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Recap / Asterix and the Chariot Race

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Astérix et la Transitaliquenote  is the 37th album of Asterix, released in 2017, and the third album made by Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad since they took over the series.

Senator Lactus Bifidus, the Roman official in charge of maintaining the roads, gets in trouble with the senate. His disregard for his job and using the money for his own pleasures have led to the Roman roads being in terrible condition. In particular, they are riddled with potholes, leading to many accidents.

To save face and not having to give up his orgies so the money can be used for the roads, Bifidus tries to prove how good the roads are by organizing a chariot race across the Italic peninsula, with riders from all over the continent. Obelix, who bought a chariot on the recommandation of a fortune-teller, decides that he wants to participate, and Asterix tags along since the race is for teams of two. Their biggest rival is the mysterious, masked Coronavirus, who quickly becomes the fan favorite of the audience.

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Tropes present in this work:

  • Artistic Licence – History: The representation of the various Italic peoples would have been accurate even a hundred years before, but by Caesar's time they had all adopted Roman customs and culture and even fought a war against Rome to be recognized as Roman citizens, with one of his cousins actually proposing one of the laws that granted Roman citizenship and ended the war.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Princesses Nefersaynefer and Kweenlatifer from the kingdom of Kush easily keep up with the male racers, and can even hold their own in a brawl with the Romans.
  • The Big Race: The main plot of the album is a chariot race through Italy.
  • Chariot Race: Well, duh...
  • Depraved Dentist: The Tooth-puller Geriatrix has to visit.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Princesses Nefersaynefer and Kweenlatifer have this effect on pretty much any men they meet.
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  • Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: Obelix stops to help the Kush’ princesses after they lose a wheel, if only to set an example of how a champion should act.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: After consuming a very spicy sauce, Obelix rushes out of the inn to drink some water. And just so happens to be in the right place and time to see an accomplice of Bifidus pay off Coronavirus’s driver to ensure Coronavirus’ victory.
  • The Faceless: One of the Lusitanian drivers is constantly lying under their chariot for repairs, so his head is never seen. The one time he's seen not repairing the chariot his face is hidden by somebody else.
  • Fat and Skinny: Princess Nefersaynefer is lean and princess Kweenlatifer is chubby.
  • Fixing the Game: The race is clearly rigged to give Roman participants, in particular Coronavirus, an advantage. This includes sabotage, Coronavirus always receiving the most points for each stage of the race, getting fresh horses at each inn, and a roadblock being put up (supposedly to check for Umbrian Rebels) after only Coronavirus has passed.
  • Fortune Teller: Obelix encounters a female soothsayer, who predicts him he will buy a chariot and achieve fame and fortune. It’s because of this that Obelix buys a chariot and participates in the race.
  • Global Warming: After ending up up in the Roman equivalent of Venice, Asterix remarks that the houses are sinking. A local corrects him; it’s actually the lagoon’s rising since climate is no longer what it used to be.
  • Graceful Loser: Julius Caesar. Even though he lost due to a pothole, he still admits he hasn’t had this much fun since his youth and thus acknowledges Obelix as the winner.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Obelix gets horses for his chariot by stealing them from the Romans (leaving 4 menhirs in their place as payment).
  • Lava Adds Awesome: As Asterix and Obelix chase Coronavirus past the Vesuvius, the volcano starts to erupt. A large volcanic boulder falls onto the road in front of the Gauls. Annoyed by yet another hold-up, Obelix throws it back into the volcano, effectively stopping the eruption.
  • Legacy Character: After the original Coronavirus is unmasked and quits the race since he’s had enough of Bifidus’ cheating, Caesar takes his place as the new Coronavirus.
  • Maintain the Lie: Bifidus comes up with the idea for the race on the spot to quickly counter Thermocumulus’ accusations about the bad state of the roads. But now he has to actually organize the promised race, and he knows Thermocumulus was right. Worse, Caesar hears about the race and considers it a great idea, but insists that a Roman must win since the prestige of the empire is at stake, thus putting even more pressure on Bifidus’ shoulders.
  • National Stereotypes: Per usual for an Asterix story. Among the racers are an Egyptian who uses camels instead of horses to pull his chariot, two Swiss whose chariot is a sleigh, and two African princesses whose chariot is pulled by zebras
  • News Travels Fast: During a meeting of the Senate, Bifidus announces his intention to organize a chariot race. When he gets home immediately afterwards, he finds Julius Caesar, who has already heard about the race, waiting for him.
  • Olive Garden: Averted, unlike most depictions of foreign cultures in the series. The various Italic peoples are shown distinct from each other and the Romans, and clear stand-ins for their modern descendants.
  • Pragmatic Villain: When Caesar hears from Bifidus that Asterix and Obelix are participating in the race as well and could actually win, he refuses to have the two Gauls imprisoned (as Bifidus suggested) since it would make it look like Caesar’s afraid and is trying to fix the race.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Bifidus ultimate fate is being send to Cyrenaica by Caesar.
  • The Reveal: happens twice with Coronavirus, a racer wearing a face-concealing golden mask. He is eventually revealed to be a man named Testus Terone. He went along with Bifidus’ plan to ensure a Roman victory, but quits after hearing from Asterix just how unfair the race has truly been for the other contestants. Yet, the following day, a new Coronavirus shows up to continue in the previous ones place. This second Coronavirus is eventually revealed to be Julius Caesar.
  • Road Sign Reversal: The sign pointing the direction to Parma turns out to be reversed, resulting in Asterix and Obelix + several other racers ending up in Venice. At least Asterix and Obelix realize the mistake in time to turn around.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Two of the participants in the race are princesses Nefersaynefer and Kweenlatifer from the kingdom of Kush. Julius Caesar himself also gets into the race during the final stage in a last attempt to save Rome’s honor.
  • Running Gag: Vehicles getting damaged by potholes.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Senator Thermocumulus uses the phrase "I Have A Dream" when criticizing the state of the Roman Roads.
    • When wanting to ask the way to Sena Julia (Sienna), Asterix and Obelix encounter a woman who resembles The Mona Lisa. Once they get to the city, the various chariots racing across the shell-shaped piazza inspires Sienna’s Palio horse race.
  • Smooch of Victory: Played for laughs. When the wheel of Kush's chariot breaks off, Obelix fix it with a replacement. Grateful, princess Kweenlatifer gives a smooch... to Dogmatix, much to Obelix's displeasure.
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: The first Coronavirus is revealed to be a man named Testus Terone, whom neither the protagonists nor the readers ever saw before. Averted with the second Coronavirus, who turns out to be Caesar.
  • The Tooth Hurts: When we first see Asterix and Obelix, they are escorting Geriatrix, who is suffering from a severe tooth ache, to find a tooth puller.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Several racers are victim of this. Asterix and Obelix eventually find out the 2 Cimbri racers are the culprits, since they are actually slaves of Bifidus and had been ordered to ensure Coronavirus would win.
  • Villainous BSoD: Bifidus suffers one after Caesar visits him and orders him to not only organize the race as he promised, but also ensure a Roman wins. For a while, Bifidus can only lie down on his chair, muttering “I’m going to wake up!” over and over.
  • Wacky Racing: What the chariot race eventually results in.
  • Whip It Good: When fighting off a group of Romans, one of the Kush' princesses uses her whip as a weapon.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Testus Terone, the original Coronavirus. He knew the race was rigged in his favor, but had no idea how far Bifidus really went to ensure his victory. When confronted by Asterix and Obelix, he decides to quit.
  • Zebras Are Just Striped Horses: Princesses Nefersaynefer and Kweenlatifer from the kingdom of Kush use zebras instead of horses to pull their chariot.
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