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  • Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Joined Dec 22, 2011
  • 35 / M

Oban Star-Racers

Aug 14, 2012

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.

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!

4/10 story
6/10 animation
6/10 sound
5/10 characters
4.5/10 overall
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