Episode 3: Into Burning Space

The previous episode was a model of how to create a taut and satisfying story that was entertaining in its own right and also carried on a larger narrative arc. “Into Burning Space”, by contrast, divulges very little new information and has action scenes that just aren’t thrilling. It is a boring episode, especially when compared to its predecessors.

What makes it boring is the perfunctory nature of the action. There are two pitched space battles – the first when Hilda and crew are leaving Blue Heaven and Irishmen are angry at them, and a surprise attack by the pirates. Neither fight contains surprises – indeed, neither of them contains anything of interest at all. I think there is a misconception amongst creators of all nationalities and cultures that folks just wanna see stuff blowed up good. While there is a degree of pleasure in conflagration, stuff blowing up without any sort of context or reason is boring. Fights, unless they are beautifully choreographed and can appeal to our aesthetic sense alone, are dull if you don’t care who wins. Since this episode also has a notable downswing in animation quality, we don’t even have aesthetics to fall back on.

Much more entertaining in is introduction of Aisha Clan-Clan of the Ktarl-Ktarl empire. She is an ambassador for an empire whose sole defining feature seems to be ludicrous incompetence. Aisha is probably the universe’s worst diplomat, and none too bright. The continual deflation of her anger and arrogance is fun to watch.

But what’s missing from this episode, and perhaps the previous, is a sense of any growing thematic depth1. All Outlaw Star has treated us to so far has been story, story, story. When the story is good, as in the first two episodes, that’s great. This episode is weak on that front, and so we see that beneath the skin there is no skeleton.

1Don’t mistake theme for “message”. Countless dull English courses may connect “theme” in your mind to pedantry, but that shouldn’t be the case. When I say theme, I mean this: how could you accurately describe the story without referring to characters, plot, or setting? Easy examples: Trigun is about a man struggling with all his strength to be anything but what he was born to be. Cowboy Bebop is about how the past can strangle the future. These themes have some weight and meat to them, and thus they resonate, and they were present in both shows from the beginning. Outlaw Star is so concerned with plot and action that the themes, whichever are present, are being buried.
Rating :C

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com