(Featured Image: SAV! THE WORLD Productions / Jetix )
A race filled with aliens from across the galaxy, all trying to earn the “ultimate prize.” A daunting challenge, but the young pilot Eva is up to it, all in order to bring her family back together. This is the initial setup for the 2006 French-Japanese anime series Ōban Star-Racers. And it was awesome and perfect, yet so many animation fans don’t seem to know about it?
Ōban Star-Racers was created by Savin Yeatman-Eiffel of Sav! The World Productions as a cooperative project with Jetix Europe, with animation handled by HAL Film Maker and Pumpkin 3D.
The series follows 15-year old Eva Wei, the daughter of legendary racer Maya Wei and race-team owner Don Wei. Following her mother’s death, Eva is placed into a boarding school by her distraught father, where she stays for 10-years with little to no contact with him. Deciding to break out, she seeks and finds her father, who doesn’t recognize her at all. Eva ends up in his employ as a mechanic going under the alias of Molly to get closer to him. A situation that gets complicated when Earth’s Government tasks Don Wei with entering the mysterious Great Race of Ōban at the request of the powerful being called the Avatar, as part of a deal they made with him years earlier.
Eva ends up as the pilot for the Earth team and works together with her teammate, expert gunner Jordan C. Wilde (I love that name so much), to take home the prize.
AND IT WAS AWESOME!
The team race against all manner of aliens, including a cube-headed hacker cat who dances to make her ship to go, a shadowy transforming alien creature, and the magnificent and stupendous Super-Racer.
The Earth team find allies along the way and have to face off against old enemies, as an ancient and evil plot threatens to reach its conclusion.
The show is great! Each race is exciting as there are no guarantees that the Earth team will win a race (like legit, they lose quite a few races in the series, which sets it apart from most racing shows). The Earth team’s competition is all dangerous as much as they’re charming.
And the soundtrack! The music sets the mood for each scene, with the opening and ending themes sticking with me to this day. Paired with the art and animation, it brings the unique setting to life. The world feels lived in and filled with secrets.
The series ran for a single season but tells a complete story with a conclusion that you will never forget.
Well, who does remember the series?
It aired in several countries, with U.S. viewers watching on Toon Disney’s Jetix programming block (which likely explains why not so many U.S. animation fans remember it). As it stands a lot of people still do enjoy the series, but, and this mayhaps is me just speaking as a fan, not enough people seem to remember it. This show is just perfection with every episode continuing a deep emotional story alongside an action-packed race!
I didn’t even bring up Ning and Skun, the series canonical LGBTQIA+ Couple who are just a pure delight.
But the series seems to be getting a second chance to engrain itself into animation fan history. It was announced in 2017 that a spin-off/sequel series is in the works from Savin Yeatman-Eiffel, the original series creator and co-director Thomas Romain. They even posted concept art of two of the characters as young adults.
So if you haven’t seen Ōban Star-Racers, go check it out. And if you have, wasn’t it just the best? Go watch it again! I know I am!
OH! Also, it deserves a proper video game. Get on it.