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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