Plot: A man named Sean Corrigan is a rookie race car driver who wants nothing more than to become an F1 driver. He makes a stupid promise to himself that if he didn’t win his first official race, he’d quit racing for good. As luck would have it, despite Sean gaining first place for a good stretch of his first race, he drives over an oil slick that has no reason being there whatsoever because he starts daydreaming while he’s about to win. After his crash, he quits racing for good and pouts when a “MYSTERIOUS” masked man gives him an offer to race with his racing team.
Breakdown: You know, I generally have difficulty approaching old titles. I usually give leeway for cheesiness or poor animation quality because of the age, but it really comes down to whether an anime stands the test of time in terms of story and characters. Is this movie as good now as it was when it was released back in 2003?……2003?! What?! Nononono. That can’t be right. To the Internet!
….Ohhhhh this movie is actually a cobbled together movie made from clips of an old 1977 anime series called Arrow Emblem: Hawk of the Grand Prix….that is 44 episodes long…..44 episodes worth of material in one movie? Yikes. Either that show was horribly butchered, had little to no plot to begin with or they pulled off a miracle. Also, why did they decide to wait 30 years to release that show in the States under a completely different name as a 90 minute long movie?
Anyway, I can’t find any footage I can understand of the original series, so sadly I’ll never know. Not that it matters much anyway since this is supposed to be a stand-alone movie. And, chances are, no one who bothers to pick up this movie has watched the series.
So does this movie stand up well? The short answer is hell no. I sure as hell hope the original series was better than this piece of garbage because this is….a piece of garbage.
Lets go over some key points before we break it down, shall we?
The art and animation is incredibly dated and just not that good. Cheap animation is something I can deal with in old titles, but age is never really an excuse for poor art.
The voice acting is atrocious. I’ve heard plenty worse, believe me, but this is awful. One character sounds like Mr. Howell (Aces) a maid sounds like a typical Japanese stereotype (IE, saying “early” like “urry”) one of the characters sounds like Elvis (Shades) and everyone acts very poorly. This is fairly typical of old anime titles since there wasn’t much to English dubbed anime back in the day, but that’s not a great excuse and keep in mind that just the title is turning 40 years old, not the dub. The dub is merely 13 years old, there’s no excuse for this. Not like they have much to work with anyway since the dialogue is also pretty clunky and filled with exposition.
Now let’s get onto the story.
We start of with our narrator giving an explanation of the thrills of racing while introducing us to our main character, Sean Corrigan (Takaya in the original). He explains how Sean’s dad went missing when he was a kid or something and now he’s built his own car to work towards his dream of becoming an F1 racer.
We see Sean walking through the pit talking smack to some other racer named Aces who is apparently a pretty well known racer. The race starts and both Sean and Aces are neck and neck until Sean passes him in the final stretch. Thinking he’ll instantly win, Sean starts daydreaming about the checkered flag and winning, causing him to overlook the puddle of oil on the track….Why is that there? That’s a huge safety hazard. Is it there on purpose as a hazard or is the track crew really friggin’ lazy and irresponsible?
Sean crashes and he’s removed from his car before it bursts into flames and Aces wins the race.
Cut to Sean at the hospital where he’s moping and says he’ll quit racing. He made a pact with himself that if he didn’t win his first official race, he’d quit altogether. Dude, it’s nice to set bars and challenge yourself, but that’s just stupid. Be the best or don’t do it at all? Come on. A masked man comes in offering him a deal with his racing team but Sean refuses saying he quit racing. The man then asks if he ever heard of Niki Lauda, an extremely well-known racer who got into an awful crash and burned quite a bit of his body but lived to race again.
For those thinking that the name sounds familiar, yes, he is based on an actual driver named Niki Lauda; and his story is actually the same as what’s presented here. He was an Austrian F1 champion who got into a terrible crash that resulted in him becoming severely burned and leaving him permanently disfigured. Yet he lived to race another day. Six weeks after the crash, to be exact. For those who have already connected the dots in this scenario with the masked man, that’s where the similarities end because the rest of the story is fiction.
