|Adult Swim Premiere||February 23, 2002|
|Original Network||TV Tokyo|
The anime then transitioned to the newly formed Adult Swim anime block, Adult Swim Action, on February 23, 2002. The series was pulled from the block after November 30, 2002, and the network allowed its broadcast rights to expire by 2003. The show was later part of Adult Swim's Toonami April Fools Event in 2012 that resulted in the rebirth of Toonami. A less edited version of Outlaw Star returned to Adult Swim's Toonami, in HD, from August 19, 2017 to March 17, 2018.
Outlaw Star is a space opera/Space Western set in the fictional "Towards Stars Era" universe. During it's past, an asteroid containing a material known as "dragonite" crashed in the fictional Arashon desert of northern China. Scientists found that the dragonite contained properties related to "ether", an energy source that would allow spacecraft to travel faster than the speed of light, and thus traverse large distances of the universe in a short time. As new colonies were formed throughout the vast reaches of outer space, pirates, assassins, and outlaws began to threaten humanity's new frontier. To create order, the Earth Federation established four empires: USSA, Einhorn, Piotr, and Tenpa. However, internal power struggles within the factions and conflicts amongst one another become abundant, leading to inevitable lawlessness. The storyline starts shortly after an infamous outlaw named "Hot Ice" Hilda flees from the Kei Pirates, a branch of the Tenpa. Hilda has stolen from them a highly-advanced prototype ship dubbed the XGP15A-II and a suitcase containing a bio-android called Melfina, the only being capable of interfacing with the ship.
Outlaw Star opens on the backwater planet Sentinel III, on which the protagonist Gene Starwind and his 11-year-old business associate James Hawking run a small jack-of-all-trades business. After the two take a job as bodyguards for a disguised Hilda and engage in a brief skirmish with the Kei Pirates, Gene and Jim find themselves the owners of the XGP15A-II (which they nickname the "Outlaw Star") and the caretakers of Melfina. Hilda reveals that the ship's true purpose is to locate the "Galactic Leyline", a place which popular claims say is a holder of immense treasure, knowledge, and power. Throughout the course of the series, the crew grows to include the kimono-garbed contract killer Twilight Suzuka and Aisha Clanclan, a catgirl of the Ctarl-Ctarl alien race.
The episodes often involve Gene and his comrades taking on various jobs or missions to fund their ship's massive maintenance costs. Throughout their travels, the crew often encounters Ronald and Harry McDougall, a pair of bounty hunters responsible for the death of Gene's father. Ronald acts as a rival to Gene, while Harry wishes to form a bond with Melfina, a bio-android like himself. The crew also contends with others that learn of the Outlaw Star's connection to the Galactic Leyline. They are Nguyen Khan, a scientist wishing to gain omniscience through the Leyline; and Lord Hazanko, the leader of the ruthless assassin organization the Anten Seven, who seeks the Leyline to gain ultimate power. The series climaxes when all parties meet on the physical plane of the Leyline.
The Cartoon Network/Adult Swim broadcast of the show was heavily edited due to its adult content. Profanity was removed, scenes with violence and lewd behavior were cut or toned down, and many scenes containing nudity were altered by digitally inserting clothing onto characters. Episode 23, in which the Outlaw Star crew visits a hot spring planet, was not aired due to nudity and suggestive themes. However, some instances of adult language were not removed for the anime's initial run. Sean Akins, Toonami's creative director, claimed that Cartoon Network made all of their own edits to their licensed properties during this time period, which they did "in a way that preserves the story". The role of Fred Luo, a recurring homosexual character, was considerably toned down. Cartoon Network had no specific editing policy with regard to gay characters, but that "overt sexuality or implied sexuality of any kind are not allowed". Episode 23 finally aired on Adult Swim's Toonami on February 24, 2018, but was still edited for content.