Having a fan-service episode set at a beach or hot springs resort is not uncommon for anime looking to introduce a little fun down-time between relevant episodes. Those looking to make such episodes a bit more risque might exclude it from the original airing and put it back in as a bonus for the DVD or BluRay releases. It’s often safe to skip these “beach episodes” if they don’t interest you, but what if they held information and revelations absolutely vital to the plot of the entire series.
Outlaw Star had two episodes cut from its TV line-up, one of which was a standalone adventure based on the story of Moby Dick and the other was a visit to a planet renowned for its hot springs. These were then added back in with the DVD releases, but this left people watching the original broadcasts with a major plot hole between episodes right at the end of the series.
Episode 23, Hot Springs Planet Tenrei, happens right after the crew of The Outlaw Star has obtained pivotal information that would lead them to the final battle and sees them land on a planet where protagonist Gene Starwind hopes to stock up on his special ammunition. His “caster” shells are a type of magic in bullet format, but the secret of their creation is an enigma and the planet Tenrei is his only lead. Upon arrival, the crew quickly dons ditches their clothes and proceeds to have a fun time around the resort while Gene goes off on his own.
It’s not hard to see why the episode wasn’t aired. It’s a constant stream of bikini babes and we get to see characters completely naked. A large chunk of the episode also deals with Gene making a trade with the creators of his ammunition where he has to record their female colleague in the nude. It’s a final moment of peace for the crew before the big battles of its finale, but catgirl titties are generally a no-go for TV broadcasters.
However, the episode also reveals a lot of the lore central to Outlaw Star‘s background story. It explains the origins and decay of magic leading to the techniques and technologies we have seen in action throughout the show and, most importantly, it provides Gene a powerful but costly new tool that he has to use during the final episodes. If you only watch the aired episodes and fire up episode 24, you suddenly got Gene flaunting his new ammo and referencing his conversations with the characters who gave it to him.
Episode 24 pulls a bit of an info dump to get viewers up to date with the most important info about these new caster shells, but it leaves you with the glaring feeling that something is missing.
I wonder what the thought process was here. I get wanting to have a little distraction between serious storylines and the hot springs episode is a good fit for a show with so many cool female characters in it. Why make that episode pull double duty by stuffing it full of vital plot development if you knew it would be cut? Why risk confusing so many viewers right before the final battle?