Anyway, he tells Sean that Niki never gave up and neither should Sean. Sean’s still stubborn, but changes his mind yet doesn’t change his mind? You’ll get it in a minute. Also, could that Niki Lauda thing be a little more obvious? Gee mysterious masked man, you sure know a lot about that guy who got burned all over his body. Hey Schwartz Bruder, do you know who he really is? And if not, ask the Masked Fighter from Yu Yu Hakusho.
We arrive at the house Sean will be staying at despite the fact that he keeps saying he quit. He even goes so far as to mock racing and cars by saying they’re just toys. See what I meant about him accepting yet not?
We meet a girl named Millie who is apparently a mechanic and navigator. We also meet a small boy named Joji who looks no older than eight and has no business being there. He’s supposedly really good with cars, but he’s way too young to be working as a mechanic for a professional racing team. Also, he never does anything in the entire movie. He’s always with Sean and Millie in the car during races but he doesn’t seem to have a point.
We see that Aces and his navigator, Tsumiko, who is the daughter of the owner of the team or some car company, we know because they tell us that twice in clunky expositiony dialogue, are also part of the team. While I initially saw Aces as your typical douchebag rival character, he actually seems fairly nice throughout the whole movie. In fact, if anything, Sean looks like the douche. Really think about it; Sean was the douche the first time they met too because he was the one who started egging on Aces to begin with, yet he’s being perfectly civil here while Sean’s being a brat.
Sean stumbles upon a new car that they came out with and decides to sit in it and day dream some more. The next morning, Millie and Joji find him and they show the car to the others on the team including someone with shades named Shades. This movie; so imaginative.
Shades convinces him to take the car out for a spin. He does and he freaks out by thinking about his crash so he crashes into a tree. (Sean, Sean, Sean of the racetrack; WATCH OUT FOR THAT TREE!) The masked man and the other officials from the team freak and he’s told that he’ll definitely have to pay for his mistake by…..driving in a simulator? Wha? I hope they edited out him fixing the car or paying for the repairs because that’s a dumb punishment.
On the simulator, Sean does pretty well, but when faced with a sudden and sharp turn, he crashes into the wall.
The masked man then asks him why he didn’t do a spin turn, but Sean has no clue what that is. (Even if he doesn’t know how to do it, he should at least know what it is if he’s such a gear head) The masked man then shows him what it is on the simulator. Basically it’s when you take a really sharp turn by applying the hand brake and suddenly twisting the car in an entirely different direction and disengaging the brake when you’ve reached the proper angle.
After that, Sean, Millie and Joji are seen at the rally race. A rally race is basically a race taking place on a long course over various terrain. The main goal is to have the best times at various checkpoints instead of going head to head against other racers for the majority of the race, though you can also win that way.
Shades decides to cheat by tricking Sean and the others. He apparently has a fake checkpoint with a fake official ready. They stop at the fake checkpoint and the fake official tells Sean that there were last minute changes to the rules that said they were including a scavenger hunt in the race and their first task is to solve a riddle of fish and fire or something. Being complete dumbasses, especially Millie, they fall for it without question. I say ‘especially Millie’ because she’s the damn navigator. She’s supposed to be the one who knows where all of the checkpoints are and everything about the track yet she doesn’t find an unmarked checkpoint with a sudden rule change for a completely stupid scavenger hunt side quest that would likely never be in a damn professional race odd?
What I find even stupider about this is that it doesn’t help Shades much at all because despite the fact that he’s distracting Sean and the others for some inexplicable reason, they’re even on the same team, he still has to stick around and act like he’s partaking in it too to make it seem realistic. He does leave while the others are busy, but he still wastes a lot of time.
After Sean and the others have caught, thoroughly cooked and eaten their fish, they discover that Shades is gone and there are no other racers in sight. Thus they must’ve been tricked!
Sean and the others get back in their car to plow through a storm and Sean does a spin turn even though we never saw him practice it or anything and the next stop is where all the racers are stopped due to a mudslide caused by the storm. Debris is blocking the road, so they believe the race must be done since they can’t pass on such a narrow mountainside. Sean decides to screw that noise and drives on the nearly vertical moutainside to get by……What is this, Speed Racer? Lupin the Third: Castle of Cagliostro? That doesn’t happen! Maybe, just maybe the incline was shallow enough to not topple the car, but there’s still no way he’d ever get up there.
