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Context is so important when telling a story. When key pieces of information are left out, either the story ceases to make sense, or it can even morph into another tale entirely. This is the case with Outlanders, an OVA from the mid 1980s. It’s based on a series of manga, but the story being told in the video omits a lot from the source material. As a result, viewers get a reasonably enjoyable, if a tad mindless, tale of intergalactic love to save the Earth, which is fine. However, if one reads the manga, they’ll suddenly realize that there is a ton more going on in Outlanders’ universe and much of what happens in the OVA takes a different tone.

The story presented in the OVA is of a space princess named Kahm who comes to Earth, meets a human named Tetsuya, and decides to marry him in order to prevent the destruction of the planet. From there, they get on Kahm’s ship and journey to meet her father, the emperor, in hopes that their marriage will save the Earth. Unfortunately, Kahm’s dad will have none of that, orders Tetsuya’s execution, and has Kahm imprisoned until she comes to her senses. Thanks to help from some friends, the two escape, get on their ship, and elope to the far reaches of the galaxy. It’s a reasonably entertaining story if taken at face value, and is very clearly trying to come off as being similar to Urusei Yatsura. However, it leaves a lot out from the manga. There’s never a clear explanation why the Earth needs to be destroyed, and the OVA completely ignores all of the intrigue between factions that is happening behind the scenes. There’s actually a massive power struggle going on in the Empire, but one would never know from watching this video.

While the story does make sense and can exist reasonably well on its own, the whole experience is still a whirlwind, especially when introducing characters. Obviously, most time is spent with Kahm and Tetsuya, so they’re fleshed out a decent amount, but the OVA does try to bring in other major characters from the manga. The problem is that we barely get to know them, so they come off as being a bit flat. Battia is Kahm’s best friend, but viewers see her as basically being a talented knight with a promiscuous side and little more. Meanwhile, Geobaldi is a gruff general from the hinterlands of the Empire. One gets the sense that there are more to these supporting characters, but they're never fleshed out.

In terms of art direction, Outlanders is largely typical 80s anime fare, especially in terms of character design. Fans of this era will have plenty to enjoy here. One nice thing is that the show doesn’t just have aliens that look like humans. Battia appears to be half-human and half-fox with pointed ears popping out of the top of her head. Meanwhile, Geobaldi is a straight up dog person. It’s a nice change of pace from a lot of other sci-fi anime of the time where aliens looked like earthlings, but maybe had blue skin pigmentation or some such. Also of note are the spaceships. They have a very biological styling to their design with quite a lot of detail to them. When compared to the various space operas of the time, with large, steel ships of much more traditional design, the ships of Outlanders stand out noticeably.

Another highlight of the OVA is the music. The show has a nice selection of orchestral tracks that add gravity to the scenes where such music is inserted. Sure, there are other anime with better soundtracks overall, but the music present in Outlanders is still plenty memorable and added a lot to the experience while watching. There aren’t a huge number of tunes in the show, but what’s there is pretty decent.

Basically, Outlanders is an enjoyable anime. However, the story it presents really sells the source material short. This is the sort of OVA for people to watch when they want to relax after a long day and not have to think. Those who enjoy character design and sci-fi visual themes from the 1980s will like what they see here, but in the end there’s so much that has been left out from this show. If anything, hopefully it will get people curious about the manga it is based on because that is a very well done story well worth people’s time.

- IroIro
April 26, 2019

Directed by: Sukehiro Tomita
Character Design: Hiroshi Hamasaki
Released: 1986
Episodes: 1

Outlanders Image 1
VHS cover art

Outlanders Image 2
Kahm bathing

Outlanders Image 3
Kahm and Battia get in a fight

Outlanders Image 4
All of the OVA's protagonists together

Outlanders Image 5
Kahm getting in trouble