Premiering for the first time in America last week via Toon Disneyâ€™s Jetix programming, Oban Star-Racers looks to be one of the more compelling Western-Japanese co-productions to come around in quite a while.
The story premise is like so: every 10,000 years the most gifted pilots from around the universe come together for the Great Race of Oban. Molly, daughter of race manager Don Wei, and ultra-talented pilot, tries her luck at joining a Star-Racing team but finds them reluctant to hire a girl her age. Going against orders, Molly takes off in her teamâ€™s star-racing ship, with their sharp-shooting gunner, Jordan, tagging along. Molly soon finds out first-hand just how dangerous star-racing can be.
Oban Star-Racers is actually a joint production between France and Japan, via Sav! the World Productions. While the story may seem like â€œSpeed Racer in Spaceâ€, the show is carried by its rich, detailed animation and cool visual flare. The animation is a mix between traditional 2D cel animation and 3D CGI animation. The two animation styles are blended almost flawlessly and the result is much less distracting than previous attempts, such as Zoids and Transformers Energon. One thing I, personally, found so enjoyable, was the richly textured and detailed environments and backgrounds, all a combination of beautiful artwork and magnificent lighting techniques. The tropical environments are very sunny and bright, you almost feel hot just looking at them.
Then thereâ€™s the main draw of the show, the star-racing. The 3D animation lends its services to this aspect quite well, bringing life to the fast-paced action. The vehicles really look like theyâ€™re moving FAST and the obstacles popping up from around each corner hit you like a genuine surprise. Of course, this being the first few episodes, the star-racing isnâ€™t as impressive as Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s gonna get, but I can see some real potential in the action.
Overall, itâ€™s too early to tell whether this is going to become a consistently compelling television experience along the likes of Avatar the Last Air-bender, but from what weâ€™ve seen so far, it looks pretty good. The show airs on Toon Disney here in America during the night time Jetix line-up. Itâ€™s worth a look or two.