The other racers follow suit, so I guess they all have this ridiculous level of skill and luck, but it’s basically a race between Aces and Sean….wait, where’s Shades? It seems even more pointless to have that distraction prank if Shades inexplicably vanishes immediately after.
They get to a sandy location and it seems like Sean will win until he suddenly speeds up to ensure that Aces doesn’t catch up and he goes over a sandy mound too quickly and crashes into the sand. He tries in vain to get unstuck from the sand, but can’t get the traction. Aces quickly gains on them, passes them and wins the race.
Oh and for those keeping score at home, that’s four times Sean has technically crashed in the past fifty minutes.
Since he made another mistake, Sean quits again, but is quickly back to being excited about racing again when the owner suggests that he’s so off-kilter since he lost his first car (the one he built on his own) that maybe he should build another car. Well, we don’t know if he blew as a racer before the crash since that was the first race we saw him in and supposedly his first official race ever so, sure whatever. Also, I should really point out that had he not fallen for that dumb checkpoint, he probably would’ve won by a mile or 20. It wasn’t because of that one crash into the sand and bad traction. He wasted at least like a half hour doing that crap.
At this point, I really don’t understand why we’re supposed to be rooting for him. He sucks as a driver for one, except when he gets anime-protagonist prodigy powers like pulling off that spin turn or driving on a wall, he’s a cocky asshat and when he’s not a cocky asshat he’s Sally Sadface. Not to mention the fact that he’s an idiot and this will only get worse as the movie goes on.
He builds himself an ugly piece of shit that I guess we’re supposed to be impressed with.
First off all, if he’s a rally racer, why build a car with no top? Rally racers go through all sorts of weather including rain and snow; why build a car with the least protection against the elements for rally racing? Second of all, brown? Really? Brown? I know I’m calling it a piece of shit, but that’s a term of speech, Sean. You don’t have to make it look like a literal piece of shit.
To test out the new car’s traction, he puts a ton of sand on the test track and pours a bunch of water on it without asking anyone or warning possible other test racers.
That could kill someone. How nice.
He tries to take the turn on the muddy sand, but can’t get enough grip and gets stuck.
Aces comes up in his own car and crashes. I guess this scene is just to showcase stupid Sean some more because it’s not played up for laughs and Aces doesn’t get hurt so….yeah.
Sean gets depressed again and acts like everyone’s overreacting to what he did…..Well, why is everyone so upset anyway? It’s just sandy mud…..on a race track….where people do 100+ mph….oh and that nasty possible FIERY DEATH thing to worry about. But no, you just test your ugly jalopy and nearly kill Aces. Go right ahead.
Millie and Joji try to cheer him up by asking if he wants to go to a steak dinner and he instantly gets excited again. I’m starting to wonder if Sean has emotional issues. He flipflops so severely between emotions that he should seek counseling or something. Despite my ragging on this character, some of his mistakes are perfectly understandable, like daydreaming while you’re about to win your first race. Granted some things were just stupid like falling for that scavenger hunt trick or putting muddy sand on the race track, but come on, stop giving me personality whiplash. Either that or go see a therapist.
He drives and they nearly crash, but Sean keeps the car in control as they follow a truck with double-wide wheels and he gets an epiphany about his traction problem.
As with most underdog prodigy stories, Sean has a moment of “genius” and “imagination” when dealing with a traction problem he’s having. After seeing a tractor trailer with double-wide wheels, he gets the idea to use the same setup with his car to get better traction. Now, while this seems to make sense from first glance, this was something I had to look up for myself to make sure.
To sum up what I researched, and feel free to correct me, basically the most important things when it comes to traction are weight, softness/stickiness of the tire material, treads and tire temperature. Wider tires do seem to make turning slightly easier, but they won’t help your traction very much while going forward. While Sean did show a traction problem while trying to do a spin turn on the mud, he also got stuck while trying to go forward in the sand. That’s what spurred his problem to begin with.
He also acts like a wider tire is the end all solution to his traction problem without even considering the other aspects I mentioned before despite the fact that a throwaway scene later has some old man telling a kid that putting weight on the back tires increases traction. It should also be noted that Dune Buggies, vehicles meant for soft terrain like snow and sand, usually have fairly narrow tires.
