Speed Racer: “Go Speed Go”
Ever-popular Speed Racer originated in 1966 as a Japanese comic strip (Manga) called “Mach Go Go Go”. The creator, Tatsuo Yoshida, modeled Speed after Elvis Presley’s race car driver character from Viva Las Vegas, and the Mach 5 was inspired by James Bond’s Aston Martin from Goldfinger.
In 1967, the comic strip was adapted into an anime program for Japanese television. Speed Racer was known as Go Mifune, which is why he wears a yellow G on his shirt. The M on his helmet stands for Mifune Motors, the family business.
The English rights were acquired in 1967 by Trans-Lux, an American syndicator, and a major editing and dubbing of the show was done. Go Mifune became known as Speed Racer. Each of the other characters’ names changed too, and they sport a letter on their shirts corresponding to their Japanese first names.
The dialogue was spoken at a very fast pace in order to explain the complicated plot lines and match them with existing lip movements. They never quite matched, and that was part of the charm of the show.
The main story line revolved around Speed, a young ambitious man on his way to becoming a professional race car driver. Speed drove the Mach 5, a technological marvel. The Mach 5 had many gadgets that assisted Speed win races, such as mini wings that slid out from under the car and helped the car jump long distances.
Speed always managed to get himself into dangerous situations and his girlfriend, Trixie, along with his family, helped get him out of trouble. His older brother, Rex, disguised himself as Racer X and acted as the mysterious hero that often aided Speed with his misadventures.
Since 1967, Speed Racer has been syndicated nationally, and ran in the afternoons for nearly 20 years. Speed has made guest appearances on such shows as Scooby Doo and has been referenced in many movies, such as Slap Shot. Speed Racer and his crew even starred in a Volkswagen commercial in 1996 and a commercial for Geico in 2004.
As anime and manga become increasingly popular in the United States, it is hard to believe that Speed Racer was introduced to Americans back in 1967. As one of the first Japanimation series ever to be syndicated in the United States, Speed Racer holds a place in history and in the hearts of everyone that grew up watching and shouting “Go Speed Go!”.