Outlaw Star (Seihō Bukyō Autorō Sutā)

Outlaw Star (Seihō Bukyō Autorō Sutā) 1998

Space Opera is one of my favourite genres so I was already pre-disposed toward enjoying Outlaw Star before I saw it, I must admit.

And it’s definitely what I was looking for: a fast-paced space adventure that mixes the episodic with over-arching plot but spends a nice amount of time on comedy too – and occasionally, the melodrama that comes from the ‘opera’ part of the genre.

Like so many anime, Outlaw Star is based on an existing manga, but unlike a fair few of them, Sunrise had a full story to work from when they started (I’m pretty sure), so if you come across Outlaw Star you’ll get a series that has a beginning, middle and end. Sweet deal, huh?

And like every adaptation out there, it’s easy to argue that certain elements needed more or less screen time, but I had no problem with the overall mix of comedy/action/adventure.

In terms of structure, what I did wish for was a little more of the main concern threaded into the background of those first episodic installments, the ones appearing right after the Hilda arc. The next few chapters have great internal structure and an equal share of comedy and action as you meet and then get to know the people Gene and Jim end up adopting as part of the Outlaw Star’s crew, so it doesn’t feel like wasted time of course.

That central plot (featuring the mysterious Melfina and her origins) being sidelined at times is actually worked into the story and Gene’s character – he’s the cocky but good-natured bounty-hunter type that will, for some folks, bring Spike Spiegel to mind, I guess.

And comparisons to Cowboy Bebop sometimes pop up with Outlaw Star and it’s fair in some ways – they share a production company and both shows feature futuristic settings, space battles, bounty-hunting (ish) but being broke and a cocky male lead supported by a mismatched crew… yet tonally they’re very different. Outlaw Star focuses more on comedy and adventure, while Bebop is ultimately a sombre series*.

Brings to mind ‘Ballad of Fallen Angels’ a little

But they’re similar also in the fact that most folks seem to care for the characters by the end of the respective shows and while Gene and Aisha are probably common favs, I think the square(?) within me identified most with Jim. Poor Jim, who along with the ship’s computer, was the level-headed one cursed with putting up with Gene’s pig-headedness 😀

At times the character models seemed inconsistent but the designs (of ships and stations also) are distinctive so I got over that issue, and it wasn’t ‘off’ very often either. Cool opening song too but I’ll add that another way that Outlaw Star differs from Cowboy Bebop is their approach to fan-service.

Bebop is occasionally more subtle about it but wow, the ‘hot springs planet episode’ in Outlaw Star is way over the top. So much so that it’s doubtless a self-aware parody of the whole idea of a fan-service episode. And while there’s no plot-based reason for Melfina to be naked while helping pilot the ship, the show does undress Gene a fair bit too.

So, finally to some sort of recommendation, right?

Well, keeping in mind that I’ve mentioned my biases… this is worth seeing if you’re a fan of any of the genres I’ve mentioned above or interested in Sunrise during the 1990s, and while it’s not flawless it is fun, I reckon.

4 Stars

* I wanted to note that on the off chance you come across (misguided) folks looking down on Outlaw Star as knock-off of Cowboy Bebop, you can remind them that OS started screening a couple of months prior and wasn’t cancelled during its original run 😀

21 thoughts on “Outlaw Star (Seihō Bukyō Autorō Sutā)

  1. Wow this anime looks beautiful. Drawings look detailed and the colours are vivid and vibrant! Not bad for a show from the 1990s, but my opinion probably isn’t worth anything since I’ve only seen a small number of shows from that time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Tiger – I agree, ‘Outlaw Star’ it is a little more vivid than some of the more popular 1990s series out there, I reckon, even if it’s not as polished as say, Bebop.

      And no way, happy to have your opinion for sure 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. YES! Outlaw Star is such a fun series. Thanks for also putting up the point that Outlaw Star predates Cowboy Bebop not just with the anime, but with the manga (don’t worry, Bebop isn’t a ripoff, so don’t get me wrong). I also think this was the first seinen series to be shown on Toonami. Funny how you mention this anime because I have a friend who just texted me this mini-shrine of Outlaw Star memorabilia he’s been collecting over the past year. Thank for covering this series.

