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.

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Himouto! Umaru-chan Is A True Slice Of Life Series With Plenty Of Laughs (Review)

Anime: Himouto! Umaru-chan (Complete Collection)

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Retail Price: $69.98

If you love a good laugh and have a somewhat lazy side to your personality (don’t we all…) there is a quirky anime titled Himouto! Umaru-chan that will surely cater to your needs – much like the series protagonist does for his younger sister with a lack of motivation. From the first glance and through they eyes of those around her, Umaru Doma is the “it girl” to her classmates. Umaru is the epitome of kindness, natural beauty, great fashion sense and even has the brains to back it up as the total package. There isn’t a single person at her school that doesn’t want to be her or be with her, so Umaru has quite a reputation to uphold to her peers. However, there is something different about Umaru that others don’t quite know about just yet, something her brother knows all too well.

This other side to Umaru occurs once she steps in the confines of her own home with her older brother Taihei. When Umaru gets home, her outfit changes as does everything about the high school girl. Umaru places her hamster cloak over her and the entire demeanor changes as Umaru’s voice becomes shrill, she shrinks in size and is prepared to spend all of her time as an otaku who only hopes to play video games, watch television, read manga and consume unhealthy amounts of junk food (if that doesn’t sound like a good life, I don’t know what is.) With two very different sides to Umaru, Himouto Umaru-chan is an anime that promises peculiar hilarity for such differing traits to this beloved persona she has created for herself.

The otaku side to Umaru is additionally loud, obnoxious and very demanding – enlisting the aid of her brother with just about everything. Her brother is the more consistent sibling, proving himself as a hard worker who takes care of his sibling despite her mood swings. He often tries to better Umaru to make her a functioning adult but her intensity makes things complicated to enforce (he typically gives in to her wants/needs because of his soft spot for Umaru.) The two have a humorous sibling repartee that carries the show, but also manages to showcase a dynamic that is becoming all to common with youth of today immersing themselves into their own comfort zone of extravagant media.

The show is very much an episodic story (with the main overarching plot being Umaru’s secretive ways) giving different chapters that tell her unusual story. In one episode, Umaru is binge watching horror films with references to Ju-On and other pop-culture scares. Whether it has to do with manga, movies, or video games, the otaku culture the series recreates is a fully entertaining plot with plenty of laughs to offer the viewers – as long as you have a sense of humor or can relate to Umaru. The episodic nature of the anime series fits the genre perfectly and from beginning to end, using each episode to tell contained stories to further introduce you to this odd sibling pairing and their opposing work ethic.

Sentai Filmworks doesn’t always choose to dub their series, but they made the wise decision to dub Himouto! Umaru-chan in English for this new release. The English voice cast plays a major part in the recurring energy of the lighthearted anime series, with Umaru holding a majority of the weight. Her transition between the coy popular girl to the obnoxious otaku is as if two different people play her entirely – something I found additionally impressive with the new English production. Animation quality in Himouto! Umaru-chan sticks to today’s passable animation where the biggest pros come from those changes we see Umaru go through. The anime isn’t necessarily the most original concept, but it offers a fun take on life-centric stories that will surely find a way to make you laugh about otaku culture.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– I sincerely felt bad for Taihei, but I also think he enjoys the quirks of his sister.

– Umaru is two characters in one, both semi-likable and both semi-annoying.

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.