He modifies his car and tells the higher ups at the racing team to watch him demonstrate how well his modified car handles on snowy terrain while he drives up on a mountainside.
He shows that his modifications work, but the activity causes an avalanche. Despite his best efforts to escape the wave of snow, Sean crashes again and gets buried in the snow. As he collapses, he goes emo again. I guess even the dubbers were getting sick of mopey Sean because we quickly cut to the team owners announcing who of their team members will be racing in the next rally race in the Alps. Aces is one, some guy who never gets focus yet seems good named Hans is another, and they say that due to Sean’s imagination and ingenuity with the tires, he’ll be racing as well and Sean becomes happy again.
The rally race in the Alps begins and everything goes rather well for first bit until we get to snowy terrain. While trying to avoid a driver in the road, Sean crashes yet again into a snowbanking but they’re all fine and they continue driving.
That’s now six times that he has crashed…
We get up to a higher point of the mountain at night where we see a big ol’ death montage. They don’t outright say it, but numerous people had to have died. I mean, cars fall off of cliffs on the side of the Alps during an awful snowstorm with no way for emergency personnel or helicopters to get to them. Some of them fall so far that you can’t even see them anymore and others have the car visibly crushed while falling. Other drivers seem to have a better chance of survival with mere collisions, but several cars still burst into flames and there still seems to be no medical staff up there. Geeeez.
The race is fairly uneventful….There’s no head to head match ups, and the one time we see Hans do anything it’s just to get passed by Sean.
The ending….is complete bull. We cut straight from Sean about to win with him daydreaming about winning again and then we transition to him leaving the racing team with his navigator offering him his share of the prize money! What the hell?! At least show him actually winning! For god’s sake, that’s one of the main points of racing shows! I thought he would crash again like he did the last time he daydreamed while driving, but I guess that would’ve been too funny. The entire race was uneventful and boring. Hell, the rally race in the middle was way more exciting than this tripe.
Also, the rivalry between Sean and Aces is completely unresolved. The last time we see Aces before the ending, he’s at a checkpoint and is raring to take on Sean down the road to prove which one of them is better but we never see him again.
The thing with the masked man is also never revealed. Anyone can deduce by his obvious story that he was the legendary driver who got burned, Niki Lauda, and the Wiki says it, but we’re never told or shown that and Sean never figures it out fully.
Oh and you may be asking why Sean was leaving. The only explanation was that he felt guilty for being a douche when he first got there. Yeah. So they throw him leaving in our faces just to give a completely moronic reason to leave. Apologize! Hell, you can even invite everyone out for dinner or something. Why leave because of that? Oh but let’s flip the switch to have him change his mind a minute and a half later after talking with Millie. He tells the masked man that he’s going to shoot for being an F1 racer. Masked man throws Sean the keys to I guess an F1 car that he just happened to have on him in case Sean made that statement and we end right there.
What utter bull. Before the last twenty minutes, I was really just going to chalk this up to being a lame racing anime to watch when you’re bored and nostalgic, but this ending is appalling.
The only other note is the music which is mostly generic except one part during the avalanche where it sounds like Castlevania music for no reason.
Bottomline: It’s a stupid, awful quality movie with a cliché story, non-rivals, insanely stupid moments and basically unlikable main character and hell even the racing’s not very exciting. If you can track down the original series, maybe give that a try. It has to be better than this movie at least. I found the series in Spanish on Youtube if you can understand Spanish. Since I’m not good enough with Spanish for that, I can’t say.
Additional Information and Notes:
The original series and this movie were animated by Toei Animation. Since this movie is amalgamation of the original series, the direction and write staff don’t apply here, but since I can’t find that info for this movie, the original series was written by Masaki Tsuji, Keisuke Fujikawa and Shozo Uehara. The first half was directed by Rintaro, a widely renowned anime director, so that may spell better hope for the original series, and the second half was directed by Nobutaka Nishizawa. The movie was a product of Liberty Entertainment.
Year: 2003 (Original series; 1977)
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Recommended Audience: Nothing really offensive, though a bunch of people do die in the last race without being shown or explained as having died. 5+