Joie de vie...that, in a phrase, sums up Outlanders. A 40-or-so minute OVA from 1986, it's a wildly shortened version of the manga by Johji Manabe, which hit comic book store shelves in the US before many modern anime otaku were even born. I remember picking it up at the time, and it was the first manga I didn't fall in love with immediately. Yes, it featured scantily-clad aliens, violence galore, and so forth, and back then, those things probably interested me more than they do today. But even in my youth, it just didn't all quite work. I saw the OVA many years ago in raw Japanese form...so long ago, in fact, that I never actually wrote a review of it. Now that it's been fully restored and given a brand new dub by Central Park Media via US Manga Corps, I can honestly say that it's a wreck. Nevertheless, it's a joyously goofy wreck that, while bawdy and absurd, shows a lust for life that made me smile even while I was analyzing just how haphazardly this crapshoot was put together.

Princess Kahm comes to the "holy planet" (i.e. Earth) in her spaceship only to get a fiery welcome from earth forces. Of course, jet planes are no match for her firepower, and when she lands, she brutally slaughters a contingent of soldiers. But one man amidst the slaughter is different: Tetsuya, a young photographer. In a bizarre chain of events, Kahm and Tetsuya take an immediate liking to one another, despite that she's just decapitated half a dozen men. She wisks him off, and he finds out that Kahm is determined to save the people of the "holy planet" from destruction, even if we're all just a bunch of monkeys anyway. The only way she can think of making it work is by marrying a human so her father will accept them. Tetsuya's the most readily available man around, and so Kahm figures that if they consummate the relationship before good old Dad finds out, so much the better. Of course, Tetsuya's not so sure that getting involved with a green-haired girl with horns on her head is all that good an idea, but it worked for another guy named Ataru...but that's another anime entirely, isn't it?

Outlanders is, for anime fans of my generation, a treat to see on DVD. Central Park Media has really done a nice restoration job, and it's one of the best pictures I've seen from an anime of its vintage. It may lack a certain appeal to newer viewers, but its designs are still visually attractive. OVAs actually still had budgets in 1986, and so it looks reasonably good, and some fight sequences have decent animation. There's also a new dub on the disc, which is notable because over 18,000 votes were cast to choose the English-language performers. If you like dubs, this one is entertaining enough to watch; although I only caught a few minutes of the English version, the vocals are done well, even though the script takes a few liberties here and there with the actual text, normally to make things funnier or raunchier.

To say that Outlanders is a mess plot-wise is an understatement. Even though I was familiar with the story from the manga, there are plot holes that all but the most faithful fans can't ignore. For one, the love story between the leads is implausible as all get-out; the fact that Tetsuya is willing to face death for Kahm after just a day or two is ridiculous. (The fact that he would bed her in that amount of time is, sadly, more believable...talk about an inditement of modern culture!) But there's more than that...there are at least two times when death is averted by a deus ex machina rather than a legitimate plot development. And just how is it that we go from slasher film violence to sex comedy to sci-fi battle drama and back again in 40 minutes? The show is directed towards 13-year-old boys who will be so entranced by all the gore, nude hijinks, and action that they won't mind that the plot is held together with Silly String.

However...and this takes some doing to turn directions after all those plot problems...it is a fun show in a certain way. It's well paced. It's funny. Despite the visceral opening that evokes shades of Elfen Lied, it's good natured. Even through all the sex talk (which it has in abundance), it is far less lewd than the panty-bearing, peek-a-boo lasciviousness seen in a lot of modern anime. Does that make it acceptable? No, not in my book. But I have to admit that the show keeps moving at a brisk pace, in such a perky spirit, that if one were so inclined, one might decide to forgive its faults.

I've debated about my grade for this one for a couple of days, and I've finally decided to go with my top "not recommended" score. Why? Ultimately, it's lousy storytelling. There is entertainment value to be had here, I admit. In a way, I wish I could give it a better rating. But there's not enough meat here and far too much that's better done in other places. In retrospect, Outlanders comes off as a more romantic, more sexually charged version of Urusei Yatsura, which wouldn't be bad if Outlanders didn't rip off so much from that seminal classic, right down to the design of the lead female. If you haven't seen either one, I'd buy Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer instead; you'll get wacky aliens in a far better story that way. But to be fair, Outlanders is pure joie de vie, and while I can fault its many mistakes, I can't fault it for that.

Outlanders -- graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, adult comedy, profanity -- C+