Reviewby Theron Martin, Jan 23rd 2006
19-year-old photographer Wataksuki Tetsuya encounters a scantily-clad young woman with green hair and horns in the midst of the carnage of an invasion by unknown alien forces. After a scuffle leaves him unconscious, Tetsuya wakes up on an alien ship, where he discovers that the young woman is Princess Kahm of the alien empire Saint Evascuraze and that he's there because Kahm has chosen him to be her fiancée in defiance of her father's plans to marry her off to someone else. Is Tetsuya manly enough to handle the situation? And what will her father and friends think about her marrying a “monkey” who was “infesting” their holy planet (i.e. Earth)?
This 48-minute OVA from 1986 was originally dubbed by Animaze and released on VHS in 1993 by Dark Image Entertainment. Central Park Media picked up Outlanders when the license expired, gave it a new English dub, and is now releasing it on DVD under its U.S. Manga Corps label as a 20th anniversary edition. Its story is a very condensed retelling of the popular original manga series, a fact made obvious by the occasional big jumps between scenes and the brisk clip at which the story moves along. The lack of adequate explanation for several key story elements also suggests that it was made specifically for fans of the manga, as newcomers to the franchise will be left scratching their heads over certain events (such as how the good guys are able to pull the trick that they do to win a critical space battle near the end). This isn't to say that those unfamiliar with Outlanders won't enjoy it as a stand-alone story, but they shouldn't expect everything in it to make sense.
The premise of Outlanders is one that has been used many times before and since in anime and manga: a capable and strong-willed but virginal alien princess becomes enamored of an Earth boy/young man and seeks to marry him despite the disapproval of family and friends and the initial resistance of the young man. And that's really all there is to the plot. Outlanders is quite a bit more sexy and violent than the norm for such titles despite its overall light tone, but beyond that it does not much distinguish itself. It is merely a fun romp which does not concern itself with weighty matters like originality, cohesiveness, or logic.
In many stylistic aspects Outlanders is typical of mid-'80s OVA releases. This is most notable in its character designs, where the two main humanoid female characters are drawn a bit on the chunky side and portrayed as being sexy without having oversized breasts. Outlanders also takes the very casual attitude towards the use of sex, nudity, and graphic violence that was common in '80s OVAs, popping in scenes of flashing breasts, characters in bed with each other, and limbs being cut off without making a big deal about them, as is often the case when more recent series include such content. The artistry in general has the somewhat rough look common to the time period, with its main distinguishing features being its organic ship designs and the mix of sci-fi and bestial fantasy in its décor and the dress of its characters. Colors look muted compared to the vivid digital coloration which has become commonplace in the current decade, but they were probably standard for the time. The animation is also, unfortunately, the 8-frames-per-second standard of the time, which makes many of the movements look clunky; especially bad is one scene midway through where two ships collide. The action is staged well enough that the visual effect is passable as long as one doesn't dwell on the details, but this isn't a title that's going to win any technical awards.
The closing theme for Outlanders is a guitar-heavy rock number typical of '80s musical trends, while the rest of the musical score sounds like it was heavily influenced by American sci-fi movies of the late '70s and '80s (especially Star Trek) and romantic movies of an even earlier era. Contrarily, the English dub is an entirely new one which represents a novel experiment in letting fans get involved in the dubbing process. Actors for roles in a particular series are often chosen based on auditions, but in this case clips of the auditions were made available online and fans were allowed to vote on which actor was most suitable for each of the main roles. Thus fans not satisfied with the casting of the English dub mostly have themselves to blame, although the choices made were good ones; the versatility of sometimes-actor, sometimes-director Sean Schemmel shines through in his selection both for the role of Tetsuya and for the doglike warrior Geobaldi, two very different voices that are both handled well.
While the vocal styles the English VAs use don't always match up well with those of the original seiyuu, they do fit the characters at least as well as the originals and are invariably smoothly-performed and well-delivered. Some issue could be taken with the dub script, though, which varies between reasonably accurate and totally altered meaning depending on the scene. Changes go beyond just sprucing up the dialogue with modern English slang or use of equivalent phrasing; in a few cases the differences are radical enough to affect on the meaning of the scene. (One early example: a scene where in the subtitles Kahm implies that her kissing Tetsuya allows him to understand her language but in the dub she talks about what a coincidence it is that her language is the same as his.) This doesn't happen often, but it does happen more than once. Dialogue is also added in a few places where none was originally, including a couple of very stupid lines which I must assume were intended to be comical but don't work well in execution. It is for the dub script, rather than the quality of the performances, that I am marking the dub grade down, but anyone who doesn't get hung up on the lack of accuracy will probably still find the dub to be very worthwhile.
Extras this time around are limited but do include a trailer for Outlanders and an 8-minute featurette about the selection of the English dub actors. Also present is one of the most extensive sections of company previews a viewer will find on any anime DVD, including both DVD and manga previews.
Outlanders is hardly a technical masterpiece or shining example of original storytelling, but it is a fun, sexy, and violent romp from an earlier era which has finally been made available on DVD. The remastering has produced a good-quality print while the redubbing has resulted in a well-performed but not always accurate English dub. It is a respectable pick for older fans who are feeling nostalgic and/or those who enjoyed the manga, and may have enough violence and fan service to satisfy newer fans as well.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : D+
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ Lots of fun, good doses of fan service and graphic violence.
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