I fell in love for the very first time when I was three years old. No, it wasn’t the cute kid who played next to me in the sandpit at the park. It was with an older man, who had a fast car. The downside of course, was that it was doomed from the start, seeing as he was totally 2D. Little Kimi had encountered her very first animé, and its name was Speed Racer. Kimi-chan sat down faithfully, brushing aside Big Bird and Scooby Doo to tune in to watch Speed do his best against Racer X, have his Pops fuss at him, and the antics of little brother Spritle and his pet chimpanzee. With its roaring race cars and action adventure format, I was, like many a child, riveted. Speed racer’s story has been brought “up to date” and remade into new TV series and film adaptations, but it simply was not the same.
Then, a gift as it were, came from on high. Or rather, Digital Manga decided to publish the original manga that the original animé and the later incarnations were based on. I read it via Emanga first, and then got the box set. It is over there <<<<<< sitting on my shelf. My son kept greedily looking at the box. I let him read the Emanga version, because that collector’s box set is MINE. Now he wants one too. Why? Well, I asked him, and his reply was rather simple. “Speed looks like a regular guy, and he has a really cool car. His dad is nice, and makes race cars, but doesn’t want him to race, but I think he is proud of him. Plus there is a guy who looks like an alien but is really a racer in disguise, who Speed has to beat. And other bad guys, who want to steal a special engine and other stuff. I like the vrrrrrrrrrrrrrrroooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmm mmmmm bits too, where the cars go really fast.” Ha, what did you expect? He’s 7 and its about a guy and car racing! I felt pretty much the same as a kid, myself.
As an adult, I can see the flaws all too clearly in the manga however. Not with DMP’s presentation, but rather the execution of the stories by creator Tatsuo Yoshida. The stories are a bit simple in comparison to the multi layered shonen offerings of today, and the characters are not very deeply developed either. It’s all very typical of 1960’s comics though, so not a particular failing of this manga per se, more of a lack of detail that modern readers have come to expect as the modern graphic novel came of age. What IS problematic is the way some of the stories conclude. Occasionally, a previously frenetic arc will just abruptly conclude, leaving a rushed feeling in place, especially in the story Challenge of the Masked Racer. Now, my son did not notice this, but, as a kid, he admittedly does not have as sophisticated a palate as an adult long time manga reader. Having said this, it IS a shonen piece, not aimed directly at the adult market at all, though due to nostalgia factor, it certainly has appeal. As a a light romp into adventure land, this works great. No cosmically weighty issues here, no deep angst, and definitely no philosophical issues weight this down.
Presentation wise, this is beautiful. Two dustjacketed hardback books in a very sturdy cardboard box that looks like it will withstand the books being taken in and out in case you want to read and re-read these. The names of the characters conform to the US version of the animé, rather than the Japanese originals, but given that everything else is intact and it is aimed at the English speaking market who are likely to know them by these names thanks to TV and film, I’ll let that slide. The “back to front” native manga format is preserved, as is the colour introduction tot he set over the first several pages of both volumes. Befitting the “Platinum” name of the imprint, the paper stock is high quality and the binding is something that I have not seen the like of in quite some time. I’ll say this, the pages will NOT fall out any time soon, if ever. The spine is made so that the pages turn easily, without creasing or creaking, which is just as well due to the bulk of the volumes.
Volume one contains 6 adventures taking us from Speed’s very first adventure onward: The Great Plan, Challenge of the Masked Racer, Race for Revenge, and the Fire Race. Volume two is slightly longer and the stories continue on from where the previous volume’s story arc ends with The True Spirit of a Racer, The Desperate Desert Race, The Secret Engine, The Secret of the Golden Arrow, The Black Test Car, and Race to Fire Island. Now, the two books have a grand total of 700 pages between them, and one might be forgiven for thinking that these might be hard back bunko sized books, but you’d be mistaken. These hardbacks are are the same size as many of the best seller thriller hard back editions my husband is fond of. Truthfully, it looks like this signature line s intended to be a collectible that can be read, enjoyed, and admired. At the current price of just over $26 at Amazon.com (£25.49 at Amazon.co.uk) , it works out to a very reasonable $0.037 cents (£0.036) per page. This price reduction from the original $40 RRP also puts in the the right price bracket for gift giving, perfect for the nostalgia buffs of the 60’s and 70’s as well as the cartoon loving or car mad fanboy or girl of any age.