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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/25/2008 Archived Entry: "Speed Racer: Mach Go Go Go, Vol. 1 & 2 (Boxed Set)"

Speed Racer: Mach Go Go Go, Vol. 1 & 2 (Boxed Set)
By Tatsuo Yoshida
Digital Manga Publishing
ISBN: 1569707316

Review by Tom Good

As a child, I had very little disbelief in need of suspension, and I accepted Speed Racer as practically a documentary about auto racing. So when I revisited it I finally noticed how completely weird it is. But its delightful, retro kind of strangeness also makes it very readable today. DMP has published a beautiful two-volume boxed set of the original Speed Racer manga by Tatsuo Yoshida.

The character and place names in the comic really amused me. A cheating racer is named Duggery, and other rivals have names like Tongue Blaggard, Zoomer Slick, and Lightfingers Klepto. An evil government official named Ali ben Schemer lives in a desert nation called the Kingdom of Sandoland.

In the real world, auto racing is a rather technical sport where victory can depend on factors like pit strategy and tire wear. But in the world of Speed Racer, race drivers act more like James Bond than Michael Schumacher, races are free-for-alls, and courses feature towering cliffs and death-defying jumps. It's like a cross between WRC and The Dakar, but with monsters and weapons.

In my favorite chapter, "The Fire Race," the race course consists of an 800 mile long tunnel beneath an erupting volcano, and the drivers must average 160 mph just to make it to the other end before the tunnel closes. As if that weren't enough, the tunnel also happens to contain the Treasure of Kapetepek, a hoard of gold and diamonds that tempts the racers to stop and fill their pockets, and naturally a giant monster guards the treasure. But the story is presented in earnest as a cultural conflict between a local tribe and "civilized man," with the fate of a village depending on the outcome of the race. Will the village be left alone to preserve its traditions, or will it be developed by greedy businessmen?

There is something sweet and innocent about the idea that political and cultural problems can be solved by auto races. These books evoke a nostalgic, comforting, simpler world -- a world where Speed can go flying out of his open-top car as it crashes, land on his feet, and calmly say "I'm fine . . . no big deal." These books are an important part of manga history, and also a lot of fun to read. This set belongs in a manga fan's permanent collection.

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