Well, look at that. Another Japan / Europe co-production. We know what this means, right? By mixing eastern and western elements, we always get a series that is generally better than an average cartoon and worse than an average anime. This series is basically aimed for 12 year-olds but it packs some mature themes that may attract older viewers with low expectations.
ART SECTION: 6/10 [Stands out in the crowd.]
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
A very nice concept art was used to depict the alien planets and civilizations. Weird symbols, eerie shaped plants, rocks and buildings, interesting forms of spacecrafts. There is not much detailing but it still makes the series to look different from all others. And if it stands out from the lot, it’s enough for me.
If you like JRPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics, Makai Kingdom and Odin’s Sphere , you will immediately like the way the characters are drawn. Very simple faces, weird cloths, and occasionally body tattoos. Facial variety is very low and each character seems to always wear the same set of cloths, but they are still adorable to look at.
All backgrounds and spacecrafts are entirely computer generated. They have high definition and plenty of gimmicks to make each race to look different. But still, their variety is very low and you will feel like you watch the same set of scenery repeating over and over.
The simple-drawn characters don’t leave room for great animation. And the attention to physics during the races is generally ok but I can’t say there is great fluidity. Still images are used in plenty of occasions and some spacecraft crashes feel fake.
The entire series generally feels very poor on visual dressing; most special effects are just neon light and spot light filters.
SOUND SECTION: 6/10 [A bit better than average but that is that.]
Nothing to write about. Voice acting was ok, music themes were silly J-pop and average action-pumping orchestra.
STORY SECTION: 4/10 [An interesting premise that is ruined by the childish presentation.] (spoiler alert!)
Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 1/2
The story is a weird mix of science fiction, sports, drama and coming-of-age. If you look at its genres individually, you will see just the same old clichés of the kind. But if you see it as a whole, it looks nice. Earth is under attack by aliens. All the races are invited to participate in a race, whose winner will receive the power to rule the cosmos. Enter your average teenager with a sad past and the wish to win the race in order to prove herself to her father. That’s right! She doesn’t care about the fate of the world; just for her daddy. Add some scheming aliens, funky racing, a mysterious lurking evil power and a lukewarm romance in the air. And there you have it; a nice blend of the best clichés. It is not great but it does trick you into thinking it’s original.
Realism suffers a lot and it is hard to get in the mood if you can’t buy the presentation. The fate of the universe will be at the hands of a race winner. Not weapons, not brains, not charisma decide. Just the fastest (and most cunning in most cases) guy in a public sport. Reason states that the races would kick the shit out of each other and scorch the entire planet in an attempt to steal the price for their own profit. Who the hell plays fair before the chance to become almighty? Who the hell has fun watching or taking part in such a thing? And who the hell sends characters with psychological issues, like revenge, maniac laughter and a teenager with a dad she hates and yet is her race supervisor? As for that mysterious power lurking throughout the series, it was just a pathetic attempt to keep the viewers interested with an otherwise generic theme. Not convincing at all.
Almost all episodes follow the same pattern. The participants talk of their personal issues during the first half of the episode, where you get to know them better (and hear a lot of cheesy dialogues about honor, justice and love). And then, they take part in a race in the other half of the episode (where you get to see some cool racing spacecrafts running, bumping and fighting each other). A few episodes feature more mystery or character coloring. But no episodes are considered great as the plot is usually predictable or leads to a very anti-climactic resolution.
Although the entire focus falls on the leading Earth girl, several secondary characters have their stories presented as well. None gets a center spot but they are there, nonetheless.
The series ends with your average “happy ending”. It’s so sappy it’s almost awful. The mightiest of beings reveals its devious plan without a reason. And yet, it’s too stupid to see a normal guy doing the simplest thing in order to stop it. What a bull of an ending that was! Totally anti-climactic. I regrettably have to say that if the ending were bleaker, the series would have a much better final impression. But no; the scriptwriters aimed at turning the otherwise sad story into a silly adventure with a fairy tale ending.
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10 [From the leading girl to the most unimportant character, the entire cast feels adorable but also completely fake.]
Each one races for one specific goal, which is determined by some basic ideal or vague backdrop story. All motivation is just “for justice!” or “for power” or even as corny as “to make my daddy love me”. During times of stress, you will see them doing complete nonsense, like talking about their goals instead of finishing off their adversaries or leaving their antagonists win, in order to prove they are friends. It is not any different from most shonen series, where everyone simply wants to become the champion in some sport or martial art. Forget the story. It doesn’t matter; it’s just an excuse to see them race. It all comes down to race, train, cry, laugh and make dreams about the future. Personalities are nothing more than a simple demeanor or quirk in the way of talking. Development is presented only when someone drops out of the race. And even after the series ends, you will feel like nobody changed much or is worth remembering in the sea of competition casts of anime series.
