Outlaw Star Is A Cult Classic And One Of The Best Anime Series Of All Time (Review)

Anime: Outlaw Star (Complete Series On Blu-Ray & DVD)

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Retail Price: $64.98

Once in a blue moon, an anime series comes along that truly speaks to the masses. There are classic series like Cowboy Bebop or Yu Yu Hakusho that earn the title of being an anime juggernaut, becoming a phenomenon for years after its initial release, but one lesser known series from the same time period is just now earning that title with more mainstream opportunities – the one and only Outlaw Star. Outlaw Star originally aired in January of 1998 as a series that was shown in the US Toonami block (which has since received high praise for their selection of wonderful franchises.) The 26 episode series centered on a team of outlaws traveling the galaxy in search of a priceless treasure that is called “The Galactic Leyline” but without any guarantees, the mission proves to be a difficult one at best.

The first character you meet in Outlaw Star is the series lead, Gene Starwind. Gene is a bounty hunter who additionally focuses on random odd-jobs to pay the bills with his young partner Jim Hawking. The two find themselves stuck on a less than stellar planet with no plans or major jobs until one day they meet the captain of a ship (the Outlaw Star) after being hired as her bodyguard. Soon after, Gene and Jim begin this mission of locating the Galactic Leyline as the ships owner hopes to do, sending them off for various adventures and finding new allies with similar goals in mind. That’s when we are slowly but surely introduced to a few other key members of the Outlaw Star with the deadly assassin Twilight Suzuka, the animalistic warrior named Aisha Clanclan and the mysterious girl with ties to the ship by the name of Melfina. With the crew assembled (and each equally entertaining) the ambiance of Outlaw Star is created with plenty of positive attributes to give the series a well-rounded team ensemble.

As far as lead characters are concerned, Gene Starwind is exceptional for many reasons. He falls in the in-between age of an adult as someone struggling to figure out what that means (maybe Gene is a millennial because it feels even more prevalent today) and a big part of that is his past. Through flashbacks, we learn things about Gene’s childhood that affected who he is today, trying to come off goofy and careless to mask the pain behind serious loss that triggered recurring trauma. Though Gene can be on the stereotypical male side toward select female characters, he has so much more depth to offer viewers and it is felt from how he treats people (men, women, children, straight, gay, etc.) Gene is almost an idealistic person because of his tough personality and ability to get things done but also keep a softer side visible so you feel fulfilled by following this particular protagonists path – also playing the character that actually draws the crew together as a cohesive unit. From the beginning of being introduced to the lost-in-life Gene Starwind, to the end where Gene has shown tremendous growth, the journey is a unique and brilliant use of a lead character.

The core ensemble of Outlaw Star makes the series all the more engaging, presenting viewers with all likable characters in a variety of ways. Jim’s youth yet inclination toward responsibility make him an unexpected parental figure, however the childlike Melfina plays a major importance to the success of the Outlaw Star. Conversely, we have the beast girl Aisha who enjoys food, naps, battle and is a sense of comedic importance, but when necessary she is highly seen as a heavy hitter with more heart and brute strength than most of her crewmates. Last (but certainly not least) is Twilight Suzuka, who like Aisha begins as a rival to Gene. Eventually, Gene’s resilience and kindness intrigues her enough to join them despite being labeled as a stone cold killer who works alone. Together, the crew makes an unstoppable force and one of animes strongest crews that have ever been created.

For being an anime in the late 90’s, there is surely a stigma about the less vibrant choices, but the series actually holds up pretty strong to today’s anime series. The space travel and ship fights are fast paced with dazzling colors and each character feels as if the shine individually by thankfully avoiding some of the generic designs for characters today. On top of that, this marvelous Funimation Blu-ray re-release (that I wasn’t sure if we would ever be blessed with) the series is better than ever and remastered to its best ability. When you take all of the perks into consideration, Outlaw Star is a rare anime gem that has stood the test of time in storytelling, characters, animation and overall entertainment. Don’t miss a chance to check out the series now from Funimation and if you have already witnessed its perfection, this new release is a collectors set that every anime fan needs to obtain.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Plans to make a follow up never came to fruition but hopefully this can motivate the creator to continue the story again one day (soon.)

