Japanese animated tv series (1998). Original title Seihō Bukyō Autorō Sutā. Based on the Manga by Takehiko Itō. Sunrise. Directed by Mitsuru Hongo. Written by Katsuhiko Chiba. Voice cast includes Takeshi Aono, Toshiko Fujita, Takaya Hashi, Tsutomu Kashiwakura, Seizo Kato, Ayako Kawasumi, Rica Matsumoto, Yuko Miyamura, Kazuhiro Nakata, Shigeru Shibuya and Sayuri Yamauchi. 26 26-minute episodes. Colour.
Long ago, the discovery of Dragonite crystal in a meteorite led to the invention of the Münchausen Drive (see Rudolf Erich Raspe), which enabled Faster Than Light travel. The human race colonized the Stars, with three dominant agencies arising, the Space Force (representing the authorities), Pirates, and rugged individualists called Outlaws.
On a backwater planet, twenty-year-old Gene Starwind (Shibuya) and his eleven-year-old assistant, Computer wizard Jim Hawkin (Matsumoto), are hired by the outlaw "Hot-Ice" Hilda (Fujitato) to help acquire a container. Despite pirate interference they succeed: inside is a young Android woman, Melfina (Kawasumi). The four then go to recover the XGP15A-II, an advanced Spaceship previously stolen from the pirates by Hilda: Melfina is its navigator (a job which, perhaps inevitably, requires her to be naked). Their pursuers include the McDougal Brothers, Ron (Nakata) and Harry (Kashiwakura), the pirates who killed Gene's father. Hilda sacrifices herself so her companions can escape; Gene renames the XGP15A-II the Outlaw Star in her honour. The crew – which includes Gilliam II (Hashi), the ship's well-spoken AI – are bolstered by ninja assassin "Twilight" Suzuka (Yamauchi) and a disgraced young officer from the Ctarl-Ctarl Empire, the anthropomorphized cat Alien, Aisha Clan Clan (Miyamura), who can turn into a musclebound werecat providing there is a moon nearby.
Hilda wanted the ship to locate the Galactic Leyline, for which Aisha is also searching; but like Gene she has no idea what it is. Finding it, along with Malfina's destiny and vengeance on the McDougal Brothers, are the show's main story arcs. There are many adventures on the way, including a variable-Gravity Prison: the main buildings are at 3g, the punishment block at 10g. Eventually, the Outlaw Star's crew, senior pirate Hazanko (Kato) and the McDougal Brothers – the last accompanied by knowledge-hungry Professor Gwen Khan (Aono) – enter the Leyline. We learn that Melfina is the key to an ancient civilization's Library of science and Technology: "a machine god" which can grant any wish. Gene chooses Melfina and defeats the baddies.
The characterization offers few surprises (see Clichés), but usually does not annoy. Jim, atypically for a young male sidekick, is almost likable – mainly because his sniping is justly directed at Gene's overconfidence and habitual avoidance of preparation. Melfina is a little passive, but is balanced by Suzuka's combativeness; whilst Aisha's volatility makes her the most enjoyable character. Excepting a cringing Fan Service episode and some pretentious opening narrations, this is a colourful and entertaining Anime Space Opera; though the early death of Hilda is regrettable, being doubtless the price of her having more charisma than the male lead.
A spin-off series was the 13-episode Angel Links (1999), also based on a Takehiko Itō manga, about a non-profit pirate-battling security company run by teenager Meifon Li. [SP]
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