After we spent last week’s episodes setting up the Great Space Race, I was itching for some good old fashioned Wacky Races action. Space ships jockeying for position, maybe some Grappler arm wrestling, and of course some death defying stunts on the part of the Outlaw Star to pull out a win. Instead what we get is far from wacky and barely qualifies as a race. The cliffhanger from episode 10 is resolved in a matter of seconds, and everything after that feels pretty perfunctory. Gene picks a fight with Harry MacDougal, but that amounts to one short-lived obstacle before Harry just drops out and kicks the can down the road for the next episode. Plus for an episode titled “Adrift in Sub-space” they spend maybe 30 seconds actually adrift in sub-space, after which Gene goes for a supposedly reckless stunt to try and finish in the top 3. Not surprisingly, it mostly succeeds, though they technically finish 4th they make it on the podium and break even with Harry. Yay?
It’s a surprisingly anticlimactic end to an event the show spent multiple episodes building up. The one really important change that happens is Aisha finally joining the OS team in full, conning her way onto the ship and just refusing to leave because, well, she’s a cat. She immediately makes herself at home by pawing at computer screens, sitting wrong on furniture, and getting in the way whenever somebody needs to use a keyboard, which is pretty funny, but it’s not enough to make this whole race feel like more than a pointless side road pretending to be a freeway. I also have to question why anyone would bother spectating what amounts to a couple dozen space ships flying through space, alone, for 20 hours while very occasionally flying through some rings. I’ve never had the patience for NASCAR races but Outlaw Star’s vision of autoracing makes it seem positively thrilling.
Thankfully the next episode delivers something with a little more meat, as Gene and co. finally get a (mostly) one-on-one duel against the conniving Harry MacDougal. The standoff is a surprisingly tense affair, with MacDougal playing head games against our heroes and driving them into a corner. We’ve seen Gene pressed before, but never this out of his element, not helped by the screeching cat yelling in his ear that her food bowl’s only half full and somebody needs to clean her litterbox. Maybe I’m just projecting because my cat is begging to be let outside as I write this review, but it’s probably the most human Gene’s felt since the introductory arc, and a good reminder that he’s still an insecure young man underneath all the action hero bravado.
I’m less enthused about what the latter half of the episode portends. Specifically when Harry gets a virtual view of Melfina’s whole business as he…brainhacks(?) the Outlaw Star. I know this is a universe with advanced science and also real magic, but it still seems a little weird the guy could plug himself into the matrix AND carry on a conversation at gunpoint all at once. More importantly this sparks some fascination in Harry that I really hope won’t lead to the weird love triangle I’m expecting now. Harry works as a petty yet spineless antagonist, and seeing him go from taunting chess master to sniveling toddler from one little gunshot wound is already plenty entertaining, I don’t need him making creepy eyes at our female lead and stirring a bunch of pointless drama in the central romance, please.
So with that we have our main crew together – more or less, they still need to head back and pick up Suzuka – and it only took nearly half the show. It’s an odd pacing decision for sure, especially after 3 episodes the could easily have been 1, but with the place setting out of the way it’s at last time to really dig into Outlaw Star proper. It’ll probably be a while til we learn what the Galactic Leyline is or just what Hilda was caught up in, but for now I’m glad we’ve finally gotten to the status quo and look forward to some entertaining adventures in the meantime.
Outlaw Star is currently streaming on
Funimation and Hulu.