    Side note: One of my favorite anime themes is from OS (“Through the Night”) and the music was scored by Ko Otani who’s responsible for Haibane Renmei and Shadow of the Colossus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t realise the scoring link, cool. And yeah, the opening is such a knock out – I liked Suzuka’s theme too.

      Not being from the US, I think I read that Toonami used to block this with CB and Trigun sometimes, which maybe explains some of the love for the three shows and the feelings of interconnection between them?

      Yeah, I think it can be overlooked (the manga’s age) and maybe that’s also part of the tonal difference too. I know Watanabe talks about the first few espisodes of the first Lupin series as being a key influence. I wonder if that’s out of step for what might have influenced Takehiko Itō? I’ve tried to research that only briefly and failed so far 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup. Otani has done a ton of music work for several series, but I feel like he doesn’t have the name recognition of a Yuki Kajiura, Yoko Kanno, or Joe Hisaishi to name a few. I agree with Suzuka’s theme, too.

        That could be a possibility even though it was the time where they played the edited version of Outlaw Star while playing the uncut version on Adult Swim with Bebop and Trigun. That might be the case.

        Gotcha. I do wonder about some of the main influences about Outlaw Star. Lupin does make sense with Watanabe though. What I do wonder is if Firefly was influenced by Outlaw Star since I’ve noticed some similarities like a female character in a giant suitcase (Melfina and River) and it involves space bounty hunters who are broke more often than not.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh wow, he also did ‘Gundam Wing’ and ‘City Hunter’, awesome!

          Ah, maybe the did play an edit. I reckon ‘Outlaw Star’ might be easier to edit than say, Bebop. And ‘Firefly’ must have had both as key influences, huh? It’s interesting the decades of give and take between US and Japanese cinema, starting to some extent I guess with Samurai and Westerns.

          (As a related aside, I recently came across ‘8 Man’ and I can see why there are ‘Robocop’ comparisons made too).

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I knew he scored Gundam Wing, but I didn’t know about City Hunter. That’s still cool!

            The Toonami edit completely skipped the hot springs episode because they wouldn’t get away with that stuff with children watching it in between DBZ or Sailor Moon. That’s definitely true about the give and take of US and Japanese cinema. You have The Maginificent Seven being an American remake of Seven Samurai or George Lucas admitting that he based aspects of Star Wars on The Hidden Fortress. There’s even the Wachowskis who literally pitched a certain movie by playing the DVD of Ghost In the Shell to the studio execs. What movie was it for? The Matrix! I’m also going to spare myself by mentioning the actual plagiarism cases. Hahaha!

            I heard about those comparisons even though I haven’t seen 8 Man. Yeah, that does look so intriguing.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. That ep would not have gone down well uncut, yeah!

            I forgot about ‘The Hidden Fortress’ – and I didn’t know the cases around ‘The Matrix’, will take a look now 🙂

            8 Man is climbing my list of ‘must see soon’ 😀

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Yeah, they would never have gotten away with it during regular programming hours, so they saved it for Adult Swim where they could play it.

            That’s right. I saw The Hidden Fortress and I saw some of those comparisons. The two peasants are like what the droids would be if they were humans. Yup, the Wachowskis are anime fans and loved Ghost in the Shell. If you look at the original GITS movie, there’s the green digital wall scroll in the beginning, the gun fight where the watermelons are being blown up, and Trinity was even based on the Major herself in her design.

            Very interesting. That may be something I should check out.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. That’s awesome and really puts things in perspective. I noticed they had the same clip from the extra of The Hidden Fortress in recommended videos. Major props for them mentioning the similarities between both princesses, the Darth Vader scars, and for flipping the titles and fonts for each movies. Haha!

            Yup, you can’t un-see it now.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. Sure. I remembered some of the similarities, but I forgot about how many there were (the split screen of the flag fade and Tarkin blowing up the planet really make sense in hindsight). I’m glad you appreciated the title and font swap, too.

            Liked by 1 person

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