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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Oban Star-Racers, Vol. 2: The Oban Cycle
Oban Star-Racers, Vol. 2: The Oban Cycle
Shout Factory // G // May 20, 2008
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 26, 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
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Series:

The second volume of Oban Star Racers finishes off this 26 episode series with all of the excitement, flash, and drama that the first installment had.  Things are heating up as the Earth team goes to Oban for the finals.  This last set of races is different from the qualifying rounds however, and there are a few surprises in store for Molly and her teammates.  This collaboration between Japanese and French animation companies looked like it would be a lame kiddie show like D.I.C.E. or Hot Wheels Acceleracers, but it turned out to be an excellent program that's easy to get caught up in.

Series background:

It's the year 2082, a quarter century since the Earth was attacked, and nearly conquered by Crogs.  The Earth would have been a Crog outpost by now, but at the last moment when defeat seemed imminent and certain, the Crog withdrew.  The government said that it was due to a last ditch offensive that worked, but it was really due to The Avatar, a being of nearly unlimited power.  He told the Crog to cease so that the earth would have time to get ready for Great Race of Oban.  That time has come and if the Earth doesn't win and obtain the Ultimate Prize, the Crog will surely finish them off.

Very few people know about this however; certainly not Eva, a young girl who has spent the last few years at a boarding school.  She's tired of the strict discipline of her school, so she escapes and sets off to find her father, Don Wei, the head of the greatest racing team in the world.  He hasn't visited his daughter in years, and doesn't even recognize her when she arrives at his garage.

Much to Eva's dismay, she discovers that her father is a ride, overbearing, control freak who is extremely unpleasant.  When she's able to fix a race engine, Don offers her a job, still not realizing who she is.  She gives her name as Molly and keeps mum about her past.

No sooner has she joined the team, than the Earth government contacts Don Wei, reveals the events of the past, and has him abruptly assemble a team to race in the Oban.  Molly/Eva tags along and when their star pilot gets injured in the first race, she steps in and drives her team's star racer.  It's not easy however, not only is the competition tough, but dealing with her father is nearly impossible.

This volume:

Molly and the team have made it past the preliminary rounds and are one of the nine finalist teams.  They travel to Oban, a planet at the heart of the galaxy, for the last races to determine who will win the Ultimate Prize.  This set of races is different though.  Instead of it being heats of two teams competing, these last nine races are free-for-alls with all of the teams racing against each other.  The first place team gets 9 points, 6 for second, and 3 for third.  The racer with the highest score at the end wins.

It looks like Earth has little chance in the finals.  Not scoring any points in the first few races is bad, but what's worse is that one competitor, the magician Zol, places first in each heat.  He seems totally unstoppable and even the Crog has a hard time competing with him.

While the races go on there are several subplots that are all developed well.  Molly still likes Prince Aikka, a competitor from a planet that the Crog have taken over.  Though he and Molly have made a truce, the Crog driver demands that Aikka destroy the Earth team or he will have Aikka's parents executed.

Then there's the odd symbol that's tied to the sabotage that took out Earth's first pilot.  Why was this underdog team the target of foul play, and why hasn't the sabotage been repeated?  Of course Don Wei still doesn't know who his pilot really is, and when he finds out it's not the reaction that Molly/Eva was expecting.

The main question over all of these however is about the prize.  Just what is the Ultimate Prize, and why does the Avatar want to give it out to the fastest racer?

Luckily this show answers all of the questions and ties up the loose plots very well.  The program does a great job of mixing the off track drama with the excitements of the races.  Neither dominates so the program doesn't feel like a race-of-the-week show, but it's not a soap opera either.

Not only are the races engaging, but the plot is interesting too.  It may take place in the far future, but the show deals with some universal problems:  When should you trust someone else?  How do you get people to accept you for who you are?  What if you are given orders that you feel are immoral?  The fact that the main character, Molly/Eva, doesn't always make the correct decision also makes the show feel more realistic and therefore interesting.

The DVD:


Audio:

This show comes with a DD 5.1 track as well as a stereo option, both in English.  I greatly preferred the surround sound track.  It really made good use of the surrounds, especially during the race scenes.  Hearing the racers whiz from back to front or side to side was thrilling.  This track also made nice use of the subwoofer.  The low frequencies used for the engine noises really make the races exciting.  The audio has a nice dynamic range that is evident during some of the musical interludes that are performed with full orchestration.  There are no subtitles.

Video:

The full frame image looked very good.  While there were several times that I was wishing they had made the show with a wider aspect ratio, especially during the races, the colors were nicely rendered and the image was sharp.  There wasn't any digital defects worth noting, making this a fine looking disc.

Extras:

The main bonus is the second part of a making-of featurette that lasts a tad over 28 minutes.  This has interviews with both the French and Japanese production people and they talk about the finishing up the show and the post-production work.  It was a nice piece with very little fluff.  In addition to that there are Star-Racer Profiles, a Concept Art Gallery, and a trailer and an extended opening.  All in all this is a nice set of bonus features for an animated show.

Final Thoughts:

A lot of anime fans have written this show off because of the Japanese studio's collaborations with a French company.  This is a huge mistake because Oban Star Racers is much better than many all-Japanese animated shows.  It has an intriguing story, excellent animation, well developed characters, and some really exciting races.  The best thing about this program however, is that it's just a lot of fun to watch.  My two sons and I just devoured this two-disc set, watching the final six episodes in one sitting.  If you're looking for an enjoyable show for kids of all ages, look no further.  Highly Recommended.
 

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