Outlaw Star Collection 3 (Mania.com)

By:Roman Martel
Review Date: Saturday, February 16, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 03, 2001

The Review!
Overall Rating: 4.3
(on a scale of 1-5)
-Technical Ratings-
Sound: 4
Picture: 4
Menu: 5
Presentation: 5
Goodies: 4
Overall: 4.4

-Content Ratings-
Animation: 4
Sound: 4
Plot: 4
English Acting: 4
Music: 4
Entertainment: 4.5
Overall: 4.1

Intro Outlaw What? That was the typical response when I asked about this series. Most people hadn't heard of it and those that had said it wasn't as good as the all-powerful Cowboy Bebop. Well the series has finally completed itself and I was having a great time watching, but does the ending do the show justice? Does this series deserve more praise? Does the fact that is has a cat-girl in it make a difference? Well the answers to these earth-shattering questions and more will be discussed right after this brief technical review.

Technical Review This series has looked just slightly above average on my set-ups. This disc was no exception. Good sound and picture quality. There were a couple of moments were the picture was a bit fuzzy, but I'm not sure if it was the master or the disc itself. It was also very brief when it did happen. The menu has been stylish and effective on each disc. It's a bit loud, but that has been my only complaint. The cover is probably one of the best. Suzuka is on it and looks classy and snazzy. The back contains all the information you need, including the special features, region coding, channels of sound, length of time, languages, and rating. The insert has a brief encyclopedia entry about Robots, Cyborgs and Bio-androids in the Outlaw Star universe. You also get an episode breakdown, which is handy. The extras include textless end credits for the second set of drawings, and an image gallery of all the tape covers. I would have liked them a bit bigger but other than that it was a cool extra (I love the cover with Hilda on it!). This series has had a pretty solid technical run. Good job to Bandai and DVD team on this one. Keep up the good work!

Content Review As usual I'll tackle this last couple discs and then do a series wrap up and that might contain spoilers. You guys know the drill, right?

The animation stays pretty much the same with these final eight episodes. Sometimes the characters look great and other times they look kinda funky. With the introduction of the Galactic Leyline we get some obvious CG work and it kinda pulls you out of the moment at times. It's not glaring, but it does work as smoothly as we've seen in other shows. The design and presentation of the Leyline is very unique and handled pretty well. It seems like they weren't sure just how they should reveal this secret of the show, and at times things seem a bit random in the design department. The gravity jail and the hot springs planet are very well done and make up for the ambiguity of the Leyline. The sound design has also kept on par with the visuals. The Leyline has some interesting sounds going on but most of it just fits; it doesn't really stand out, at least not enough for me to really remember it too much. But as I've said before if the sound stands out too much it can pull you out of the story and that is not a good thing.

The plot is a bit rocky. There are some basic problems with having something like the Galactic Leyline in your story. No one knows what it is and no one knows what it can do. It's this huge mystery, so no matter what it turns out to be it's not going to be nearly as cool or original as what you came up with. So I found myself a bit let down by the Leyline and its whole purpose. It was amusing to see that the creators kind of made fun of this problem in the intro to the 24th episode. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This disc basically continues with the wild and wacky adventures of our crew. They run into a private security force and Jim finds some romance and then they get into a bit of a wild goose chase on some ruins. It's all well and good but I was getting a little impatient for some more movement of the plot. I will say that the episode Cats and Girls and Space Ships did a great job adding depth to Jim and putting a new spin on the series. This episode was handled very well and I must say that the battle of emotions I felt watching that episode meant it worked well. We finally get back to the main story arc on the last episode of the first disc. The jailbreak episode proved to be both exciting on its own and move the story forward at the same time. This was one of the best episodes of the whole show. With the next disc we get a bit of a breather before we jump into the heavy stuff. The Hot Springs episode is full of fan service and wacky antics and just plain eye candy and fun. It was a perfect episode to complete the "journey" portion of the series with (sigh... Aisha... in a hot spring... sigh). Anyway, the final three episodes tie up all the loose ends and bring things together. It's not a bad ending, but it does seem to fall short of where it could have gone. My biggest problem with it was the fact that many of the characters seemed to have rushed resolutions to their stories or seemed to be kinda left in the wings while others took center stage an hogged it. Part of the source of this problem lies in the basic story construction of the series but I'll talk more about that later. The rushed resolutions were annoying but the pacing was kept up and so the excitement was steady. Things got a bit cliched at the end, especially when dealing with the leader of the Kei Pirates. I kind of expected that but it would have been nice to see something a bit more original. All in all it was a good ending, not a perfect one. At the end of Bebop I felt satisfied with what happened, there was no other way it could have ended. I felt the same with Vision of Escaflowne. Here, I'm left wanting just a bit more.

