Anime Spotlight: Mach Go Go Go Restart

Mach Go Go Go Restart is a reboot of the original Mach Go Go Go anime (better known to many audiences as Speed Racer). The 34 episodes of the series aired in Japan from January 9-September 25, 1997. There were supposed to be 52 episodes, but the series was cut short.

There were two attempts to bring this series to North America. In 1998, Speed Racer Enterprises planned to dub and released the series under the title, Speed Racer Y2K, but only managed to dub the third episode. In 2002, DIC Entertainment Corporation tried to make an English dub called Speed Racer X. The series aired on Nickelodeon’s Slam! block but was pulled due to a lawsuit between DIC and Speed Racer Enterprises. Only 13 of the episodes were dubbed. As of the writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the rights to Mach Go Go Go Restart and have released the series as part of their Speed Racer The Ultimate Collection Blu-ray and DVD box set.

This reboot was made 30 years after the original series, and it looks more modern in comparison. However, to today’s audiences, the animation for this reboot looks very dated. If you’re familiar with anime from the 1990’s, the animation for this reboot has a very recognizable 90’s vibe to it. One of the major things that gives away the fact that Mach Go Go Go Restart is from the 1990’s is the fact that there’s some very bad CG animation used in the ending credits. Near the end of the series, the animation quality goes downhill drastically, and I wonder if by that point, they knew the episode count was being cut… and with that, a cut in the production budget.

There are a lot of changes between the original Mach Go Go Go and this reboot. Go Mifune’s last name has been changed to Hibiki. Michi is now Mai, and she’s a photographer that Go meets during his first race. Mai is the one with a younger brother (named Wataru) rather than Go. Takumi is the character that takes Sabu’s place, but Takumi comes across as being a little younger than Go in this reboot. Also, Takumi has more a stereotypical 1990’s nerd look in his design. And in this version, Go’s brother Kenichi doesn’t run away from home. Instead, he is presumed dead after an accident. Sanpei (aka Chim Chim), who is known as Rocky in this reboot, enters the series further down the line, when Go, Mai, and Wataru are visiting Africa. Wataru and Rocky become friends, and Rocky comes home with the group. Unfortunately, Rocky never truly adds anything to the series. For the most part, he’s just kind of there. It makes me wonder if by the point Rocky was introduced, they were seeing that the series wasn’t doing well, so they tried adding an element like Rocky to try to woo the nostalgia crowd. It was also around that point that the theme song for the series was changed to an updated version of the Mach Go Go Go theme song.

After the first two or three episodes, I adjusted to the changes in the series, so I was able to start focusing more on Mach Go Go Go Restart by its own merits. In the early episodes of the series, what I was coming out of the reboot with was that the reboot was tackling similar plot ideas to the original but portraying the stories and characters more realistically. Unfortunately, the series doesn’t stay in this vein.

The series starts out establishing Go as a racer, which leads to the Earth Grand Prix. This is a race that brings together the best racers in the world and is being done to symbolize the beginning of the new millennium. Unfortunately, the writers seemed to forget their own rules that they established for the elimination rounds, which made me question how one of the racers ended up in the final race. Also, there was a lot of build up to the race with the various elimination rounds, but the big race itself took place in one episode. And the sad thing was, the writers had established that there would be several checkpoints across the course, so there should have been opportunities for things to happen at the various checkpoints. They could have easily gotten two or three episodes out of it. But the big race being only one episode was a letdown to me as a viewer. Also, the tone of the series started changing during the Earth Grand Prix. A new, goofy villain named Professor Akihabara is introduced, and manages to shoehorn his way into a race that takes place right before the Earth Grand Prix. This one character started to destroy the more realistic and serious vibe that the series had been going for up to that point.

There were also a handful of episodes where Go assisted Cathy, an officer of the International Police. These episodes had nothing to do with the Earth Grand Prix itself, and they felt more like they were filler to stretch things out. While the tone of these episodes fits in with the realistic and serious tone the series had been aiming for, they didn’t really add anything to the overall story in the long run.

After the Earth Grand Prix, the series suddenly jumps the shark. It’s discovered that when the Mach 5 goes 555 km/h, it can travel through time. Go, Wataru, Rocky, and Mai end up going from 2001 to 2555, and end up in a situation where they’re trying to stop a guy with bluish skin named Handler, who is trying to take over the world by acquiring Ezekiel Wheels. The group meets a professor who is trying to stop Handler from succeeding, and the group travels through time to try to find the Ezekiel Wheels. In the end, though, the Ezekiel Wheels are more of a MacGuffin than anything else. To be honest, I felt like the writers were ripping off Back to the Future with this particular story arc, and it didn’t help that the first place they went to in order to look for an Ezekiel Wheel was the Wild West. Back to the Future III, anyone?

One thing that was nice to see in this series, though, was the fact that we got the see the relationship between Go and Mai develop. In the original Mach Go Go Go, Go and Michi were already a couple from the beginning, and the relationship between the two was consistent.

Another thing that I noticed was that the Japanese must have paid attention to Speed Racer. In the original Mach Go Go Go, Kenichi’s alter ego was simply known as “The Masked Racer,” while in the English dub, Rex’s alter ego was “Racer X.” In Mach Go Go Go Restart, however, Kenichi’s alter ego was “The Masked Racer X.” It was also interesting to note that in this reboot, Kenichi was being portrayed as a “Bruce Wayne” type of character: he seems to have somehow come into wealth, he’s kind of a brooding character, and he even has an older assistant (Old Man Joe) who takes on the role of “Alfred” from Batman. Unlike Alfred, though, Old Man Joe is no slouch, because he can defend himself and take on a villain if he has to.

Unfortunately, at the end of the series, it’s obvious that it was cut short. The final episode doesn’t truly have an ending, it just kind of stops. It just wasn’t a satisfying viewing experience. When all was said and done, Mach Go Go Go Restart just wasn’t very good. It had a promising start, but by the time the Earth Grand Prix arc ended, the series simply fell apart.

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