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Immortal Grand Prix, TV Asahi
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Immortal Grand Prix (or IGPX for short) was originally a microseries in 2003 (ANN), consisting of five 5-minute episodes (a Total Immersion Event on Toonami). I didn't get to see much of that, and I really wish I could. I should say that IGPX is pretty revolutionary in that it is a coproduction between Cartoon Network and Japanese animation studio Production I.G. Such American/Japanese coproductions are not without precedent, but I think this is the first time an American and a Japanese company have worked so closely together on an anime project, from the very beginning. Anyway, this new full-length series is sort of a sequel to the microseries, but not really. The microseries was set in 2035, and the main character Takeshi was 14. The new series is set in 2049, and Takeshi is 15. That alone clearly demonstrates that it's not the same continuity. Of course, he also has a new last name, and the name of his team is different. But the biggest difference is that the original series was basically just teams of mechs battling each other, whereas the new series is teams of mechs racing and battling each other. Three laps on a 60-mile track: one lap of racing, one battling, and the third racing again. I should also say that the races are in 3-D CG, while the rest of the show is in traditional 2-D animation.

Each team has three racers: a Forward, a Midfielder, and a Defender. This series focuses on Team Satomi, which has just won the IG-2, which makes them eligible to race for the first time in the IG-1 (the highest level of the IGPX). There are of course more team members than just the ones who pilot the mechs. There's team owner Mitsuko (or Michiru) Satomi, the pilots' coach, Andrei Rublev (about whom a secret is revealed at the end of the first season, though I had guessed it much earlier), plus a mechanic, Mark Ramsey, and a substitute pilot, River Marque, who's just waiting for his chance. There's also a girl named Jesse Martin, who's like an assistant to Miss Satomi, or something. But the main characters are the Forward, Takeshi Jin; the Defender, Liz Riccaro; and the Midfielder, Amy Stapleton (both the youngest and the smartest member of the team, she synchronizes with her cybernetically enhanced cat, Luca, during races). Takeshi is dedicated to winning, but also doesn't seem to take anything very seriously, so he often clashes with Liz, while Amy tries to make peace as much as possible. Oh, I should also mention that Takeshi has a little sister named Yuri.

Anyway, in each race, two teams compete against each other... Team Satomi's rival teams include Sledge Mamma (an aggressive team which often wins by cheating, whose Forward, Yamma, takes an immediate dislike to Takeshi; River eventually quits Team Satomi and joins Sledge Mamma), Skylark (an all female team whose Forward, Fantine Valjean, eventually starts dating Takeshi), Velshtein (the current IGPX champions, whose Forward, Cunningham Hume, will be one of Takeshi's toughest rivals), Black Egg (a team which concentrates on defense rather than offense), and Edgeraid (whose Forward, Bjorn Johanssen, has a cybernetic dog named Sola, who will have a rivalry with Amy's cat Luca).

There are also lots of familiar voices, including Haley Joel Osment as Takeshi, Michelle Rodriguez as Liz, Lance Henriksen as Andrei, Mark Hamill as Yamma, Tom Kenny as sportscaster Benjamin Bright, Steve Blum as Cunningham, etc. Not much else to say, really. While the production of the show may be somewhat revolutionary, the show itself is somewhat bland, if enjoyable. Kinda like vanilla ice cream. Not very original or exciting, really... but comfortably familiar.

Well, it may be a bit of a spoiler, but I have to say that at the end of the first season, Team Satomi won, so they start the second season as champions rather than rookies. The team to finish in last place drops out of the IG-1 for the next season, and that was Black Egg. They're replaced by Team White Snow (Forward Zanak Strauss; Midfielder Max Erlich; and Defender Judy Highsmith). They also cheat, by hacking their opponents' mechs' operating systems to take control of the mechs during battles. What else to say? Takeshi and Fantine eventually broke up. And we learned that Andrei had a past rivalry with a former teammate of his from his racing days, Sir Hamgra, the current coach of Team Velshtein. And... I guess that's all I can think to say for now.


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