Anime Recommendation: Ōban Star-Racers
-written by StarTrinity009-
In order to convey just how moving this show was for me growing up, I would probably have to write you a small novel. I would have to express just how my home situation was at the time, as well as how Ōban’s heroine inspired my AMV alias. I would have to reminisce about painstakingly adjusting the lighting in my living room, minutes before the next episode aired on Jetix, so that it would be just right before Ōban’s US opening “Never Say Never” slowly filled the room with excitement. For me, Ōban Star-Racers was my middle school equivalent to the original Pokémon and Digimon. It changed who I was and who I want to be. Hence, after struggling to write this recommendation for months, I know I can’t communicate to you, in a mere blog post, just how wonderful and unique and special this show is in my eyes. However, I can at least tell you what you need to know and invite you to strike up a conversation with me about one of the most underrated anime of the 2000s.
Ōban Star-Racers is so incredibly underrated that it almost brings me to tears. Many anime fans do not even realize that it is an anime, or if they do, they are almost always turned off by Oban’s unique character designs. Yes, they do not have obscenely pointed noses like the grand majority of anime characters. Get over it! You are missing out on a great coming of age story from…guess what?…a teenage girl’s perspective that is not put out by Studio Ghibli. Eva, the heroine of Ōban Star-Racers, has a development that is not subtle or symbolic like many other shows. She is also not a magical girl and doesn’t rely on a boy to save her. She is instead a pissed off teen, who breaks out of boarding school to find the dad who has basically abandoned her since she was five. She finds him, but he does not even recognize her. So while enduring a complex blend of fright and desolation, Eva fakes her identity and creates the alias Molly. As Molly, Eva follows her dad and his racing team to the great race of Ōban, where she progresses from a mechanic to the pilot for the Earth team. Being a representative of Earth in a race that only happens every 10,000 years makes Chihiro’s responsibilities look like every day chores.
Besides Eva being awesome, you may want to know some more general things about the show. I will save you the trouble of going to Wikipedia or AnimeNewsNetwork by mentioning a few key points. Ōban Star-Racers is a French/Japanese anime, which was co-directed by Savin Yeatman-Eiffel and Thomas Romain in 2006 (the same year I started posting my videos to YouTube). Savin wrote the entire script, while Thomas co-created the character designs. It would behoove most of you to recall that Thomas Romain was also the character designer and original creator of Code Lyoko. If you enjoyed Code Lyoko as a kid as much as I did, Ōban Star-Racers is going to have a stronger appeal. I promise you. Much like Code Lyoko, Ōban Star-Racers has a powerful message about young people taking responsibility at all costs. This applies not only to Eva but other young, supporting characters as well. The setting also follows a similar trend as Lyoko in that it suspends the viewer between reality and an imaginary world. We meet all kinds of aliens and are exposed to their very different cultures and racing styles. Yet despite this, we are always brought back to Eva’s relatable quest of finding a family again.
This quest is framed for a younger audience (i.e. 8-16 year olds), but the framing does not affect its overall appeal. Regardless of nostalgia, re-watching Ōban Star-Racers again as a 20 year old still left me full of feels. In an anime era where we are more easily recognizing stock characters, Ōban Star-Racers could really freshen up one’s anime schedule. As the characters develop, the show is progressively more heartwarming and will leave you wanting more. After 26 episodes, Ōban Star-Racers concluded in a well wrapped up manner, but gosh darn it, what I would give for a second season of this show… but, for whatever it’s worth, to all you Kill la Kill fans out there, Eva is without a doubt Ryuko’s predecessor. That should be yet another reason to be desperately interested in Ōban Star-Racers.