25 Days of Anime - #13: Outlaw Star

A classic from the days of Toonami's original run, Outlaw Star holds a special place for me. It was one of the first anime I ever watched, following the likes of Ronin Warriors and G Gundam, and was also among the first I followed all the way through (with the obvious exception of the hot springs episode, which was omitted from the Toonami airing in the interests of a young audience). It's the first gritty anime I was ever introduced to, and it broke a lot of conventions that other anime followed for the day. Many people compare it to Cowboy Bebop, but I feel the two have strong identities separate from one another.

Whereas Bebop is focused on a small group of characters hoping to make a living by chasing one bounty after another, Outlaw Star is concerned with the story at large - the search for the fabled Galactic Leyline. The cast of Bebop is quirky and plays off one another in an oddball fashion, with the characters gradually settling their differences. Each episode is largely dependent of the next, with the rivalry shared by Spike and Vicious only popping up on occasion and setting the stage for the series' finale.

Though Gene Starwind and his pal Jim are the dynamic duo at the outset, they admittedly have little idea as to what they are getting themselves into, as their discovery of Melfina opens doors to numerous adventures across the stars. Outlaw Star's cast gradually comes to recognize their dependency on one another, and develop a sort of unspoken comraderie - Aisha because she is too proud, Twilight Suzuka because she recognizes Gene still has a lot to learn, and Melfina because she lacks understanding of her role in the universe. There are brief distractions and side stories, but by and large Outlaw Star stays on course, with the Galactic Leyline constantly on the minds of Gene and his crew.

Gene is a go-getter, with his eyes always on the prize. His methods are a bit unorthodox, though he can certainly hold his own in a shootout, his skills only improving after he acquires his signature Caster Gun. What stands out the most about Gene, though, is his fear of space. A traumatic experience from his past made him practically give up hope on ever getting off his planet of residence, but when he pilots the Outlaw Star and has onboard computer Gilliam providing assistance, Gene feels right at home.

A modern spin on Treasure Island, Outlaw Star does what a lot of sci-fi series featuring space-faring rogues step away from - it incorporates elements of magic and mythology. Aisha Clanclan is not only a member of the highly influential Catrl-Catrl Empire, but is also capable of transforming into a beastly cat when placed in circumstances of intense pressure. Gene's Caster Gun uses rounds that fire different elements, which each having a different effect on his foes. Pirates and priests are privy to abilities similar to old-world understandings of black magic, while the Galactic Leyline acts as a maze to both the body and the mind. Meanwhile, Twilight Suzuka adds minor elements of feudal Japanese traditions. The amalgam of all this results in a product that certainly retains its vision as a space-age rendition of Treasure Island, but is far removed from the conventions of adventures in piracy.

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