As an armada of unstoppable alien invaders bombard planet Earth from bug-shaped spaceships, teen photojournalist Tetsuya Wakatsuki (voiced by Mitsuo Iwata) happens upon scantily-clad space babe Princess Kahm (Fumi Hirano), slashing her sword through an entire army. Forced to defend himself, Tetsuya miraculously pins Kahm against a wall. He can’t help but gawp at her boobs. She is impressed with his erection. The next thing he knows, Tetsuya awakens aboard Kahm’s spaceship, attended by her kindly frog-like servants Nao (Akira Kamiya), Momo (Mika Doi) and hyperactive offspring Pon, Bon and Hon (Emi Shinohara).
Tetsuya discovers Kahm is heir to the Santavasku Interstellar Empire who regard Earth as their Sacred Planet and human beings as little more than an infestation of vermin. Now Kahm has chosen plucky Tetsuya as her mate she urges her father, the Emperor (Takashi Toyama), to spare the human race. Unfortunately, her plan backfires when the enraged Emperor orders Tetsuya’s immediate execution. Aided by comely cousin Battia (Mari Yokoo) and rakish wolf-like space commander Geobaldi (Kenji Utsumi), the (literally) star-crossed lovers attempt to escape the Emperor’s fleet and save the world.
In manga form Outlanders was among the first Japanese space epics embraced by American comic book fans. Most likely because creator Johji Manabe drew upon sources not too alien for mainstream English language readers: the fast-paced space action of Star Wars (1977), the carefree, kinky sexuality of Barbarella (1967), the swashbuckling pulp romance of the John Carter novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Grandiose in scope, Manabe’s rollicking space opera ran the gamut from high tragedy to puerile sex comedy, incorporating global destruction, international conspiracies, ancient prophecies and love triangles. The anime version is more of a promotional item for the manga than a self-contained adaptation and omits several vital subplots. At forty-eight minutes, it can’t really do justice to Manabe’s sprawling multi-volume manga, but does a fair job capturing its frenetically fun tone.
Handsomely animated, this zips along at a fair clip in a frantic attempt to cram as much swordplay, space battles, strange monsters and weird sex as it possibly can, along with some intriguing ideas. For some critics, the pornographication of juvenalia is deeply troublesome, and bears comparison with what Michael Bay accomplished with Transformers (2007), although Manabe goes a step further than simply leering at a scantily-clad Megan Fox. In Japan however, this is a perfectly valid artistic choice. Manabe’s distinctive brew of strikingly designed insectoid warships, lovable Disneyesque anthropomorphic aliens, devil-horned nymphomaniac space princesses in battle bikinis, and quasi-bestial softcore porn offset by disarming moments of unexpected pathos, struck a chord with legions of horny Japanese adolescents who had only just grown interested in girls but were not ready to abandon silly sci-fi stuff just yet.
Crucially this is a sexploitation anime where the female characters are neither passive sex dolls nor victimised masturbatory aids. Instead, the likes of Kahm and Battia are kick-ass Amazonian heroines who actively enjoy their sex lives. Manabe leavens the salacious content with doses of genuine romance. Scenes where Tetsuya endures horrific injury to defend Kahm’s honour or where their love inspires other more conflicted characters to stand up for what is right, prove downright affecting. While not always coherent, the plot remains taut and exciting and even without concluding the story, still ends on a satisfactory note.