What They Say
The cars are hot but the girls are hotter! Pull over, highway patrol. Lorna Endou and Lisa Sakakino have eX-Driver licenses, assigned only to the best of the best. They are authorized to drive fast, drive recklessly, and hunt down malfunctioning AI-controlled cars that endanger the populace. With tricked-out cars and tricked-out moves, Lorna and Lisa rule the road!
The Japanese stereo track was used for my viewing session; there were no noticeable problems during playback. Sound effects, music, and dialogue blended well allowing each one to take prominence when it needed to. Revolving around fast cars, the track provides some decent directional effects allowing the cars to roar across the screen. English dub fans will find an equally enjoyable experience; the dub was spot-checked and featured a strong cast of voice talent that matched their characters.
Released in 2000 and 2001, eX-Driver translates to the digital medium with no discernible issues even during the copious car chase sequences. The colors are vivid and solid making for a pleasant, easy viewing experience.
The front cover features our trio of resourceful eX-Drivers stand in front of Souichi’s Super Seven. The back cover contains a clean, readable layout for the synopsis, disc specifications, and images. Inside are two inserts that contain the chapter listings; rendered as the stick shift of a car, they complement the content of the disc.
Souichi’s head dominates the main menu while his goggle play clips from the series. The opening song plays in the background, and the menu items are rendered as letters on a gear shift knob. This motif fits the content quite well, but the use of letters does not intuitively clue the viewer into what the option is. There are no delays moving between the sub-menus.
Media Blasters has provided a nice set of extras across the two discs. There is a textless version of the opening sequence along with textless versions of the last three ending sequences. Also included is a feature on the recording of the sound effects, outtakes from the English dub, interviews with the staff, and interviews with the Japanese voice actors.
Watching the Japanese voice actors compete in various driving challenges stood out as the best extras included. They competed in a go-cart race and an RC car race; both of them show just how similar each actor was to their character.
In the near future, you will no longer have to drive a car; your electric car will be controlled by an AI program designed to speed you safely to your destination. But what happens if the AI experiences a glitch and turns your leisurely cruise into a harrowing, uncontrollable nightmare? The call is put out to the eX-Drivers, drivers skilled enough to drive powerful, gasoline-fueled sports cars and shoot sticky wads of goo into AI sensor eyes simultaneously. Two such eX-Drivers, Lorna and Lisa, race onto the screen to stop one such runaway AI.
The pair are your standard high school students save for their ability to drive like seasoned race car professionals. Lorna is the standard-issue leader of the group; she is strong, quiet, and level-headed — everything that Lisa is not. Lisa is stubborn, proud, and prone to making rash decisions. Most of the series has the eX-Drivers chasing down these errant AIs; while the chase sequences are entertaining, they would quickly become tiresome without something else to support the story.
That support is introduced at the end of the first episode; unable to stop one runaway car, Lorna and Lisa are helped by a remarkable driver and his Super Seven. Believing she has found her perfect man, Lisa rushes to the mystery car and finds herself staring down at Souichi. A despondent Lisa soon learns from their leader Munakata that this young punk is their new partner, and to further infuriate her, Souichi is the model student having been skipped a grade and placed in Lisa and Lorna’s class.
What makes this series fun is the relationship that develops between Souichi and Lisa. The pair start out as rivals, trading barbs at every turn with Souichi’s wit generally being quicker and sharper. Both are out to prove that they are the superior driver even during inopportune times on missions. As the series progresses, the rivalry becomes friendly, and they learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and abilities. Their bickering near the end resembles a competitive brother and sister.
The missions they go on are mostly used to show off their cars and various slick racing maneuvers like elaborate drifts and slides. Two stories stand out though and further emphasize that it is the characters that really make this title fun. Souichi gets hot under the collar for a different reason when eX-Rider Kazama Rei drives her Ducati bike and revealing sense of style into their lives. She torments Souichi with her looks and her seemingly endless supply of double entendres. Seeing Souichi squirm to keep his adolescent side under control brought forth a number of laughs. Rei also has a history with Munakata and his crew, but we barely get a glimpse of what it was.
Ending the series with a two-part story, Joe Todo, also a former member of Munakata’s team, targets our trio for a showdown on the streets; Joe’s group puts Lisa in the hospital and a cloud of doubt about his abilities over Souichi’s head. The team rallies back and manages to show Joe what it truly means to be an eX-Driver. What makes this pair of episodes stand out is the relationships the characters have with each other; Joe, Rei, Munakata, and the rest of the office team have a shared past, one that is briefly illuminated but is highly tantalizing.
Given the thin premise for the series, it does not lend itself to a large, overarching plot, but one is not needed. What carries the series along is the engaging cast of characters and their quirks; they have a depth to them that makes the viewer want to learn more about them. This is not limited to the main cast; Rei, Todo, and the rest of the minor characters have this presence about them that screams for elaboration on their pasts.
It may not win awards for being an intellectual series, but it is filled with chase scenes, humor, and a cast that has fun with anything thrown at them. And one cannot help but enjoy the ride they take you on.
Stopping runaway AI cars may not sound like an exciting premise, but eX-Driver provides a cast with depth to flesh out the stories along with plenty of car chases. It is watching the characters bicker yet come together as a team that makes the series a delight to watch. If you are burnt out on giant robots, panty laden comedies, or alien hijinks, eX-Driver is the perfect title to start your engine back up, a highly recommended and fun title.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Crew Interview,Sound FX Production,Bonus Clip,Textless Opening,Dub Outtakes,Voice Actor Interview,eX-D Cup,Textless Closings (3),RC Racers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: August 26th, 2003
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Mitsubishi 27″ TV, Panasonic RP-82, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and optical audio cable