by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Outlaw Star ?
How would you rate episode 10 of
Outlaw Star ?
There's an art to pacing a narrative, and it's arguably one of the most important parts of any show. If you're telling a plot-driven story there are doubtlessly going to be times where you have a lull in the action, be it giving some breathing room after momentous events, or just turning down the stakes so the audience doesn't get exhausted. It's easy to label episodes that are mostly setup and exposition as boring, but those plot beats are often just as important to the larger structure, and if utilized well can be great vehicles for fleshing out one's cast or just giving the viewer time to bond with them. Just because a series of episodes in an action-heavy series don't feature big fights or shocking twists doesn't mean they're automatically boring.
That all said, these episodes are pretty boring. They're not awful, and I don't feel like I've wasted my time with them, but I can already imagine them fading into the black pit of my memory hole once the show is over. Story-wise all that really happens is Gene catches wind of the MacDougals entering a big space race, he also joins said space race, and we find out Aisha hitchhiked her way to Heifong in search of the OS crew. That's not a lot to fill 40 minutes of anime with, so it's padded out with a side story about Gene and Jim hunting down some random high-bounty criminal to scrape together grocery money and then going to Fred for a sponsorship to cover the entry cost for the race. If that all sounds pretty dry, that's because it is.
It didn't have to be, of course. Wacky side-stories are the bread and butter of these kinds of shows, and those can offer a great way to build character rapport. Gene and Jim's relationship could certainly use it, as despite being the only crew members with an established history before the show starts, their interactions have been pretty sterile outside of the premiere, with Jim taking a backseat any time another adult is on screen with Gene. But what we get in episode 9 is just further establishing that Gene's a pain in the ass to work for and an even worse roommate, without showing much to counteract that with his presumably more endearing traits. It's not bad characterization, per se. It makes sense for a guy who flies by the seat of his pants to be bored and frustrated with the more mundane logistics of being a space outlaw, but it never really gets resolved because Gene and Jim just stop fighting once they have a job to do. I do rather like the joke of them only taking out their target's cyborg decoy, while Suzuka takes the real guy out completely off screen just to get some spending money. But that also means the whole back half of the episode is reduced to a joke, and it feels about as trivial.
Episode 10 is where things really groan to a halt though. Arriving in Heifong just in time to enter the race, Gene finds out you need sponsorship money to afford the entrance fee, so he swings a deal with Fred, enters, and we end on a cliffhanger about a big obstacle in the first leg of the race. I'm all for wacky races shenanigans, but there's a reason we never saw Penelope Pitstop filling out insurance paperwork or the Gruesome Twosome renewing the registration on the Creepy Coupe. It's dull material that's really difficult to make engaging, and it mostly amounts to padding here as we kill time before the race starts in earnest. We also see Melfina trying to search for any information on her own creation, and there's a spectator who recognizes the Outlaw Star and presumably has some important knowledge, but those are left to dangle without anything coming of them. I do at least like the gag of Aisha bluffing her way into commandeering a Ctarl-Ctarl ship for the race, but it's just not enough to make this episode feel like more than a stalling measure.
Hopefully things will pick up next time, because after the highs of the previous episodes these two serve as prime examples of Outlaw Star in its doldrums, and the result is less than stellar.
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