"Even if you don't break the law, don't be bound by it."
The Outlaw Code
Outlaw Star is a 26-episode animated series that was shown on Japanese television roughly during 1998-99 season. Along with Cowboy Bebop and Trigun it is part of what Guardians of Order calls Space Cowboy Shonen (shonen meaning young boy's anime). It mixes traditional science fiction bits with fantasy elements, resulting in a "over-the-top" tale of high adventure in space, complete with pirates, gunfights, sorcery, "ninja", and undiscovered treasure.
Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop
Although one is tempted to compare Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop, they are really two very different series. Cowboy Bebop is a tighter series, with more realistic feel to the science, and a great deal of attention paid the character's pasts and to their interaction with each other. It is also a tightly woven series, with the animation, music, and even episode names all carefully selected to present a complete whole. Outlaw Star is far more freeform, with lower-quality animation, fairly average music, and more "flash" than "substance." Yes, I think Cowboy Bebop is the "better" series, while Outlaw Star is in some ways more "fun" with a flare for the dramatic and willingness to mix unconventional elements. In some ways, it reminds me of what might happen if one projected the world of Silent Möbius into the far future.
"Outlaws—Those who travel in space with his freedom as his guide."
The world of Outlaw Star could be our own. It takes place at some unimaginable point in the far future, far enough for pleasure planets to have been established (and have been up-and-running for over 100 years). Most of the action in the series itself takes place in what is called the "frontier region" which is said to be 50 light years from Earth. A galactic map in my Outlaw Star artbook shows a circle 50 light years in radius around (what I guess is) the Earth, and then a second circle about 120 light years out (which I presume represents the extreme fringe of human space). There looks to be multiple political factions, with the "Earth Territory" being one. Aisha Clan Clan, meanwhile, was an ambassador to the Tempa Stellar Region, and the aforementioned map shows 5 circled areas, including one labeled USSA.
Click on this link to see a scan of said map: Outlaw Star Galactic Map.
The series lists six alien races at one point. They are: the Corbonites, the Ctarl-Ctarl, the Nayans, the Rorgans, the Silgrians, and the Sith. Of these, humanity is on bad terms with the Rorgans, and apparently unable to even associate with the Sith. They are on friendly terms with the Corbonites and the Nayans, have found the Silgrians to be too friendly, and are on neutral terms with the Ctarl-Ctarl.
We only really interact with three races in the series. A friendly Corbonite (who is roughly spherical and green in color) helps our heroes early in the series, while a Silgrian (who look very birdlike) hires the crew to recover some lost cargo. The most prominent race is the Ctarl-Ctarl, however, mainly because one of the main characters, Aisha Clan Clan is one. The Ctarl-Ctarl are a feline-ish race, known for their warlike nature. Known metamorphs capable of assuming a beast form, it is claimed a single Ctarl-Ctarl on a rampage turned into her beast form and caused 984 deaths and injured 5379. One presumes she didn't do all of this personally....
Episode 19, Law and Lawlessness, presents a being known as a Saurian. He looks like a humanoid lizard, and is supposed to be product of human genetic engineering. One presumes other such beings are possible.
The crew of the Outlaw Star visit a number of systems in the series. However, I can't list them as I didn't take those notes... However, that said....
Gene Starwind, the hero of the series, comes from a place named "Locust" (I presume it is a city) on the planet Sentinel III, which is said to be a Level 4 terraformed planet. This indicates that modification of planets is possible and common, as Sentinel III is out on the fringe.
Blue Heaven is a hollowed out moonlet sitting out in the middle of space. It is a free town, and a known Outlaw hangout (Outlaws being a combination of free-traders, bounty hunters, and adventurers).
Tenrei is a "pleasure planet" with a worldwide system of hot-springs and water-parks.
The most important place in the universe, however, is the Galactic Leyline. Little is known about it, other than it is supposed to be the location of a huge treasure trove. In reality, is an artifact from a thousands of years old (and now-dead) alien culture, and contains a sort of "galactic library" where one can ask for (and receive) virtually anything.
The tech level in Outlaw Star tends to be advanced, but not wildly so. There are huge starships and genetic engineering, but there are no laser pistols or teleportation pads. There is, however, magic and chi powers, leading to special powers and abilities for some people.
Virtually everyone uses projectile weapons in combat. Semi- and full automatic weapons are common. Spaceships use projectile weapons, as well as laser cannon, beam guns (more lasers?), and self-guided missiles (launched in clusters). Ships have defensive screens, point-defense lasers to eliminate incoming missiles, antimissile missiles, and even decoy pods.
