Anime DVD Review: Speed Racer Volume 4

Speed Racer Volume 4 contains episodes 37 through 44 of the Speed Racer anime series. While there may only be eight episodes included on the disc, there were no special features included on this release. The version of the set that I purchased was a limited edition version that was packaged with a toy car replica of the Mach Five.

Speed Racer Volume 4
English Publisher: Family Home Entertainment
Format: DVD
Release Date: March 14, 2006

Volume 4 opens with “The Terrifying Gambler,” which is an episode that sees a criminal hijacking the Mach Five during the Monte Carlo Rally. Speed identifies the hijacker as a famous gambler named Mr. Fastbacks, but can’t prove it.

Next is a two-part episode titled, “The Secret Invaders.” The episode sees an assassin trying to kill Princess Gracious of Ambrocia but not succeeding; his attempt failed because a racer flashed his mirror and blinded the assassin. It’s believed that Speed was the one responsible for blinding the assassin.

In “Man Behind the Mask,” Speed is on a plane headed to the North American Grand Prix; on the plane with him is Dr. Fantasty, who has invented a rocket fuel engine. The plane is hijacked by strange masked men who direct that it be flown to an uncharted island.

“The Car Destroyer” sees a man using small cars to control real cars that he melts down to build a forest. Speed gets involved in the case and finds out why the man is doing this.

In “The Desperate Racer,” Speed enters the Pineapple Grand-Prix, where the drivers have to carry a pineapple in their car. It turns out someone has hidden a diamond in one of the pineapples, so criminals are interfering with the race by stealing the pineapples from the drivers.

In “The Dangerous Witness,” Speed and Trixie are on a plane headed to Hong Kong; Spirtle and Chim-Chim are also on board. A man on the plane is suddenly poisoned by a needle that flew from a woman’s compact. When he goes to confront the woman, he discovers that she’s also dead; it turns out she was hit by a needle, too. They find that in the woman’s purse is an invitation to one of Hong Kong’s famous floating restaurants. Speed gets embroiled in trying to solve the mystery of what happened.

In “Race the Laser Tank,” Speed finds himself in the middle of an assassination attempt at an airport, and he inadvertently saves a young woman’s life. Speed gets on the same plane as the young woman, since it’s bound for Hawaii, where he needs to go for his next race. When Spritle and Chim-Chim are caught hiding the trunk of the Mach Five at customs they run away and end up in the trunk of another car. This car ends up being tied into the plot that involves the would-be assassins.

At this point in the series, I found the storylines became stranger and stranger. Maybe it’s a good thing that only eight episodes are included on this disc!

Unlike the previous three Speed Racer episode DVDs, this volume actually includes chapter marks that are usable by the viewer. It was nice to be able to skip over the opening and ending credits for a change when I was watching the disc so I could write about it for this review.

One of the biggest drawbacks, however, is that trailers were actually tacked on at the beginning of the disc. While this in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing, the trailers were designed so the viewer couldn’t simply skip over them. Even if you use the fast forward button on your remote, the disc would stop fast forwarding when it hit the next trailer.  Also, the amount of trailers tacked on to the beginning of the disc was excessive.

I can also say that the main menu for this release was also an improvement over the first three volumes. When the main menu starts up, there is some animation that happens before the menu pops up. On the first three discs, it would just open up to the menu right away. Having the animation before the main menu appears was a nice change of pace, and it made the menu a little more interesting.

Another thing of interest about this disc is the fact that there was only one two-part episode included on it. The first two discs were made up completely of multiple-part episodes, while the third disc had four multiple-part episodes and five stand-alone episodes. So, having this eight episode disc only contain one multiple-part episode made this volume a different viewing experience from the previous three.

For those Speed Racer fans who want to own every episode of the series on DVD in their anime home video collection, this release is a “must have.”

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Speed Racer Volume 4 that my husband and I purchased.

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