Speed Racer is an English adaptation name of the Japanese manga and anime, Mach Go Go Go (マッハGoGoGo Mahha Gō Gō Gō?) which centered on automobile racing. Mach GoGoGo was originally serialized in print form in Shueisha's 1958 Shōnen Book, and was released in tankōbon book form by Sun Wide Comics, re-released in Japan by Fusosha. From 1967 to 1968 it ran as a television series in the United States, with 52 episodes. Selected chapters of the manga were released by NOW Comics in the 1990s under the title Speed Racer Classics, later released by the DC Comics division, Wildstorm Productions under the title Speed Racer: The Original Manga. In 2008, under the name of its Americanized title, Speed Racer, Mach GoGoGo, in its entirety, was re-published in the United States by Digital Manga Publishing and was released as a box set, used to commemorate the franchise's 40th anniversary and also served as a tie-in to coincide with the 2008 film. It was published under the title Speed Racer: Mach Go Go Go as part of the company's DMP Platinum imprint. The actual television series itself is an early example of an anime becoming a successful franchise in the United States, which spawned multiple spinoff versions, in both print and broadcast media.
The synopsis of Installment One
A young man named Speed Racer wants to become a professional racer, despite the lack of Pops Racer's (his father) approval. When Pops reluctantly quits his job after the corporation he was working for declined production of a modified engine for his new racing car, the Mach 5, he later thinks of creating his own family owned company, Racer Motors (Mifune Motors in Japan). He realizes that he would need a great amount of money to make his idea work. Nonetheless, Pops conceals his plans for the Mach 5's new engine on a windshield. Speed, who values the welfare of his family, decides to take it upon himself to obtain the money for Pops. In hopes of using his unique driving skills to do so, Speed decides to do what he does best and enters a race.
Speed, along with the help of his friend and mechanic, Sparky, tune up and adjust the Mach 5 in preparation for the race, attaching a new windshield in the process. Unbeknownst to them, they had taken Pops' windshield that concealed the plans for the new engine. Speed takes the windshield along to the race the next day. With the windshield, Speed unwittingly brought trouble towards him, for a corporate gang, who is after Pops' revolutionary designs for the engine, sabotages the race, putting Speed in peril.
Speed, through his wit, realizes that Pops had hidden the plans on the windshield and fights hard to prevent the gang from stealing it. In a last minute effort to save his father's hard work, Speed shatters the windshield with his helmet so that in effect, nobody walks away with the plans. With the gang out of the way, Speed finishes and wins the race...however, he does not win the prize money since officials had found out that the race was sabotaged by the corporate gang. A slightly disappointed Speed apologizes to a slightly frustrated Pops, who had found out that Speed had entered the race, for entering the race and destroying his plans. Pops tells Speed that the plans were always locked within his head and gets slightly enraged and tells Speed to quit racing. Speed, who is confident enough to ignore Pops, drives away into many different adventures that come towards him and his friends.
Selected chapters of Tatsuo Yoshida's original Mach GoGoGo manga series were reprinted by Now Comics as Speed Racer Classics and by DC Comics/Wildstorm Productions as Speed Racer: The Original Manga (ISBN 1-56389-686-9). In 2008, a hardcover box set of the complete manga series was released by Digital Manga Publishing as Speed Racer: Mach Go Go Go (ISBN 978-156970731-9).
Mach GoGoGo was first created and designed by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida (1932–1977) as a manga series in the 1960s and made the jump to TV as an anime series in 1967. The actual manga was inspired by Yoshida’s earlier, and most popular automobile racing comics, Pilot Ace. Pilot Ace’s main storyline would be lifted onto Mach GoGoGo, which followed the adventures of an ambitious young man who would soon become a professional racer.
When Yoshida had plans for a newer project, he took the popularity of Pilot Ace to his advantage. The characters’ designs in Pilot Ace would set the main ground for the character design in a newer project entitled, Mach GoGoGo. Yoshida got his idea for his story after seeing two films that were very popular in Japan at the time, Viva Las Vegas and Goldfinger. By combining the look of Elvis Presley's race-car driving image, complete with neckerchief and black pompadour, and James Bond's gadget-filled Aston Martin, Yoshida had the inspiration for his creation. Soon enough, Mach GoGoGo hit shelves in the early 1960s. The central character in the anime and manga was a young race car driver named Gō Mifune (Mifune Gō).
The name of the series, Mach GoGoGo is actually a triple pun:
- "Go" is the Japanese word for the number 5. Thus "Mach-go" is the name of the car ("go" also being a suffix attached to the names of ships, etc.), which would be called the Mach 5 in the American adaptation
- It is the name of the main character, Go Mifune. (Speed Racer in the American adaptation)
- It contains the English word "go."
Taken together, the program's title means, "Mach-go, Gō Mifune, Go!". This is what the saying "Go, Speed Racer, Go!" comes from, taking out Gō Mifune and replacing it with his English name.
Also: "Gogogo", is used as a general Japanese sound effect for "Rumble". The names themselves constitute a multilingual word play of the kind that had started to become part of the Japanese popular culture of the time.
The manga (which was compiled into two deluxe volumes for Fusosha's re-release) has several story lines such as "The Great Plan", "Challenge of the Masked Racer", "The Fire Race", "The Secret Engine" and "Race for Revenge" that have been adapted to the anime, each story having similar story lines. However, minor changes occur between both the original manga and the anime series. Differences include minor changes in some story lines and back stories of several characters and places.
A few years later after the volumes were released, Yoshida decided to release his manga series as an anime program, adding new and heart-pounding plots in addition to the original stories in the manga. 52 episodes aired in Japan, each one emulating the fast-paced action of the manga.
The manga spawned an anime adaptation which became a bigger success than the manga which was created around the same time as its appearance. In 1997, Tatsunoko produced a modernized version of Mach GoGoGo which aired on TV Tokyo and lasted for 34 episodes. An English adaptation of this remake was produced by DiC titled Speed Racer X, which aired in 2002 on Nickelodeon, but only the first 11 episodes were adapted due to licensing disputes between DiC and the Speed Racer Enterprise.
