When I wrote my article my article about Firefly and Cowboy Bebop, it had slipped my mind that since Firefly’s genesis, it’s been called not merely similar to, but a rip-off of an anime called Outlaw Star. Firefly, a rip off? What a load of gosa, right? Well to some people who watched Outlaw Star first, it’s not.
According to a poll Ripoffornot.com most people are classifying Firefly as just an Outlaw Star imitator. As someone who has watched both shows I think that they are similar, but Firefly is by no means a rip off. before we discuss the similarities and differences between the animes and Firefly, some background.
Outlaw Star started as a manga written by Takehiko Ito, and is comprised of three volumes. It was then adapted into a twenty-six episode anime, with an english dub that aired on the Toonami block on Cartoon Network in 2001.
The shows follow a similar plot; There’s a small crew that lives on the outskirts of society, said crew always has money problems, and there’s a big organization getting in the way more often than not. Firefly and Outlaw Star both start out at a point where a “girl-in-a-box” enters the shows, one of said big organizations wants her, and she becomes a major plot point. They have different overarching stories ie The alliance tracking down Simon and River and the crew of The Outlaw Star finding the galactic leyline, but the episodes follow a “job/bounty of the week” format with character development(In Firefly, more so than Outlaw Star) for the most part. I’d also like to mention some differences between Melfina(the “girl-in-a-box” character from Outlaw Star) and River. Melfina is an android made to help navigate The Outlaw Star, and River is a child prodigy who was subjected to horrible experiments that damaged her sanity. Their introductions are similar, but their roles are different.
Another similarity that got people pointing fingers is the use of motifs of East Asian Culture applied in both shows. Okay that’s another startling coincidence, but in Firefly they’re for fleshing out a future where two cultures merged and in Outlaw Star they’re used for the aesthetic. In Firefly, when we hear characters speak some chinese words, or see some Asian-inspired architecture, it’s only because those things are part of the culture of the Firefly Universe. When we see East Asian themes in Outlaw Star, they are purely aesthetic. For example, there’s a character called Suzuka who is a samurai, who fights pretty much only with a sword in a universe where people are fighting with magical guns(or at least just magical bullets). And sure, The Operative used a sword, but the Firefly universe didn’t have space pirates that use magical laser beams to do combat. That’s right, Outlaw Star has space pirates(I think Pirates is a mistranslation, because they’re a lot more like an organized crime syndicate than pirates) with supernatural powers, they they refer to as “tao”. In real life, “tao” is part of Eastern mysticism, not a form of super powers. Giving things Eastern names, and including things we associate with the east like samurai are there purely for the “cool” factor, and not because they’re part of a complex sci-fi universe. Oh, and did I mention that Outlaw Star has a fantasy element, that Firefly most certainly doesn’t have?
As for the characters, over the course of each show they become more cohesive as family units, with characters like Simon Tam, Aisha Clanclan and “Twilight” Suzuka etc becoming more friendly with their respective crews as the series progresses. Firefly has an ensemble cast whereas Outlaw Star devotes more time to the main character Gene Starwind, than the other characters. Another difference between the main characters is that in Outlaw Star the main characters are both bounty hunters, unlike in Firefly where the characters aren’t bounty hunters, so much as just anti-government smugglers.
After reading this, you must thing I have a grudge against Outlaw Star, or maybe even the fans, but the truth is, I was actually a Starwind before I was Browncoat. I was one of those people who saw River come out of cryogenic freeze, and thought “Melfina!” at first, but after repeated viewings, I changed my mind. I speak to you as a broker of space peace saying both shows are good in their own way, and Firefly is by no means a rip off.
Have you already seen both shows before? How do you think they’re similar? How do you think they’re different? We’d love to know, please leave your answer in the comments.