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Outlaw Star Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Outlaw Star Complete CollectioThe galaxy needs more outlaws like this.

What They Say:
Gene Starwind is a jack-of-all-trades responsible for odd jobs and bounty hunting with his partner, Jim Hawking. Stuck on a rundown planet, he’s going nowhere fast. But when a bodyguard job goes sideways, he finds himself the proud owner of the Outlaw Star and on an adventure to find the mysterious Galactic Leyline. Facing pirates and dangers galore, can he survive the journey through space?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is fairly straightforward in that we get the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the previously created English language dub. Both tracks are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec and they bring about the time in which they were created. There isn’t any big change to how they come across here as it’s solid when it comes to the dialogue and there’s some decent placement and depth in the action scenes but it was created during a different time for TV productions. The area that makes out quite well is the music side of it as the opening and closings sound much warmer and richer than they did before with the heavy compression and getting them lossless is a big boost. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 1998, the transfer of this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-six episodes are spread across three discs in a nine/nine/eight format, giving it a solid amount of room to work with. Animated by Sunrise, the series has something for someone like me that loves the traditional animation period and some of the digital aspects brought into it. There’s a richness to the movement of characters and ships, especially in the overall choreography, that’s just very appealing. The line work on the characters is great and I love the details in the backgrounds and the ships that are more visible and sharper here. Colors are much richer and cleaner this time around with just some of the usual and expected film grain in the mix. By and large it’s a very solid and appealing mix with anything to point out really bordering on nitpicking just to find something.

The packaging for this release comes in an oversized Blu-ray case that holds the discs for both formats on multiple hinges plus the back interior wall. The o-card for it replicates the case artwork that’s definitely interesting compared to what we’ve have before as it’s certainly more stylish with the illustration design and the color design that focuses on Gene looking cool as hell. With the ease of which they could have done some overly fanservice oriented shots of the female characters, this feels like a really good choice. The back cover is largely filled with the summary of the premise along with nods towards the studio but it does include a few small shots of the cast along the right. The extras are all clearly listed and we get a good breakdown on the technical side for both formats as well. No show related inserts are included but there’s a good piece of artwork on the reverse side right panel that features Gene and Melfina together. The left side breaks down the episodes by number and title for both formats, which means it takes up a lot of space.

The menu design for this release is fairly straightforward as it’s gone the clip route in order to show it off. The clips are pretty good with what they bring into it with a mix of action and cool character moments while placing the logo in the center top section, which is all white and stands out in contrast to everything else. The navigation along the bottom uses a bit bigger font than usual, which is nice, though the block itself still feels like it’s too big. On the plus side they set it with a star filled background so it fits the theme nicely and stands out while moving through it both as a pop-up menu and as the main menu. Everything is quick and easy to load with setup being a breeze.

The extras for this release are a bit minimal but not unexpected as we get the clean opening and closing songs, a nice collection of commercials, the trailer for the series, and the pilot video. This little two-minute proof of concept piece is nicely done and you can easily see how it sold it moving onto full production status.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Takehiko Ito, which sadly has still not been licensed even at just three volumes, Outlaw Star is a twenty-six episode series that landed in 1998 and was a pretty big bit of fun when Bandai Entertainment first brought it out alongside Cowboy Bebop. The series is one that tickles a kind of old school fan element with its science fiction elements, carefully minimal fanservice, and the pacing and spacing it needs to build a show about a family that comes together while dealing with larger threats – eventually. I had had a real blast with this show when it was first released on DVD way back when and it gained a number of fans over the years thanks to its broadcast run on Toonami. Funimation’s rescue, coming after the Japanese Blu-ray release, has been a highlight of this year for me.

The series focuses on a crew that comes together that initially starts off with Gene Starwind and Jim Hawking. The pair have a pretty good dynamic that’s almost like an older/younger brother scenario as they flit about space to various colonies and deal with all sorts of things to try and make a living. Their career goes a bit off path when they end up getting their hands on a suitcase that contains a young woman named Melfina that’s actually a high-tech biological android that’s pretty useful in a lot of ways. This has them dealing with a woman named Hilda whose story is one that has a really good sense of completeness about it and ends up gifting the remaining trio a high end ship that they can use, which is naturally named the Outlaw Star. It’s from here that the show barrels forward as they all learn their roles and figure out how to deal with this new life.