The English rights to Mach GoGoGo were immediately acquired by American syndicator Trans-Lux. Speed Racer premiered on American television in the fall of 1967. In the series, Speed’s full name was Go Mifune, in homage to Japanese film star Toshirō Mifune. His name, Americanized, became Speed Racer. His adventures centered on his powerful Mach 5 car, his girlfriend Trixie, his little brother Spritle with pet chimp Chim-Chim, and his mysterious older brother, Racer X. For American consumption, major editing and dubbing efforts were undertaken by producer Peter Fernandez, who also provided the voices of many of the characters, most notably Racer X and Speed Racer himself. Fernandez was also responsible for a rearrangement of the theme song's melody, written by Nobuyoshi Koshibe, and subsequently wrote its English lyrics. The theme was performed in the opening and closing titles (uncredited) by Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass.
In a 2008 interview with Chicago Tribune DVD columnist Louis R. Carlozo, Fernandez recalled that he landed the job working on "Speed Racer" after ghost-writing scripts for Astro-Boy and Gigantor. Simultaneously with "Speed Racer," Fernandez also voiced the main character and wrote scripts for another anime series, Marine Boy, sometimes taping both shows in the same day in New York City. Fernandez also said he could not possibly have predicted Speed Racer's lasting appeal at the time or in the decades that followed. Reflecting on the series' staying power, he commented: "There was the family relationship. You knew about Speed's family, you knew them well. They were all involved in each race. And we all play with cars as little kids, we love cars. The Mach 5 was a hot car, and there were all sorts of cars throughout all episodes. I still think the Mach Five is ahead of its time."
In an effort to squeeze the complicated plots into existing lip movements, the frantic pace of the dubbing made Speed Racer famous—and famously parodied—for its quirky "fast" dialogue and constant gasping.
The series also reached areas beyond the United States. At about the same time the American series was aired, a Latin American adaptation of the series named, Meteoro, aired on Argentinian TV screens.
In the early 1990s the series made a comeback as reruns on MTV broadcast in the early morning hours. In 1993, the series was rebroadcast in syndication concurrently with a new American-created remake courtesy of the newly established "Speed Racer Enterprises," with distribution by Group W's international unit. In this version, much to the annoyances of fans of the original version, all references to Trans-Lux were removed, with the opening sequence including a recreated logo, and the episode titles and closing credits were re-created. But the re-created closing credits sequence includes three typographical errors: Jack Grimes is misspelled Jack "Crimes," Hiroshi Sasagawa is misspelled Hiroshi "Sasacawa," and "Yomiko" is misspelled "Yumiko." This is the version that later aired on the Cartoon Network in the late afternoon (and later on in late night/overnight) programming, and it is also the version released on Region 1 DVD. The News Corporation owned motorsports-centric network Speed Channel also aired this series during morning hours in 2003. This version can also be seen on the streaming video service Hulu even though, oddly enough, episode 31—Gang of Assassins, Part 1—is missing; otherwise the complete series is available.
Yoshida selected the names and symbolism in his creation very carefully. The large red M on the hood of the Mach 5, which in North America was assumed to stand for "Mach 5," is actually the emblem of Mifune Motors, the family business. That is also the origin of the "M" on Gō's helmet. This was a homage to Japanese film star Toshirō Mifune. In the Latin American version, the "M" stands for "Meteoro", Speed/Go's Latin American name and the name of the series in Latin America which literally translates into English as "meteor", an object that can also be related to swiftness and speed. His given name, Gō, is also a Japanese homophone for the number 5 (the number on his race car). This is also represented by the yellow letter G embroidered on his short-sleeve blue shirt. The tradition of symbolism on characters' shirts would be also used on Michi (Trixie) and Sabu (Sparky), who had the letter "M" and "S" on their shirts, respectively.
Beyond Speed Racer's appeal as an early anime, the series generally is for family entertainment and does not contain the deep intellectual conflicts or controversies seen in anime today. It can be argued that the plots in Speed Racer were more complicated than conventional American cartoons of the 1960s, but the overall purpose was to please a growing fan base worldwide with exciting stories that involved facing adversity on the race track and beyond. There is some argument over how much was edited from the original series. Some[who?] say the original Mach GoGoGo episodes underwent minor editing to reach the form which aired in the US; others[who?] say it underwent major editing. Nevertheless, it was considered appropriate entertainment for the whole family. Both may be possible: the amount of violence in the American airing was generally acceptable; however, there are some scenes in the episodes that would have never been allowed to air were it created under American standards.
- Speed Racer / Gō Mifune (三船剛 Mifune Gō?)
- The focus character of both the anime and the manga is Speed Racer, originally Gō Mifune. He is known for his love of racing and values his family. He drives the Mach 5 (as well as other cars, such as the Mach 6 in the movie) and always manages to wind up in extreme danger (such as encountering thugs, race fixers, gangs, etc.) with his younger brother or his girlfriend Trixie. Speed is shown to miss his older brother, Rex (secretly disguised as the Racer X) in both versions.
- Casually, he wears a blue shirt with a yellow "G" (standing for his Japanese first name, Gō) that sports a white collar, a red racing bandanna around his neck, white pants, red socks, brown loafers and yellow gloves. He has a brown, almost black, Elvis pompadour hairstyle, and his eyes are blue. In racing, he sports a white open-face helmet with an M (representing Mifune Motors) flashed on top. On special occasions, Speed wears a red blazer with a yellow "G" embroidered on. This only happens in the anime. In the manga, he wears his standard outfit on special occasions. In the live action film, he wears a white leather racing jacket unzipped and over his classic outfit, and white pants. He wears his classic outfit (without the embroidered "G") in the first half of the Casa Cristo 5000. To strengthen character back-story continuity between Speed and his older brother Rex, Speed's red socks were considered "lucky socks."
- According to Peter Fernandez's introduction in the American release of the Mach GoGoGo manga, he wanted a name that everyone could remember. So he came up with Speed Racer, a name for both the main character and the actual series itself. In the 2008 film, he is portrayed by Emile Hirsch as an adult and Nicholas Elia as a child.
- The American NOW comics adaptation states that Speed is only a nickname, and his actual forename was "Gregory", hence the prevalence of "G"'s on his clothing.
- Speed Racer has a younger brother named Spritle, originally Kurio Mifune (三船くりお Mifune Kurio?) and Chispita in the Latin American version who, along with his pet chimpanzee, who responded to the name of Chim-Chim in the American version,Sanpei (三平?) in the Japanese original, constantly got into mischief by hiding in the trunks of cars.
