Speed Racer

Speed Racer is the title of an English adaptation of the Japanese anime Mach Go Go Go which centered around automobile racing. The series is an early example of an anime becoming a successful franchise in the United States.

The characters and storylines originated in Japan as the manga and anime series Mach Go Go Go from the anime studio Tatsunoko Productions.

Mach Go Go Go was first created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida (1933–1977) as a manga series in the 1960s and made the jump to TV as an anime series in 1967. The central character in the anime and manga was a young race car driver named Gō Mifune. Yoshida selected the names and symbolisms in his creation very carefully. The M logo on the hood of his race car and the front of his helmet stood for his family name Mifune, an homage to Japanese film star Toshiro Mifune (and not "Mach 5" as the dub would suggest). His given name Gō is also a Japanese homonym for the number 5 (the number on his race car). This is also represented by the letter G embroidered on his shirt. The names themselves constitute a multi-lingual wordplay of the kind that started become part of the Japanese popular culture of the time.

The English rights to Mach Go Go Go were immediately acquired by American syndicator Trans-Lux. The main character Go Mifune was given the name "Speed Racer" in the English version. A major editing and dubbing effort was undertaken by producer Peter Fernandez, who also voiced many of the characters, including Speed Racer himself. Fernandez was also responsible for a retooling of the theme song's melody and its subsequent English lyrics. When the series emerged before U.S. TV audiences as Speed Racer, fans were quickly drawn to its sophisticated plots involving fiendish conspiracies, violent action, hard-driving racing, and soulful characters with sparkling eyes. In an effort to squeeze the complicated plotlines into existing lip movements, the frenetic pace of the dubbing made Speed Racer famous for its quirky "fast" dialogue.

The Mach Five, 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. These gadgets were easily deployed by pressing buttons marked 'A' through 'G' on the steering wheel hub. The "chyock chyock" sound effect played whenever the car jumped through the air is instantly recognizable to the show's fans.

The Buttons had the following functions:

* Button A: “Releases powerful jacks to boost the car so anyone can quickly make any necessary repairs or adjustments.” Although designed for this function, the auto jacks can also be used to “jump” the car short distances at high speeds.

* Button B: Toggles special grip tires for traction over rough terrain (firm, icy, or unsteady ground, ocean floor, vertical mountainsides). At the same time, 5,000 horsepower is distributed equally to each wheel by auxiliary engines.

* Button C: For use traveling over heavily wooded terrain. A matched pair of powerful rotary saws protrude from the front of the Mach 5 to cut away many obstacles.

* Button D: Releases a powerful transparent cover which seals the cockpit into an air-tight chamber. The cover is bullet- and crash-proof. The cockpit becomes a water-tight chamber which then allows the car to be completely submerged under water.

* Button E: Controls special illumination lights "which can be controlled singularly or in tandem", and which allows the driver to see more clearly than with ordinary headlights. When used with the “night shades” attached to Speed’s helmet, his vision is enhanced with infrared light.
o Button E was later modified to activate mini-wings that would slide out from under the car to assist Speed in long jumps.

* Button F: Used when the Mach 5 submerged. An oxygen canister supplies the cockpit with breathable air. A periscope can then be raised to scan the surface of the water. Everything that is viewed through a relay to a video screen. The 100-pound auxiliary supply of oxygen is enough to last for thirty minutes.

* Button G: Releases a homing robot from under the hood of the car. The homing robot can carry pictures or tape recorded messages to an intended party. The robot also can carry handwritten messages, X-ray film, and other types of code. It has been used as a means of self-defense by flying at adversaries. The bird-like device is operated by a built-in remote control within the cockpit. A separate button sends the robot “home.”

* Extra Button: Pops, in one episode, put an extra button in the car that makes it glide short distances.

Speed Racer had a younger brother named Spritle who, along with his pet chimpanzee Chim-Chim (Senpei), constantly got into mischief by hiding in the trunks of cars.

Other regular characters included Sparky, the company mechanic; Speed's father, Pops, a former wrestler-turned race car owner and builder; and his mother, and also Speed's chaste girlfriend Trixie. She flies around in a helicopter during each race and advises Speed Racer via a radio link to the Mach Five.

A frequent recurring character, driving car number nine (the "Shooting Star"), is the enigmatic Racer X, a mysterious soldier of fortune whose secret identity is that of Rex Racer (Ken'ichi Mifune), Speed's older brother, who years earlier had a falling out with the family and exiled himself. Rex left home estranged from his family and assumed the Racer X identity to pursue his racing career after arguing with Pops about it. Originally Racer X wore an elbow brace for a supposed injury. Later in the series, during a violent encounter with bad guys, the unrestricted use of his "injured" arm made him realize that the arm was healed. He stayed in the background looking out for Speed Racer, often rescuing or assisting him. Racer X always left the scene unnoticed, receding into his secret life.

