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Future GPX Cyber Formula

Sports anime can be really exciting because they’re basically an excuse to do tournament arcs back to back until the end of time. Who doesn’t like a good tournament arc? They’re filled with tension as the show’s protagonist faces off against rivals, leads up to a climatic moment, and either the hero wins or loses. Whatever the outcome, the process is always exciting. When things get tricky is if a show has quite a few episodes. Then there’s the risk of pacing issues and new rivals appearing that basically pad out a series that should have been a season shorter. Thankfully, Future GPX Cyber Formula doesn’t have that problem. Despite being 37 episodes long, it’s a fun ride from beginning to end, and there are a lot of rivals, many of whom grow over the series.

This is a series about racing futuristic formula cars. The show came out in 1991, but takes place in 2015. In its vision of the future, a new breed of high tech formula racers has come along where drivers have onboard, sometimes sentient, AI that assists in getting through the courses. This is because the cars are so much faster, and the courses so much more dangerous, that it would be impossible for a human to tackle the circuits on their own. With that, the Cyber Formula Grand Prix rose to prominence as these new cars and their drivers became the elite of the racing world.

Tossed into this is a 14 year-old boy named Hayato Kazami. Through an unexpected set of circumstances, he becomes the driver of a new prototype car, the Asurada GSX, when he inadvertently gets locked into its AI’s data bank as the car’s driver. From there, he goes from being a reluctant driver for Team Sugo to really enjoying Cyber Formula racing. As expected, he learns a lot along the way as he gets to know his rivals and chance encounters with others. Early on, he’s clearly a rookie, but over time becomes a talented racer in his own right. It’s a theme in sports anime that is as old as the days are long, but remains engaging here.

Adding a little more depth to things, viewers see Hayato gradually form a bond with Asurada, the car’s AI. Moreover, there is a shady organization that is constantly trying to steal the car and its AI, so Hayato is constantly dealing with that.

Also, a number of the other racers receive quite a bit of development. Yes, some are just caricatures of the countries they hail from. Jackie Gudelhian, for example, is American and is a blonde haired, blue eyed womanizer with a cowboy hat and a uniform fashioned after his country’s flag.

However, there are other racers with far more meat on their bones. Most notable are Naoki Shinjyo and Karl Lichter von Randoll, both of whom start as heels but grow a lot. The former is an up and coming racer that just began Cyber Formula after a successful career in F3 racing. He spends much of the series rather full of himself, but as his performance suffers, largely thanks to Hayato starting to do better than him, Shinjyo gets into a funk and treats everyone around him terribly. It gets to the point where he really needs to improve both his racing and his attitude or he won’t have a team anymore. Meanwhile, Randoll is a genius aristocrat that has dominated every sport he has entered, and is now dabbling in Cyber Formula. He’s extremely arrogant and constantly looks down on Hayato. His growth comes in how he gradually begins to respect Hayato as a worthy rival.

It’s a bit of a surprise that Hayato’s rivals generally get more development than his actual team does. Many just fit roles like the tech guy or the manager, but there are a couple who get at least a little bit of attention. Miki, the head mechanic, has a handful of episodes dedicated to fleshing her out a bit. Also, Asuka, the daughter of the team owner, clearly likes Hayato and viewers see the early stages of a romance blooming over the course of the series. Other than that, the rest of the team is very two dimensional.

Experiencing the show as a whole can sometimes feel like viewers have been thrust into the anime equivalent of a 1990s arcade racing game. This is largely thanks to the series’ aesthetic. Each car has an over-the-top, ultra futuristic design to it that would put F-Zero to shame. Much of the music, especially during the first dozen or so episodes, feels like something right out of a racing game, although somewhat more licensed material started to appear as the series gained in popularity. Clearly, the show had every intention of merchandising. The cars were quite eye catching, and several model sets and other such toys were released to capitalize on the series. There have also been over a dozen racing video games set in the Cyber Formula universe over the years. Cyber Spin on the SNES is actually a Cyber Formula game re-purposed for the West minus the licensing.

There aren’t a lot of shows these days that feature race cars, and when something does come along it usually winds up being Initial D related. People looking for something a little bit different and that doesn’t get nearly the attention that it deserves in this day and age would do well to check out Future GPX Cyber Formula. Between the characters, story, and excellent pacing, there’s a lot to like about it.

- IroIro
April 5, 2019

Directed by: Mitsuo Fukuda
Studio: Sunrise
Released: 1991
Episodes: 37

Future GPX Cyber Formula Image 1
DVD Box Art

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Team Sugo

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Asuka in the pits

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Hayato at the wheel

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Asurada AI system