Anime / Speed Racer

"Meanwhile, a secret meeting was being held secretly."

English title of the Tatsunoko Production anime series Mach Go Go Go!, and one of the best remembered anime series for several generations of fans and detractors alike.

Speed Racer (Go Mifune) is the young driver of the Mach 5, an incredible supercar designed by his father "Pops" Racer (Daisuke Mifune). Speed would race dangerous routes against dangerous people and come out on top with his "girlfriend" Trixie (Michi Shimura) trailing him in a helicopter and his little brother Spritle (Kurio) and his pet chimp Chim-Chim (Sanpei) frequently stowing away in the trunk.

The "Mach Five" ("Mach Go" in Japanese,note  yielding the pun in the original name) had an array of gadgets more at home on Bond's Aston-Martin than on a racing vehicle, like autojacks,note  a spy robot, underwater capabilities and a trunk (which even street-legal sports cars often lack).note 

The pun in the original title comes from the triple meaning of the sound "go" in Japanese — the number "five", a denotation for the number or name of a machine (Mach Go-Go means the Mach Type 5 — the same can be seen in Tetsujin 28-go), and the English "Ready, set, go". Speed's Japanese name is also "Go Mifune" (hence the "G" on his shirt).

The show is notable for being one of the very first anime localized in English for US television, all the way back in 1967, following only Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. It was by far the most successful and well-known series for decades, and practically defined anime in America until around the mid-90s.

Speed Racer is remembered by Americans for its goofy character designs, limited animation and a very low-quality English localization, courtesy of Trans-Lux, as well as its memorable characters and over-the-top sensibilities. The show is both fondly remembered and reviled by many anime fans not for introducing anime to a wider audience, but for coloring its general image at the time. Speed's effeminate look, the way the dubbing actors have to race through the dialogue and narration to fit in all the exposition, and the long sequences without movement all combine to create a style that defined not only this show, but the view of anime in general for generations of Americans.

"He's a hard man to lose. He's a demon on wheels! Ho-Hoa!"

There was a American-made Speed Racer cartoon in the early '90s that wasn't well-received. Four years later, there was a Japanese-made remake in 1997 with updated versions of the characters and vehicles, but numerous changes to its source material. Its English adaptation was produced by DIC and titled Speed Racer X, but was short-lived thanks to a lawsuit between DIC and the American-based Speed Racer Enterprises.

The most amusing appearance of Speed Racer in America had to have been in a series of tongue-in-cheek commercials for ESPN and GEICO Insurance. One of the ads for ESPN featured real NASCAR drivers complaining about how hard it was to compete with Speed, and showed actual race footage with the Mach 5 matted in; another featured NASCAR officials trying to determine if the Mach 5 was suitable for competition. (The decision? No, it was too powerful. "NASA might accept it, but not NASCAR.") An ad for Geico involves Trixie (from a helicopter) telling Speed (driving in a race) that she saved money by switching to Geico.

SPE intended to revive the whole title into a new franchise in time for the anime's 40th anniversary. The Wachowskis wrote and directed a major motion picture based on Speed Racer in 2008, which was met enthusiastically by some fans, but failed to impress critics or do well in the box office. A week before the film's release, Nicktoons premiered yet another American television adaptation called Speed Racer: The Next Generation to play up the hype for the film. The second season premiered 3 years later.

Speed Racer Enterprises rights to the franchise expired on May 31, 2011. After two lawsuits issued in 2012 between Tatsunoko and SPE were dismissed, the former company announced in a press release issued on December 6, 2014 that all rights to Speed Racer reverted to the studio. On May 25, 2015, Tatsunoko announced that they were developing a new Speed Racer anime series, in addition to a new licencing program to reintroduce the franchise. In August of that year, the original series was licensed by FUNimation. Funimation will give the series its first DVD/Blu-ray release on May 30, 2017.

As of late 2016, the series can be viewed on Hulu.

