Future GPX Cyber Formula is coming back from behind
by Bob Johnson
One country’s breakout hit is another country’s also-ran. Notoriously, Cowboy Bebop – perpetual pinnacle of the genre among western anime fans – never caught on in Japan, whereas shows like Future GPX Cyber Formula outsold it and got sequel after sequel. So what gives? How is *THIS* such a huge franchise?
Maybe it appeals to Japan’s affinity for achievable futurism and plucky protagonists. At age 14, Hayato Kazami is hanging around his dad’s co-workers, “Cyber Formula” race team SUGO – but his main jam is riding his motorcycle. Everything is turned on its head when thieves come for the team’s car, forcing Hayato to take the wheel. Day saved, no problem? Well, Asurada’s computer locks everyone else out except the kid, and even the race team’s top cyber-whiz can’t crack the FaceID. So their up-and-coming Cyber Formula team is doomed unless Hayato can learn to drive.
While Hayato shows some innate talent, and also has some driving experience, unlike a lot of shonen shows that just give the protagonists easy wins, Future GPX Cyber Formula isn’t afraid to mete out crushing life lessons, which Hayato doesn’t always take in stride. Initially the other Grand Prix racers treat him as a joke or a sideshow, but through patience and dedication, he eventually earns the respect of the other Cyber Formula teams.
In Japan, the show is well-remembered, with 2016 seeing various 25th Anniversary special events. So why hasn’t Cyber Formula made it big in the Anglosphere? The original 37-episode show was never fully dubbed and never aired in America. Bandai’s sub-only US DVD release had evapourated by 2005. Despite so many OVAs and games, hardly any of it ever came to the US. No wonder I’d never heard of it.
Only recently did fangroup TADA recover a cheesy dub done for Singapore TV in 2006. This gem ran only for 12 episodes and was released on that cheapest of formats, VCD. The five-member cast turned in an hammy, over-acted performance that only accentuated the early show’s more shonen moments. On the other end of the quality spectrum, a Bluray version made it to the streets of Japan in 2011. Not only that, but should you want to try your own hand at the preposterous speeds of Cyber Formula, video games based on it have made it to various consoles. (PS2) (PSP) (PC) There’s even a visual novel!
Now that the once-lost dub has been rediscovered, and the SIN VIER game has made it to Steam, both just within the last few months, it really feels like this “Big in Japan” show is getting a long-postponed second look everywhere else. If you’re keen on Formula One, or maybe just the vaguely weebish CEO of a car company, this is one show you’ll want to flag down.
Fuck yeah look it up!
Future GPX Cyber Formula
Anime and Video Game Franchise
Based on the 1991 anime by Sunrise