Japanese version

* Katsuji Mori (Yukie Tanaka) - Go Mifune
* Kinya Aikawa - Masked Racer/Kenichi Mifune
* Yoshiko Matsuo - Michi Shimura
* Teiji Omiya - Daisuke Mifune
* Ryoko Kinomiya - Aya Mifune
* Junko Hori - Kurio Mifune
* Kei Tomiyama - Sabu
* Hiroshi Ohtake - Senpei
* Kenji Utsumi - Detective Rokugo

American version

* Jack Curtis - Pops Racer/Lionel Racer/Inspector Detector/Announcer/Additional Voices
* Peter Fernandez - Speed Racer/James Racer/Racer X/Additional Voices
* Jack Grimes - Sparky/Wilson Sparkolemew/Chimchim/Additional Voices
* Corinne Orr - Trixie/Spritle/Mom Racer/Additional Voices

Speed Racer X Japanese

* Koichi Tochika - Go Hibiki
* Motoko Kumai - Wataru
* Toshiyuki Morikawa - Masked Racer/Ken'ichi Hibiki
* Minori Inaba - Daisuke Hibiki

Speed Racer X English

* Dave Wittenberg (David Lelyveld) - Speed Racer
* Dan Woren (Jackson Daniels) - Pops Racer
* Chris Chaney - Trixie; Spridle
* Michelle Ruff - Mom Racer
* Joshua Seth - Sparky

Speed Racer, along with Astro Boy, was one of the first truly successful anime franchise in the United States. The pivotal episode in which Racer X reveals his identity to Speed was selected by TV Guide as one of the most memorable moments in TV history. Many real-life race car drivers became fans of the show.

The title character was "interviewed" in a humorous series of promotional ads for auto racing that ran on ESPN. The Speed Racer characters even appeared in an animated commercial for the Volkswagen GTI. In the ad, entitled "Sabotage", Speed drives a GTI to victory after the Mach Five is disabled. The ad also incorporated the Matrix-style rotating freeze frame shot from the cartoon's ending credits, with the GTI replacing the Mach Five in the shot.

Speed, Trixie, Spritle and Chim-Chim currently appear in a North American TV commercial for the car insurance company GEICO. The commercial makes use of the show's original footage.

In the 1977 film Slap Shot, after arriving at their hotel room in Charlestown, one of the Hanson Brothers ask when is Speed Racer on in the area. It should be known that the Hansons, when they're not playing hockey, play with toy racecars.

Artisan/Lion's Gate released the first 11 episodes of the original series in DVD format in the US and Canada on April 22, 2003 (with one part of a to-be-continued story counting as an episode). 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 was put on sale 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 and came with a special cylinder case for the disc. It contains episodes 24 through 36.

Lion's Gate released the fourth volume, which features episodes 37 through 44 on March 14, 2006 and included a die-cast toy Mach 5. The last episode, "Race the Laser Tank" was time-compressed (in other words, sped up to take up less space on the DVD) which upset some fans.

The fifth and last volume has been announced for release on October 31, 2006. This volume will include the final eight episodes of the series, and a miniature license plate with the inscription, "Go-Speed Racer-Go!"

* The New Adventures of Speed Racer was an American produced 1993 series by Fred Wolf Films with more new episodes presenting a more contemporary style. The series was soon off the air (after only 13 episodes) as the Americanized character and vehicle designs (especially the jellybean-shaped Mach 5) didn't arouse viewer interest. However, it DID introduce the Papenbrooks to voice acting, especially Bryce Papenbrook, who won the Speed Racer Sweepstakes.
* Speed Racer X, was released in 2002 by DiC on Nickelodeon's short-lived action block, Slam. This new series showed enormous promise as it was actually based on a new 1997 Mach Go Go Go anime series created by original Japanese studio Tatsunoko Productions. However, it was discontinued a few weeks after it started, when Nick unceremoniously, and without prior notice, took all Slam programs off the air. Its future is uncertain, as DIC and Santa Monica-based Speed Racer Enterprises became embroiled in a bitter lawsuit for control of the series. Even if the lawsuits between DIC and Speed Racer are cleared up, the anime series will never be complete -- due to production problems, production on this Speed Racer series was halted after 34 episodes, out of a projected 52.

* Speed Racer Lives, a new "webisode" online Speed Racer series has been announced to promote a new line of toys.

* Mach Go Go - selected chapters of Tatsuo Yoshida's original Mach Go Go manga series have been 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).

* 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.

* 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.

There was also a 4- issue cross-over between Speed Racer, and the characters of Ben Dunn's Ninja High School in the late 90's.

* Hot Wheels produced miniature replicas of the Mach Five called the West Wind and later the Second Wind.

* Johnny Lightning released a wide range of the Speed Racer miniatures, including replicas of the villains' cars and "mini-dioramas." A limited-edition release of the Mach Four from the Wildstorm comic series remains one of the hardest-to-find collectibles to this day.

