This wasn’t your father’s Speed Racer.

Known in the US as Speed Racer X, this was a new version of the classic manga and anime series about auto racer Gō Mifune and his amazing race car, the Mach 5. It received wide popularity when brought to the US as Speed Racer and a resurgence when MTV reaired the original dubs. There have been two attempts to create an American spinoff, only one of which went past one season, a series of comics, the most influential being the NOW Comics run, and a recent live-action movie that had mixed reviews.

I had heard about the remake and some of the changes. Go’s new last name is Hibiki for some reason, Spritle’s counterpart is now the brother of Trixie’s counterpart, and Racer X (the only brother Speed keeps is the one thought dead) has a new outfit that’s something Batman or Gatchaman/G-Force would wear. Also no chimpanzee pet for the little boy. While the show didn’t have a comic in the US a two-volume manga for kids was created, and that’s what I ended up ordering. I’m pretty sure I knew this one was in Japanese but curiosity won out.

In deciding whether or not to add this to the manga I want to purge I have to figure out if this is something I can still enjoy despite not reading the language. The only English is Go’s name, the letters on the steering wheel that activates the car’s famous gadgets, and oddly a couple of computer displays when the “Safety Seven”is activated or when the engine overheats in one story. That means the art is really going to have to get the story across, or at least enough of it to enjoy reading. How does it do?

In this new incarnation Speed (it’s easier for me to use the English names) is still a race car driver who often runs into trouble. Trixie is now a photographer and it’s not as clear in these volumes if they’re a couple. This was designed for younger readers who probably aren’t interested in kissing (ew) so I’m not sure. Mom appears to be absent and I already mentioned no Chim-Chim but Pops and Sparky are still there as is Racer X, in the new costume I mentioned. There’s also a recurring character that shows up in the final story of volume 1 who often pops up in volume 2 as a nuisance because (I think) his granddaughter like the Mach 5 better than his race car and he’s trying to show Speed up. He’s a goof who doesn’t succeed. Speed in this version also has a trailer where the cab lifts up and acts like one of those toy car launchers, only this launches the Mach 5 into action. I also like how all seven safety gadgets (the usual gadgets the car is known for) are revealed naturally throughout the first volume instead of all shoved into the first story. It adds an element of surprise to anyone unfamiliar with the A-G buttons on the steering wheel.

cast top r to l: Go Hibiki (Speed), Wataru Kazami (Spritle), Mai Kazami (Trixie), Sparky (I don’t know his Japanese name), Masked Racer (Racer X). In the bottome left corner are the two rivals in the manga.

The stories feature other racers trying to beat Speed up or steal the Racer family secrets, probably the Mach 5 but seeing as I can’t read the words I’m only guessing. And this is where the art shines in that I can tell what’s going on for the most part. Speed/Go comes off as more of hothead than in the original show. Trixie seems to have a cuter personality to go with her cute redesign but a bit mischievous when it comes to getting her pictures. Speed and Spritle still argue like siblings and many stories involve Speed having to rescue either Trixie or Spritle. The art is very expressive and you can get the gist of what’s happening in the story. There aren’t a lot of quiet moments, especially since the majority of volume 2 has Speed competing in a cross-planet race and the map shows clearly where he is during the race. The art alone would be worth keeping these for.

I also like the upgrade on the Mach 5. It looks more race-ready than the original but still pays proper homage to it.

So the art is good and I can figure out enough about what’s going on to enjoy it. I think that makes it worth keeping. While the original manga has had a few official translations in the West there haven’t been any for this series and I’m betting there won’t be. And if there were it would make it harder to sell these, which may be one of the problems I had with the untranslated Sailor Moon and One Piece mangas. However, this series I rather enjoy and there’s no incentive to try and sell them at this time.

Decision: Stays

 

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