- Despite being children, they are delinquents. Their rebellious attitudes often lead them to trouble. Although they are this way, their mischief somehow often aids Speed away from danger. Oddly, Spritle and Chim-Chim dress in identical jumpsuits and striped hats and often perform identical physical actions. They both have an extreme appetite for candy and they are usually bribed with dessert or other presents by other characters, sometimes even by baddies. This occurs when Spritle and Chim-Chim refuse to do a favor at first. Spritle and Chim-Chim often use a slingshot to combat any threats that come to both themselves and/or Speed.
- According to the Peter Fernandez's introduction in the American release of the Mach GoGoGo manga, Spritle got his name for him being an energetic "sprite". Chim-Chim got his name because he was considered a chimpanzee. In the live action film, they are portrayed faithfully like they were in both the anime and the manga. Spritle was portrayed by Paulie Litt in the film.
- In the original Japanese release of the anime, Sanpei's sounds were realistic, sounding more like a monkey. In the American airing, when Jack Grimes provided the voice of Chim-Chim, Sanpei's sound-effects were also heard behind Grimes' re-recording, which explains why Chim-Chim has two "voices" in the American adaptation.
- Pops Racer / Daisuke Mifune (三船大介 Mifune Daisuke?)
- Speed's father, Pops, originally Daisuke Mifune (三船大介 Mifune Daisuke?) is a former wrestler-turned race car owner and builder. Reluctantly quitting his job after feuding with a member of a corporate car manufacturing company who disapproved of the construction of a new engine for the Mach 5, he founded his own company, Mifune Motors (In the series' Americanization, the company was changed to Racer Motors). He is portrayed as a hothead who is overprotective of his family. His care for his family caused his eldest son, Rex (who would return as Racer X) to run away. In addition to Spritle and Chim-Chim, his attitude brings comic relief in the anime series and live action film. He wears an athletic red shirt and a beige mechanic's cap and is overweight. Despite his build, Pops is nearly unmatched in combat as he was once a champion heavyweight wrestler. His unique design skills have created very powerful engines for his cars, especially his (in the film) prized "Mach" Series, giving them the ability to travel at high speeds while at the same time sustaining maximum performance. He is portrayed by actor John Goodman in the 2008 film.
- Mom Racer / Aya Mifune (三船アヤ Mifune Aya?)
- Voiced by: Ryoko Kinomiya (Japanese), Corinne Orr (English)
- Speed's mother, Mom, originally Aya Mifune (三船アヤ Mifune Aya?) is a side character in the series. She rarely appears in the anime or manga, having limited dialogue. In the live action film, however, she is portrayed as an encouraging, caring, parental figure by Susan Sarandon.
- Racer X (The Masked Racer) (覆面レーサー Fukumen Rēsā?)
- A frequent recurring character, driving car number 9, the "Shooting Star," is the enigmatic Racer X (Fukumen Racer (覆面レーサー Fukumen Rēsā?) in the Japanese version and El Corredor Enmascarado in the Latin American version). Racer X is a heroic, mysterious, flamboyant, selfless, sympathetic and often brooding soldier of fortune whose secret identity is that of Rex Racer (Ken'ichi Mifune (三船健一 Mifune Ken'ichi?) in Japan) Speed's older brother. Six years ago, Rex had a falling out with Pops after Rex wrecked a race car that Pops had built. Pops had told Rex prior to the race that Rex was not yet prepared to compete at the professional racing level. With less than one lap to go in his first major race, Rex was leading and cruising toward victory, but lost control of the car and wrecked it. Pops exploded with anger and berated Rex. In even more enraged response, Rex fled the family and exiled himself while vowing to become the world's greatest race car driver. It was at that time that Rex assumed the mysterious, Racer X identity, to pursue his racing career. In both Speed Racer X and in the 2008 movie, however, Rex is thought to have died in that accident. In the film, he is portrayed by two actors, Scott Porter as a younger Rex Racer, and Matthew Fox as the older Rex Racer and Racer X.
- It was acknowledged by both Pops and Speed over the years that Racer X was the superior driver of the two, and the greatest driver that they had ever seen, but Speed always vowed to defeat Racer X as the two vigorously competed. In the anime, Speed was often suspicious of Racer X's identity and motives because Racer X would repeatedly, and inexplicably, sacrifice winning races to protect Speed from drivers and others who tried to harm him. The assistance from Racer X nearly always led to Speed winning races, while Racer X came in second place. Racer X always left the scene unnoticed, receding into his secret life. It was not until the episode "The Trick Race" that fans of the show finally got to see the face of Racer X. Early in the series, in the episode "Challenge of the Masked Racer," Speed had already begun to suspect that Racer X might, in fact, be his estranged older brother; this suspicion would be expressed by Speed in later episodes such as "Race Against The Mammoth Car."
- Trixie (志村ミチ Shimura Michi?)
- Voiced by: Yoshiko Matsuo (later Michiko Nomura) (Japanese), Corinne Orr (English)
- Originally Michi Shimura (志村ミチ Shimura Michi?), Trixie is Speed's chaste girlfriend. The "M" adorning Trixie's blouse stands for Michi. Michi would often fly around in a helicopter during a race, advising Speed Racer via a radio link to the Mach 5, in effect acting as his spotter, a function she also serves in the live-action film during the Casa Cristo 5000. In the manga it is mentioned that her father is the president of Shimura Aviation, which explains why she owns her own helicopter. Further implying that she is a "rich girl", she can also be seen driving a Mercedes (in the anime; in the manga, it is a generic symbol not representing any car company). A recurring event, used to add comic relief in the anime, is when Trixie becomes jealous and arrogant if Speed is appalled or enthralled by another beautiful girl or when she is ignored or left alone. In the 2008 live action film, she is portrayed by actress Christina Ricci. She had a reddish brown bob cut with bangs in the Anime version her hair was dark brown.
Unlike most female characters in cartoons at that time, Trixie is not portrayed as a helpless perpetual victim in need of saving. Trixie often proves herself the equal of Speed when forced into physical altercations. While Trixie has been captured on occasion by the villains, she refuses to cower or plead for her release, more often giving the bad guy a serious tongue-lashing until she is either rescued or escapes on her own. On some occasions, Trixie has even been the one to rescue Speed or other male characters from their predicaments.
- Casually Trixie wears a pink blouse with the aforementioned embroidered "M" on her left side. She also sports red pants. In racing events where she spots for Speed as his navigator, she dons a white long-sleeve shirt with pink overalls placed over it. The overalls also have the embroidered "M". In this situation, she also wears a pink cap with racing goggles placed over it. In special occasions, Trixie wears a blue hat and dress.
- Sparky (サブ Sabu?)
- Other regular characters included Sparky, whose full name in the movie and in Speed Racer: The Next Generation is Wilson Sparkolemew (in the manga and anime, he is only called Sparky), was originally named Sabu (サブ?) and is called Bujía in the Latin American version, the company mechanic, whose yellow shirt bears an "pid" that matches both his original Japanese name and the North American renaming. both in the anime and manga as a quirky young man who is a best friend of Speed and knows everything about cars. In the live action movie, he is portrayed as older than Speed but is still his close friend, and still retains the quirkiness of the original character. He is portrayed by actor Kick Gurry in the live action film. He makes a cameo in Speed Racer: the Next Generation.
- Car Acrobatic Team
- The Car Acrobatic Team (or the Car Acrobats) is one of the original set of characters that appeared both in the manga and in the anime. The 16 racers' (automobiles numbered 11 through 26) uniforms are embroidered with a letter from the English alphabet. All of the cars in the team, except for number 11, look the same in appearance, with purple and black accents. The cars also act similarly in function. The cars sprout wings from both sides, making them capable of traversing large gaps and gorges. The most notable of the team are Captain Terror and Snake Oiler (the latter being a character exclusive to the anime). Also, the initials of the Car Acrobatic Team form the word, CAT, an agile and acrobatic animal.
- Captain Terror is the leader of the Car Acrobatic Team, is shown as an arrogant racing car driver in the manga, sabotaging races for his own benefit. His arrogance gets the best of him, and he ends getting severely injured in an explosion after not heeding Speed's warning about his car leaking oil in the dangerous Alpine Race. He has a "Z" embroidered on his racing uniform, and has a face of skeletal features and a lone feather atop his helmet. He drives the number 11 car, the only car different in appearance to the rest of the Car Acrobatic team.
- In the anime, Captain Terror's character exists, but as separate entity. A new character named Snake Oiler replaces Captain Terror in terms of hotheaded attitude. Embroidered with an "S" on his uniform and tinted visor on his striped helmet, Snake Oiler drives the number 12 car, similar in appearance to the other cars in the Car Acrobatic Team. The role Captain Terror had in the manga was lifted on to the Snake Oiler character, therefore Captain Terror's role in the Alpine Race was replaced with Snake. Although Snake didn't exist in the original manga, he was more notable in the West due to his appearance in the anime.
- In the live action movie, Snake has completely changed in appearance. He is no longer part of the Car Acrobatic Team as it never existed in the film's timeline. However, in homage to the Car Acrobatic Team, Snake is leader of his own racing team, named "Hydra-Cell". He wears large shades and sports a black pompadour. His racing uniform is made entirely of snake skin (complete with a yellow snake on his helmet) and his car is now completely orange. Despite the change in appearance, Snake's car number and attitude are still intact in the film. He is portrayed by Christian Oliver.
- Captain Terror, one of his "Car Acrobat" team members, and their cars make a recent cameo in Speed Racer: The Next Generation during a flashback sequence.
- Also in Speed Racer: The Next Generation, Zile Zeisick was seen wearing a racing outfit similar to Captain Terror during the episodes Comet Run: part 1-3, thus leaving it to the imaginations of the fans that Zile is/was Captain Terror, and Stan, Zile's main henchman, noted that Speed Racer had raced against Zile's Racing Team back in the day.
Westernized appearance of characters
One distinct feature seen in Speed Racer is the Westernization of their characters' physical appearance and, to some extent, their mentality. This is partly due to Tatsuo Yoshida's affinity for the United States through portrayals of American life in numerous films. This use of Western appearance can somewhat be referred as mukokuseki (literally meaning, "stateless"), though the term relates to more abstract anime and is used for hyperbole in this case. In Speed Racer, the fair complexion and American attire can be seen as an example of mukokuseki, but it can take many unconventional forms.[page needed] This can be seen more readily in later anime in the fantasy and mecha genres, where characters are given more unusual traits like unusually colored hair (pink hair, blue hair etc.), enlarged eyes, and dysmorphic humanoid bodies (such as Tetsuo and the Espers in Akira). Reasons behind the presence of mukokuseki may be to diversify the character roster and distinguish between individuals, but it can have cultural implications. Other aspects of physical appearance, such as disproportionally large eyes, are used to promote kawaii, or “cuteness”, as seen in many shōjo anime. It has even been implied that the large eyes could have its roots in early influences from older cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat.
Despite their Westernization, the series falls into the familiar manga-anime storyline, which is a form of Japanese expression. Speed Racer embodies the typical manga characterization of a teenage boy with superior skills (in this case, racing skills) facing unreal adversity through a multitude of villains; this is seen more in mecha anime such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Though always doing his best, he frequently receives a helping hand from his virtually superior brother (Racer X) when he falls short of his goals. This kind of continuing support can easily be identified in the episode “Challenge of the Masked Racer”. Another persistent manga component is the overreactions of many characters. The long, drawn out dialogues with no pauses are very distinct in Speed Racer, from Pops speaking his mind to Ace Deucey's thugs in "The Great Plan" to Racer X’s monologue of his thoughts to Speed after crashing in "Challenge of the Masked Racer."
Many of the show's cars are shown to have special abilities in the series, which is one element of the show's glory and legacy. Some cars (especially Speed's Mach 5) have made a great impact on many viewers of the show and are notable to most of the series' fans.
- Note: The names of the cars that have appeared in both the manga and the original anime have been fitted with Bold Italics.
The Mach 5
The Mach 5, the car Speed Racer drove in the series (known as the "Mach Go," or simply the "Mach," in the Japanese version), is a technological marvel, containing useful pieces of equipment. Gō Mifune/Speed Racer easily deployed these gadgets by pressing buttons marked "A" through "G" on the steering wheel hub (although there are buttons on the steering wheel in the manga, the letter designations are exclusive to the anime and the 2008 live action film). This uniquely designed car, built on a sleek, white body has a large "M" on its hood, the logo for the family business, Mifune Motors (Changed to Pops Motors in the anime and Racer Motors in the live action film). The two-seat car's uniqueness also derives from its mostly red colored interior.
A "5" is emblazoned on both side doors of the car. In the manga and anime this is the car's racing number; in the film, it is portrayed as the fifth car built in Pops' "Mach" series of racing vehicles. Although technically inferior to other racing vehicles such as the Mammoth Car and the GRX, the Mach 5 manages to win most races because of Speed's superior driving skill.
The Mach 5 had been stolen from Speed a few times, once when Cornpone Blotch took the car to add it to his car collection in the "Girl Daredevil" saga. However, Speed usually manages to get it back at the end of the episode. At one point, the car was replicated, designs, functions and all, by Speed Racer baddie, Dr. Nightcall. However, this replica included other new abilities that would inspire later functions of the car in remakes of the show, one of which were the Aero Jacks, used as a replacement for the Auto Jacks in Speed Racer X. In manga continuity, the Mach 5 was destroyed and rebuilt. One of its new functions also included the Aero-Jacks. See Manga and Anime Differences for more information on the Mach 5's manga continuity.
In both American comic and movie continuity, Pops is portrayed as having built a "Mach" Series consisting of other variants such as the Mach 4 and Mach 6 in addition to Rex Racer's Mach 1 and the Mach 5.
The Shooting Star
The Shooting Star is Racer X's car, colored bright yellow with a black front bumper and numbered 9 on the hood and sides. The car's engine is located in the back, and it is a very agile machine, often displaying abilities akin to and above those of the Mach Five. Many of its high-tech features allowed Racer X to keep an eye on Speed Racer, who is his younger brother.
In later comics written by Tommy Yune, Rex acquires the car that he names "Shooting Star" from Prince Kabala of Kapetapek. During his time training with the royal leader, Rex is informed that he is the ninth student of Kabala, hence the number 9. Rex also builds other cars numbered 9 with similar paint schemes and names them variants like "Falling Star".
In the 2008 film adaptation, the car makes an appearance but is not named. The car was the only car built in addition to the Mach Five for the movie, and features weapons like machine guns mounted above the cockpit and under the chassis. In addition to this car, Racer X also drives a car built for the competitions in the film, a T180. This car was entitled the "Augury" in the film's video game counterpart. Like Racer X's unnamed street car, it features a number 9 and has the black and yellow color scheme, with a large black "X" on the front bumper. The T180 only makes one appearance in the film, when Racer X competes to protect Speed in the Fuji race after he has rejected Royalton's offer.
The Mammoth Car
Appearing only in the anime, it is supposedly the largest racing vehicle in the world. Similar in design to an extremely long trailer truck, the Mammoth Car is mostly red and is built by infamous Speed Racer villain Cruncher Block. The Mammoth Car was built almost entirely of $50,000,000 in stolen gold bars. By entering it in 'The No Limit World Race', Cruncher wished to smuggle the gold out of the country. The Mammoth Car's main engine has Script error. Each wheel also has an engine with Script error. In total, the Mammoth Car has Script error. It can travel at Script error, on any kind of road and on any kind of terrain. It has magnetic brakes, and is over Script error long, making the Mammoth Car one of the most interesting cars in the series. It was destroyed after it crashed into an oil refinery and it was melted into its original gold compound by the intense heat.
The Mammoth Car makes a small cameo in the 2008 film in the scene where Cruncher Block interrogates Taejo Togokhan (a character created just for the movie) after he resists Royalton Industries in the race fixing business. They were interrupted by Racer X, who battles the Mammoth and saves Taejo. The Mammoth Car in this movie is shown to have view ports for its drivers to shoot out of, just like in the original series, and is shown to fire missiles from its grill.
The Mammoth Car also makes an appearance along with Slash Marker Jr.'s X3 in Speed Racer: The Next Generation in the second and third episodes of "The Fast Track" saga as an enemy program of the show's virtual racing track. Although the Mammoth Car is rendered in CGI after its original anime design, the car is missing its grill and many other details that had appeared in the original anime. The Mammoth Car in this episode makes the same sound as it did in the anime, made when its headlights were turned on. It pays homage to the original series by using its signature attack of surrounding and circling a rival.
The Melange and the X3
The Melange was a topless racing car numbered with a "3" driven by racer Slash Marker. When investigating the mysterious car, Speed recalls the name Melange was the name of Napoleon's horse, who saved his life several times in battles (actually named Marengo, but due to the Japanese interpretation of the French word, the name "Melange" was translated). When Speed recalls his knowledge of French History, a rendition of Jacques-Louis David's painting of Napoleon Crossing the Alps, which depicts Napoleon riding Marengo, is drawn in the episode. Pops Racer, however, identified the name "Melange" as a car driven fifteen years earlier by a young driver named Slash Marker. The Melange's chassis was colored with two shades of purple and had an exposed engine on its hood. During the 'Race at Danger Pass', The Melange, along with Marker, was fatally crashed by members of the Three Roses Club.
Since then, Slash's son, Slash Marker Jr, had plotted his revenge on the Three Roses Club by building a car with a sleek, black body marked "X3". The car was driven through remote control and a robot dummy was placed in the driver's seat, broadcasting the phrases "Melange Still Races" and "Melange is alive" to haunt those of the Three Roses Club. The X3 was used primarily to deliberately crash into and fatally kill those affiliated with the Three Roses Club, leaving a card marked X3 to haunt other Three Roses Club members who haven't been killed yet. Speed, who had volunteered to help the police, chased down the X3 until it crashed into the guard rail of a train track.
Speed noticed its robot “driver” and brings it back to the police for further investigation. Meanwhile, Slash Marker Jr. secretly brought back the wrecked car from the train track and replaced its body with a replica of the original Melange, placing it over the X3 chassis in his secret underground car factory, to prepare for the next Race at Danger Pass. Since it is the same car with the chassis of the Melange, the car can still be controlled remotely. The new Melange is still numbered “3”, but it has the ability to be changed through remote control to “X3”, making the drivers of the Three Roses Club realize that the "new Melange" is actually the X3. The car, "driven" by Slash Jr.'s sister, Lily and controlled by Slash Jr. in his helicopter, was used to fatally crash into two Three Roses drivers until it was destroyed when it lost control and crashed into the final member of the Three Roses Club.
The X3 makes a cameo along with the Mammoth Car in Speed Racer: The Next Generation as an enemy program of the virtual track. The car has the same design as the original X3, but rendered in CGI form, as with all the other cars in the show's racing sequences. It pays homage to the original anime by making the same beeping sound used in the old series.
The GRX was technically an engine, but it has become more identified with the gold-colored car that housed the engine in the series episode "The Fastest Car on Earth." The engine was designed by Ben Cranem, and was responsible for crashes and deaths of four test drivers, including its inventor due to the impossible speeds it could attain. Cranem died and the GRX engine was buried with him, but Oriana Flub and her men retrieved the engine and placed it into the car with a sleek, golden, and markless body.
Oriana convinced Speed to test drive the car with the GRX and Speed was sprayed with a special serum known as the V-gas to artificially sharpen his reflexes. The V-gas causes its driver to become extremely thirsty and if the driver consumed any compound containing water, it would tamper with his mentality and would develop a strong phobia of speed. Like the other test drivers who were given the gas, Speed became scared of even the slowest of speeds. However he regains his love of racing due to Pops' help in the race that followed. By then, the car had a new driver, Cranem's son, Curly. Curly was given the V-gas and soon experienced its side effects. The GRX and its engine were destroyed when he fatally crashed the car due to the side effects of the V-gas.
The GRX episodes mark one of the few continuity errors introduced by the English dubbing. In the first episode the GRX's speedometer with a maximum speed of 400 km/h or about 250 miles/hr on it is shown. This would make the GRX slower than the Mammoth Car by the English dialog.
In the 2008 film adaptation, the name makes an appearance as a car developed by Royalton Industries and driven by Jack "Cannonball" Taylor. The car retains none of the back story from its anime counterpart, and is redesigned into the racing competition of the film. It is numbered 66 and colored purple and gold and was transformed from a two-seater to a single-seater. In the Grand Prix race that closes the film, the GRX is the main competitor for Speed in the Mach 6 and features a secret weapon called a "spear-hook" that is illegal in professional racing. After Taylor deploys the device against Speed during the Grand Prix, Speed uses the Mach 6's auto-jacks to flip the cars and reveal the hook to the track cameras, automatically disqualifying Taylor and aiding the case built by Inspector Detector against Royalton.
These lyrics were written by Peter Fernandez.
Here he comes here comes Speed Racer
He's a demon on wheels
He's a demon and he's gonna be chasing after someone
He's gaining on you so you better look alive
He's busy reving up the powerful Mach 5
And when the odds are against him and there's dangerous work to do
You bet your life Speed Racer's gonna see it through
Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer go
He's off and flying as he guns his car around the track
He's jamming down the pedal like he's never coming back
Adventure's waiting just ahead
Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer go
Manga and anime differences
Like most manga series that have been adapted to anime, there are several changes that occur in both timelines of the Speed Racer (Mach GoGoGo) series. Besides the obvious Americanization of the original Japanese characters' names, some changes include a change in a character's backstory, new characters and other information that was never seen in both the anime and the manga. (See Manga section for more information)
- Most of the stories from the manga that were adapted to the anime were given slight changes. Differences between both versions of each story either included a different change of events, or new events seen only in the manga. There are also stories never adapted into the anime series, thus making them manga exclusives.
- In the manga, Speed (Go Mifune) always wears his standard outfit, even on special occasions. In the case of the anime, however, Speed wears a special outfit, exclusive to formal occasions. The same instance goes for Trixie.
- The meeting between Spritle (Kurio), and Racer X occurs twice (once in each volume) in the manga along with other scenes preceding and following it. However, several dialogue changes are present and the outcome of each meeting is extremely different. The outcome of the first occurrence follows closely to "The Most Dangerous Race" saga of the anime. The outcome of the second occurrence between the two follows more closely to the "Challenge of the Masked Racer" saga in the anime.
- The manga has a dramatically different ending from the anime. In the manga, Rex Racer (Kenichi Mifune), reunites with Speed, revealing to him that he was the mysterious Masked Racer, Racer X. In the "The Trick Race," Speed confronts him, asking if he is his older brother, prompting Rex (as Racer X) to punch him in the stomach, knocking him unconscious, then declaring that he "can never go home again". In both instances, Speed finally knows that his brother is the Masked Racer.
- It is mentioned in passing that Trixie's (Michi) father is the president of "Shimura Aviation" (Shimura is Michi/Trixie's family name in the Japanese releases). It is not mentioned in the anime.
- Some characters, such as "Snake Oiler" are exclusive to the anime, which also contains some original stories not found in the manga.
- Prince Kabala, was considered a separate character in the manga and is in no way shown affiliated with Racer X (in the anime, Prince Kabala dies and his guise was used by Racer X to help maintain his homeland of Kapetapek). Racer X, on the other hand, disguises himself as another person in the manga.
- Although many of the Mach 5's special features are seen in the manga, including buttons on the steering wheel, they are not marked with letters, except for the large, central button, which is marked with an "M" (instead of "G").
- In the manga, the Mach 5 is destroyed once. When it is rebuilt, the Mach 5 is fitted with gadgets that are technologically upgraded from the gadgets that were on the old Mach 5. The Auto-Jacks are superseded by the Aero-Jacks, which did not make an appearance in the original anime series. (This idea would be used in the '90s Japanese remake, replacing the Auto-Jacks.) This new Mach 5 is also fitted with regenerating tires, called the Auto-Spare, which do not appear in the original anime. However, the concept of regenerating tires is used in the 2008 live-action film. The new Mach 5 is also fitted with small aerodynamic wings, to assist Speed in longer and farther jumps. This idea would later be adapted to the original anime version, although the reason behind the upgrade is different than that of the original manga.
- At the end of the manga, Rex Racer is portrayed driving the Mach 5 — a scene that may have inspired the backstory of the car in the live-action film, in which it originally belonged to Rex who relinquished ownership to his younger brother, Speed.
- A car, the E-RX, appears in a chapter of the manga but does not appear in the anime. It functions similarly to the anime's GRX, being portrayed as "the fastest car in the world." Although it does not appear in the anime, the E-RX appears in many of the American comics.
