3 Reasons To Watch: Outlaw Star

#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.

Outlaw Star Gene

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.

samurai Outlaw Star

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.

Lizard Outlaw Star

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.

3 thoughts on “3 Reasons To Watch: Outlaw Star

  1. Outlaw Star is certainly a fun show. Did you know it actually predates Cowboy Bebop? Don’t worry, I would never call Cowboy Bebop a ripoff though. It was also the first seinen show to be on Toonami which is quite surprising in hindsight. “Through the Night” is one of my favorite anime opening theme songs. Something about it just pumps me up and it has been great on a workout playlist. One series you might enjoy from the same director is Shamanic Princess even though it’s in a different genre. It also blows my mind that Ko Otani scored this anime since I mainly know him for his work in Haibane Renmei.

    Also, am I the only person who thinks Firefly may have been influenced by this anime? I mean, both series do involve bounty hunters who are broke and a scene involving a woman in a suitcase early on.

    1. I’ll take you up on that recommendation. I’ve seen Shamanic Princess around, but have been putting off watching it for some time now because my backlog is a bit of a mess. I did know that it predated Cowboy Bebop, though I wasn’t aware it was such an oddity in Toonami’s line-up and certainly had never stopped to ponder if it may have inspired Firefly. In fact, it might be interesting to look into live-action works that are secretly inspired by anime or manga. Like how Edge of Tomorrow is just Americanized All You Need is Kill. I’ll keep that in the ideas bucket.

      1. Thanks, Casper! I think you might enjoy Shamanic Princess and it’s a short watch at only 6 episodes.

        Yeah, Outlaw Star is older and it was a manga first that ran in Ultra Jump of all places (the seinen equivalent of Shonen Jump). Granted, they edited stuff during it’s Toonami run and removing the infamous hot spring episode for obvious reasons, but they did have it unedited at midnight. Yeah, there were some parallels to Firefly with some scenes and plot points. Very good call with Edge of Tomorrow. It still blows my mind that Tom Cruise was involved with something from the mind of Yoshitoshi ABe of all people. Hahaha! If you’re going to do a list like that, then I’d throw The Matrix (Ghost In the Shell) and Dark City (Akira) there. Don’t even get me started on actual plagiarism cases like a certain live action movie I can think of. Hahahaha!

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