One of the first Japanese anime series to enjoy significant success in the United States, Speed Racer first drew life as Mach Go Go Go, a cartoon strip (manga) created by cartoonist Tatsuo Yoshida. Per its title, the star of Mach Go Go Go was a high-tech racing car, driven by fearless young Go Mifune on behalf of his father Daisuke's auto manufacturing firm. The supporting cast included Go's kid brother/mascot Kuo, his girlfriend Michi, his mechanic Sabu, and his pet monkey Senpei. Whenever Go and his amazing car were threatened by villains (who ranged from dishonest racers to international spies), our hero could count on the aid of the mysterious Masked Racer, who unbeknownst to everybody, was Go's fugitive older brother Kenichi. Using the enormous profits from the comic book version ofMach Go Go Go, Tatsuo Yoshida set up an animated cartoon firm, Tatsunoko, for the express purpose of producing cartoon shows for television -- including a series version of his most successful manga property. Debuting on Japanese television in 1967, Mach Go Go Go was soon thereafter picked up for American play under the title Speed Racer. In the inevitable English-dubbing process, all the characters' names were changed: Go Mifune became Speed Racer ("He's a demon on wheels!"), Michi became Trixie, Daisuke became Pops Racer, Kuo became Spridal, Sabu became Sparky, Senpei became Chim Chim, and even The Masked Racer was re-christened as Racer X.
The focal point of the series remained, as ever, Speed Racer's marvelous jet-propelled car, now known as the "Special Formula Mach 5," which, with the aid of the seven specially equipped buttons on its control panel, was able not only to go faster than any other racing car in existence, but also to cut through forests with retractable saws, deflect bullets and other missiles, travel underwater (with periscope!) and deliver vital messages via a tiny birdlike robot. The 52 half-hour episodes of Speed Racer have never stopped playing since their initial appearance on America TV in September 23, 1967. As a bonus, the property has spawned two "upgraded" versions, 1993's The New Adventures of Speed Racer and 1997's Speed Racer X. Alas, a long-promised live-action feature film version of the series has yet to materialize. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi