by Karen Mystic
Speed Racer is famous the world over. I remember watchingit as a child in Canada. -- Editor
Although a very old anime, I doubt many of the younger generations have watched it. In a sense, this anime's lack of audience over the decades has made it new again and worthy of a review. I recieved the recent release of Speed Racer as a Christmas gift, and I learned a lot about its original production and its dubbing from both the DVD and those on my mailing list who are more familiar with the anime.
The original name for the anime was "Mach Go Go Go". Dan Cooper reminded me that the name is a pun since "Go" is the Japanese word for "Five" There are three "Go"s in the anime. Go the Mach Five, Mifune Go the aspiring race car driver (Speed Racer), and Go the need to hurry. It was created in 1967 roughly ten years before Mobile Suit Gundam by Tatsunoko Productions, which was founded by three brothers, Yoshida Tatsuo, Kenji,and Toyoharu. The special features say it was based upon their love for American culture, and this is certainly apparent throughout the series.
The anime focuses on cars and an aspiring driver. America values cars more than Japan does, so a Japanese citizen who loves cars would look up to America. Also, Speed Racer highly resembles Elvis Presley, a prominent American
cultural icon at the time. When I started watching it, I kept thinking of Elvis in a Jackie Chan movie.Although it was based upon American culture, it still contains several slight fantasy elements commonly found in anime. In the first episode, thugs on motorcycles steal the plans for a superior engine. Speed Racer and his dad then attack them by using wrestling and martial arts techniques. Drivers take shortcuts near volcanoes, and villianous cars equiped with weaponry challenge the Mach 5. Also, there is a mysterious "Masked Racer" with a shameful past.
At first, I thought the names like SR, "Sparky,"and "Trixie" were the original Japanese names since they're categorical. Categorical names are another frequent occurrance in anime. However, a member of my mailing list informed me otherwise.
Unfortunately, the DVD I recieved only comes in English, so I cannot compare the dub with the original version. The Mach Five with all of its nifty gadgets is like a super car. It can drive over three times as fast as normal cars, it has special blades to chop vegetation in its way, and it has underwater driving capability. Considering that Tatsunoko productions created the show when anime was still very young, I wonder if this anime is an ancestor of the Mecha genre, which features superior machines (Gundams, Voltron) that characters utlize as though they were a part of the machine itself.