VALUE & ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
The concept art makes it a bit memorable. And some races are nice to watch again. But beyond that, there is little value or enjoyment in a series with a simple story, a repetitive plot and a generic cast.
VERDICT: 4.5 / 10
Is this series about the fate of the universe or the personal issues of a teenage girl with her father? Make up your minds!
***This is a spoiler free review***
Ōban Star-Racers is an anime that at first I passed over on many occasions. When I ran out of well-known anime to watch, this show popped into my “Shows you might like” category on Netflix. After thinking it over I decided to give it a go since Funimation has a great track record of English dubbed anime.
Ōban Star-Racers at first is unexpectedly interesting and fun to watch. Our main character Molly escapes boarding school to find her father who has become a complete tool. He is asked to gather a team to race for humanities safety in a tournament taking place on a faraway planet. The whole show has a Pod Racer feel and look that somehow works (unlike in the prequels of Star Wars). This sounds farfetched but the whole tourney style racing thing actually works very well in keeping the excitement up every episode of the first arc (first half of the series). This hype however does not last the entire show. The second part of the show is to be put honestly not as exciting as the first. We lose a major character that played a critical part of showing Molly how to mature as a person and a racer. All the wacky and interesting characters from the first arc practically disappear from the show and we are forced to accept new ones for the remainder of the show. The openness of the world that the tournament’s first round is held is completely ditched for the final round. The planet the final round takes place on has no crowds and is not inhabited by other people. It just feels plain and no amount of cool racing moments makes up for it.
This is going to be a hit or miss for a lot of people as the animation is very simplistic (no noses lol). The moving scenes of the races are for the most part well done but there are some weird parts where the show tries to mix 3D animation with traditional 2D style and it comes out very bland and unattractive. Character models are well done but like I said this show looks like a cross between western cartoons and early 00’s anime.
NOTE: THIS IS REVIEWED ON WATCHING THE ENGLISH DUBBED VERSION OF THE ANIME, NOT THE ORIGINAL JAP. AUDIO.
The sound of Ōban Star-Racers is captured very well as the ambient soundtrack mixed with the English dub are one of the best combinations I have experienced to this day. The music fits perfectly with the basic scenes as well as the action ones. English voice acting is so good that when listening to the original dub, I found the English one far superior in overall emersion.
The main cast, for the most part, are pretty original and you eventually become attached. Molly is head strong and wants to do anything to please her father. Her father, Don Wei is a typical jacka$$ that puts results before feelings any day. Jordan I never really felt anything towards but becomes Molly’s comrade fairly early on in the show. My favorite character, Rick Thunderbolt is a headstrong racer that at first comes off as a showoff only in it for the fame, however we learn later on there is a lot more to Rick and he becomes a major part of making Molly ready for future races. The supporting cast are very likable and help move forward the story.
If I were to rate this show only for the first half of its story, it would no doubt receive something decent. It however receives a 6.6 because it lacked the excitement from the first half in the final episodes. The show however for what it’s worth warrants a watch. It does have a very kidish feel to it but overall you will have a blast watching it. Very well done show just wish it was more interesting all the way through.
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Story: Oban is actually a pretty archetypical story about a girl trying to find her family, racing, love triangle, blah blah blah. While it is a pretty common basic line, the creators did a fantastic job mixing everything up and ending up with a coming of age story with sci-fi elements, romance, adventure, and lots of interesting turns.
I'll be the first to admit that it seemed to go on for a while, but it was overall incredibly enjoyable. Eva/Molly is a bit of a brat sometimes, but I couldn't help but feel for her as she realized her father didn't even recognize her, even if it had been ten years.
And then the plot twists! In the interest of trying to be spoiler free, I won't go too much into it, but the story kept me guessing but still didn't go too far out of the realm of possibility, and picked up threads I'd thought were long forgotten in time for the big finale. At the end, I really had to fight back the tears.
Animation/Art: Oban did really well in a traditionally taboo field of mixing 3D with 2D animation, something I generally detest. The 3D models were set in 2D backdrops, their toon/cell-shaded style almost perfectly matching the animation style and used in a consistent (but moderate) manner.
While the style itself is really simple, they pulled it off very well and managed to make everything incredibly expressive with so few details. I am also very impressed with the character designs and backgrounds.
Sound: The music is pretty good, although it can get a bit repetitive and in some places I thought should have added more music, but the ending and opening themes fit so well (from what I could understand) with the show that I didn't skip them as I normally do when watching an anime. I'm seriously considering buying the soundtrack myself.