The opening arc hits this well while introducing us to the outlaw life and how that operates as well as slowly getting Melfina in the mix, which is a point of frustration between the guys for a bit, particularly as Jim sees her as an almost mother-like figure with how supportive and nurturing she is. This is important after the loss of Hilda that casts a bit of a shadow over things but it’s handled well instead of the cast just bouncing back and moving right along with things. A lot of the show is fairly episodic in this regard with what it does but it works because there are threads being tugged on, notably with some of those that become players as time progresses. Suzuka’s an assassin that the group get tangled with and while they’re not full on allies they work together a fair bit later on and cross paths. Similarly, the use of Aisha from the Ctarl-Ctarl race is definitely fun as we get a good understanding of her background that explains away her kind of spastic nature after having lost so much. Like Suzuka, she plays a pivotal role overall but it’s one that bounces in and out of the series with its connection to the main group and their stories. This keeps the show from getting overcrowded in the first half so that we get more time and chances to explore things without a full complement of characters. And it allows for one-off and short-term characters to stand out better as well with each individual story.

One of my favorite episodes from this series dealt with Gene breaking into a high gravity prison planet to gain the coordinates of the Leyline that’s part of the larger storyline unfolding from a prisoner in there and then escape with said prisoner. It’s one of those episodes you know how it’ll turn out when it comes to the end, but the ride in the middle where all the action takes places was just a lot of fun to watch. Gene’s attitude gets him into trouble several times but this time with a purpose. His interactions with the other prisoners as well as his adamant definition of the difference between and Outlaw and a criminal worked well and the setting felt like classic SF story setup.

I do have to admit that my favorite episode is one that can be problematic for some with the Hot Springs planet episode. It’s at least much further in the series than in the first few so it’s more of just some levity I mean, how can it not be? While this episode was (obviously) excised from the Cartoon Network airing, I found it to be an appropriately placed episode in between all the action and seriousness of the final run episodes. The upshot is that Gene heads to this planet where three wise men are able to create new shells for his Caster gun. The humorous part is that one of the wise men, or specifically a wise woman, has turned the planet into a tourist attraction with tons of hot springs. And it’s swimwear only, no regular clothes and one hell of an immigration section. Gene spends most of his time on “quests” to gain the shells from the two wise men and does his best to get them dirty pictures of Urt, the wise woman who has a temple full of women up on her mountain.

The show just really flows well together in providing subtle humor as well as laugh out loud sections. During all his quests, Gene is being chased by one of the Anten members (quite unsuccessfully, as Gene never even notices him till the end). The women all get their fan-service moments with Aishi providing the must blatant catgirl nudity (cha-ching, sales just tripled). What made this worthwhile to the series overall is the explanation of the mana of the universe and how it relates to the weapon Gene uses. It makes sense in retrospect, but I never connected a Caster gun with a spellcaster and the shells being condensed magic spells.

The final few episodes of the series brings things to a the height of things with the Outlaw Star crew, the Anten/Kei pirates, the MacDougall brothers and Gwen Kahn all making it to the Leyline to discover the treasure. There’s a lot of things going on in these final episodes and to talk about one is to give away various other plots. Several things are indeed revealed and while the ending probably won’t be satisfactory to everyone, it works well but does minimize the overall effort from the beginning of the arc. In the end though, the goal was to learn who Melfina really is and that’s fairly well revealed here.

In Summary:
Outlaw Star was a real treat and a real surprise back in the day and having not seen it since Bandai first brought out in 2000 or so, coming back into it at this stage was like a breath of fresh air. While watching the show I was reminded greatly of my days of anime watching in the late 80’s and early 90’s when subtitled tapes were coming out and everything I saw was just fun to watch and I was just engrossed in it. I’m tempted to say that in some respects, Outlaw Star has rekindled my love of anime in the classic fun action series genre. Funimation’s release delivers where it needs to in giving us a great looking show that we now have an even better look at in terms of animation, some great traditional material in the mix here, and a kind of warmth and flow to it that simply stands out very well against some of today’s slick works. This is a really fun show that definitely hits a sweet spot for me.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Pilot Video, Trailer, Commercial Collection, Textless Opening and Closing Songs, and Trailers

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: June 13th, 2017
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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