* Toynami is currently releasing a large-scale version of the Speed Racer vehicles, including a Mach Five playset complete with all of its gadgets.

* Polar Lights is currently manufacturing two 1/25-scale model kits in standard "glue" and snap-together variations. 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; since they are "curbside" kits, there is no engine compartment.

* 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. Includes Spritle 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.

* Art Asylum has announced a line of toys consisting primarily of their block-figure Minimates in both classic and new series forms.

* The Los Angeles heavy metal band Racer X, formed in 1985 are named after the Speed Racer character.

* The Chicago based duo Alpha Team created a mix song called called Speed Racer. In the song, various dialogue from Speed, Trixie and Racer X can be heard. A race is held and when Speed gets into a wreck, actual moans and voice clips from the show are used to simulate sexual intercourse between Speed and Trixie. The finale of this is a repeating of the classic, "Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer!", signaling the climax.

* The show and its style have been frequently referenced and parodied, including an episode of the Cartoon Network animated series Dexter's Laboratory, the opening sequence of Kappa Mikey, and in a TV Funhouse cartoon in which George Clooney is seen dodging paparazzi.

* Nick Gibbons, a cartoonist who used to be part of MTV's Cartoon Sushi staff, worked on a cartoon short called "Fast Driver", which was first shown on Cartoon Sushi's UltraCity 6060, which is a fad about dubbing random anime with comedic speeches.

* A parody of the Mach 5 also appears in Excel Saga as Nabeshin's "Flying Mitsubishi". It also was parodied in Channel Chasers (the movie of The Fairly Oddparents mocking contemporary and past TV shows).

* An episode of Family Guy featured a brief cameo by Speed and Pops at a soapbox derby, in which Pops reveals he is not Speed's real father.

* In the online cartoon Homestar Runner, the character Stinkoman, a character that parodies anime in general, dressed up as Speed Racer for Halloween.

* In Cartoon Network's Adult Swim stop-animation show Robot Chicken, a sketch called 3 Fast 3 Furious (which itself is a parody of the The Fast And The Furious movies), Speed is one of the racers in the race that involves many other pop-culture characters. He doesn't win the race, but a few parts parody the style of the show.

* In Thunderbolts #1 (vol. 2), M.A.C.H.-4 comments that if he upgrades to another version, he's going to have to add a compartment for a kid and a chimpanzee.

* In 1999, a real life fullscale replica of the Mach 5 was built for the Child Safety Network at a cost of more than $650,000. Afterwards it was used in a national automotive safety tour, and then sold for $180,000.

* A live-action movie version of the cartoon is in development at Warner Bros. Vince Vaughn is signed to star as Racer X, as well as being one of the film's executive producers (along with Joel Silver). As of early 2006, Hype Williams was the last director attached to the project.

* In the Japanese Super GT series (nee JGTC), where Banpresto has been campaigning the Mach Go name since 2002 now sponsors two cars form two different teams. One of them Team Mach's Vemac RD320R is numbered and stickered out to be like the Mach 5. The team (real name Team Kyushu) is renamed in honor to the show and the car is known in entry form as Proµ MACH B-1 320R Team Kyushu. Also the other team Jim Gainer, (known in entry forms as Mach-Go Ferrari Dunlop) has a Ferrari F360 Modena that is also stickered to appear like same car. One of their drivers is Go Mifune, who changed his name in honor of the character and used to drive for the former team.

* In 2003, to promote the old episodes of Speed Racer on the Speed Channel for 2004, Dave Despain interview Speed Racer on Wind Tunnel With Dave Despain and hailed Speed Racer as the greatest race-car driver of all-time.

* On the NBC comedy Scrubs, Ted's accapella band, The Worthless Peons, is shown singing the Speed Racer theme song in the episode "My Hero".

* In 1996, Ghostface Killah of the Wu Tang Clan released his debut album Ironman, with the single "Daytona 500" featuring original Speed Racer footage.

* The Steve Albini band Big Black performed a song titled and based upon "Racer X".

* In The Simpsons, episode 2F20 "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part Two", Smithers dreams that he and Mr. Burns are undercover detectives on the hot rod circuit in a show called "Speedway Squad".

* In Ultimate Spider-Man (video game), Spider-Man sometimes says "Go Speed Racer!" when jumping on a getaway car.

* A track entitled "Speed Racer" appears on Devo's 1982 album "Oh, No! It's Devo!".

* In the manga Naruto, The ninja is shown running down streets yelling "Start Your Engines, Mach 5".

* In the popular Sit-Com Friends, Chandler has a Speed Racer poster in his apartment, and is occasionally seen wearing a Speed Racer t-shirt. In the episode The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies Chandler asks his new roomate Eddie if he thinks "that Speed racer guy gets a lot of tickets?".

* A television commercial released for the Volkswagen GTI featured Speed racing in the GTI after discovering that the Mach 5 had been sabotaged.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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