Speed Racer provides examples of:

  • The Abridged Series: One exists. It's not too bad of an affectionate parody, but it sadly has not been updated since late-2010.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Sparky is a brunet in the original series, but became a blond guy with glasses in the '90s remake.
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: At the beginning of every episode there's a weird unexplained five-second freeze frame; this was where the original version included its title cards, while the American version included its own between the theme song and the episode itself.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Speed was known as Go Mifune in the Japanese version of the '60s series. However, in the 1997 remake, the Mifune family became the "Hibiki" family, necessitating a change in his surname. His father retained his name of Daisuke, while his mother's name went from being Aya to Misuzu.
  • Acrofatic: Pops, naturally.
  • Action Girl: Michi/Trixie is far more Speed's equal than the helpless Damsel in Distress that one would expect from a series at this time. She flies her own helicopter and on the occasions where she was kidnapped she managed to be more trouble to her captors than she was worth.
  • All There in the Manual: American-made tie-in comics reveal Speed's actual first name is Greg (to match the G on his shirt), and Pops' is Lionel.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: The Mach 5's submarine mode only has 30 minutes' worth of air. Guess what they're about to run out of at the end of part 1 of a 2-parter.
  • Alternate Continuity: Anything that isn't the original series.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From the mouth of titular Terrifying Gambler: "I'm wanted for robbery, murder, swindling, and cheating at dominoes!"
  • Badass Driver: Several characters, but especially Speed and Rex.
  • Badass Family: The Racers. Even Spritle.
  • Badass Mustache Daisuke Mifune/Lionel "Pops" Racer.
  • Bat Deduction: In the first episode, a group of thugs attack Speed on the raceway, demanding his windshield. Immediately, Go/Speed deduces Pops put his fancy blueprints on the windshield of the car in invisible ink.
  • The Big Race: Every week!
  • Black Knight: Fukumen Racer [The Masked Racer]/Racer X.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: One story arc featured a car named after Napoleon Bonaparte's horse Marengo... or "Melange" as it was known after being translated from French to Japanese to English.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: Right here.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Spritle.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Speed has an "M" on his helmet and a "G" on his shirt, both for his Japanese name, Go Mifune. Trixie also has an "M" on her blouse, for Michi Shimura. Since the Mach 5 carries a stylized M design on the hood people who saw the English dub can be forgiven if they thought the "M" on Speed's helmet also stood for "Mach".
    • Or for "Meteoro", Speed's name in the Spanish dub.
  • Cool Car: Pretty much the whole point of the show. The Mach 5 is not only fast, but it has auto jacks that double as a jumping mechanism, belt tires that allow it to safely drive through any rough terrain as well as sideways, sawblades to cut through heavily-wooded terrain, bullet-proof glass, illumination lights that make high beams look like nothing, the ability to drive underwater like a submarine, complete with periscope, and a homing robot that can take pictures and send taped messages anywhere.
    • And not just the Mach 5, either. The episode "Gang of Assassins" featured ninja cars.
    • Racer X's signature car, The Shooting Star, is quite impressive, but other than being able to hop similar to the Mach 5's auto-jacks, it doesn't appear to have any special features.
    • In "The Fastest Car in the World," the GRX sent Speed Racer onto an acid trip due to its sheer awesomeness.
    • Don't forget "The Mammoth Car", which was basically a rubber-wheeled train. One made of solid GOLD no less.
    • In "The Supersonic Car", the Racer family breaks the land speed record in a rocket car.
    • Every car in the Car Acrobatic Team sprouts little wings that let it stay airborne longer when making a jump.
    • In "Mach 5 vs. Mach 5", the Mach 5's Evil Twin had full-sized rocket-propelled wings that allowed it to fly under its own power, and a Mismo Beam.
  • Convection Schmonvection: The second part of "The Great Plan". And both parts of "The Fire Race."
  • Chick Magnet: Speed.
