The Mach 5 is one of the fastest and most technologically advanced race cars built by man. Equipped with various gadgets and a powerful engine, it provides a challenge for anyone who would dare race against it. The driver of this amazing vehicle is Gou Mifune, a teenager who dreams of breaking into the world of professional racing.
In spite of this, Gou's father and the creator of the Mach 5, Daisuke Mifune, does not want his son anywhere near a racetrack. Undeterred, his girlfriend Michi, younger brother Kurio, and Kurio's monkey sidekick Sanpei become Gou's biggest fans as he sets out to become the greatest racer of all time.
However, Gou soon learns that becoming a professional racer is not easy. From the underhanded plots of corrupt businessmen to stiff competition in the form of his rival, Racer X, Gou faces many obstacles on the road ahead, and has a lot to prove before he can cross the finish line.
As a child i would watch the dub and loved it. I recently rewatched it as an adult and couldn't help but laugh at the horrible plot lines and script. But iit wasn't ment for adults it was made for children. I think most children would like it for some of the outdated humor and really really rallly bad puns. The childlike drama of it makes it great for children in 6-10 age range. Its a classic, thats pretty much all you can say about it...
Of all the anime ever to be brought over to the United States, very few have become household names to non-anime fans and have dominated America's stereotypes about anime. Speed Racer was one of the first anime ever brought over along with Astro Boy and it is still 50 years later probably the anime that best exemplifies the view middle aged Americans have of the medium. Hell, Tarantino's character even wears a Speed Racer T-shirt in Pulp Fiction! This was actually the first anime I ever saw on TV as a kid when I was about 5. It is also probably the reason I was
rather reluctant towards anime until Dragonball Z and Pokemon came out. Speed Racer may be an oldie, but a goody it ain't.
The art is absolute crap, the dub is LEGENDARILY horrible because the US studio didn't want to change the lip flaps and ordered the voice actors to talk ridiculously fast to match the animation. I was considering writing this entire review with no punctuation of any kind to emulate what listening to the show felt like, but I decided against it. The plot is formulaic, although the episodic plot twists are often absurd. The characters are very shallow. Is there anything good about this anime? Well....the opening theme was catchy! The reason it was successful was that it actually did offer American audiences something different and did several things totally new on this side of the Pacific.
Speed Racer was quite different than the American cartoons of the 1960s that were mostly still 6 minute shorts like Loony Toons. The concept of a 30 minute cartoon that had a continuous story was rather new to Americans at the time. There were a couple 30 minute episode cartoons like Scooby Doo and the Flinstones, but those were shows where each episode is completely independent. Rocky and Bullwinkle had multi-part episodes, but Speed Racer upped the ante by not only having multi-parters but also a somewhat continuous plot. An event that happened in one multi-part adventure might be referenced in another one, unlike Rocky and Bullwinkle where each multi episode "story arc" is independent and never referenced again. This radical change in cartoon storytelling allowed young audiences to forgive Speed Racer's many flaws.
Is it fair for me to rate something this low despite its age and historical impact? There are several anime that are about as old as Speed Racer and have aged a LOT better, so I would argue that age isn't the problem. Lupin the 3rd is from the early 1970s and despite the VERY limited animation, the comedy is great, the characters are fun, and it is a joy for people of all ages to watch in 2015. None of those compliments could be said about Speed Racer. I appreciate Speed Racer for its historical value, but I sure as hell don't like it. I guess that sort of makes it like the anime "Birth of a Nation" in that last regard.
Nostalgia free review here. I feel so bad about the review I'm about to write. Speed Racer did great things for anime. Many people claim that the show has simply aged too much to be enjoyable, despite the great things the show has done. The issue I have is that I feel like I'm reviewing two different shows at once. There are parts of the show that deserve to be hailed as timeless and classic, and then there are some parts that are absolutely ridiculous.
This is the main issue for me. There are episodes in this show that I would've rated 8/10. Certain
arcs like the Acrobatic Racing Team, most of the Racer X episodes, and the GRX story are absolutely timeless. I think most people know this too, since these are the stories that get the most references in modern media.
The problem is that this show is bogged down by filler episodes. It's clear that Speed Racer was inspired by both Elvis Presley car movies, and James Bond. While I think having a few James Bond-esque episodes is okay, the show went way overboard with them. Some of the plots are absolutely ridiculous. This show is honestly at its best when it focuses on racing. But sadly that's not the majority of the show. Like I said before, there are some arcs that absolutely deserve to be seen. But sadly, you have to sit through lots of filler arcs to get to some of them. The ending was also one of the stupidest endings I've seen in awhile.
