Saturday, June 22, 2013

eX-Driver Anime Review

Anime Works-Media Blasters
Complete Collection - 2 discs
180 mins. - 6 episodes
$29.95 (2003)
$24.95 (2002) Vol. 1-2/ea.
ISBN 631595024272
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Jun Kawagoe
Studio - Bandai Visual/Actas

Synopsis: In the near-future cars are all electric and controlled by computerized artificial intelligence (AI).  Your regular citizen doesn't own or even know how to drive a car, but merely gets into a nearby vehicle and tells it a destination.  The result is a much safer and predictable traffic flow helping to keep society peaceful.  The actual technology is not perfect and sometimes the AI cars end up malfunctioning.  When this happens the cars end up driving off by themselves at high speeds with their hapless passengers trapped inside.
The eX-Drivers (clockwise from top) - Lorna in her white Lotus Europa,
Souichi in his yellow Caterham Super 7, and Lisa in her blue Lancia Stratos
When cars go out of control it's up to the eX-Drivers to save the day.  They drive gasoline-powered classic cars (modern for our time) without the help of any AI and relying only on their driving prowess.  The drivers must catch up to the runaway cars first and then manage to disable the four sensors on each car in order to disable their AI programming.  This involves high-speed marksmanship along with keen driving skills.
Lisa originally drives a Subaru Impreza WRX until she wrecks it
Lorna and Lisa are two expert eX-Drivers and work as a team.  They're both high school age girls and have very different personalities.  Lorna is a lovely girl who has a big heart and drives a Lotus Europa.  Lisa is a hot-head who is always taking chances in her Subaru Impreza.  When not tearing up the streets in their cars the pair are hitting the books at the local academy.
Lorna aims to take out a runaway AI car's sensor
A new eX-Driver joins the team and Lisa is up in arms!  He ends up being a snot-nosed kid who thinks he can drive as well as she can.  The kid's name is Shouchi and he's a prodigy at racing along with academics.  He not only drives with the two girls, but he's also in their school classes.  He drives a Caterham Super 7 and does his own mechanics on it.  Shouichi and Lisa are headed for a showdown while poor Lorna tries to smooth the bumps in the road.
Lisa races Souichi while he's driving a modified Daihatsu Midget II
Can the two rivals make nice before someone gets hurt?  They must deal with a documentary film crew, a rogue eX-Rider (the equivalent of an eX-Driver on a motorcycle), and then the true enemy appears.  The trio of young drivers must work as team and pull together as they face their greatest challenge yet!
Souichi catches a ride with Rei, the eX-Rider
Pros: Very solid and clean animation, great depiction of older modern cars, some humor, good characters, a little fan-service with Rei the eX-Rider, that Shouichi is one lucky kid to have two cute girls as his teammates, decent music, some extras
A closer look at Rei, the eX-Rider!
Cons: This is purely PG rated aside from the tiny amount of fan-service with Rei, not a lot of action, ending was a bit boring, the sci-fi setup with the AI-controlled cars running amok seemed silly, short series which didn't gain a lot of traction for the story
Lorna and Lisa get ready to drive into action
Mike Tells It Straight: I decided to check out eX-Driver because it was inexpensive and I haven't seen many anime titles about car racing.  The cars in the show are depicted really well and include some nice classics including the Lotus Europa, Lancia Stratos HF, iconic Subaru Impreza, and the rare classic Caterham Super 7 JPE.  They even have a Daihatsu Midget II.  The producers obviously enjoy their cars and it shows in the anime.
A rogue group of gasoline-powered car drivers with a
mysterious link to the eX-Drivers
The story itself is mildly futuristic with AI controlled cars, but I could never really accept the concept of having a group of teenagers driving gas-powered cars go chasing down rogue computerized vehicles.  I kept thinking "Why don't the car designers just create a remote 'off' switch when the AI cars malfunction?"  I liked the characters and it was a lighthearted show geared for somewhat younger audiences.  It had very broad appeal and only the mild fan-service with Rei, the eX-Rider, brought the show up to a PG rating.
Souichi behind the wheel of his Caterham Super 7
I felt the show was a little boring due to the simple plot and lack of any major action.  The ending was really bland and quite a letdown.  This short OVA series was followed up with a movie and I'll probably end up checking it out, but I'm expecting more of the same .  Both the OVA and movie are available for an inexpensive price which is kind of telling of the story quality.  It's a cute show with good characters and a nice message.  Not terribly memorable and a very lukewarm rating, but a fairly solid offering and good for younger viewers.

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