Room for dinosaurs

I saw Outlaw Star when it aired on Toonami back in 2001.  I think I was attracted to it because it was a space based show that didn’t have Gundam in its name.  What I found was an enjoyable space western that didn’t take itself too seriously. And once you accept that it’s not as good as Cowboy Bebop, you’ll enjoy it too.

Say what you will about the content, the show had a great logo

Yes, that’s right, Outlaw Star is inferior to Cowboy Bebop.  The shows are too similar for me to avoid comparing them.  Both follow starship crews of mercenaries whose jobs never pan out,  but Cowboy Bebop is more sophisticated. The depictions of love, loss, frustration, honor and corruption matter in a way that Outlaw Star’s depictions don’t.  Cowboy Bebop is one of the most poignant anime series out there.

So it’s pretty clear that Outlaw Star isn’t in some way better than Cowboy Bebop.  But that’s okay, just because Outlaw Star isn’t the best show ever, or even the best in its genre, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it.  Think of Outlaw Star as a YA (Young Adult) novel compared to Cowboy Bebop’s adult fiction.  I don’t fault The Hunger Games for not being as meaningful as 1984, I just accept that they are different.  Many adults enjoy The Hunger Games even though it won’t likely win the next Nobel Prize in literature.

Outlaw Stars innovation: spaceships with arms

Since Outlaw Star doesn’t try to be as deep or meaningful as Cowboy Bebop, it takes itself less seriously. We get to meet ridiculous characters like Aisha a cat warrior from Ctarl-Ctarl and Fred Lou a flamboyant financier who’s out to sleep with the main character, Gene Starwind.  Instead of chasing the meaning of life Gene gets to pursue the Galactic Leyline, the galaxies ultimate treasure.

Along the way Gene gets to shoot his way through pirates, bounty hunters, dinosaurs (seriously) and assassins.  And then there’s the humanoid dinosaur.  It was a superfluous addition without any benefit to the plot, but why waste a perfectly good opportunity right? The show also treats you to at least one western style pistol fight or space dogfight per episode, with Gene invariably coming out on top.  Plus there are spaceships with arms (grappler ships) and magic infused bullets (caster shells) thrown in, just for good measure.

Does this count as jumping the shark?

Gene’s wild ride through the galaxy won’t culminate in a way that changes how you think about the world, but the show’s humor and gun battles keep it enjoyable.  It makes sense that Cartoon Network thought it had broad enough appeal to serve as a gateway anime back in 2001.  As long as you don’t dismiss it as an inferior Cowboy Bebop, you’ll likely enjoy it too.

7 thoughts on “Room for dinosaurs”

  1. Because Cowboy Bebop was deep and meaningful. It was totally about the human condition and the spiritual dignity that unites us all.

  2. I have to admit, this actually has been in my top five favorite anime for years. I remember when it was on toonami, there was a contest among the shows to see which would be marathoned. This hard-core Sailor Moon junkie was pissed when Outlaw Star won the contest. I didn’t actually watch it until it became part of the Adult Swim line up, it was then I fell in love with it. The music was the big part of why I was caught up in it, the space battles were awesome, and the magic entangled with technology fascinated me. I remember thinking that ships sort of looked like Tenchi Muyo! ships but Outlaw Star’s had a more slick appearance. Strangely enough, the best scenes in Outlaw Star to me were when there were still images or clips from previous scenes.

    1. I wish Cartoon Network still had a heavy anime presence, I think a big reason new fans aren’t coming into anime like they did in the past is the lack of mass market exposure. Things like anime contests on Cartoon Network are probably a thing of the past.

  3. I’m not sure what you went by when you compared the two, but I never really got into Cowboy Bebop. Wasn’t really for me, so I see Outlaw Star being my preference. I love the array of personalities, character designs, rough animation style, and voice overs.

    1. I’d say the story in Cowboy Bebop is superior to Outlaw Star. Star was about the quest for the Galactic Leyline, which was just a plot device to give everyone something to pursue. Cowboy Bebop had a more potent plot built on emotions rather than a gimmick. I’d give it another look.

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