  • Cut Short: The '90s remake was planned for 52 episodes, but only 34 wound up produced due to the ratings going sour and a change in directors during production. The Speed Racer X English dub by DiC would only air 13 episodes before being pulled due to a lawsuit from Speed Racer Enterprises.
  • Decomposite Character: Skull Duggery and Zoomer Slick were originally Genzo Sakai in the Japanese version, Go Mifune's original rival who was only around for four episodes.note 
  • Dub Name Change: Pretty much the whole cast got their names localized for the English version. A Latin American adaptation also changed the title (and the title character's name) to "Meteoro".
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Then again, these are high-performance race cars, and they do explode like that real life. At least in the 1950s and 60s they did.
    • Worth of note is in the intro, when Speed knocks a car off the race track, sending it flying through the air, and crashes with an abnormally big explosion the size of a nuclear blast!
  • Expy: The cast of the '90s version, with the character Mai Kazami acting as a stand-in for Michi Shimura. Her brother Wataru is a close analogue to Kurio Mifune (Spritle). The dub of this version kept the familial connection between the two, although they also kept their "Speed Racer" names, leaving Spritle to gain the surname of Fontaine (instead of Racer).
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The villains in "Race The Laser Tank" get buried in fresh hot lava in the titular tank. Even the characters are horrified.
    • Also an Air Traffic Controller dispatched with headphones that administer spikes to the brain, through the ear.
    • A few scattered scenes throughout the series also feature Speed occasionally picking up a Tommy gun and pumping nameless Mooks full of lead.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: In "The Most Dangerous Race in the World", Speed installs miniature retractable wings on the underside of the Mach 5. They are never seen again.
  • Free Wheel: A staple. This is a show with "cars crashing spectacularly" as a main attraction, after all.
  • Genius Bruiser: Pops Racer/Daisuke Mifune.
  • Good Bad Translation: Who doesn't remember the Narmtacularly hilarious dialogue?
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: In "The Fastest Car on Earth", the "smash intact bottle over head" version is attempted on Pops. Who shrugs it off and throws the poor dumb bastard who tried it across the room. In "Motorcycle Apaches", Spritle and Chim-Chim are able to defeat an enemy spy by throwing bottles at him.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Snake Oiler gives off this vibe, as he's dubbed with a nasally Con Man voice and seems to speak out the corner of his mouth. Not to mention his name. Averted in that he's not a con man so much as a daredevil - but still an arrogant cheater.
  • Hong Kong Dub: The dub of the original anime is incredibly infamous, to the point that it's ragged on in anime parodies to this day. Peter Fernandez later revealed he was only given two days to dub each episode: the first day to write and the second to record.
  • Hypocrite: The episode "The Car Hater" features Mr. Trotter, a father who lost his son in a car crash and deems cars dangerous. He then proceeds to interrupt a race by riding his horse into the track and hires a bunch of goons to sabotage cars throughout the city in an attempt to prove his point. It isn't until his daughter is almost killed in one of the sabotaged cars and the Mach 5 being the only immediate means of transport to help her to the hospital that Mr. Trotter realizes that he messed up big time.
  • Identical Stranger: Spritle is an exact double for Jam, Prince of Saccharin. They switch places of course.
  • Invincible Hero: While Speed occasionally loses due to various outstanding circumstances, he only outright loses once in the original series. In "The Snake Track," Rock Force beats him by using his technique of turning corners on two wheels.
    • Although there were a few other races in the later seasons (of the 60s series) that Speed lost because something else came along.
  • Invisible Writing: Pops has put the blueprints to the Mach 5 in invisible ink on the windshield of the car.
  • It Gets Easier: In one of the typical side-stories, Speed and a bunch of other people get captured by a sociopathic madman who is going to kill them for getting in his way, and the killer says it won't be that difficult, since he's murdered over 4,000 people.
  • Limited Animation: A big part that of what made the show memorable to most. And also the main point of parody outside of the fast-talking.
