Outlaw Firefly

By Shamus Posted Monday Aug 21, 2006

Filed under: Anime 31 comments

And now let us partake of the old ritual wherein two geeks argue at great length and with heroic fervor over whether or not something sucks, to what degree it sucks, and whether or not the other person should be branded a heretic.

Steven is talking about various shows he’s not going to watch. I gather he has a lot of readers that are vigorous about suggesting selling various shows to him, and cannot believe it when he says he’s not interested. While explaining that he is not interested in Outlaw Star, he says:

And there was some series called Firefly which ran a few episodes on TV and then came out as a movie this last spring. From the description, it may be the closest of the lot to Outlaw Star and frankly, it interested me about as much as watching paint drying. All sorts of people love it. I’m not even curious.

Outlaw Star

I am not going to try to pursude Steven to watch one anime series or another. However, my love for Firefly compels me to clear this up:

Outlaw Star is a B-grade, second-tier goofball show about space battles and secret technology. It’s also got a treasure hunt in there somewhere. It’s screwy and over-the-top, and it doesn’t take itself or the plot very seriously. While I didn’t hate it, the show was nothing special. It has all of the anime sci-fi staples: an (often naked) android woman, catgirls, preposterous and impractical technology, a plucky child sidekick who’s brimming with wisdom, a sexy ninja-esque assasin, some cardboard bad guys, and a sentient spaceship.

On the other hand, Firefly is about people and ideas. It is witty, innovative, and powerful. No aliens. No robots. No sentient machines. No magical technology.

The shows have almost nothing in common, except that the main characters are thrown together by circumstances and are usually broke. I can believe that Steven doesn’t want to see either one, but I can’t bear the thought of intelligent Firefly being lumped in with brainless Outlaw Star. Outlaw Star is Dragon’s Lair, Firefly is The Hobbit. Yeah, okay: they both have a Dragon at the end, but other than that they have nothing in common.

The right to proclaim that any series – sight unseen – is crap or uninteresting, is the right and duty of every decent otaku. But let us not stoop to base slander by suggesting that Firefly belongs with riff-raff like Outlaw Star.


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31 thoughts on “Outlaw Firefly

  1. Will says:

    Geek-fight indeed. I’ve seen the Firefly-Outlaw Star fight break out on just about every board at one time or another. The Browncoats’ side tends to proclaim Firefly the greatest and most original thing since ever there were things, while others (myself included) find the show entertaining and worth a watch but not some new form of high art.

    You can’t begrudge people the comparison, not with the overwhelming overlap in themes and particular setpieces. Pirates and Reavers, special naked chicks frozen in suitcases and hunted by some very strange people, living outside the law in a wild west future… Firefly actually ramps up the “Western” in Space Western more than most shows.

    Now, the bounty hunter (Juble? I can’t quite remember his name), he was an interesting and fresh character. He needed more than a single episode.

    1. SKD says:

      The bounty hunter’s name was Jubal Early

  2. Shamus says:

    Joking about geek fights aside, of course I don’t really begrudge the comparison. I actually do see the similar elements, but it does seem exceedingly odd to me to lump the two together. Like I said: Dragon’s Lair and The Hobbit have many similar elements, but I wouldn’t suggest that a love / hate for one will translate into the same feelings for the other. But clearly some people DO sort shows by components and not by style, depth, and tempo. It’s interesting. The latter appeals to me much more than distinctions on the former.

    Having said that: Geeze. Whatever works. I think it’s cool that there is now so much available entertainment that we have to develop increasingly sophisticated sorting systems just to decide which ones we want to watch.

    Now, the bounty hunter (Juble? I can't quite remember his name), he was an interesting and fresh character. He needed more than a single episode.

    This is true. At the end of that episode I fully expected to see him again. I guess the same could be said for most of the show: There should have been more of it.

    1. Handgunman says:

      The main issue is the fact that the show itself was supposed to continue for a couple more seasons, but was cancelled. Also, I’ts kind of hard for Jubal to recover from being sent drifting in nothing but a space-suit.

  3. Ubu Roi says:

    Like I said back when I first started discussing animé on Houblog, “A better series won’t be found on American TV …. unless it’s Firefly.”

  4. Cineris says:

    I think it’s a shame that anyone would miss out on Firefly … And though I haven’t seen Outlaw Star, from what I have seen I agree with Shamus. Most genre categories are extremely superficial. Imagine my surprise when I learned years ago that many subgenres of electronic music were classified primarily according to BPM rather than, say, instrumentation, composition, or themes.

  5. Alex says:

    I will never forget that the first episode of Firefly was based on the premise of a naked girl hidden in a suitcase. Thus my love/hate relationship with Joss Whedon was refreshed!

