Last week was one of those weeks where you take your child to the library and take out, say, 16 videos of various formats. Yes, it was one of those lost weeks where the TV becomes the babysitter, and mom goes into a holiday frenzy. One of the videos I got for my son, unbeknownst to him, was the Speed Racer Collector's Edition which has the first 11 episodes. This was not a DVD to just put your kid in front of -- I was dying to revisit the exciting tales of Speed Racer that I remember from my childhood. If you grew up in the 70's the afternoon broadcast TV landscape for kids was a wonderful east-west fusion of badly animated, badly dubbed, Japanese cartoons. I would have to say, in my part of the world growing up, there was a mighty triumvirate of Japanimation (the uncool term for the now-cool word, "anime") consisting of Speed Racer, Astro Boy, and Gigantor. My husband, on the other hand, remembers Speed Racer, Gigantor, and Kimba, the White Lion (those Floridians, you know...).
Watching the old episodes again was a great treat -- I know from reading in other places that Speed Racer enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the 90's and the release of the DVDs in the aughts has reinvigorated the franchise. It is sad, in a way, that so much of the early Japanese animation brought to the U.S. was as taken for granted, if not more so, than their English cousins because it was part of a cheap package to put on in the afternoons to sell toys to after-schoolers.
My son was completely enchanted with the heroic, if rambling, struggle of Speed and his friends and family, and kept asking about "the Masked Racer." He just couldn't wrap his brain around the fact that Racer X was actually Speed's older brother Rex, and in retrospect I guess I had the same confusion when I was his age, as well.