Unlike most American animation, Japanese anime has transcended any notions that animation must always be kid-friendly. The themes it explores are as multi-faceted as anything you see in live-action film and television. Consequently, anime is widely supported in Japan by a much wider age group. This openness in the genre has also seeped into anime geared for the young. I don’t mean that it contains brutal violence and sex, but a lot of children’s anime touches upon themes, premises, and storylines that you wouldn’t normally see in American animation. IGPX is one such show. Its an unexpectedly addictive show that I blew through in one sitting, which I rarely do (the last time I watched a TV show in one sitting was Freaks & Geeks).

IGPX has a very simple premise. Its set in the future and it follows a racing team through its first season of a professional mech race sport (basically its NASCAR for cool-ass looking robots). The hotshot star of the team is voiced by Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense). The episodes follow this team as they compete against other teams from different countries.

What makes this series compelling is watching to see whether our team will beat the next opponent. If this were an American series, every episode would end up with our heroes playing against a different opponent in each episode and beating them by the end. This series is not as neatly packaged. Some competitions last for a couple of episodes with our heroes losing sometimes. Adding to the drama and excitement are surrounding issues that affect our team. Since the team is essentially a rookie in the professional leagues, landing sponsors is difficult and getting them depends on winning races. Add to this the complex relationships the team members have. They don’t usually get along with each other and each has his or her own personal demons to deal with.

Watching this got me thinking of how cool this series would be as a live-action TV series or a live-action feature film. We’ve seen car race movies in recent years and they have not fared well at the box office (Days of Thunder, Driven, Speed Racer). However, all of these movies stick with conventional car racing. The mech robots in IGPX travel at insanely high speeds through twisty roller-coaster style tracks while battling each other with high-tech weaponry and gadgetry. Who wouldn’t want to see that shit in live-action? If we’re willing to see a crappy spectacle like Transformers, which has no story to speak of and its success is completely dependent on cool-looking CG robots, then why wouldn’t something like this not work?

The animation is your typical anime TV series style. It doesn’t have anywhere near the level of quality that you see in a Myazaki movie, but you shouldn’t be expecting that anyway in something like this. The robot designs, however, are very cool and each team has a unique look that differentiates it from the other teams. The one thing Japanese animation is unrivaled at is in how they design their robots. Its the reason why I loved to watch Robotech and collect Transformers figures when I was a kid. Their stories and characters were secondary to the form and designs of their robots. Here too, watching these mechs race against each other is the main event of the series overall. As much as I enjoy the premise, the plotlines, and the character development, its mainly about the robots.

IGPX came out of nowhere for me and although I wouldn’t rank it among the best anime I’ve ever seen, its a solid show that I probably would have dug the hell out of when I was a kid. I didn’t watch the entire season of this show, but based on the first 4 episodes I watched, its something I would recommend for any of your anime fans out there.