Characters: Again, pretty archetypical: The best friend mechanics- one geeky and the other pretty macho, the super manly samurai-esque star racer, the controlling overbearing manager/father, the clueless irrational cuddly soldier, the gentlemanly prince, the charming spunky girl hero... However, the characters were fleshed out very well, even the side characters with little to no dialogue I found myself wanting to know and hoping they would survive.
Overall, I suppose that many people probably wouldn't like it, but I found this to be a highly enjoyable series, with characters I loved and a story and designs and art that I just can't find words to describe just how amazing they are in my opinion.
An enjoyable thrill ride that starts slow but has several exciting highlights that keep you on your toes. OBS has an endearing cast of main characters and a wide variety of side characters to keep you interested. If you give Oban Star-Racers a chance it may surprise and delight you. That being said this show does have several flaws that some people will be able to overlook while others won't.
Story OBS definiteley gets credit for having a fairly original idea, sure the star-racers look like something akin to the pod-racers from Star Wars, but they expound on the racing theme with a more unique story. Young Eva makes a minorly dramatic escape from her boarding school in order to be reunited with her father, only to find that her father doesn't even recognize her. In order to keep from being left behind again she follows her father as he creates a highly skilled racing team to race for the fate of earth. When ace racer Rick Thunderbolt is injured in a crash on the first race it's up to Eva to step up and race for earth. Haunted by memories of her mother dying in a dramatic star-racer crash she must overcome her fears and be the racer earth needs. Farther into the story she suffers from several setbacks. You're left wondering if she'll ever be able to pull everything together and claim the ultimate prize.
Animation Some people will be turned off immediately by the toonish animation of OBS. The characters have a simple design (no noses!) that sets this anime apart from the norm of most others. The animation overall feels like it is intended for a younger audience. Despite this drawback the characters are able to evince strong emotion that the viewer will be able to connect with.
Sound No complaints about the sound, good music and good sound effects, however it wasn't anything extraordinary either.
Characters This show has a great cast of characters that suffer from moral and emotional dilemas. However the characters don't have much depth other than dealing with the same dilemas throughout the entire anime. Eva/Molly has the most developed character but she has a hard time overcoming her inability to communicate with her father through the entire anime.
Overall While the story seems to slow down in several spots and it being a show intended for a young audience this show still has a lot of fun and exciting moments and characters that are fun to watch. This anime may not be for everyone, especially those that don't like anime intended for younger viewers, but for those that don't mind that you might find it worth your while.
Critic's Log - Earthdate: November 18, 2012. Review #22: Oban Star-Racers
Hey There, name's Giovanni. You can call me the Fullmetal Cowboy if you like since that is just a little nickname based off my username. Anyway, I do these intros to my reviews because I like to and it's my kind of thing. I also number my reviews so I can keep track on how many I've reviewed so far. The whole "Critic's Log" thing is a homage to Star Trek if you haven't noticed. Well i'm running out of material to continue this intro so let's thrust those engines into Oban Star-Racers!
In the year 2082, Earth has been invited to compete in the Great Race of Oban, an intergalactic race whose winner can be granted any wish in the world, even bringing back a loved one. This invitation comes from the Avatar, a mysterious entity who ends hostilities between Earth and the sinister Crogs. In Earth, a girl named Eva has been hoping to hear from her father for years. She leaves school to find her father Don Wei, after she does find him the Earth team is off to compete in the Great Race of Oban, Eva then takes the name "Molly" and she must prove that she can win and make her father recognize her.
To be technical, this is a Sav! The World and HAL Film Maker collaboration production. Sav! The World was a studio from France while HAL Film Maker was from Japan. Oban Star Racers is one of those animes that has a rare occasion having two studios collaborate while its country of origin happens to be Japan and France. So… Should Oban Star Racers be considered an anime to begin with? Well, let’s just say that Oban Star Racers is an anime hybrid. I should note that Savin-Yeatman Eiffel (the creator of the series and one of the directors of the show) was inspired by a few anime series back in the 70’s which obviously led to the inspiration of the series and it’s no surprise that he wanted to collaborate with a Japanese studio regarding the animation. Speaking about the animation, it was hard for me to speak my opinion about the animation in Oban Star Racers. The show does deserve praise for its integration of 2D and 3D animation when used. What is a bit hit and miss is the character designs but that is sort of a minor nitpick for me because there’s actually a small defense I have regarding character designs. The animation style in France sometimes does not include noses on its characters or so I heard in the Making of Oban video that I saw. It may look weird but I think you might get used to it after a little while unless you really have a problem with it. The animation is mostly good throughout the show and it’s done well for a kid’s anime. The integration of the 2D and 3D animation is done good that it should put Gonzo to shame. Yeah, I just brought up Gonzo… Maybe I should call this an “Anti-Gonzo Anime”. Putting jokes aside, I appreciate the animation here and I also appreciate the unique art style that Oban Star Racers has.
