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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Oban Star Racers
Oban Star Racers
Shout Factory // Unrated // April 22, 2008
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted April 16, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
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The Show:

I have to admit that prior to receiving Oban: Star Racers for review I had not even heard of the show, much less saw it. Generally speaking I keep my gaze focused on the anime world and rarely take interest in other series that appear on the likes of Cartoon Network and Jetix/4Kids. I have no bias towards shows from that background and I tend to just not have the time to spend watching everything and anything.

After watching a couple episodes of Oban I became very interested in its origin. There was a certain anime flavor to it and the story was actually handled well enough that it made an immediate impression. This isn't your typical Saturday morning kid's show and I'm sure the fact that it comes from French and Japanese production teams would have something to do with that. Heck, the series is even being broadcast in Japan to further that tie to the anime world!

Originally released in 2006 and consisting of 26 episodes Oban: Star Racers was created by Sav! The World Productions. The show takes place in the future quite some time after humanity had colonized several planets and found themselves locked in war with a hostile race known as the Crog. To the average person the end of the war was a symbol that we had one but the truth is very different. A being known as the Avatar appeared before a council of officials dictating that peace would come until the Great Race of Oban were to begin. They had time to prepare but nobody knew exactly how long that would be.

In the present day of the series (2082) a young girl named Eva Wei with a grease monkey spirit bemoans her fate within the hallowed halls of a boarding school. She talks about her father, Don, being the great owner of a racing company but nobody believes her because he hasn't been in her life for ten years. Thanks to her plucky, determined personality Eva breaks rebuilds a rocket bike and breaks free of the school. She makes her way to her father but the meeting doesn't go quite as she expected. Don doesn't recognize her and he's kind of a jerk. Even so she pulls off some nice mechanical work and tells him that her name is Molly which nets her a job as part of the pit crew.

Just as all of this happens the Avatar's ship appears, heralding Earth's time to enter the Oban race. Don Wei is charged with finding the racer, the ships, and crew that will take place in the challenge set in another section of the Milky Way. Joining Don and Molly are Rick the pilot, Jordan the gunner, and mechanics Koji and Stan. Once the team arrives at the first planet they are brought to the opening ceremony and introduced to the way things are in the race. Basically this Avatar person brought peace to the galaxy long enough for the different cultures to prepare for the race. If you lose then I'm sure you can figure out what happens and considering the rules are that you can do whatever you want as long as you don't take a life, then you get some idea of how the races are going to go.

The first race for team Earth doesn't exactly go as planned. Rick and his opponent both crash and neither are judged a winner. With the ship out of commission and Rick hospitalized Earth's chances seem kind of slim when it's time for the rematch. Predictably Eva steps forward and gets herself to the finish line despite Don's mixed feelings about having a woman pilot. The race is a success (kind of) and Earth moves on to the next round.

For the rest of the show there are several races where Eva finds herself behind the steering wheel and winning the contest. These elements are very reminiscent of the Pod Races from Star Wars due to the fact that most of the ship designs are very similar. Some of the tracks and races even appear familiar right down to a Yoda-like character named Satis. Needless to say this isn't the most interesting element of Oban.

In my opinion the character development for this series truly stands out. There is a lot of history here and the way these relationships grow definitely takes the expectations for a kid's show to the next level. Don's reluctance to allow a woman to drive goes all the way back to his wife (Eva's mother) dying in a racing crash. Rick and Jordan's relationships with Eva are interesting as well though they each of their own dynamic. Also joining the cast is Prince Aikka who comes from the world of Nourasia and takes a liking to Eva.

For what it is Oban: Star Racers is a very hip, fun show that will please science fiction fans young and old. It's not geared towards a specific age group and to be quite honest the material here has some darker elements. If you don't mind the Star Wars inspiration and some predictability in the plot then you'll definitely find a place for this show in your collection. I can't wait for the second volume to come out and thankfully that will be released just around the corner!

The DVD:

Video:

Oban: Star Racers is presented on DVD with a full frame aspect ratio and is quite attractive. Unfortunately the lack of an anamorphic widescreen output was disappointing as the 1.33:1 failed to capture the true brilliance of this show. With that being said there is very little to complain about as far as flaws go. The picture is very clean with little to no grain and there is no aliasing whatsoever. During some moments there is artifacting in darker colors which looks kind of funny but other than that this was a gorgeously produced and transferred show. Shout Factory did a nice job here!

Audio:

Presented with English 5.1 and 2.0 track available through the bonus menu as well. The surround sound goes a long way to crafting a sense of immersion and the rear channels get plenty of play during racing segments and the like. The dialogue driven bits feel a little muted when balanced against the sound effects but overall there's some decent sound design going on here. No subtitles are included.

Extras:

Surprisingly a decent mesh of bonus content is available for the first volume of Oban. The typical features are included such as character profiles, an art gallery, and selection of trailers. What's really surprising here is the making of featurette which features the creative team talking at length about how the show came to be and it's production. This feature is made special by the fact that it's a cross-cultural presentation. The French working with the Japanese talk quite a bit about their collaboration and the various influences that went into the show.

Final Thoughts:

Oban: Star Racers is a unique little series that will shatter your preconceptions. If you come to the show thinking that it's just another kid-oriented Saturday morning affair you're going to be very surprised. What we have here is a French/Japanese anime with a fantastic story, seasoned English cast, and breathtaking design. If you're an otaku who generally doesn't venture into other waters then you definitely owe it to yourself to give this one a spin. This is an entertaining animated science fiction adventure that will entertain a multitude of audiences.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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