Outlaw Star shines among anime of early aughts
I’m paying homage to an anime series that has made a major impact on otaku culture as well helped in the renaissance of anime in America.
First, I’ll give a little background. Sunrise Beyond Inc. is well known for its globally acclaimed series Gundam. It has also helped contribute to and worked with Cartoon Network with its Toonami/Adult Swim blocks, presenting new classics such as The Big O, Cowboy Bebop and Inuyasha. But Sunrise brought a series to Cartoon Network that helped anime rebound in American pop culture. That series is Outlaw Star.
Licensed by Bandai Entertainment in 1999 and broadcasted on Cartoon Network in 2001 and 2002, Outlaw Star tells the story of Gene Starwind and best friend-business partner James “Jim” Hawking, who run a jack-of-all trades business on the planet Sentinel III. Their lives are changed forever when an outlaw named Hot Ice Hilda hires them as bodyguards while recovering a stolen spaceship — later known as the Outlaw Star — and its navigational system to find the “Galactic Layline,” a fabled place which holds immense treasure, knowledge, and power. Outlaw Star has some similarities to Cowboy Bebop in the theme of a Space Western type of anime. Early on, I was introduced to the main characters, but I learned later that the makeup of the cast would change. When Gene, Jim and Hilda reach the hiding place of the Outlaw Star, they’re attacked by the Kei pirates, who are after Hilda for stealing the ship. Hilda battles the pirates, stalling for Gene and Jim to escape with the ship and its navigation system named Melfina. Hilda dies, unfortunately, when she activates a hidden bomb that vaporizes her and the pirates.
The series continues with Gene and crew taking on various jobs to manage maintenance and gaining new crew members, such as assassin “Twilight” Suzuka and former Ctarl-Ctarl government officer Aisha ClanClan. In addition to the Kei pirates, Gene must deal with the bounty hunting MacDougall brothers and the scheming Professor Gwen Kahn while uncovering the mystery surrounding Melfina and the Galactic Layline. Gene and company are always looking to make money while spending it and sometimes laugh at the escapades they get into while trying to do so.
The character designs are very good, but the stars of the show are the actual ships designed by Juniya Ishigaki and Shoji Kawamori, who designed the Outlaw Star. The show’s main and ending themes begin with a strong masculine theme then change to a child-like lullaby and a slow pop song that can calm the most frustrated otaku. The voice dub cast is excellent with Bob Buchholz as Gene, Brianne Siddall as Jim, Emily Brown as Melfina, Lenore Zann as Aisha, and Wendee Lee as Suzuka. Outlaw Star also benefited from having Beau Billingslea as the narrator and Mary E. McGlynn as Hilda. Another voice actor that contributed was Barbra Goodson, known for her work on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as “Rita Repulsa,” as a guest voice. This series showed that Sunrise employed excellent voice actors with high quality designs and strong storytelling to bring a show that would have been overlooked to the forefront with enthusiastic fan support.
Outlaw Star is a show among the Toonami/Adult Swim lineup that kept the programing blocks alive in addition to reviving anime passion in America. Fortunately, you can find this classic series on the Funimation now and Hulu streaming services.
If anything, Outlaw Star teaches all otaku like me: Go forth, seek your fortune and do not fear failure.
Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com