Senior HTF Member
- Jul 3, 1997
- Real Name
- Ronald Epstein
Film Length: 300 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Go Speed Racer Go!!
As a kid growing up in the late 60s and early 70s,
afternoon television was alive with the likes of
Magilla Gorilla, Felix the Cat, Bugs Bunny and
The Flintstones. Coming home from school
everyday I found myself sitting in front of the
TV and catching up with my favorite programs.
Amongst the wealth of really great animated
programs showing on afternoon TV was a show
called Speed Racer. I'll admit up front
that as a kid it was the cartoon I liked the least,
mainly because I felt the animation was often
wooden, the adventures were rather lame, and
in addition to the cheesy dialogue, the voices of
its characters didn't match up to their mouth
movements very well.
Little did I know back then that I was witnessing
the invasion of Japanese animation to American
television. Along with such classics as Astro
Boy and Gigantor, Speed Racer
successfully introduced young viewers to a brand new
form of animation that was heavily influenced by
Disney's style of characters with large expressive
features. In the early 1960s, American animated
cartoons such as Mickey Mouse and Popeye were at
the height of their popularity in Japan. Japanese
animes, often lower in quality than their American
animated counterparts, could be produced on a
shoe-string budget. Animes had their own look, feel,
and distinctive style, often choppier and less
sophisticated than American animation. But they
rolled quickly off production lines, and their
popularity spread quickly throughout Asia.
It's kind of amazing that after all these years,
Speed Racer is deeply ingrained in American
pop culture. References to the cartoon often pop up
in songs, movies, and everywhere else. Even the
very-hip MTV network revitalized the cartoon back
in November of 1992. Just about everyone has seen
Speed Racer and knows exactly who he is and what
the program is all about.
In case you don't know by now, the show is about
a young man named Speed who is trying to become
the world's greatest racecar driver. Speed Racer
is the son of Pop Racer and boyfriend of Trixie.
His dad has built him one of the fastest cars in
the world, the Mach 5. With it he races in some of
the most dangerous races in the world, and somehow
seems to get involved in international intrigue.
Bad guys are usually doing bad things and it's up
to Speed, Trixie and his little brother Spritle and
his pet monkey Chim-chim to save the day. In the
end, Speed always seems to be back in the race
alonsgide its top leaders.
Speed Racer's storied career actually began in
a simple comic book called "Mach Go Go Go", then
evolved into an anime cartoon. In 1967, the 52
episodes of the series were dubbed into English and
syndicated nationally on television.
Artisan Home Video and Family Home Entertainment
have come together to release a Limited Edition
set that contains the first eleven episodes of the
hugely popular "Japanimation" series. The single-DVD
set arrives in unique real rubber tire slipcover
packaging. Though the thin piece of square rubber
adorns only the front cover (and even has that nice
rubber aroma), it's a rather clever packaging idea.
I especially like the raised colorful Speed Racer
logo that has been etched into the rubber. It's
very seldom you see creative packaging like this.
Inside the semi-rubber slipcover is a standard
Amaray case that houses the DVD. Thirteen episodes
are included in this set: The Great Plan (1&2);
Challenge of the Masked Racer (1&2); The secret
Engine (1&2); The Race against the Mammoth Car (1&2)
and The most dangerous Race (1,2&3). Each
episode runs a little over 23 minutes each.
A 4-page booklet inside the cover is sort of lame.
There is a complete episode list but it lacks any
information pertaining to original airdate. A
circle of the show's characters surrounds the list
of episodes. The back cover of the booklet contains
the words to the original Mach Go, Go, Go and
Japanese Ending theme songs.
How is the transfer?
I don't quite know what to say about this transfer
other than the fact that it looks and sounds exactly
as I remembered it. Presented in its original
broadcast full frame ratio, the show doesn't look
any better than it did 36 years ago. Colors are
not vibrant, and the picture is marred with all
sorts of dirt and speckle. It's not that the
transfer looks bad, but certainly I could see how
it would be a wasted effort trying to make these
badly animated shows look any better than they do
now. I can only say that those that are familiar
with the quality of the show won't find them looking
any worse on this DVD.
The show's Dolby monaural audio track is no major
improvement on its original broadcast, other than
the fact that background hiss is non-existent. The
audio still sounds very flat and there's that
annoying (for lack of a better word) lisping sound
in all the character's voices. Nothing more than
what has been there all this time.
I'm not sure how "special" the bonus contents
of this disc are. Most of it is all text-based
material. Nonetheless, some effort was made to
give fans a little something extra. Let's look
at what is here....
Production begins by giving us some
background on Tatsunoko Productions founded
by the Yoshida brothers in 1962. It goes on to
explain their early television animated efforts
Space Ace and Mach Go Go Go (aka Speed
Racer). Next we learn about the difficulties
of U.S. Translation. Actor/Director/Writer
Peter Fernandez had three days to translate each
of the Japanese episodes into English with the
cast having a single day to dub the voices.
In Theme Song we learn why the original
Japanese version was dropped for a zippier American
introduction. You can even read the lyrics and
sing-a-long to the title song, if you wish. A
list of U.S. Cast members lets you select
from voice-actors such as Peter Fernandez, Corrinne
Orr, Jack Grimes and Jack Curtis. Click on a
name and you'll be treated with text that gives
extensive background on each individual.
Mach 5 is sort of neat. After Speed Racer
gives you an audio introduction of the car, you
come to its steering wheel with all its buttons
that operate all the nifty Mach 5 gadgets. Use
your remote to push a button and learn more about
such wonders as the deflector, underwater oxygen
supplier, TV periscope, homing robot and more!
As you learn about all these gadgets, you can
click on your remote and be brought to an actual
episode that features the use of that gadget.
A villain's gallery let's you click on
any of the eight "baddies" to find out more about
them. There's Ace Ducey, Mr. Fixer, Tongue Blaggard,
Cruncher Block, Captain Terror, Mr. Van Ruffle,
Mr. Wiley and Snake Oiler. Want to see them in
action? You can click on your remote and be
brought to an actual episode where that villain is
Speed Lives On! begins by showing us a
trailer for The new adventures of Speed Racer
(1993) and a description of Volkswagon's Speed
Racer commercial, which sadly contains no clip of
the actual commercial. Finally, you can look
at various pictures of Speed Merchandise
that includes a Mach 5 car, a tissue holder, a
racing set, lunch box and teddy bear.
Of course, being an Artisan Home Video product,
no attempt was made to include subtitles, though
closed captioning is available.
It's hard for me to judge this set for the fact
that I never was or never will be a fan of the
series. I would suppose that fans basically want
this for the shows, and they are here exactly as
I remembered them - nothing more or less. The
added bonus materials are a mixed bag, but somewhat
informative to those not entirely familiar with
For Speed Racer fans the release of this
Limited Edition set should make for a satisfying
Release Date: April 22, 2003
All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality