What is it?
Future GPX Cyber Formula is a 37-episode series by Sunrise, and directed by Mitsuo Fukuda. The series revolves around the high-stakes, high-risk world of auto racing in the distant future. In the future, racers rely on specialized AI systems, known as Cyber Systems, to navigate the tracks safely. Hayato Kazami is a 14-year-old biker and member of the Sugo racing team. His’s father was a brilliant engineer, and was the designer of the Asurada Cyber System, which was developed by Sugo Corporation.
The Smith corporation, who wants to use the Asurada in military applications, murdered Kazami’s father and attempted to seize the unit. However, as it was built for racing, the Ausurada prototype was implanted into Sugo’s GSX racer, and sent to the qualifiers for the next Cyber Formula GPX. On the way to the qualifier, the transport carrying Asurada was attacked, and Kazami is forced to activate Asurada. Due to the nature of the system, the Asurada imprinted Kazami’s driver data into its system. Since this data can’t be reset, Kazami is forced to join Sugo Racing as the team’s driver. The fate of Sugo Racing in the Cyber Formula GPX rests on the lad’s shoulders. Will he be able to claim the checkered flag for the team and keep the Asurada safe?
Why Was It Passed Up?
Cyber Formula was a low-key release by Bandai in 2003. The show wasn’t heavily promoted, for the most part. Instead, it was left to the fates of the market. The show was released in a single boxed set, which retailed for $99.98. At the time, this was actually fairly inexpensive, though few were willing to invest in a show that they didn’t now much about. As a result, the show simply died at retail.
Why This Show?
In many ways, Cyber Formula GPX is a spiritual successor to Speed Racer.The Asurada serves as a souped-up Mach 5 with a myriad of tricks and gimmicks, which range from tires that change with the terrain, to a full-on boat transformation. And Kazami, whose never-give-up attitude and his strange knack for getting into tight situations, draws comparisons to Speed himself.
The show benefits from the strong writing and excellent pace that Sunrise has become know for over the years. The races are tense, and there is alway a sense of danger. Every lap is an ordeal, a struggle for the coveted win, with every turn potentially being the one that takes Asurada for good. With each race comes a new rival, each with their own reasons to try to outmatch the inexperienced Kazami. Local legends, racing geniuses, and even members of royalty throw their skills and their emotions into each race, and turn a game of speed into a clash of personalities. These races, these rumbles between rival racers continue to build in intensity, as rivalries grow more fierce and the series builds up to a satisfying conclusion.
Cyber Formula is one of the many victims of the bursting of the anime bubble. The show was a hasty release in a market where sports-related anime has always struggled. The show’s $100 price tag, while fairly inexpensive at the time for a show of its length, was a bitter pill to swallow. It’s a shame that, much like City Hunter, this fabulous Sunrise show was doomed to reside in relative obscurity. The show’s strong characters and exciting races offer a compelling experience that will snare a wide variety of viewers.
The show’s definitey earned its cult following. However, I do hope that others discover this diamond in the rough before it’s too late.