    I think that “naked girls in suitcases” is a pretty big similarity, but anything else is superficial.

  6. Gothmog says:

    I… *takes a sec to count* fourth the feelings that Firefly is very much worth ones time.

    For that matter… I can’t say I was too wowed by Outlaw Star one bit, really-

    The greatest difference in my mind between the two is Firefly has deep, rich characters. Very enjoyable.

    Hm- I think I’m going to go watch ‘Our Mrs. Reynolds’ again on my iPod right now. Dang, that was a great episode.

  7. Wonderduck says:

    No aliens.

    Unless you count the Reavers, and I do. Most of the characters in Firefly do, too.

    No robots. No sentient machines.

    River excepted. Yes, I know, she’s human, but…

    No magical technology.

    Common, easy and cheap spaceflight, spaceships the size of cities, and beam weapons? I don’t see NASA doing that anytime soon.

    Having said all that, I do dearly love Firefly. One of the only network TV shows I’ve watched any of in the past 10 years (and that on DVD… I missed it when originally broadcast).

    And I’ll second Gothmog’s vote for ‘Our Mrs. Reynolds’. Whichever one had The Hero of Canton was pretty darn special, too.

    I do like Jayne, I do…

  8. HC says:

    Saffron is a great character. Really, pretty much anyone with a recurring role was great… though I wish they hadn’t had to replace Inarra at the last moment. It shows, I think.

  9. Shamus says:

    Jaynestown was a brilliant episode. Since none of the players in my RPG group watched the show, I was going to steal that idea and use in in our next campaign. (Which sadly, has been canceled because I’m just too busy.) I was going to set up a situation where they wanted to lay low and avoid attention, and then when they roll into some town they find a gigantic statue dedicated to one of the members of the party, who is now (because of a misunderstanding) a local hero and legend. That’s a great hook for an adventure, and a good way to shine the light on a player that isn’t getting enough attention.

  10. Shamus says:

    Wonderduck: The “no aliens” thing I was talking about is more of a plot device. In Star Trek, aliens were always a cudgel used to set up some contrived situation where we could look at humans / Americans / the sexes / race relations through the lens of an alien race. Okay, the reavers are an external threat, but their ships, technology, and “people” come from the humans. I love this. Aliens are too often a crutch in Sci-Fi, and by leaving them out they avoided telling a lot of stories we’ve seen before.

    The same thing goes with robots. If I have to watch one more sci-fi where a robot learns to love and laugh I’ll probably never stop puking.

  11. Toren says:

    If I may use a Japanese aphorism, Steven is “a man of strong likes and dislikes.”

  12. Acksiom says:

    Joss Whedon?

    That would be the guy who totally turned me off anything he might ever be involved with due to his blatant femelitist chauvanism in *Buffy the Vampire Slayer*, yes?

    Just to, you know, represent the non-fanboi opinion in all this blatant droolianige.

  13. Shamus says:

    I never saw Buffy. I’d never heard of Joss until Firefly. I understand Buffy fans are quite rabid though. Almost as bad as us Firefly fans.

    [..] femelitist chauvanism […] Just to, you know, represent the non-fanboi opinion in all this blatant droolianige.

    My internal parser couldn’t make anything of this.

  14. Acksiom says:

    Well, for starters, “feminism” is a particularly stupid label for the specific gender-equality subset of general civil rights interests. One might as well label the “theory of the political, social, and economic equality of the *races*” as “caucasianism”, or such “of the *faiths*”, as “christianism”, or such “of the *social classes*” as “elitism”.

    It’s all about the perspective. “Women’s issues”, fine label. Or, “Gender Egalitarianism”, wordy, but still okay. But “feminism”? No; not just stupid, but actively wrong.

    Additionally, “femelitism” — and “femelitist chauvanism”, as a more specific behavioral descriptor, distinguishing it from the general ideological characterization, is a much better label for what ‘feminism’ usually amounts to these days, anyways. It certainly has been where every single episode of BTVS that I ever happened across was concerned. Between any two commercial breaks, some action, line of dialogue, plot development, or the like served to trigger my negative reflex to that whole Boys-Are-Icky/You-Go-Power-Grrrrl! nonsense.

    Oh, and NB, folks: I’ve pointed the not only inherently self-contradictory but actually self-*defeating* nature of “feminism” as a label for equal gender rights to many people over the years. Among those with the bare integrity necessary to both simply admit that they can’t sensibly disagree with my points, but refuse to stop applying the label to themselves, and to discuss their reasons for such patent irrationality, there has so far been a 100% reportage rate that they won’t let it go simply because they have too many positive feelings attached to it.

