• remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more

The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Highspeed Étoile

How would you rate episode 1 of
Highspeed Étoile ?
Community score: 3.4

What is this?


In the near future, the latest technology has made it so vehicles can travel at 500 km/h (about 310 mph) safely and securely. A next-generation race event called NEX Race was born, which changed the world of racing. NEX Racing features AI control support and a "Revolburst" mechanism. A newcomer named Rin Rindo will debut in the NEX Race, further revolutionizing the sport. Rin once had a dream of becoming a ballet dancer, but had to give up on that dream due to an injury. Afterward, she became a NEET and a gamer who lived in her grandmother's house. But one day, she is suddenly thrown into the world of racing.

Highspeed Étoile is based on an original anime series written by director Keitaro Motonaga and scriptwriter Takamitsu Kōno. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Fridays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

I feel bad for the makers of Highspeed Étoile. It's not hard to see the passion being put into this. The cars are lovingly detailed—a mixture of the familiar and futuristic. The characters (especially the female ones) have visual designs that practically beg to have figures made of them. The camera work gives its all to make the races as exciting as possible with a mixture of angles and zoom options. But, in the end, none of this is enough to make the show even remotely interesting.

The story is simple. In a new kind of racing sport, one man reigns supreme: “The King.” His only challenger is known as “The Queen” but she's a distant second at best. And as for everyone else—meaning every other racer we see in the episode—they're not worth mentioning. The announcers tell us right from the start that the King and Queen will win this race and… that's exactly what happens. There are no upsets major or minor—no rookie character coming out of nowhere to challenge the big two. I'm sure we are being shown the status quo for it to be shaken up in subsequent episodes but why would you ever start a sports anime with the sport being the most boring it's ever been? Why would anyone want to continue watching?

Beyond that there's the elephant in the room: Everything aside from the racers and their cars looks awful. This includes the stilted animations of our non-racing heroes to the members of the crowd who don't even have faces. But those aren't the only visual problems.

Perhaps the worst thing about the show—what makes it difficult to connect with the characters—is that everyone wears face-covering helmets while driving. You can't see their emotions and tell who they are. So much is covered that I honestly don't know if we've seen all the named racers with their helmets off or not—it's impossible to identify them from eye shape alone.

And without being able to put faces to the names (and cars), this truly feels like going to a race track when you have no interest in racing. You have no stake in the race whatsoever. You're just spending 20 minutes watching cars make right turns. And I don't know about you, but to me, that is about the furthest thing possible from a good time.

Rebecca Silverman

Overtake! taught me, someone who only really likes antique cars, to appreciate a story about car racing. Highspeed Étoile took all that goodwill and interest and tossed it straight into the garbage disposal. It's not just because this looks unpleasant (though it does) or that it inexplicably attempts a ballet metaphor (which it does), but more that it squanders all but roughly five minutes of its first episode on depicting a single fifty-lap race in exhausting detail. And yes, I do mean "exhausting" rather than "exhaustive" because that detail primarily consists of two commentators narrating the whole thing with all the excitement of someone watching a kettle boil and the delivery of said kettle's whistle. I kept checking how much time was left in the vain hope that it was almost over, starting at the five-minute mark.

What hurts the most is the magnitude of this miscalculation on the part of whoever decided to structure the series in this manner. A first episode ought to hook the viewer, pique their interest, and make them want to know more about the story's world. Regrettably, someone interpreted this to mean "toss all the details at people all at once." The entire thing is jargon and futuristic racing details constantly narrated over shots of CG cars racing around a track, with occasional flashes to the faceless crowd of spectators or shots of the lady drivers in their uncomfortable-looking racing jumpsuits. (The men, it should be noted, are dressed normally or seen from the shoulders up.) Rather than make the racing culture of the future when AI plays a role, and the sexy ladies who hold up signs are hologram idols intriguing, it squanders any potential by going on for far too long. By the time we get to our ostensible heroine, Rindo Rin, and the clumsy ballet metaphors, goodwill has gone out the window.

At this point, I don't trust this show to turn around and make something of itself. Awkward CG animation and a clear lack of understanding where to put the narrative focus kneecap this before it even gets past the starting line. Add in Sumire's voice (which I felt in my spine) and a few shots from the drivers' perspective that made me feel motion sick, and I'm out, no matter how much I love Tchaikovsky's music.

Nicholas Dupree

I want it on record that the half-star I added to this show's score is entirely because it's got a good OP theme from Nana Mizuki. Everything else about this premiere, from its glaringly poor visuals to its dreadfully boring plot, is a mess. Even the OP is stitched together with chewing gum and masking tape, unable to match the energy of Mizuki's vocals. If you have any further interaction with Highspeed Étoile, it should be to buy that single when it comes out because nothing else is worth the time.

The most obvious issue is with the visuals. Any character that isn't a marketable anime girl looks like an afterthought, and even the designs that look alright in still shots are animated like garbage. Characters move in jerky, unnatural motions before becoming inhumanly still the moment they're finished. Their mouths often move in ways totally detached from the rest of their face, giving even simple dialogue scenes a sense of uncanny ill-ease. The cars are modeled nicely enough but are unable to convey any actual speed or momentum through their animation, moving with all the visual energy of a stop-motion Hot Wheels video made by kids for YouTube. Even the race track looks bad, washed out in gray light, making it a chore to just look at the screen.

Not helping is the decision to spend the entire goddamn episode on a single race, following through 50 laps of boringly paced, narrative-devoid racing between characters we don't know and can barely recognize through their full-body suits and helmets. We don't even meet our main character – who isn't involved in this race at all – until the closing minutes. Meanwhile, the incessant commentator characters have to describe every single thing that happens moment-to-moment, explaining the obvious in a way that's more annoying than clarifying. By the 10-minute mark, I had heard them talk about the "King" and "Queen" of the racing league so many times that I wanted to throw myself into traffic. We were on lap 17/50.

The effect is like turning on a random Formula 1 race when you've never followed the sport before, except all the actual racing footage has been replaced with Alpha footage from a cheap Forza rip-off. It's alienating, boring, and all-around unpleasant to look at. Huge strides have been made in CG anime over the last few years, but Highspeed Étoile has learned from none of them. Multiple auto-racing anime have pulled this off well, but this show can't replicate a fraction of it. It's a big, smoking, multi-car pileup that isn't even exciting to look at.

discuss this in the forum (465 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history

back to The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Season Preview Guide homepage / archives