Episode 5: Beast Girl, Ready To Spring

Well, this was unexpected: an episode which I remember finding dull and forced is actually quite charming, in its way. “Beast Girl,” referring of course to the K’tarl K’tarl who Hilda and crew offended in episode 3, is a surprisingly intelligent move for Outlaw Star, balancing out the previous show’s heavy-action and serious tone with some a slower pace, a little more introspection, and some comic action.

This is actually the first completely comic episode of the series, allowing the lighter elements of the story to take precedence without sacrificing the emotional core – specifically, the death of Hilda, which is dealt with in a satisfying manner, which is to say, almost not at all. Except for one moment in the bathroom where Gene admits to anger over Hilda’s death, the crew do not dwell on the loss of their erstwhile leader. They are in a vocation and milieu in which death is a constant possibility, their stock in trade, and nothing to be gained from sentiment. It’s always laudable when an anime series dodges the trap of sappiness.

The more fleshed-out appearance of Aisha Clan Clan is welcome, too – threatening to the lawless Gene and Jim, but able to be cowed into doing the dishes by a restauranteur with an unpaid bill. Aisha’s humor is based in her misplaced racial pride – she brags that she derives great beastly powers from lunar cycles, and then almost literally deflates when it is pointed out to her that they are, in fact, on an asteroid that has no moon. The best gag, though, is in the restaurant after Gene, feeling guilty at Aisha’s rather pathetic showing in all of their fights, decides to take her out to dinner. After the meal, Aisha is obstinate in her desire to murder Gene and Jim for their refusal to divulge information they do not have1. While she is boasting about her killing prowess, Gene and Jim calmly load up the caster gun, point it at her stomach, and blow her away(since she’s comic relief, she doesn’t really get hurt.)

1The information is related to the series’s big Macguffin2, the Galactic Ley Line. Mentioned sporadically throughout the early part of the show, it is initially interesting and becomes less so the more we learn about it. Like most Big Concepts in TV sci-fi, the Ley Line isn’t thought out particularly well (when we reach the episodes the deal with it specifically, I’ll describe my ennui in more detail) and serves the story better as a destination than a setting. Most speculative fiction for the movies and TV make this mistake of developing a concept that is far enough outside of rationality to be implausible but not audacious enough to be really fun. Read some Jack Vance, my friends, and you’ll never be satisfied with pedestrian sciffy again.

2Hitchcock 101: The MacGuffin was Hitchcock’s term for the plot device, the thing that the story seemed to be about, but really wasn’t. Like the uranium in Notorious or boxing in Raging Bull, the MacGuffin is what draws initial audience interest in order to allow the storyteller to get his real point across. Notorious is about betrayal in love – nobody walks away from the film concerned with Nazi Uranium mines. Similarly, the boxing in Raging Bull is never about who wins or loses, but about Jake La Motta’s deep desire to be punished for who he is.
Rating :A-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com