    Of course the greater majority simply refuse to discuss it rationally at all, but I find that’s par for the course these days.

    “Non-fanboi opinion in all this blatant droolianige” refers to the distinction between my lack, therefore, of any interest in exposing myself to yet more Joss Whedon. . .*product*. . .and the prior mild demonstrations of the rabidity to which you yourself refer. Sure, I can imagine some quality episodes having been created. But I also know that in the competition for my viewing time, I already gots too much stuff lined up, in which I’m too interested, to really bother with more stuff from someone whose previous stuff I have found to consistently push my Oh Sod Off Button.

  15. Shamus says:

    Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed response. I’ve never heard anyone protest the feminist label itself in this way before. Very interesting. I didn’t know anything about BTVS except that she fought vampires. Never saw the movie, never saw a single episode of the show, so I didn’t know if it was anything like Firefly or not. Judging from your description I’ll probably leave it alone.

    Thanks again.

  16. Cineris says:

    I’m kind of surprised you hadn’t heard that particular critique of feminism Shamus — It’s been a problem with the term ever since the first-wave of feminism (“Equality” feminists) was overtaken by academic posturing and pissing-contests. Once things moved into the academic sphere “feminism” as a descriptor of any sort of pragmatic political philosophy became meaningless. Gender feminism is pretty much the dominant version of feminism these days, but that’s only because it’s a theory of everything capable of encompassing basically every other “feminism” subset. As Acksiom pointed out, it is pretty problematic to name a big theory-of-everything type thing after only one small subset of what it purports to represent, but good luck changing it. I suspect the primary reason why “feminism” endures as terminology is because it’s nothing more than utopian fantasy. People can actually imagine a “Christianist” or “Caucasianist” movement — A “Gynocentric” society? It’s meaningless verbiage. Since no one really cares what such an irrelevant ideology calls itself, it gets a pass.

    I will say though that I watched most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and enjoyed it a lot. The show gets a lot of praise from “feminist” (or, more appropriately, femelitist, I suppose) critics who enjoy seeing “strong female characters.”* I think the less you pay attention to the theorists (and the show’s fan community in general) the more you can enjoy it without reservation.

    It was a fun show, witty and capable of being both lighthearted and serious. There are some things I didn’t like about the show (Sarah Michelle Gellar being anorexic and beating up guys twice her size, Willow’s later tedium, etc), but the flip-side of some of the more superficial complaints is that every female character is extremely attractive, so I count that as pretty much even. Overall I don’t think it was as good as Firefly could have been, but five full seasons of Buffy is more fulfilling than 7 episodes of Firefly and a two-hour superepisode. I don’t think I’d recommend Buffy to everyone like I do Firefly, but if there’s interest already I think it’s worth it.

    * Isn’t it interesting how “strong female characters” doesn’t mean females with strong character, but rather females who are capable of beating up men twice their size? Not that I have the feminist-credibility to leverage such a critique but this valuation of “strong female characters” is sexist itself.

  17. Shamus says:

    Isn't it interesting how “strong female characters” doesn't mean females with strong character, but rather females who are capable of beating up men twice their size? Not that I have the feminist-credibility to leverage such a critique but this valuation of “strong female characters” is sexist itself.

    I have noticed this myself, and it is a pet peeve of mine. (Of course, I could care less about your supposed lack of credibility. You said it and it’s true. Smart and honest people can work out the details for themselves. The rest can go climb a tree. I don’t think you should have to say something positive about women in general before taking a shot of feminisim. PC-ness is a sucker’s game.)

    If by accident you were exposed to the latest Blade movie, you would have seen the very embodiement of this idea: A female character with no witty lines, no personality, nothing interesting to say, and who can beat up huge men (in bodyarmor no less!) with her bare hands. It’s so grating and preposterous that even within the context of a vampie movie it seems hopelessly farfetched. This sort of thing is all too common and I’m willing to bet that it comes from mostly male writers who desire to establish that elusive “feminist credibility”.

  18. Otters34 says:

    Sorry if this seems, well, off-topic, but has anyone here heard of a show called Farscape?It was somewhat similar to Firefly, though it was apparently a fairly generic space-opera at first, though I’m told it had cinematic quality effects.And I cannot help but sympathise with Acksiom’s dislike of Joss Whedon, though I have neither seen BTVS or Firefly.

    Yeah, that’s all folks, Farscape bids you remember it in your prayers(Dune refernce!)…

  19. The Gneech says:

    _Firefly_ is way more like _Cowboy Bebop_ than _Outlaw Star_.

