Speed Racer

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer! He's a demon on wheels! [...]
Adventure's waiting just ahead!
Go, Speed Racer! Go, Speed Racer! Go, Speed Racer, Go!

American Theme Song

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

Speed Racer (yes, that's his English name; in the Japanese version it's "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.

It was, at its core, a Mecha Show. The "Mach Five" ("Mach Go-Go" in Japanese, 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 jump boosters, a spy robot, underwater capabilities and a trunk (which even street-legal sports cars often lack). [1]

This show is remembered for its goofy character designs, crappy animation and atrocious dub, as well as its memorable characters and over-the-top sensibilities. The show is both fondly remembered and reviled by many anime fans for introducing anime to a wider audience and for coloring its general image. 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.

Speed Racer was remade in 1997 with updated versions of the characters and vehicles (or at least one would think), but the most amusing appearance of Speed in the last few years had to have been in a series of tongue-in-cheek ESPN commercials. One of the ads 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.")

American companies intended to revive the whole title into a new franchise in time for the anime's 40th anniversary. The Wachowskis released a major motion picture version of Speed Racer, 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 television adaptation called Speed Racer: The Next Generation to play up the hype for the film. A second season premiered 3 years later.

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 English-dubbed episodes can be viewed on an official YouTube channel.

Tropes used in Speed Racer include:
  • 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: "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
  • 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.
  • Bullet Time
  • Car Fu: And how!
  • Cool Car: Pretty much the whole point of the show.
    • And not just the Mach 5, either. The episode "Gang of Assassins" featured ninja cars.
    • 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".
  • Chick Magnet: Speed
  • Epic Race
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hot Mom: Mom Racer (who actually has a name in the Japanese version; "Aya"), wow.
  • Invincible Hero: Speed only lost once in the original series, and that was because he deliberately threw away the race so that his rival of the week, who needed the prize money for his sister's medical treatment, could win. The movie decided to make his weaknesses more emotional rather than throttle down his racing ability.
    • Although there were a few other races in the later seasons (of the 60s series) that Speed lost because something else came along.
  • 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.
  • Large Ham: SWEET JE-SUS.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Precision F-Strike: In an early episode, after Speed and Trixie figure out that the mob is onto them after the spycam (disguised as a bird) they sent after one of their cars returns with a fresh bullet hole:

Trixie: Ah! Oh, they shot it!
Speed: They sure did... damn!

  • Punny Name: Particularly with the bad guys.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Inspector Detector.
  • 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.
  • Slo-Mo Big Air
  • Speed Stripes
  • 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.
  • Tagalong Kid: Spritle/Kurio.
  • 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."
  • Who Names Their Kid Speed?

  1. Though at the time a sports car actually did have to have a trunk to compete at Le Mans.