#1 Comedy adventures in space
Sentinel III is a space colony and home to the mercenary Gene Starwind and his 11-year-old business partner Jim Hawking. The two of them will take on any job, but one day this line of work sees them team up with an outlaw space captain who is protecting an amnesiac girl from a group of villains.
Gene and Jim eventually end up inheriting this task and, after acquiring a rickety old spaceship, set out to journey around the cosmos together with the mysterious Melfina and other friends they make along the way.
Outlaw Star is a space western and will feel immediately familiar to fans of Cowboy Bebop. Many episodes are smaller, standalone stories where the crew of the spaceship, called The Outlaw Star, undertakes some new mission or helps somebody solve a problem. For example, one episode sees the crew protecting a businessman from an assassin so they’ll get free upgrades for their ship, while another has them participate in a race with all their savings on the line.
#2 A company of goofballs
No comedy anime is complete without fun characters and Outlaw Star handles this just fine. Gene and Jim are both very likable dudes and have a good chemistry together. Jim is this serious, but easily-flustered child genius with a knack for business, finances, and strategy, whereas Gene is more laidback and has enough guts and muscle to compensate for his partner-in-crime being a literal kid.
I enjoyed early interactions like the two of them arguing over a game of cards that Gene was quite clearly losing in spite of his bravado or Gene deliberately putting Jim and Melfina together when booking hotel rooms as a prank. They are soon joined by other fun characters, with my favorite being this rising star admiral of an empire of cat-like people who is demoted after embarrassingly losing to The Outlaw Star. She continuously tries to get her vengeance on Gene and his crew, only to suffer more defeats or fall for Gene’s trickery.
Characters do also have serious sides to them that tie into the overarching story. Gene, for example, lost his father in a spaceship-related accident and has since lived on Sentinel III. Even though he was a quick learner with potential of becoming an ace pilot, this event traumatized him and, even as he begins to overcome this fear, he endures frustration as he struggles to relearn skills that he picked up so effortlessly as a kid. Of course, there is also Melfina’s story, as she wants to discover who she is and why she exists, which forms much of the backbone of the adventure.
#3 A cool sci-fi universe
I remain on the fence about science fiction in anime. It’s still not a preferred genre of mine and the early episodes of Outlaw Star had me doubting if I should continue, as I tried to wrap my head around the combination of space era technology and its strange magical influences.
I got into it after a while and have to say that the world of Outlaw Star got more interesting as it went on. Every episode starts off with a brief reading on background lore that will be relevant in that episode, which nicely paces out the world-building. The show is primarily an action series and doesn’t let itself get bogged down in storytelling, but I was pretty interested in the different factions and races that populate the world.
I’d be down for an Outlaw Star video game or a 4X mod set in its universe, that’s for sure.
This is also a stylish show, which helps that universe really come to life. Character designs are sharp and handsome; certainly a bit aged by today’s standard, but still very appealing. The animation work was handled by Studio Sunrise and the quality truly shows.