Outlaw StarI’ve been taking advantage of some time as a single man to watch DVDs of my favorite bit o’ japanimation: Outlaw Star.

If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry. I gather it’s not widely known.

So, while walking back from the Kennedy Center (I’d just seen Anna-Sophie Mutter perform), I got myself in the mood to watch an episode or two (out of a total of twenty-six) and thought about the gender roles. Or rather, depictions of women.

The primary female protagonist (Melfina) is typically young, school girlish, and large eyed. Most of the time, she’s little more than that. An innocent, virginal object who desires (and is eventually, but only eventually, desired by) the primary male protagonist (Jean Starwind), in the seventh episode, while she’s still dealing with being a  ‘bio-android’ (I gather, essentially human, but with some subtle differences and also grown artificially, rather than born) and not having the memories to go along with her mental age, she falls asleep on Jean’s shoulder. His young friend, Jim Hawking, hits him on the head with a frying pan in looney tunes fashion, when Jean gets a little, shall we say… fresh with the sleeping Melfina. Jim then cuddles up with her and says, ‘She’s like my mom.’

Never before or again are his parents or how a ten year old (roughly)  boy came to be living with a shiftless twenty-something bounty hunter, but that one little moment sets up a rare and totally contrary way to view Melfina (who is otherwise a generally sisterly figure – until she becomes a lover figure, but even that is portrayed in a somewhat platonic fashion: she and Jean are friends first) and is one of the few times when Jim’s needs as a child are acknowledged.

There is a beautiful assassin named Twilight Suzuka. Actually, that should really just be Suzuka, shouldn’t it? She is beautiful, but towards the very end, she meets the man she most wants to kill… and he is wearing her face. He wears baggy, shapeless, sexless clothes, but without those other signifiers and a masculine voice, her face is perfectly adequate as  a beautiful young man. She also very noticeably avoids the question of whether she loves Jean. She promises an answer later, but never gives it. But why does she stick around?

Well, there we are. I’ve just made a big deal of a sixteen year old cartoon. Whatever. I like it.

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