Animation is hard. Animation on a low budget is hard. Animation on a low budget in the 60s is hard. Because of this, I am much forgiving of the animation. There are some animation errors, so I can't call this a masterwork of animation. But I respect the scope it was aiming for. I give credit to the character designs. Considering that this was the era of Tezuka, and Japan was just moving out of being Disney knock-offs, the art style for this show is definitely unique. Plus the fact that this show's animation and character designs could be put next to some of the American animation at the time without anybody noticing speaks to it's quality. Obviously this show isn't going to compete with some of the modern character designs, but that's not what it's supposed to do. I give additional props to the car designs. Each car manages to look unique and sleek.
Hands down the best part of the show. The soundtrack is delightfully 60s. The opening is one of those openings that you can't skip based solely on how catchy and endearing it is. The voice acting is also great. I know a lot of people don't like the dubbing. I personally like it. That said, I admit that I have a soft spot for bad dubs. But I wouldn't call the dubbing "bad." I'd rather say that the dubbing is quirky. When the important characters need to deliver their lines, they do so with proper emotion and tone. Speed's VA truly delivers during stressful or emotional moments. Racer X and Pops also have the right amount of concern in their voices when needed. The line delivery is sometimes fast, and full of run-on sentences. I view that more as a form of comic relief. It rarely effects the story. I'd also like to mention how good the sound design was for each car. Most of the cars have different engine sounds that make them distinct. Each of the Mach 5's gadgets has a distinct sound too. You could watch this show blind and still get a good idea for what's going on.
I saw a review where somebody said Speed is the only interesting character, and the rest serve as accessories. I don't agree with that completely. Speed's character is very good. He's no Light Yagami, but for a 60s hero, he does his job. He tries to be a good person, but he also has his weaknesses. He sometimes gives into temptation, he usually makes reasonable decisions when in the face of danger, but he's not afraid of snapping at somebody when he's angry. Speed is a very good character.
While the supporting cast isn't as three dimensional as Speed, they have their own things going for them. Trixie has her jealous moments, Pops gets appropriately protective and emotional, Spritle and Chim-Chim are childish while also being very smart in their own rights. Racer X is hands down the most memorable character besides Speed. However, I think the last few episodes of the show dropped the ball with how to handle his character. Sparky and the Mom are sadly forgettable.
The rest of the cast is absolutely terrible. There's always a money grubbing bad guy, and emotional female who is either being used, or helpless, and then at least one helpless good guy who needs speed's help. The guest characters are the main reason I rank Character so low.
Like I said, some of these episodes deserve an 8. But the fillers take away from the enjoyment in a huge way. The good episodes are mostly from episode 1-20. After that, I kept watching waiting for one of the last 32 episodes to be as good as the first part. While there were good episodes, you have to sit through several boring fillers to get to them. This lead to a fair amount of disappointment when I realized this episode is going to be a dumb filler. Some of the episode are good. But the gamble on whether or not the next episode was going to be another good one took away from the experience.
If you skip the fillers, you're in for a lot of fun. Watching the Racer family interact with each other is fun. The race courses were usually creative. And even if the racing wasn't realistic, it was incredibly entertaining. Speed's personal dilemmas during some stories were great. But if you're going to watch every single episode, you're in for some disappointment. If at least 15 of the ridiculous filler episodes were cut out, I would've given this show a 7.
Okay, I am going to write a totally unbiased review of Speed Racer. That's right, no nostalgia clouding my vision, no stupid pull-it-out-of-my-ass explanation to explain why I like it so much(There isn't one), and most importantly, no pretensions about the material being reviewed.
Let's do this thing.
Speed Racer isn't really a serial show. Most episodes take place in multiple parts, but the various multi-episode 'arcs' are pretty much independent. Most plotlines boil down to 'Man wants the Mach 5. Speed enters a race where the Mach 5 might be destroyed by the villains' henchmen. At some point, Chim-Chim will do something. I don't generally fault
episodic shows for being formulaic(EX:Pokemon) but Speed Racer is just too close for comfort. The Racer X plotline manages to entertain though(You know, if the synopsis for this show didn't spoil it).
The art in this show just barely manages above mediocre for the character designs. The cars can look really cool though, and the function they serve in the show is not unlike the role of mecha in Super Robot shows.
Probably the best aspect of this show is how iconic and purely 60s the music and voice acting is. The second you hear an actor deliver a line from this show or you hear a tune from the soundtrack, you know that it's Speed Racer. Speed's VA in particular does a fantastic job of embodying the 60s cartoon hero.
In terms of character, it's best to think of Speed Racer as kind of like a James Bond movie. The main character is iconic, but the rest of the cast is mainly just there to fill a role. They play the assigned parts well, but in the end they are no more memorable than the latest set of tits to tag along with everyone's favorite secret agent.
In spite of myself, I enjoyed Speed Racer. The whole thing plays out like the japanese equivalent of Johnny Quest, and the pure cool of the cars and gadgets never fails to impress. I think the key to enjoying this show is to just embrace the pure 60s-ness of the show and let it take you for a ride.
OVERALL(on a purely unbiased basis): 6/10
OVERALL(if you're nostalgic or willing to tolerate how corny it is):8/10