Judge Paul Pritchard's star-racing career came to a premature end when he discovered star-racers have yet to be invented.
The Race For The Ultimate Prize Continues!
"I did this completely on my own, and let me tell you: it's really big!"
Facts of the Case
Having qualified from the preliminaries on Alwas, Molly, Don Wei, and the rest of the Earth team head to the planet Oban for the final round of races. Joined by fellow qualifiers Prince Aikka and Colonel Toros, they prepare to face off against a new selection of racers, all gunning for the ultimate prize.
Oban Star-Racers: Volume Two offers up the final 13 episodes of the series in their full uncut glory:
Even though it's the second volume of a series DVD release, Oban Star-Racers: Volume Two has the feeling of a sequel about it. Taking place during the finals of the Great Race of Oban, it not only presents a new planet, offering vastly different vistas, but introduces a host of new characters to complement those who are making the transition from Volume One. Not only that, but the emphasis is now placed less on the races and more on the relationship between Don Wei and his estranged Daughter Eva/Molly, the revelation of what the ultimate prize actually is, and the emerging threat from Canaletto, the "Timeless One," who was only hinted at previously.
These shifts in the shows focus mean Oban Star-Racers: Volume Two never feels like it's treading over the same ground and ensures its audience is kept entertained as the story opens up to reveal more and more layers.
Right from the start we are made aware that things will be a little darker this time around. General Toros, of the Crog Imperium, we learn, "willingly gave his head to the Crog Imperium" due to his "unacceptable" loss to the Earth team in the Alwas qualifiers. His replacement, Kross, is an even more intimidating foe, and far more aggressive both in and out of his racer. This time around, though, it's not just the Crog entrant in the tournament that presents a serious threat to the Earth team's chances. With the Ultimate Prize closer than ever, the racers are far more willing to go on the offensive, frequently jeopardizing the safety of others. In fact, the episode "Secret Like Sul" sees a number of racers form an uneasy alliance in an attempt to take out a superior racer.
The character of Canaletto, who becomes more and more integral to the plot as the series progresses, adds a new dimension to the series that was not evident in the previous volume. While Volume Two continues to show the Crog Imperium as a direct threat to Earth; indeed, the stand off between the Crog's and Earth escalates dramatically this time around, the presence of Canaletto threatens all life, putting other conflicts into perspective. As we learn more about him, we discover his far-reaching influence over events, his backstory and motivation again only adding to the series' greatness.
When all is said and done, and when the credit sequence rolls for the final time, Oban Star-Racers proves to be one of the finer animated series of recent years. The story is well-constructed, with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end with characters containing more depth than a mere kids show would normally be credited with. As skillfully as the show deals with the action sequences, Volume Two in particular adding a sense of urgency to proceedings, the show subtly draws an emotional response from the audience. The love triangle between Molly, Jordan, and Prince Aikka reaches something of a conclusion, Don Wei and Molly's relationship develops, and the finale offers a strangely affecting close to events, with a surprise or two along the way.
Perhaps the greatest mark of Oban Star-Racers success as a whole is the character development. There's a very real sense that these people have been on a journey and have been changed forever by it, some in far more extreme ways than others.
As with Volume One, the extras are nothing special; they almost mirror what came on the previous release. However, once again Shout! Factory ensures the discs' full-frame transfer is striking, with a sharp picture that makes the most of the 2D/CGI animation on display.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Though it only affects a handful of episodes, there is an annoying tendency during the first half of Oban Star-Racers: Volume Two to have the Earth team come close to victory, only to wipeout at the last hurdle. It does very little to help raise the tension and serves as the only real negative that can fairly be aimed at the show.
Oban Star-Racers proves to be a much richer experience than its initial premise would have many believe. While Volume One was an exciting blend of racing action mixed with some excellent characters, Volume Two proves to be just as rewarding yet manages to take things in a different direction. Sure, you still get plenty of racing action and the characters are as well-handled as ever, but this time there's an added threat in the form of Canaletto, whose presence lends a darker edge to the proceedings and allows for a nice change of tone in the show's format.
Oban Star-Racers: Volume Two crosses the finish line in first place.
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