– This series is easily in my top 5 anime series of all time.

– The Outlaw Star crew has me prepping to explore space in search of treasure.

Grimgar, Ashes And Illusions Series Review

Anime: Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Retail Price: $84.98

When it comes to anime series that fall under the fantasy genre, they can be either a major hit or massive miss depending on the direction of the genre title, but one series strays some the simplicity of your traditional fantasy series by the name of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions. The initial premise of Grimgar is set following a young Haruhiro, a young man who (along with the rest of the population) doesn’t remember anything about where he came from or who he was in the past. Our hero next is thrown into the fantasy driven world by being drafted into the “Volunteer Soldiers” that pits him against a slew of creatures and problems that nobody could truly be prepared to enter blindly.

On a positive note for Haruhiro, he finds out he won’t be alone on this crusade against creatures, joining a team of misfits that all play their own role in an ensemble setting. The positions on the volunteer soldiers squad try to add a diverse skill-set to even out the strengths ranging from squadron leader who deals with the tactical strategies to the healer who aids the other warriors before during and after battle with their enhanced abilities. The team dynamic alone makes it feel like nearly every character serves a purpose in the world of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions even if you have to invest the time to discover it. In the anime series, just as you think you begin to understand the dynamics and relationships amongst the crew, the series throws a few twists and turns to keep viewers on their toes.

One of the most absolute thrilling and impressive traits Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions has to offer is the incredible growth that its characters go through from the first moments of the series all the way to the final few scenes of the first season (seriously hoping there will be another follow up.) You essentially stumble across these outcasts who aren’t valued for much, but form a tight knit bond that seems improbable at first – in essence becoming a genuine connection that blossoms over the duration of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions. One episode in particular (episode 7, “They Were Called Goblin Slayers”) best summarized that progression of the group, offering not only one of their best episodes, but a superb standout episode of anime series in general that is a powerful contribution to the medium by solely focusing on those changes.

Though the character development offers many strengths to the series, the characters themselves could spark a variety of reaction to viewers. The group consists of men and women (a nice change given the male driven anime casts) that partake in an equal opportunity for battle. Some of the female characters are prone to the overt fanservice and inappropriate portrayal which is my only true frustration from Grimgar, Ashes and Illusion. With that being said, the female characters actually provide a necessary role to the group aside from the generalizations of anime – often proving to be rather useful. Our lead hero Haruhiro becomes one remarkable young man who gives his all to be the best leader, comrade and friend to his companions, enjoyably exploring his inner self from beginning to end. A character by the name of Manato, the healer, leader and morale boost for the group who plays a major role in the anime despite a lack of physical presence that leaves a heavy impact on others (myself included). Others like Mary (a girl with a dark past and grim outlook) or Moguzo (the heavier set tank of the group with a heart of gold) flesh out Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions the way a properly structured anime series should aspire to achieve. If you have found that you enjoy an assortment of people who make the story worth watching, Grimgar is a series that is wholeheartedly worth the effort and time.

The animation quality for Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions brings watercolors to life in this vibrant series with dazzling artistic creations to be in awe over. The night sky is recurring throughout the anime and provides pure beauty in those moments that never grow old. The design of the characters and backdrops are unique enough to feel like it avoids the usual anime tendencies, with the only flaw being the art that depicts the creatures they fight – however that surprisingly isn’t a major concern granted all of the series exceptional traits alongside the production. The English voice cast fits each role with ease and precision to create the proper atmosphere their characters embody, showing us that all signs point to Funimation taking time and caution with what is undoubtedly one of their best new series to have under their renowned name.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– I can’t believe how attached I became to these characters with such surprising depth.
– Loss is felt during this anime, but it’s the way they deal with this loss that left me impressed and grieving simultaneously.
– As much as I want to view a second season, I am worried that it will get darker for the lovely group of warriors.

