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"Oban Star Racers": Good Golly, Miss Molly!

Judging a show based on the first episode is always a tricky thing to do. You are shoved into a universe that you know nothing about, introduced to unfamiliar characters, and to top it all off, you may have expectations already in place before watching. I must admit I had high expectations for Oban Star Racers, especially after watching an exciting trailer that must have been made several years ago. Thankfully, this first episode pretty much met all my expectations.

What first struck me was the show’s animation. It is a blend of 2D and 3D, with the ships and racing scenes comprising most of the 3D animation. The fusion is mostly evident in this first episode’s opening, which really shows off the visuals. The race scenes in the opening are exciting, and really set the tone for what will hopefully play out in the episodes to come. The star-racers, as they are called, do bring to mind the pod-racers of Star Wars: Episode I. While those pod-racers were clunky, often hand-made pieces of equipment, these star-racers are fluid, shiny, and look as graceful as the backgrounds in which they are placed.

The opening, however, suffers from the high crime of replacing Yoko Kanno’s (Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) superior music with a cheesy American theme typical of children’s animation. According to the credits there is a separate ending song, but we are sadly left with a replay of the American opening theme once again. Thankfully, other than the opening and closing, the original music is kept intact.

The character designs in this show are quite interesting, and by interesting I mean they lack noses. It takes some getting used to, but once the initial shock wears off their creatively designed faces are pleasant to gaze upon. As for the characters themselves, Eva, or “Molly” as we will soon see, is a go-getter girl, not the type for “shopping malls” or skirts. This 14-year old girl (at least in the American broadcast, she is 15 in the original French version) is the perfect archetype of a tomboy and dreams of being reunited with her father who sent her off to boarding school ten years ago and has not been in contact since. Molly escapes the confining spaces of the institution-like school on her rocket seat, hoping to finally be reunited with her father. Her dream comes true, although not in full force. She ends up joining her father’s race team under the guise of “Molly,” after she learns that papa isn’t the same smiling man in the picture she carries around. Don Wei, her father, has become a successful racing manager, whose hair and face carry the marks of stress of his position. However, he is not too stressed to attempt to save the world, as the President himself propositions Don Wei to join the “Great Race of Oban” in order to keep the Earth from suffering more alien attacks. Soon, more people join the team, including Rick, a champion star-racer, and Jordan, a skilled gunner, before they all shoot off to begin the qualifying matches deep in space.

The Ocean Group voice actors aren’t anything to jump up and down about. They’re good, not outstanding, but not bad either. As the series moves on I may see and hear more to comment on, but as a first episode, I found the dub to be acceptable.

The show looks to be exciting, with a high-stakes race on the line, a unique story, and even more unique animation. There should be interesting dynamics taking place between the characters, as Molly strives to keep her secret, and the team strives to win the race. And as a finishing touch, the races have the potential to play out as something deeper than what we already know. They have an aura of mystery and risk surrounding them, something that should come to fruition as the series unfolds.

Oban Star Racers premieres on ABC Family Saturday June 10th at 10:30 a.m. New episodes air additionally on Toon Disney 7:30 p.m. every Monday.

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