by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 25 of
Outlaw Star ?
How would you rate episode 26 of
Outlaw Star ?
Outlaw Star's greatest moments have always been singular. Either stand-alone episodes or isolated scenes that linger in your mind because of their masterful grasp of tone or the energy of the animation, they've been standout moments isolated from its larger narrative. So it was probably inevitable that the series would run into trouble when it came time to actually create a conclusion to all this Galactic Leyline drama, but boy I wasn't prepared for just how haphazard this whole finale would be.
Episode 25 is essentially a speedrun of your typical action series climax. Every adult character gets paired for a fight as heroes and villains alike converge on whatever mystery is at the center of the Galactic Leyline, and the result is mostly a mess of short battles with zero buildup and even less payoff. With four of the Anten Seven left to take on, I suppose it was inevitable they'd have to be taken out unceremoniously, but that actually makes the bizarre attempt to write in a backstory for the one Suzuka fight even stranger. Gene and Aisha's fights end about as quickly and anticlimactically as possible, but for some reason we get several minutes of exposition about one of the pirate assassins stealing Suzuka's face and how she's been training to defeat him. It's totally divorced from anything going on and only made worse by this being the closest Suzuka's gotten to a focus episode since her arrival, yet it still ends with an easy victory that accomplishes little else but getting an underdeveloped enemy out of the way.
Really that's the problem with much of the conflict for this final two-parter: despite existing in the background for most of the series, Hazanko and the Kei Pirates faction are critically underdeveloped as the anime's final antagonists, to the point where we don't even know Hazanko's goal until the last episode. It would make way more sense to have the MacDougals be the final enemies in all this, but in a baffling turn that's easily the worst part of this finale. Harry, the man who's obsessively stalked and harassed our female lead for episodes, gets a tragic, sympathetic sendoff because gosh he sure was in love with Melfina and it's so sad he got killed by Hazanko before he could continue violating her personhood. But it's ok because in his final moments he hacks a door open for Gene, so all is forgiven. It really kinda sours the whole resolution of Gene and Melfina's relationship when it's only a few minutes separated from their greatest threat being forgiven for doing a single kind act.
The final fight is at least suitably fun, even if it's against a villain we barely know or care about using heretofore unknown magic to become a giant space Kaiju while having a cyberspace boxing match with Gene. The segments with the Outlaw Star flying through his monstrous tendrils are as thrilling as ever, and it's nice that the series concludes with one final stellar spaceship battle, but as a capstone to Gene and Melfina's ongoing conflict it feels totally emotionally detached. None of the elements here are bad ideas, but they're demonstrably not what the story was about up until now and their inclusion feels like the writers scrambling for some way to wrap up the dangling plot threads they'd left unattended for 20-odd episodes, and it can't help but feel hollow. The ensuing epilogue is sweet enough – it's nice to see Gene and Melfina actually talking to and comforting each other, and their new outfits (and haircut) look good too, but there's not much to remember about it since so little has changed with the cast from where we started.
In the end, I'm glad I finally checked out Outlaw Star, even if its long-form storytelling left a lot to be desired. At its best, the series was just a fun blast of energy to start or end the week with, and even managed to tug my heartstrings a few times. At the same time, I doubt I'll find myself returning to it the way I've revisited specific episodes of Bebop or Trigun in the past. There's just too much of it that melts together in my memory, and without a character or arc to really attach to I doubt even the highlights will stay in my brainspace for long.
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