Ajin Finds Success Despite Using A Different Animation Technique

Anime: Ajin (Complete Collection)

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Retail Price: $69.98

When Netflix announced it would be streaming the 2016 anime horror series Ajin – it was met with a vast amount of excitement and anticipation which certainly continued from beginning to end. With the achievement of success becoming very clear, Sentai Filmworks spotted the niche series as a potential staple for their line of genre series and licensed Ajin for a video release of the 13 episode series. To give you a little backstory on the series, Ajin follows Kei Nagai, a high school student whose life comes to an abrupt end in the first episode. What makes this extra peculiar is the protagonist wakes up having regenerated and is the third Ajin in Japan (an immortal inhuman that is a recent topic of interest.)

His identity as an Ajin becomes public knowledge which instantly endangers Kei’s life, adding a bounty to his head and sending many powerful government sects after him. Fortunately for Kei, his longtime friend Kaito is present and helps Kei flee from hunters, police and all of those who may want to obtain the Ajin. The two embark on this hectic new adventure together, trying to keep each other alive and ahead of all the parties that have plans for Kei as the newly discovered Ajin. With the government making moves to control Ajin (including a girl named Izumi who is an Ajin covering Ajin affairs) comes the pro-Ajin movement led by Sato – a former marine who now despises mankind and its sympathizers hell bent on corrupting Kei.

From a narrative perspective, Ajin jumps in head first into the drama and action the series totes in the premise. From the very first moments, you know there is a sense of urgency that follows the plot throughout this tale. Ajin can draw a variety of reaction from the fans of the anime that builds momentum with viewers, but one implausible argument is that the series is slow. The quick pacing could sometimes be a deterrent for some, but Ajin doesn’t feel as if it’s throwing too much conflict at the viewers (more of a surface issue tension that will be elaborated on later in this review.) If anime that doesn’t waste time attracts you, Ajin has plenty of intense instalments to keep you guessing at what could come next – that is except for repeated death and Kei being in danger of course.

As I mentioned earlier, Ajin carries a decent amount of issues and obstacles for its protagonist, but sometimes it feels like a missed opportunity to discuss anything past government conflict, abuse of power and new territory for the primary character who is realizing what it means to be an Ajin as it goes on. Just because it uses tropes that have been seen before doesn’t mean anything especially negative because Ajin is still a series with a lot of significant successes, but in the future exploration of the series and or films should scratch deeper than the surface that we’ve come to know during the initial first season of 13 episodes. By following Kei and Kaito (who have a Tokyo Ghoul Kaneki/Hide relationship) the series does provide an investment worthy thrill-ride to see how they can navigate and overcome the various troubles that are popping up left and right. Ajin offers great potential overall, sometimes it is used to its best and others can leave us waiting for a bigger picture – nonetheless, Ajin is an impressive series that will most likely grow with more time.

The true attribute that sets Ajin apart from other horror animes and many series in general is the animation techniques used to bring Ajin to life. In series like Fullmetal Alchemist, scenes with 3D animation are placed inside to add a different approach – but Ajin is completely done in this 3D animation. If anything, the animation is probably peoples biggest gripe or favorite inclusion to the anime, drawing a polarizing response from anime fans and critics. Initially it was my main hesitation going into Ajin, not having enjoyed the first look at the animation but to be fair, it actually has moments where the creative decision makes sense. Several fights feel like clever pieces to the series where the 3D technique isn’t something that was done just because they could – they want to serve a purpose. Ajin also finds it’s niche in darker tones to fit the grim atmosphere created by death and carnage, even down to the opening and closing themes as evidence that Ajin is created to have a bleak image that is felt from beginning to end. Ajin is definitely an anime that at a glance could certainly be off putting to viewers, but if given a chance you will find there are enough horror, action and conflict to keep you coming back for more.

Overall Score: 7.5/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Ajin deserves credit for changing my initial opinion on the series with its animation (despite me loving the film A Scanner Darkly which held similarities)

– The formula has familiarities to other animes over the last decade but enough originality to keep it from feeling recycled.