Episode 4: When The Hot Ice Melts

“Damn you, Hilda! You’re trying to use the asteroid as a shield?”

That’s the level of this episode right up to the end: all plot, all things happening, very little of it mattering, right up until the end pulls one of those reversals that makes anime storytelling occasionally worthwhile. It makes up for what is, essentially, a dull actioner.

I say dull actioner because the action is on a scale where it becomes difficult to care. Our Favorite Outlaws have found the ship they were looking for, the XGP. It was a coordinated project between Pirates and Space Forces and I can’t imagine caring about that little piece of backstory, how about you? 1 Once the ship is found, the Pirates arrive and violence ensues for about 15 none-too-exciting minutes, with the pirate mother-ship launching hundreds of little pirate ships and Hilda taking them out with hundreds of little missiles. There’s no threat, no tension, no feeling of real danger. It’s a complete opposite of the staging and balance of the action sequences in the first two episodes – those moved through stages, like a story, with beginnings, middles, and ends. This episode’s action just thuds out into nothing.

What makes this especially annoying is that the battle turns deadly for one of Our Favorite Outlaws. Hilda bites it. This is one of those features that is supposed to be a defining hallmark of anime, the willingness of the writers to dispense of characters, but it really doesn’t happen as often as advertised. It does here, and I was surprised at how effective the scene was, particularly since I had seen it a few times before. Hilda dies when she is tossed out in space, caught in the gravity well of a star. If the XGP (Christened at the end of the episode as the Outlaw Star, thus justifying our series title) were to dive to rescue her, it would not be able to achieve escape velocity and would sink into the sun with Hilda. Outlaw Star does something simple, but effective, what few shows do: it shows our heroes failing. The screw up Hilda’s rescue – it was a one in a million shot that she’d make it, and she didn’t. It is an original, or at least non-formulaic moment in a heavily by-the-numbers episode.

1Which leads me to a tangent – how come some of these shows that are filled with such bullcrap are interesting, while others that try to develop a sort of reality just don’t make it concrete enough to care about? Cowboy Bebop’s secondary details play into the larger plots and the themes. Space Forces and Pirates working together in Outlaw Star fails to impress, since the Space Forces never make a real impression throughout the entire series. They aren’t there, so it’s hard to give a damn about them.
Rating :B-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com