  • Little Stowaway: Kurio/Spritle and Sanpei/Chim Chim.
  • Long Lost Sibling: Unbeknownst to Speed, Racer X is really his long lost brother, Rex Racer (Ken'ichi Mifune). The Narrator tells the viewer this every chance he gets; or Rex thinks about it where only the viewer can hear.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: The dub cast was made up of four people (one of which—Peter Fernandez—is uncredited for his voice acting role. The studio would only spring for three actors so writer/director Fernandez threw in his voice for free).
  • Motor Mouth: The dub is infamous for turning almost everyone into this. Whenever somebody does a Speed Racer parody, this is always a necessary component.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Again, Speed.
  • Narrator: "One of the most secret, secret places in the world: the Secret National Science Institute."
  • Never Say "Die": There are several deaths in the show (not a LOT, mind you) mostly due to crashes and other racing dangers. In the English dub, these people were considered "smashed up," rather than killed.
    • However, there were a few episodes where people die off-screen and they simply don't mention them dying or being smashed up. "The Fire Race" was possibly the worst, since over ninety racers die, some of them in onscreen accidents, too. They also mention people having died in the past, too.
    • Only three people survive the Alpine Race, Speed, Racer X and Snake Oiler, and Snake is (possibly, it's not very clear) killed when his car explodes right before crossing the finish line.
  • Ninja: The two-parter "Gang of Assassins" featured these. They even drove ninja cars. (At the time the series was translated into English, most westerners had never heard of ninja, so the word was translated as "assassin.")
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Chim-Chim/Sanpei.
  • One-Man Army: Speed in "The Man Behind The Mask". He machine-guns his way through the titular villain's private army in order to foil his plot.
  • One, Two, Three, Four, Go!: Mach Five was originally called the "Mach Go-Go" in Japan.
  • Papa Wolf: Pops Racer. Mess with his kids? If they don't kick your ass, he will.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Trixie wears a pink top.
  • Pop the Tires: Attempted on the Mammoth car. It has so many tires that it didn't have any effect.
  • Punny Name: Particularly with the bad guys.
  • Ramp Jump: True to their name, these are the kind of antics the Car Acrobat Team (from "The Most Dangerous Race") do.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Inspector Detector.
  • The Scrooge: Baron von Vondervon.
  • Serious Business: Racing.
  • Shout-Out: The latest animated adaptation, Speed Racer: The Next Generation, has several shoutouts to the original show, including the main character's name (Speed). The most obvious is his roommate, who looks and sounds very much like the original Speed (he's Speed Racer's biggest, and most obsessed, fan) who has a robot monkey named "Chim-Chim".
    • By some miracle, they were able to get the late Peter Fernandez, the original English voice, into the recording booth as an adult Spritle, and eventually, Speed himself.
  • Spiked Wheels: Crop up from time to time, most notably on the cars used by Ace Deucey's gang in "The Great Plan".
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: When your name is Speed Racer, there's really only one job you can have. Averted in the Japanese version either way with more "normal" name of Go Mifune.
    • Not to mention Pops Racer and Inspector Detector, and one-time characters like Snake Oiler, Hap Hazard, Vice President Duper...
  • Switching To GEICO: This 2005 Geico ad.
  • Tagalong Kid: Spritle/Kurio.
  • Transforming Vehicle: The Mach 5 has equipment that allows it to turn into a Flying Car or a hover car (on water) when needed.
  • Weaponized Car: A subversion since it's technically not "weaponized" per se. The Mach 5 sported pneumatic jump-jacks (button "A"; actually for easy access to the underside of the car for maintenance), a retractable bulletproof canopy (button "D"), rotary saw blades (button "C"; for cutting wooden obstacles), traversible infrared headlights (button "E"), deployable tire armor (button "B"; actually for climbing steeper roads), underwater operational capability (button "F"), and a remote-controlled robot homing pigeon (button "G"). (And, in "The Most Dangerous Race in the World", extendable mini-wings which increased its jumping distance.)
    • In "Mach 5 vs. Mach 5", the evil clone Mach 5 also sported full-sized flying wings (with rocket assist) and a Death Ray called the "Mismo Beam."