Starships are known to use something called "Grappler Arms" to fight with. Derived from orbital EVA craft, grappler arms were adapted by Chinese pirates to allow them to attack other ships. These days, ships actually "grapple" with each other, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with their Grappler Arms, hand-to-hand weapons, and firearms. To be honest, this looks as silly as it sounds, but such combat is somewhat central to many of the ship-to-ship battles in the series. Personally, I'd keep the grappler arms as manipulatory limbs, but drop the whole combat part.
The presence of magic in the Outlaw Star universe has resulted in the creation of what is called the "Caster Gun." These are ancient firearms that uses enchanted shells as ammunition. Gene Starwind's character sheet goes into the abilities of a Caster Gun in detail.
Most vehicles in Outlaw Star are pretty typical for any science fiction setting, and include hover cars as well as cars capable of free flight. Space ships, however, deserve a closer look.
Space ships in Outlaw Star are capable of faster-than-light travel, dropping into "subspace" in order to travel from planet to planet. The drive used is called a "Munchausen Drive" or a "sub-ether" drive, and such drives have a series of "propellers" mounted at the rear of the ship. These propellers spin up to create the jump field, at which point the ship sort of sinks out of sight. The Munchausen Drive can only be used outside the gravity well of a stellar object, so thrusters are used to get a ship off planet and out of orbit. As these are reaction drives, maneuvering thrusters are mounted around ships to allow changes of direction and the like (One point in the animator's favor—they show these jets being fired during grappler fight scenes!). Inside a ship, artificial gravity is provided by the Newton (or Newtonian) Generator.
Ships can be quite large. For example, the liner Midsummer Night's Queen carried 1280 passengers. The smallest ships can be run by just a single person (such as Hilda's ship). Some ships are atmospheric capable, others are not. Those that aren't usually have shuttles. For what its worth, the Outlaw Star is 72 meters long, 21 meters wide, and 16 meters tall (or 236 feet by 69 feet by 52 feet). It has a minimum crew of two (Melfina and a pilot), although one guesses that Melfina could fly the ship herself.
As a side note, Ctarl-Ctarl ships seem to have large amounts of free-flowing water in them.
Computers in Outlaw Star look just like modern computers except they are more powerful (naturally). There are not holographic displays or touch screens, and input is still by keyboard and mouse. One major difference, however, is limited AI capability of a ship's computer. Hot Ice Hilda's ship's computer was Horus, while the Outlaw Star is run by Gilliam II. In both cases the computer controls most of the automatic functions on the ship, runs sensor scans, engage defensive weapons, and can even pilot the ship. The computers can talk to the crew, and in Gilliam's case he is programmed to not ponder the question of his reality and nature (Probably to head off any self-destructive logic loops.).
As with everything else in Outlaw Star, medical technology is fairly advanced. Cybernetics seem somewhat common, as Hot Ice Hilda has a cybernetic arm (but is still missing an eye), while Gene fights (and captures) two full body cyborgs. Interestingly, one of the cyborgs was a robot drone, showing that computer and AI technology is pretty advanced. It is likely cloning (or replicant) technology is possible, as Melfina is a "bio-android" (and apparently androids are common), while Harry MacDougal claims to have been grown from a mix of genetic material. In addition, genetic engineering is advanced enough to create a sapient lizard race from Terran reptiles.
Aside from Caster Gun, the other major magic system in Outlaw Star is "Tao Magic," practiced by "Tao Master." Tao Magic requires extended Incantations and Gestures, and allows the caster to project energy blasts, create defensive shields, track enemies, and even fly. Apparently Caster Guns use an opposite form of magic than Tao Magic, and are highly effective in counter Tao Magic spells.
A note on money. The standard currency in Outlaw Star is the wong. Its exact value is hard to determine, but it seems to be worth about the same as the modern dollar. A few examples: Bowl Of Noodles At A Stand --3 wong, Aisha's Salary—20 wong/hour, Engine Repair—50 wong, Bounty On Sewer Monster—500 wong, Bodyguard—800 wong/day, Meal At A Fancy Restaurant—820 wong, Bounty—4,000 wong, Big Bounty—10,000 wong, Car—15,000 wong, Entry Fee For Space Race—150,000 wong, Fine For Blasting Out Of Space Dock—200,000 wong, Fred Luo's Loan To Gene Starwind—1.6 million wong, 15 Tons Of Low-Density Dragonite—1.8 million wong, 15 Tons Of Pure Dragonite—5 million wong, State Budget Of A Frontier World For Five Years—5 million wong.
These are some of the major and/or more interesting characters encountered in the 26 episodes of Outlaw Star. Naturally, this short list only scratches the surface.
A word on the write ups. The character sheets were developed by taking the power levels for Cowboy Bebop and turning them up a notch. The cast of Outlaw Star is noticeably high-powered than the cast of Cowboy Bebop and the write-ups represent this.
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