Is this some sort of really clever comedy, a subtle parody? or is it what it appears to be...one of the most transparent and artificial appeals to the petrol head crowd? Well, after a couple of episodes I'll certainly say that I wasn't laughing.
This story is stupid. Really, really stupid. Apparently, in the near future, all cars are controlled with artificial intelligence. A system so efficient and convenient that actual driving skill is a dying art. Which is strange, because these cars have a tendency to go charmingly psychotic and take their helpless owners on a high speed tour of the city. Clearly the concept of having an `off' button, or enough driving skill to hit a brake, didn't occur to anyone meaning that the only thing that can save them are the Ex drivers.
So these ex drivers are skilled professionals in high performance squad cars aren't they? Equipped with efficient tools for halting rogue cars. That's how it should be, but through the magic of anime we get something so surreal it must be some form of parody. In fact the entirety of the ex driver force includes three high school kids. They wear street clothes and drive hotted up street cars. And they stop the rogue vehicle amongst lots of hi-speed driving, sliding round corners and impromptu stunts.
If that isn't the most transparent excuse for a back-story you've ever seen then I really feel for you. That's the sort of plot that shows up on the back of video game boxes...in the 1980's. Put in simple terms it means three simplistic characters get the chance to drive their character cars at high speed, dodging in amongst traffic and ramming the target. And to add excitement whoever designed the cars made each require a different technique. Some can be stopped by shooting their sensors, others need to be rammed off the road, and some need to be jury-rigged while driving. In other words both the `rogue' AI and the requirements to stop them are just to make the chase more exciting.
If you can overlook this really crappy back-story, which will take impressive internal discipline, you get into the rest of the production. Two of the characters are cute girls who look rather sexy in whatever they wear. They also have personalities, but that's a touch less important. One is the aggressive tom-boy type who drives a powerful car. The other is a more subtle, clever and elegant type who drives a less powerful car but does most of the brain-work and planning. The final is a cheeky kid, albeit full of talent, who has a feel for the mechanics of his beloved car.
In other words you can easily imagine these characters being the choices to select at the start of the race. Shall I pick aggressive power with a theme-song of driving guitar. Or perhaps go for subtle moves with something a bit more tasteful in the background. Although this course might go better with the mecha-guru is his trick car and some nice cool driving music. The characters are actually slightly better than this, but it really is obvious they've been designed for low maintenance. Even their bickering and bragging, done while they should be focusing on the job, feels a touch familiar and formulaic.
So let's cut to the crux of the matter. If you really adore watching the anime version of high performance driving then this show is for you. During each episode there's at least 10 minutes of skidding around the tracks and high speed maneuvers. There's stunt moves, including some shots of the controls, so you can imagine yourself doing it. And the plot provides a variety of courses, cars and goals to keep you entertained. If you can enjoy this then the characters, and environment, do a masterful job of supporting the racing.
However if you are like me, and find anything more than 2 minutes of shrieking tires tedious, you're much less fortunate. There is such a focus on the `action' that there's not enough time or space left for all that much else. Sure there's a bit of plot, story and character but most of it is subservient to the complete adoration of automobiles. It's skillfully done, it's just not enough to keep you interested. And, as a result, you tend to become even more aware of how stupid the whole concept is.
The production is actually quite decent. Some of the coloring and design work is quite complex, although this can end up giving it a somewhat muddy feel. The cars are detailed and their motion is pretty well animated considering their complexity, but I don't know that it really expresses the thrill and excitement of speed. Interestingly computer animation seems to be either absent or very light. The characters are quite attractive, well animated and move well. There's some nice incidental detail, minor characters and background although it is very light on the `auto-tech' detail. The voices are good, although the aggressive female is perhaps a bit over-blown, and the music is, well, music to drive to.
None of my regular sources have a review for this title, but I expect this will be a short lived phenomenon.