Speed Racer Enterprises
The show's mainstream success in the United States spawned an ongoing Speed Racer franchise, ranging from comics, video releases, merchandise, a live-action film, and newer series either rebooting or continuing the original series. The franchise began in the early 1990s when a company Speed Racer Enterprises grabbed rights to the original series. At the time when the series was originally released, very few merchandise pertaining to the series was released in the United States. However, during the series' re-airing during the 1990s, Speed Racer Enterprises was responsible for the spawning of actual Speed Racer merchandise, ranging from small collectible die-cast cars, action figures, and even video releases of episodes from the original series. Speed Racer Enterprises was also involved in creations of new original American takes on the original Japanese series such as The New Adventures of Speed Racer and Speed Racer: The Next Generation.
Due to Speed Racer Enterprises, the original 1967 series made a comeback as reruns on MTV broadcast in the early morning hours. In 1993, the series was rebroadcast in syndication concurrently with a new American-created remake. Since all the rights were now under the hand of Speed Racer Enterprises, all references to the original rights holder, Trans-Lux, were removed. Therefore, the opening sequence included an entirely recreated logo, which most of us are familiar with today.
This is the version that later aired on the Cartoon Network in the late afternoon (and later on in late night/overnight) programming, and is also the version released on Region 1 DVD. This version can also be seen on the streaming video service Hulu.
American comic adaptations
NOW Comics launched an American Speed Racer comic series in 1985. The series became an instant hit with the high production values of superstar airbrush artist Ken Steacy. The comics continued for nearly 40 issues and included a spin-off Racer X series and crossovers. A mini-series adapting The New Adventures of Speed Racer was also released, which included art by Oscar González Loyo. Now Comics also published a four-issue crossover between Speed Racer and the characters of Ben Dunn's Ninja High School in the 1990s.
Later in the 1990s, Wildstorm Productions released a new Speed Racer comic series in 1999 to widespread acclaim, becoming the #1 pick of industry publication Wizard magazine. The manga style of writer/artist Tommy Yune recaptured the striking look of the original anime which was soon followed by an industry-wide revival of comic adaptations of other classic animated series. The prequel comic storylines were also released as the graphic novel Speed Racer: Born to Race (ISBN 1-56389-649-4) and a Racer X miniseries featuring the artwork of Chinese manga star Jo Chen.
IDW Productions re-released the Wildstorm series as Speed Racer/Racer X: The Origins Collection (ISBN 978-160010211-0) and previously published issues from NOW Comics as Speed Racer Vol. 1-5. A new miniseries Speed Racer: Chronicles of the Racer was also produced.
American TV series
In 1993 an American produced series called The New Adventures of Speed Racer had a much more contemporary art style. It wasn't a direct continuation of the original Americanized Japanese series, therefore, it is considered a reboot. While the original series had more realistic themes such as gang violence and family ties, this series introduced science fiction themes such as robots and mutants. The series was off the air after only 13 installments, as the show failed to arouse viewer interest. Tatsunoko did not authorize the production of this series.
For the original series' 40th anniversary, a Flash-based series of "webisodes" entitled Speed Racer Lives was released. This series was depicted as a continuation of the original series, taking place many years after it. The series was made available on the Internet solely to promote a new line of toys made by company Art Asylum.
In 2008, a new series was released entitled Speed Racer: The Next Generation. Like Speed Racer Lives, this series was conceived as taking place years after the original. It focuses on the sons of the original Speed Racer. Its premiere coincided with the live-action feature film in May 2008. Peter Fernandez voices a middle-aged version of Spritle, Speed's younger brother from the original Japanese series. The show's protagonist, also named Speed, and one of Spritle's nephews, is voiced by New Jersey native Kurt Csolak. Larry Schwarz is the creator of the TV series, which is produced by Animation Collective, the creators of Kappa Mikey. Like the 1993 remake, this series was not authorized by Tatsunoko.
The Wachowski brothers wrote and directed a live-action adaptation of Speed Racer, released on May 9, 2008. It was panned by most critics and was a box office failure, making just under $93 million worldwide against a production budget of at least $120 million (before prints and advertising).
Lego has released new Speed Racer construction sets to coincide with the release of the Speed Racer film. These include a 242 piece Speed and Snake Oiler set, a 237 piece Racer X and Taejo Togokhan set, a 367 piece Racer X and Cruncher Block set, and a 595 piece Grand Prix set, which includes Trixie, Pops, Speed, Spritle, Chim-Chim, 2 racers, and a racing announcer. Mattel has the master toy license for the 2008 Speed Racer film, including action figures, related vehicles, and accessories. Mattel's Hot Wheels division produced miniature replicas of the Mach 5 called the West Wind, and later the Second Wind, and their Barbie Collector division released a collector doll set featuring Trixie and Speed as they appeared in the film. Also, a mattel product called UB funkeys got a new patch, which included a Speed Racer zone.
Jada Toys currently holds the rights to produce die-cast replicas of the Mach 5 from the original animated series. In addition, they released a plastic model kit of the movie Mach 5.
Also the company Playing Mantis released a wide range of the Speed Racer miniatures, including replicas of the villains' cars and "mini-dioramas" under their "Johnny Lightning" line. A limited-edition release of the Mach Four from the Wildstorm comic series remains one of the hardest-to-find collectibles to this day. In 1998 Playing Mantis acquired the rights to the "Captain Action" action figure line, a vintage line about a crusading adventurer who disguises himself as famous "super-heroes." Playing Mantis had planned to produce new costumes of Speed Racer, Racer X, and Captain Terror for the revamp of the line, but they were never produced. Control art for the Speed Racer costume appears on the packaging of some figures, and pictures of the prototypes are available online.
Resaurus produced two series of five-inch (127 mm) action figures, rich with articulation and accessories; as well as a full-sized Mach V in 1999. A third series of figures and a full-sized Shooting Star were planned, but the line folded before this could happen. Toynami is currently releasing a large-scale version of the Speed Racer vehicles, including a Mach Five playset complete with all of its gadgets. The company Polar Lights is currently manufacturing two 1/25-scale (according to the box) model kits in standard "glue" and snap-together variations (though the scale of the model inside is closer to 1/32). These can be built with or without the waterproof bubble canopy at the modeler's discretion. The kits feature a homing robot and separate jacks; and a rear engine (possibly a tip to NOW comics, which illustrated the engine in the rear).
