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.

Junjou Romantica Season 1 Establishes Conflicted Couples (Review)

Anime: Junjou Romatica (Season 1 Blu-Ray)

Released By: Right Stuf / Nozomi Entertainment

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Retail Price: $54.99

Anime series often cover a variety of relationships with no boundaries, (heterosexual, homosexual, young, old, etc) but the anime series Junjou Romantica manages to cover a few topics: age gap relationships and same-sex dating. The series is technically a Yaoi genre series which means it’s primarily an anime that in essence focuses specifically on gay men (also famously known for garnering a serious female fan-following.) Junjou Romantica is a prime example of one of these anime with a dedicated following, earning itself the rare third season benchmark after years of being one of the most discussed and widely known Yaoi titles.

Junjou Romantica (created by Shungiku Nakamura) begins with the story of three “couples” that the series focuses in on for it’s entirety, all representing different relationships in a spectrum of personality types and relationship viewpoints. The primary couple focused on in the first season (and in general) is comprised of Misaki Takahashi and Akihiko Usami. When we meet Misaki, he’s in preparation for college, very eclectic and in need of some help. His brother enlists the mind of Usami to tutor Misaki and a connection between the pair begins to blossom – but not your traditional relationship most definitely. With nearly a 10 year age gap, Usami begins to show an interest in Misaki (who is unsure of his feelings initially) and before you know it, Misaki and Usami are navigating through their peculiar relationship while trying to deal with their own baggage.

Misaki’s past is faintly explored in the first season, informing us that at the age of eight, he had lost both of his parents in an accident and only had the family tie of his brother, who he respects tremendously. Dealing with the guilt of his parents death (he had felt responsible because of rushing them home) he witnessed his brother decline his dream school to raise his younger brother – making Misaki want to prove himself as some useful (cleaning, cooking, etc.) As a young adult, Misaki decided he wanted to attend the school his brother was supposed to, but with the help of his brother’s friend Usami, a complication arises that could cause conflict with the three despite the brother not being majorly present in the series. Usami (a famous author for BL) is questioned when his feelings for Misaki’s brother are brought up, even through the medium of his work. That begins another major aspect of Junjou Romantica’s plot – is Misaki just the second best to Usami because of his family ties?

Though Junjou Romatica is the title given to Usami and Misaki, there are two other pairings that make up the series and offer a more stable dynamic to some capacity. There is the first, being Nowaki and Hiroki are called Junjou Egoist. Hiroki is a professor in his late 20’s who tends to be blunt, and a little on the tsundere side. Opposite him is Nowaki, mid 20’s who grew up in an orphanage and is probably the most genuine, kindhearted and cumulatively the best character the series has to offer. He has instances where he feels insecure about Hiroki’s relationships with others, which adds to a crossover with Usami – whom Hiroki once had a feelings for. Despite the tension and vast differences in personalities, this pairing is one to watch for as the most real life-like couples that face struggles that can surface in two very different individuals.

Lastly, the third pairing the first season introduces us to is known as Junjou Terrorist, made up of a young man named Shinobu and a much older (actually nearly double his age) Miyagi. When Miyagi divorced his wife (Shinobu’s sister) Shinobu was certain it was the time to act on feelings he had felt for his former brother in law for several years. First of all – major betrayal to a sibling, just saying. He is positive that they are meant to be together although Miyagi doesn’t have that same reaction. With Shinobu going above and beyond to prove his love, Miyagi begins to open up to the chance of something between them – creating another complex relationship that the series offers up for its viewers.

Junjou Romatica gives gay men a chance to be at the front of a story in anime (not often done) but a major part of that is for the fan-service sexuality attributes that the usual audience hopes for. There are some deeper themes that include insecurities, morality and if love truly does conquer, making Junjou a series that dabbles in expanding a Yaoi’s expectation – as best seen in the less adult based series Sekaiichi Hatsukoi. The animation and voice acting are taken seriously, meeting the expectations set by fans and now being a Blu-Ray, Right Stuf and Nozomi Entertainment have given the series a new visual peak for all die-hard fans and those who might just want to give Junjou Romantica a chance. Check out the series on DVD and Blu-Ray from Right Stuf!

Overall Score: 7/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– All for a Nowaki centered spin-off series.

– I like the formula of depicting multiple couples in different episode installments to space out the storytelling.

– The more “adult” parts to Junjou are my biggest gripe, as one of the rare few who are in it for the storyline.

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.