Brief Thoughts On: Dead Heat

In the late-21st century, the hottest sensation is FX Racing. Using machines that are part bike and part mechsuit, FX racing has all the thrills of traditional formula 1, with an added dash of vehicular combat!

PHOTO: Makoto closing in on a pink FX MAchine from behind after rounding a tight corner.

Racers are ranked in 4 categories: A, B, C, and D. A-racers are the best of the best, whereas just about anybody can throw together an FX machine to become a D-rank racer. The latter is the case for young Makoto, whose team has big ambitions but low budgets. Just as the financial realities of their situation begin to catch up with them, Makoto’s team receives a mysterious benefactor. A strange fellow by the name of Gou has a top-of-the-line engine just lying around and fiercely believes that Makoto is the one who can conquer the racing world with this rare piece of premium tech.

Dead Heat is a little-known racing anime from 1987. It was produced by Studio Sunrise under the guidance of Beyblade director Toshifumi Kawase, who has also worked on storyboards for numerous entries in Sunrise’s Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. Dead Heat tried to garner interest by marketing itself as “the first 3D anime” only to go relatively unnoticed. It is still rarely talked about today, even in discussions about the history of 3D animation.

PHOTO: A green FX Machine tils and its driver fall out, while a blue machine is about to overtake them.

This is at least somewhat unwarranted. The high-speed action scenes and Sunrise’s knack for mechanical design certainly make Dead Heat a joy to watch, but the fancy-schmancy 3D animation clearly came at a cost. The movie only clocks in over 30 minutes if you count the credits and the opening sequence, the latter of which is just 2 minutes of written text explaining the backstory of FX racing. No animation or music to accompany it; you just read.

Almost all of the runtime it does have goes towards racing, tinkering, or otherwise interacting with the FX machines. It’s nice that Dead Heat emphasizes its strengths in doing so, but it makes the movie feel like more of a showcase for the animation rather than a complete package. Its story is left thin and the characters within it are largely forgettable. If you want a sci-fi sports anime with more plot to it, then Azusa Will Help! or Metal Fighter Miku will be far better options. If you just want to relax and watch some sick animated racing though, then Dead Heat has you covered.

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