the party so early that I saw a more uncut version of Outlaw Star than what folks who saw the second-run would see – I recall one instance in particular where Gene Starwind, our macho lead, called someone a bastard, much to the chagrin of the TV standards folks. How heart-racing, indeed!
But, anyway, the point is – I encountered Outlaw Star very early on, and whether it was my relative newness, or my excitement over watching something other than Pokemon or Sailor Moon on TV, I fell madly, madly in love. And time hasn’t managed to take the shine off, as surprising as that is to me – I have watched Outlaw Star a total of five times from start to finish, most recently about two years ago. Even after encountering hundreds of other shows, it remains one of my favorites, and I’m looking forward to my next watch-through.
I want to sidetrack slightly and note that Outlaw Star was the show Sunrise worked on right before they worked on Cowboy Bebeop (a show that itself has a curious history, given its strange broadcast experience – it was originally half as long, and it didn’t become the length it is now by adding another half-season on, but by inserting episodes into the already existent timeline). I’ve only seen a little of Cowboy Bebeop (blasphemy, I know!), but I was fascinated to see that some of the “sets” are the same as ones in Outlaw Star. I cite these two shows, and Big O as evidence that Sunrise, as fun as it is now, used to be a fair bit more interesting.
But, yes, Outlaw Star. I might as well say that it isn’t a show without problems, most obviously its depiction of a gay man in the character of Fred Luo. Ouch! The dub I saw all those years ago took quite a bit of the edge off there, and I think were I to have encountered it in uncut form, I would’ve chafed pretty hard against that. And I’m not going to try to defend it, because it isn’t defensible – he’s an offensive walking cliche, and he does the show no favors whatsoever. The show is also hit and miss when it comes to female characters; Gene beats one of his female opponents by stripping her (although the implication is that he couldn’t have possibly beaten her by playing fair), but while the show gathers a few women, they don’t function are haremettes and they have their own goals that just happen to overlap with some of Gene’s. I think the harshest charge can be leveled against Melfina here, though, as she’s an amnesiac who is found, naked, in a suitcase, and is for whom Gene ultimately sets forth on his quest… she skews damsel-in-distress-y, but I’m hesitant to damn her depiction since the other women in the show generally tend to bad badasses, and time is spent by other characters rescuing men as well.
I have a hard time explaining what it is I like about Outlaw Star so much, ultimately; I consider it a “fun” show, but what does that even mean? Well, I had fun watching it… but what does that meannnn?!?!?!
I do like the characters quite a bit, from the hot-blooded albeit short-lived Hilda to the sharp, young Jim Hawking (hmm, Treasure Island, anyone?). Gene starts off as a womanizing archetype, but actually develops over the course of the show into a mature man who has overcome his fears. Melfina begins as a shy woman who cries much of the time due to her amnesia, and, ok, she remains fairly shy, but she gains a personality as time passes and a backbone. Its the development of these two which makes the romance at the center of the series both possible and believable, and while I wouldn’t call it the romance of the century (nor is it a drawing point for me), I appreciate its subtle development, particularly in contrast to the loud, screaming back and forth romances that are so common in anime.
There’s also the simple fact that Outlaw Star presents us with one of the coolest pieces of anime technology EVER – the Caster Gun. Its a special gun that uses ~mAgIc~, which sounds kind of silly when put that way, so let me explain it a little more. The Caster Gun has special bullets, which are basically small capsules of spells; these bullets are numbered to identify their affects. Some of them are very deadly, while some are just good for distracting an enemy. You get to know some of the more common ones, but then Gene will pull out one you haven’t seen yet, and its a brand new thing again. This system also allows for more need for tactical know-how and planning, since the shells allow for different outcomes when fired, and it makes the ground combat in the show a hell of a lot more interesting. I cannot possibly tell you how much I love the Caster Gun.
But what draws it all together, ultimately, is that while the quest at the core of the show isn’t anything groundbreaking, it ties everything, well, together. The likable, (generally) dynamic characters, the cool gun, the fights, the spaceships… without the axis of the show, it would be for naught. The center is fairly nebulous – find the Galactic Leyline! – but it anchors it all, and we care because we like the characters, and we want them to succeed, and we want to see them have lots of cool fights on the way to succeeding. And we get all that! And everyone is basically Happily Ever After, which is perfect, because this is NOT the show where you want Tomino to suddenly fly in and go Zambots 3 on everyone’s asses.
So I love Outlaw Star, and I’ve tried to explain why, and, oh man, I forgot to mention the OP, which was GAR before Archer was GAR:
ISN’T THAT MUSIC JUST SO MANLY BURNING???
And, yes, that was Shoji Kawamori’s name you saw flash by in the credits, although don’t go into this expecting anything like Aquarion EVOL or Macross Frontier or AKB0048.
Have I managed to tell you why this show is such a big deal to me? Because I hope I have, since I don’t think I can manage to convey it more than I already have, or in a different way than I already have. I love Outlaw Star, and I’m going to watch it through a sixth time, and isn’t life grand?