RC ERTL has produced Speed Racer's Mach 5 in 1:18 Die Cast Form with many features of the animated car, including pop out saw blades, ion jacks, opening doors, hood and trunk. It includes Spritle Racer and Chim-Chim figures. Special variants were made with decals celebrating Racer X and other characters from the series as part of the 35th Anniversary Edition in 2001. A similar die-cast version of Racer X's Shooting Star was produced as well. It has now been retired from production and is a sought-after collectible.
In 2006, a joint production of ironmonkey.com and blitinteractive.com, entitled Speed Racer — The Great Plan, was released to the Internet as a Shockwave game. The game stays very true to the original television show, with all the original voices, sounds, and Mach 5 controls.
A game Speed Racer, based on the movie, was created for the Wii, Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2 platforms. Stars Emile Hirsch (Speed), Christina Ricci (Trixie) and Matthew Fox (Racer X) reprise their roles.
In F.R.I.E.N.D.S there is a Speed Racer poster in Joey and Chandler's apartement.
Artisan/Lion's Gate Entertainment released the first 11 episodes of the original series in DVD format in the US and Canada on April 22, 2003. This turned out to be the first in a series of DVD re-releases of the shows.
The second volume, containing episodes 12 through 23, went on sale on May 18, 2004. The DVD came in a special package where one could push a button on the cover and the Mach 5's headlights would light up while a portion of the show's English theme song played.
The third volume came out on May 24, 2005, with the discs packaged in a round metal box made to resemble the steering wheel of the Mach 5. It contains episodes 24 through 36. This volume was later released to promote the live action film in a standard keep case.
Lion's Gate released the fourth volume, which featured episodes 37 through 44, on March 14, 2006; this volume included a die-cast toy Mach 5. The last episode, "Race the Laser Tank," was time-compressed (in other words, sped up), similar to when Cartoon Network would air the series in the mid-1990s. Although nothing was removed from the episode, the higher-pitched voices of the characters and the diminished quality of the episode due to the time-compression upset some fans.
The fifth and last volume was released on October 31, 2006. This volume included the final eight episodes of the series, and for a limited time it came with a miniature license plate with the inscription, "Go-Speed Racer-Go!".
The entire series anime was released in Australia on April 30, 2008, and in the United States later that year, on October 7. The US release of the entire anime series is a repackaging of all five individually released volumes into a comic book style box set, in homage to the Mach GoGoGo manga. In addition, a bonus disc containing special featurettes and an episode of Speed Racer: The Next Generation is included. These discs, six in total were packaged in an exclusive die-cast casing modelled after the Mach 5.
In the animated series 'Family Guy' in the episode 'The Son Also draws' - while Chris takes part in the Soap Box Derby there are several references to Speed Racer.
Man: [quick dialog] Speed, I do not think you should be in this race, hahaa! The Mach 5 is not ready, hahaa!
Speed Racer: But Pops, I must be in this race, hahaa!
Man: Very well. Gaah, you know I am not your real father, hahaa!
Speed Racer: [shocked look] Aaah!
In an early issue of Boris the Bear, a dissolute parody of Speed Racer named "Greed Racer" makes an appearance.
An episode of Dexter's Laboratory called "Mock 5" was a comprehensive parody of the series. Dexter enters a soap-box derby, later encountering a parody of Racer X, Racer D (Dee Dee, Dexter's older sister). The episode employed 'speedy' narration with a similar plot and backstory, and Dexter's vehicle strongly resembles a wooden version the actual Mach 5 complete with the unique steering wheel (which activated technical modifications added by Dexter). The soap-box derby takes place at an erupting volcano, a parody of the unusually dangerous situations in Speed Racer.
An episode of Robot Chicken featured Speed Racer in a skit where Speed joins Nascar and as Speed is racing, Racer X shows up and many of the driver's make a comment about Racer X being Speed's secret Brother.
In 2005, a commercial from Geico aired with Speed Racer. And later, a commercial for Volkswagen GTI had Speed Racer.
- ↑ "Racers, Start Your Engines!", Sci-Fi Japan 20 April 2008.
- ↑ Speed Racer X (TV) - Anime News Network
- ↑ Mach Girl
- ↑ CD liner notes: Saturday Mornings: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits, 1995 MCA Records
- ↑ http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ff20080703r2.html
- ↑ "A Brief Description of the Racer Family/Go Team." The Speed Zone. 29 November 2002. 19 October 2007.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 http://www.tatsunoko.co.jp/works/macha_gogogo/chara.html
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Napier, Susan J. Anime: From Akira to Howl's Moving Castle. Updated ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
- ↑ Donahue, Ray T. Exploring Japaneseness: On Japanese Enactments and Consciousness. Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing, 2002.
- ↑ http://www.speedracer.com/viewCharacter.asp?s=shootingStar
- ↑ Comic Preview: Racer X. Mania, 30 August 2000.
- ↑ Speed Racer #1. Newsarama - 27 December 2007.
- ↑ Speed Racer: Chronicles of The Racer #1. Major Spoilers, 26 March 2008.
- ↑ SpeedRacerLives.com
- ↑ Speed Racer: Here Comes the Next Generation | TV Series Finale
- ↑ Speed Racer May 9, 2008 Anime News Network - 10 March 2007
- ↑ Listing for Speed Racer at Box Office Mojo
- ↑ Rainemu.com, retrieved through web.archive.org
- ↑ Rocklanda USA
- ↑ Video History and Time Compression. 29 November 2002. 19 October 2007.
- ↑ Speed Racer DVD news: The Checkered Flag Waves For Speed Racer: Lionsgate Announces Vol. 5, Provides Hi-Res Box Art, TVShowsOnDVD.com
- Johnson, Glen. "Speed Racer." Glen Johnson's 60's Anime. 3 April 2007. 19 October 2007.
- Patrick Macias and Tomohiro Machiyami. Cruising the Anime City: An Outer Guide to Neo Tokyo. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press, 2004.
- Official website (English)
- Official digital manga publishing website
- Mach Go Go Go at the Internet Movie Database
- Speed Racer at YouTube