The acting has been good or great most of the time and this group of episodes keeps it up. Sometimes you can tell a cast has lost interest in the characters or just seems to not care much by the end of series. Not so here. Everyone is keeping the energy going and doing a good job. Again, I must say that Aisha and Jim were my favorites. They really captured the characters perfectly. I especially liked Jim's awkward reactions to his new girlfriend. The rest of the cast is pretty good most of the time, a few moments felt a bit rough here and there, but nothing really pulled me out of the series. Good solid job all around.

The music is interesting. Sometimes it works very well and at times it is a bit too much. If I'm not mistaken this score was done by the same person who did the score to the second Tenchi movie. If not, it really sounds like a similar style and feel. I loved the way the music worked in the Tenchi movie but here it was a mixed bag. I have the first CD to this series and it's good on its own but sometimes the visuals really don't work with it. I must say the actual songs have grown on me and the opening gets you ready and in the mood for just what the series delivers. The end themes also work well, especially when coupled with the fact that Melfina sings one of them in series. It was an interesting turn that I didn't see coming and added to her character.

Entertainment has been just what this show is going for and I must these episodes do not fail to do that. Almost all the episodes presented here are either exciting, intriguing, funny, or keep the plot moving and make you want to see what happens next. I think that the weakest episode was the first one on the disc. It did introduce the Angel Links group but other than that was mostly filler and not very interesting filler. The rest of the episodes are entertaining and I wouldn't mind rewatching any of them. There are a few that I would love to see again (Aisha in a pool...sigh...) and that bodes well. So just like the other discs this has rewatch value and is just what the anime doctor ordered if you're in the mood for some action, adventure and comedy in the wilds of space. This set keeps up all the fun that the rest of the series has dished out and that is a solid achievement. So if you liked the previous sets get this one as soon as you can.

*** Series Review***

This series has been a real fun one. Since the first disc I was completely surprised (in a good way) with the way this series presented itself. Outlaw Star was a space adventure in every sense of the word. It wasn't trying to be a work of art or delve deep into the human condition. This series was about fun and adventure. As I mentioned above I think that all in all Outlaw Star accomplished its mission. I must say that this has been one of the most fun series I've seen in a while.

What made this show so much fun? Part of it was the use of a cliche group of characters. We were familiar with this group almost before you "get to know them". In that way the writers don't have to really spend too much time adding depth to the characters. In a show that is striving for dramatic conflict this can be a problem. But in this case the point was to have fun. So stereotypical characters work fine. We know how Jim will react in a certain situation, we know what Aisha will do; the fun is to see what situations our writers come up with. This aspect of fun was the constant thread through most of the series. The adventures were what you were watching this show for and so it was up to the writers to come up with some good ones. Most of the times this was successful, other times it didn't work out quite the way it was supposed to. But the good far outweighed the bad.

My main problem with Outlaw Star was the pacing of the overall story. If this show was nothing but a series of adventures in space with no real objective (Ranma in space!?!) then pacing would not be a problem. Yet there was a general objective to this story and at times the filler episodes were just too much. Again this falls on the writers. If more of the main story had been revealed throughout the filler episodes than the pacing would have been just perfect. I said this in my review of the first set of disc and I'll repeat it. The first five episodes of this series were perfect. It was a great mix of action and plot and fun. The character of Hilda was a great catalyst for the forward momentum of the story and it would have been nice to keep her around just a bit longer. Unfortunately when she dies at the end of episode four most of the forward momentum goes with her. From that point on the plot stutters, jumps and stalls for a bit. Some characters suffered from this, with the McDougal brothers getting the worst of it. They are painted as these dangerous outlaws but when it comes down to a final confrontation with them, it just fizzles. Suzuka also gets gypped a bit because of this. She needed a bit more screen time so that her reasons for coming with Gene did not seem so random. Finally the Kei pirates and the seven assassins also got lost in this as well. I never really felt threatened by them. When the big bad Pirate boss gets his desires fulfilled it's almost too cliche to seem like anything but a standard ending that was put on because they never really created an interesting character to begin with. The final element that also suffered was the relationship between Melfina and Gene. I almost laughed when Gene leaned over and kissed Mel. It was so rushed and not really worked into the rest of the episodes at all. It was a bit of a plot point that just got lost along the way.

I think that if the writers had worked a bit more of the overall story into each episode and got some more action from all the side characters this show could have been top notch. As it stands now, it's an entertaining series that I won't mind rewatching. But it isn't one that I put immediately back into my player because it was so fun. It basically comes down to the script for the episodes and how they were handled. I think they could have spent a bit more time tinkering with it a bit. Then the rushed ending and the pacing problems would have been avoided.

So what's the verdict? Outlaw Star is a perfect example of what a real space-adventure story is supposed to be. It's fun, it isn't trying to be anything more than fun. And sometimes all you want is a bit of fun, a bit of action, a bit of cat-girl antics, a bit of comedy, and be left with a grin on your face. Sometimes all you want is Outlaw Star.

Roman J. Martel

Tell me what you think! E-mail me at... roman@animeondvd.com

Review Equipment
General Electric Performance Plus (25 Inch) Sony Playstation 2

Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 44.95
Running time: 200
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Outlaw Star