Speed Racer (aka Mach GoGoGo) was a Japanese anime/manga franchise about automobile racing. Mach GoGoGo was originally serialized in print in Shueisha’s 1958 Shōnen Book. It was released in tankōbon book form by Sun Wide Comics, and later re-released in Japan by Fusosha. It was adapted into anime by Tatsunoko Productions, its 52 episodes aired on Fuji TV from April 1967 to March 1968. and has been rebroadcast many times around the world.
The English rights to Mach GoGoGo were acquired by syndicator Trans-Lux, and Speed Racer premiered on American television in the fall of 1967. In the series, Speed’s full name was Go Mifune, in homage to Japanese film star Toshiro Mifune. His name, Americanized, became Speed Racer.
His adventures centred on his powerful Mach 5 car, his girlfriend Trixie, his little brother Spritle (with his pet chimp Chim-Chim), and his mysterious older brother, Racer X.
For American consumption, major editing and dubbing efforts were undertaken by producer Peter Fernandez, who also provided the voices of many of the characters, most notably Racer X and Speed Racer himself. Fernandez was also responsible for a rearrangement of the theme song’s melody, written by Nobuyoshi Koshibe, and subsequently wrote its English lyrics. The theme was performed in the opening and closing titles (uncredited) by Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass.
Speed Racer / Gō Mifune: Voiced by: Katsuji Mori (Japanese), Peter Fernandez (English) – The protagonist of both the anime and the manga is Speed Racer, originally Gō Mifune. He is known for his love of racing and valuing his family. He drives the Mach 5 (as well as other cars, such as the Mach 6 in the movie) and always manages to wind up in extreme danger with either his younger brother or his girlfriend Trixie. Speed is shown to miss his older brother, Rex (secretly disguised as the Racer X), in both versions.
- Off the track, he wears a blue shirt with an orange “G” (standing for his Japanese first name, Gō) with a white collar, a red racing bandanna around his neck, white pants, red socks, brown loafers and yellow gloves. He has a brown, almost black, pompadour, and his eyes are brown (in the anime version they are blue). In racing, he sports a white open-face helmet with an M (representing Mifune Motors) on top. In the anime, on special occasions, Speed wears a red blazer with a yellow “G” embroidered on it. In the live action film, he wears a white leather racing jacket unzipped over his classic outfit. He wears his classic outfit (without the embroidered “G”) in the first half of the Casa Cristo 5000. To strengthen character back-story continuity between Speed and his older brother Rex, Speed’s red socks were considered “lucky socks.”
- Spritle / Kurio Mifune: Voiced by: Junko Hori, Hiroshi Ohtake (Japanese), Corinne Orr, Jack Grimes (English) – Speed Racer has a younger brother named Spritle (Kurio Mifune in the Japanese original and Chispita in the Latin American version). Spritle has a pet chimpanzee, who responded to the name of Chim-Chim in the American version (Sanpei in the Japanese original and Chito in the Latin American version). Their rebellious attitudes often lead them to trouble. Often in Speed’s way, their mischief somehow aids Speed away from danger. Spritle and Chim-Chim dress in identical jumpsuits and striped hats and often perform identical physical actions. They both have an extreme appetite for candy and they are usually bribed with dessert or other presents. Spritle and Chim-Chim often use a slingshot to combat any threats that come to both themselves and/or Speed.
According to the Peter Fernandez’s introduction in the American release of the Mach GoGoGo manga, Spritle got his name for being an energetic “sprite”. Chim-Chim got his name because he was considered a chimpanzee. In the live action film, they are portrayed faithfully like they were in both the anime and the manga. Spritle was portrayed by Paulie Litt in the film.
Pops Racer / Daisuke Mifune: Voiced by: Teiji Ōmiya (Japanese), Jack Curtis (English) – Speed’s father, Pops, (Daisuke Mifune) is a former wrestler-turned race car owner and builder. After quitting his job in a corporate car manufacturing company, he founded his own company, Mifune Motors (In America, the company was changed to Racer Motors). He is portrayed as a hothead who is overprotective of his family. His eldest son, Rex (who would return as Racer X), ran away. In addition to Spritle and Chim-Chim, Pops’ attitude brings comic relief in the anime series as well as the live action film. Overweight, he wears an athletic red shirt and a beige mechanic’s cap. Despite his build, Pops is nearly unmatched in combat as he was once a champion heavyweight wrestler. His design skills allow him to create powerful engines, especially his (in the film) prized “Mach” Series, giving them the ability to travel at high speeds while sustaining maximum performance. He is portrayed by actor John Goodman in the 2008 film.
Mom Racer / Aya Mifune: Voiced by Ryoko Kinomiya (Japanese), Corinne Orr (English) – Speed’s mother, Mom (originally Aya Mifune), is a side character in the series. She rarely appears in the anime or manga, having limited dialogue. In the live action film, however, she is portrayed as an encouraging parental figure, portrayed by Susan Sarandon.
Racer X (The Masked Racer): Voiced by: Kinya Aikawa (Japanese), Peter Fernandez (English) – A frequent recurring character, driving car number 9, the “Shooting Star,” is the enigmatic Racer X (Fukumen Racer in the Japanese version and Corredor X in the Latin American version). Racer X is a mysterious, selfless, sympathetic, and often brooding soldier of fortune whose secret identity is that of Rex Racer (Ken’ichi Mifune in Japan), Speed’s older brother. Six years prior, Rex had a falling out with Pops after Rex wrecked a race car that Pops had built. Pops had told Rex prior to the race that he was not prepared to compete at the professional racing level. With less than one lap to go, Rex was leading and cruising toward victory, but lost control of the car and wrecked it. Pops exploded with anger and berated Rex, and in response Rex exiled himself, vowing to become the world’s greatest race car driver. In both Speed Racer X and in the 2008 movie, Rex is thought to have died in that accident. In the film, he is portrayed by two actors, Scott Porter as a younger Rex Racer, and Matthew Fox as the older Rex Racer.
Pops and Speed always acknowledged that Racer X was the superior driver, and the greatest driver that they had ever seen, but Speed vowed to defeat Racer X. In the anime, Speed was often suspicious of Racer X’s identity and motives because Racer X would sacrifice winning races to protect Speed from drivers who tried to harm him. The assistance from Racer X nearly always led to Speed winning races, while Racer X came in second place. Racer X always left the scene unnoticed, receding into his secret life. It was not until the episode, “The Trick Race”, that fans of the show finally got to see the identity of Racer X.