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Pioneer presents

Outlaw Star: Volume 2 (1998)

"In the next episode I'll even get to pilot a giant robot! Huh? I won't?"- Gene Starwind

Stars: Gene Starwind, Jim Hawking, Aisha ClanClan
Other Stars: Hilda, Gilliam, Melfina
Director: Wendee Lee, Hongoo Mitsuru

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for Voluntarily rated 13 Up.(some language, nudity, violence)
Run Time: 03h:25m:00s
Release Date: 2000-12-12
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-A-A- C+


DVD Review

Outlaw Star represents a lot of what makes Japanese animation so interesting. It has an interesting setting (a non-descript future where mankind has conquered most of space), fun characters, and a true sense of adventure. Even better, though, is the fact that it doesn't take itself very seriously at all. While the morose, apocalyptic tales we might be used to in anime can be extremely entertaining, Outlaw Star's departure from those confines makes it loads of fun to get into and easy to follow. I will confess, though, I haven't seen the first 9 episodes. This second volume of Outlaw Star on DVD marks my first encounter with the series, although I was brought up to speed on what was going on by some friends. (Thanks to CCC35453 (Carl) and Nobiyuki (Sean) for assistance in clearing up the details of episodes 1-9.)

The core of the series deals with two space outlaws, Gene Starwind and his young friend Jim Hawking. The two have managed to make an existence by taking on random jobs and being sort of "jacks of all trades." While not outlaws in the conventional sense of the word, their long life of avoiding serious work has left them with many contacts throughout the universe that dabble in less-than-legal enterprises. The backstory of Volume 2 is that while serving as bodyguards for a mysterious woman named Hilda, they end up possessing an advanced spacecraft (which they name "Outlaw Star) that only operates properly through telekinetic bond with an artitifical humanoid as it's "engine," of a sort. Thought Gene and Jim possess this spacecraft as well as it's artificial pilot, Melfina, they soon discover that they've also inherited many enemies from space pirates to a mysterious duo of assassins known as the MacDougal Brothers. Gene, Jim, Melfina, and the on-board computer "Gilliam" make their way across the universe trying to figure out the mystery of why the spacecraft is so desirable. They also wish to discover the origins of Melfina, the artificial woman who pilots the craft.

In the process of wandering around the galaxy looking for ways to profit from their luck, Gene and Jim pick up two unlikely companions: a mysterious swordswoman and an alien, Aisha ClanClan, who is a female Ctarl-Ctarl; one of the deadliest warrior species in space. In Volume Two we find this band making themselves at home at the spaceport of Heifong. This set represents episodes 10-18, during which the general theme is Gene and Jim attempting to make money by opening up a business that does just about anything.

While the theme might sound repetitive, the series manages to keep this constant quest for cash something interesting and lively. For starters, each of the characters has different motivations for sticking around. While Gene and Jim basically can live comfortably on money and success, the others in his party seek deeper answers to questions about who the Kei Pirates are and why they want to kill Gene. Aisha seeks a legendary treasure hidden at the end of the "Galactic Leyline," and Melfina just wants to know who she is. Though serious issues are present, the series always manages to lighten the mood with well placed humor. Most anime I've seen tends to paint humor in very broad strokes (accidental nudity, that sort of thing), but in Outlaw Star the brilliant subtlety that makes you chuckle is something I've rarely seen in animation. For example, in one scene, Gene and his friend are discussing a serious issue of whether or not to take on a job, but all the while Aisha plays an annoying video game in the background that wonderfully satirizes Japanese "dating-sim" games like Tokimeki. In another episode, Jim decides to take on a solo job locating a stolen plant which turns out to be a deadly, alien form of cactus!

This lighthearted approach makes the whole story more exciting and fun. The series isn't all just jokes, though. There's some good action sequences and more upbeat moments. The pacing of the episodes is pretty fast, so things never really slow down long enough for you to even think about getting bored. I'm sure this might not be the case with earlier episodes, since they're establishing more of the story, but here it's just all-out adventure. This anime is one of the most entertaining I've seen in some time, and Japanese animation fans can't really go wrong here.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in full-frame (as originally made), the animation here looks very impressive. Although the animation isn't quite as high-tech as something like, say, Blue Submarine No. 6, it still comes across as amazingly clean and crisp. There are no signs of any kind of compression problems, and the overall balance of colors and black level is superb. The source prints show minor signs of damage in certain areas, but it's hardly worth mentioning. The English subtitles are yellow with black bordering. They are a nice size and center themselves well in the bottom of the frame.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Both English and Japanese soundtracks are Dolby 2.0 Surround. The audio is impressive and extremely vibrant. While dialogue is mainly rooted to the center channel, just about everything else (sound effects, music, etc.) are presented in stereo, creating an expansive sound field that really adds to the show. Surrounds are used on occasion to enhance some effects, like explosions, spacecraft engine noise, and that sort of thing. The whole mix sounds impressive and is definitely a nice change from the mostly mono audio of average anime. The English dub is not all that impressive. While it's not as bad as some, it still lacks a certain punch. Most of the voices are dubbed pretty well, but a few, most notably Gene Starwind, just don't seem to have the right enthusiasm. I preferred the Japanese audio for its inflections and general tone, but the dub is certainly passable.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cowboy Bebop, Tenamonya Teenagers, Angel Links, Don'tLeave Me Alone, Daisy
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Conceptual art gallery.
  2. Textless version of the end credits sequence.
Extras Review: The second disc of the set contains a text version of the Outlaw Star closing credit sequence, which features still artwork set to music. Also included is a gallery of conceptual artwork for the designs behind many of the ships in the show.

Trailers for other Bandai releases are also featured, including Angel Links which is set in the same universe as Outlaw Star. The presentation is impressive with some really nice, animated menus, lively keepcase artwork, and in insert that explains the technology behind the actual Outlaw Star spacecraft.

Extras Grade: C+

Final Comments

Nine (9) 25-minute episodes in one set is a pretty good deal, especially considering how some anime is being put out very slowly over many discs. The double disc format allows great image and sound quality and makes this set a quality purchase for animation fans. At the time of writing this, Outlaw Star will soon be premiering on the Cartoon Network beginning January 15th. I'm honestly worried about what the commercials and possible censorship will do to the show, but at least everyone will get the chance to experience this fun series. Now Pioneer and Bandai need to put out Volume 3!

Dan Lopez 2001-01-10