The music by Taku Iwasaki really sets the mood right for Oban Star Racers, there are times when the music sounds adventurous which the show has plenty of adventurous scenes and packs an emotional punch when used. I got nothing really bad to say about the music, it’s composed quite well. I should also mention that the staff somehow managed to get Yoko Kanno to compose the opening and closing songs, need I say more about Yoko Kanno? Well for this review… yes. Oban Star Racers has one of the catchiest openings from Yoko Kanno, it got me excited for an episode of Oban and I never really skipped or fast-forwarded the opening, I liked every second of it. The closing song is nice too and compliments the show well. The music department had the chance to shine and it worked.
As far as voice acting goes, I cannot state my opinion of the Subtitled version this time because The American release of this show does not have a Japanese version, and it doesn’t have a French Version either. Only the English Dub is available in the U.S. and to be honest. This is a solid well performed dub. Chiari Zanni has a charming touch while voicing Eva (or “Molly” if you prefer) well. Sam Vincent is great as Jordan. Ron Halder is terrific as Don Wei. Kirby Morrow is charming for the ladies as Prince Aikka and Brian Drummond is surprisingly good at voicing a cheery old man. Here’s a couple good tidbits about the extra performances. Alessandro Juliani (the English voice of L from Death Note) is in the show and the Dobson Brothers (Paul, Brian, and Michael) are also in the show. The dub is great for a kid’s show and it’s a good anime dub in general.
The cast of characters are quite the bunch. The human characters are relatable to some viewers and some characters are interesting as well. Eva (or Molly) is an ambitious 15 year old girl that wants her dad to recognize her. My brother once told me that when he saw the show, he told me that he thought that 15 was the right age for Molly. For a kid’s show, this does seem to be the right age for a main character for this kind of show. Jordan is fun to watch and he’s also a character that I think some male viewers can relate to. The most interesting character by far for me was Eva’s father Don Wei. His character seemed a bit dislikable at first but his character development made him a likable character for me. Rick was a cool guy and he pretty much lives up to the cool factor to his character. The character development for the human characters was done pretty well for the most part. As far as the alien racers. Prince Aikka is an interesting character that develops nicely for the most part. There are some favorites I do want to list just for kicks. I liked Para-dice because she uses a footpad to race which that footpad sort of reminds me of Dance Dance Revolution. Rush was pretty cool. Spirit was also cool but interesting (for someone who never speaks) and Ondai had a cool robot form for a Racer. That’s just personal preference, but I do like how there is a variety of design regarding these Star Racers and that’s another thing I like about Oban Star Racers.
If there’s anything that will vary your mileage is what you would expect out of Oban Star Racers. The story is a bit generic at first and almost was slightly uninteresting to begin with. It does pick up quick as it progresses and chances are if you stick to the series long enough it may have been worth seeing after all. Again, this is depending on what you would expect out of the show. What Oban Star Racers does have that does not disappoint is the racing moments, they are exciting to see and is literally the driving force that makes Oban Star Racers a fun show to watch. If you like the characters long enough, chances are you’ll like how they develop. What really gets me liking Oban Star Racers is that this is a kid’s show and it does deal with some dark themes running through it. Not a whole lot, just a little and it was effective for the most part. It starts out fine and then it starts getting interesting once the group is in Oban and then it starts twisting things around which I was a bit surprised. Then there’s the ending, I have read sources that some people did not like the ending too much and some people thought it was okay. I will agree that Canaletto was not that interesting of a villain while he looks weird at the same time. I do think that part of the ending is a bit anti-climactic, but the majority of the ending wasn’t too anti-climactic. It had an appropriate ending for what the story was giving. In all honesty, this ending could have been a little more extensive and it could’ve ended just a little differently. The ending for the most part isn’t bad, it’s certainly not A+ material either. To make a long story short about the ending. It was pretty average.
If there’s something about this anime that I would like to say before I wrap things up, I’ll say it now. Oban Star-Racers has got to be one of the most underrated kid’s anime ever made. It aired in more than 90 countries and it never got the recognition and it truly deserved. This anime got seriously overlooked. Savin-Yeatman Eiffel and Thomas Romain (The creator of Code Lyoko) sure have impressed me to some degree with this series.
Oban Star-Racers is available from Shout! Factory
With that said, Oban-Star Racers is an exciting anime series that integrates 2D and 3D animation well when used. It also had good character development during the progression of the story. It has a soundtrack that compliments the show well and even though the story isn’t completely A to A+ material. The racing is what made the show watchable and the story is good enough to go alongside the exciting racing moments. This truly is an underrated and overlooked anime.
I give Oban Star-Racers a 7.9 out of 10, it is GOOD!
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