    Which is a compliment. :)

    -The Gneech

  20. MissusJ says:

    I wondered if someone would bring up Cowboy Bebop. I thought that the Bebop comparison was much more apt, and I’ve seen only a couple minutes of one and a couple episodes of the other. In fact, I bet the people who wanted to see more of the bounty hunter in Firefly would like Cowboy Bebop.

  21. Marstov says:

    Buffy’s ability to beat up monsters is part of the premise; she is a supernaturally enhanced person. Just like vampires don’t age or suffer from bullet wounds, she has inhuman strength and dexterity. Her abilities make much more sense within the context of the story than do River’s in Firefly.

    I also respectfully disagree with Ackison who slammmed Buffy for being too “grrl-power” orientated. There are many positive male characters in the program and quite a few negative females as well. Obviously since the main character is a woman the final line of heroics will generally come from her, but a theme often repeated throughout the series is that despite all of her unique abilities Buffy would be crippled without her support group, which has as many men in it as women.

    Strength in Buffy is truly a measure of character, and there are many strong characters of either gender. The storyline is replete with supernaturally enhanced people who nevertheless fail despite their gifts, and vice versa.

    Shamus (and anyone else who hasn’t ever seen Buffy) I would strongly recommend the first three seasons of this show. I think it was as good a fantasy based program as has ever been aired. I think they lost their way after 3rd season and the quality took a serious drop, but those first three seasons are gold.

    Assuming, of course, a show about a teenaged girl kicking the stuffing out of monsters is something that appeals to you. If you hate (for example) overt displays of patriotism you probably shouldn’t read Captain America. There’s monsters and magic and the greatest horror of all: high school.

  22. Bored says:

    Seriously you people need to get a life and stop this pointless rambling -_- .

  23. Otters34 says:


    It is with absolutely no fear of being proven wrong that I say that A)Mr. Young does indeed have a life, and B)High school is not, “the greatest horror of all.”

    What the greatest horror is could be any number of things, but it is certainly not schooling.

  24. Marstov says:


    For many people, the social gauntlet that is high school is one of the more unpleasant periods of their lives. One of the things that made Buffy more than just another monster show was the use of the supernatural in conjunction with the mundane to throw a satirical light on the real world. By showing characters who actually had an easier time dealing with blood drinking demons than they did with the sometimes vicious social expectations of their day to day school life, the writers were able to satirically comment about how unpleasant high school is for a lot of people (at least in America).

    Why do you think that a large percentage of the mass shootings in the last few decades happen in schools by kids? Yes, the world abounds with horrible things (slavery, children being used as soldiers, mass starvation, genocide, the “comedy” of Pauly Shore) but most Americans don’t ever experience any of them. High school, on the other hand, is an almost universal and often unpleasant experience. Just my 2 cents…

  25. Otters34 says:

    So lacking somewhat in social graces works in my favor there, interesting.Sorry for the lateness of this response,by the way.

  26. Brendan says:

    Wow. From pointless rambling about whether Firefly could be compared to Outlaw Star, through to gender equality in Buffy in only 25 posts.

  27. I love Outlaw Star. There are great moments in it that move it beyond simple fun: The battle with Leilong, the way that Gwen Kahn kept evolving as a character and we got more of a feel of his motivations, the episode where Jim unwittingly kills his own love interest… It’s got a lot more than it seems.

    But maybe a better analogy is Cowboy Bebop. Everyone has a dark past. Hell, the universes even make more sense compared to each other. Outlaw Star is slick, but Cowboy Bebop is a lived-in universe: Everything is rusty, beaten up, and old. They both even have a cowboy and Southwestern theme going on. All three shows have characters who are willing to ignore the cliches and act savvy.

  28. Amano Jyaku says:

    Just google firefly outlaw star.The first link someone breaks it down here it is.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Staxringold/Firefly.Im a huge anime fan and a fan of Joss Whedon.I saw the firefly movie before watching the series because I was in the Marines at the time.Wile watching the movie.The first thing that came to me was.This is alot like Outlaw Star.The whole ending to Firefly was just like the ending to OS.Then when I got a chance to see the series.Its like bam right in your face Outlaw Star.Like I said Im a big fan of Joss’s work.But there are more Joss drones out there than anime fans.So the drones will disagree.Just another fact.

  29. Marny Ramirez says:

    The initial similarities between Outlaw Star and Firefly are uncanny and undeniable. Just stating that objective fact isn’t claiming that Outlaw Star is better than Firefly.

    It’s simply astronomically unlikely that Joss Whedon was living in a vacuum and independently came up with both the same basic premise and a practical carbon copy of Outlaw Star’s first episode after the show had seen copious, constant airing on Cartoon Network for years throughout the late 90s and early 2000s.

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