Outlanders Anime Review
US Release By
Space Opera Action-Comedy
In the tradition of any proper hostile alien race in Anime, the Santovasku Empire hopes to cleanse the "Sacred Blue Planet" (namely, Earth) by eradicating the lowly human race. Unfortunately for you misanthropes out there, Princess Kahm of the Santovasku falls in love with a bumbling photojournalist named Tetsuya during a spearhead assault on Earth, and seems willing to save humanity for the sake of her newfound boy-toy. However, Kahm's Emperor father and the the treacherous Santovasku Counselor Progress aren't too thrilled with the idea; Kahm is forced to rebel against the Empire for the sake of all qualities warm and mushy.
So, employing the help of her friends Geobaldi (drunken space wolf with a Southern accent?) and the feline warrior Battia, Kahm and Tetsuya take on Counselor Progress and the Santovasku Imperial fleet.
Add 2 parts traditional Anime space battle fare to 1 part sexual comedy. Blend thoroughly in appropriately futuristic food processor before pouring mixture into video box. Sprinkle liberally with bad humor and sexual innuendoes before serving.
"Outlanders" is based on Manga, which is the intrinsic problem with the film; a full comic storyline has been packed into less that 50 minutes of screen time. Although the film is generally too fast-paced to make anyone bored with it, its shortness does detract from the substance, reducing it to shallow entertainment. In that role, it's not too bad, actually.
The best comparison I can draw for "Outlanders" is a merger between traditional large-scale space battle Anime and Urusei Yatsura; Kahm shares many of Lum's qualities, including horns, and Tetsuya is a dead-ringer for a grown-up Ataru. "Outlanders" does a fairly decent job at integrating alien puppy-love and large-scale combat into something understandable.
The biggest drawback is the blatant lack of any character background information, which hurts the plot quite a bit. Since most of the characters had no depth at all, it was hard to rationalize their motives for acting; many of the characters in this movie, especially Geobaldi and Kahm's servant family, only contributed sexual innuendoes and bad humor to the film. Most of the secondary characters were stereotypical to a point of annoyance and overkill.
Animation throughout the OVA is well-done, but nothing to write home about. Most of the characters are done in a Urusei Yatsura-style caricatured form which works well with the zany nature of the film. The alien spaceships and vehicles are drawn with a decidedly-organic look to them, but again, it's sub-par in comparison to most Anime; conversely, the animation of the Earth military vehicles at the beginning of the film is done quite well.
Although it's a sexual farce, "Outlanders" is actually pretty lean on the gratuitous content. There's a fair amount of nudity, mostly pre-sex and post-sex, so it would probably garner an "R" rating. The swordfights in the film also get fairly gory; Kahm's single-handedly takes on a group of human soldiers in what is the best Anime dismemberment fest this side of M.D. Geist. Language is fairly tame but contains numerous sexual innuendoes, as stated before.
There's not much to say about the acting in the dub... The story flows pretty smoothly and the dialogue isn't too cheesy when considering the context of the film. However, I must point out that almost every secondary character in the film either spouts horrendously bad humor or gets a annoying voice (Geobaldi's Southern accent and the whining of the servant kids being the prime examples).
Overall, "Outlanders" provides entertainment for the better part of an hour, but it's a shame that this OVA had the potential to be pulled off in a much more effective way. If you're only into "serious" Anime, then heed my warning to stay far away from this. "Outlanders" has so many merged elements that it's rather tough to assign a love/hate tag to the movie as a whole. It's quite entertaining to watch once in a while, but there's little incentive to watch it much more than that.
Admittedly, it's extremely hard to go totally wrong with horny aliens and large-scale space battles, so if those factors appeal to you, I would recommend giving "Outlanders" a try.
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Notes and Trivia
Based on Johji Manabe's hefty space-opera-cheese-epic comic series Outlanders, available in English from Dark Horse.
The anime version was released by now-defunct Darker Image Entertainment on dubbed VHS way back in the early '90s (this dub is the one reviewed here), although USM's recent re-release uses a different dub.
US DVD Review
USM has finally gotten a proper subtitled treatment of this "classic" out on DVD, in time for their "20th anniversary edition." It includes Japanese and a new English dub, English subtitles, and claims a "U.S. Fan Casting Featurette" as an extra.
Appropriately rated 16-up by US Manga Corps.
Violence: 3 - Fairly graphic violence on occasion.
Nudity: 3 - Moderate amounts of nudity.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - Plenty of innuendo and some hanky-panky.
Language: 3 - Moderately coarse language in the dub, and a lot of dirty jokes.