In the early 2000s the high octane action of Beyblades and the epic clashes of Zoids were all the rage. It was only natural that the immense popularity of these series spawned countless copycat anime. Most of these copycats were merely a cheap imitation, barely watchable. However there was one little known series that sought to be something more, something greater. That anime series was Crush Gear Turbo.
From Sunrise studios, Crush Gear Turbo had quite the pedigree, with ties to the legendary Gundam series and the immortal Cowboy Bebop. While it was easy to write it off as another Beyblade clone, Crush Gear Turbo proved to be one of the most unique anime of that era. With a dark tone underscored by a sense of hopefulness, Crush Gear Turbo was a mature take on what is ultimately a children’s genre. Furthermore the series marks one of the earliest successful instances of the anime industry’s experimentation with CGI, resulting in unforgettable visuals that remain timeless to this day.
It follows a young boy by the name of Kouya with a passion for Gear Fighting (the world’s most popular pass-time). Kouya’s brother Yuhya is a professional Gear Fighter qualifying into the Crush Gear World Championship Tournament, the grandest stage of them all for Gear Fighters. In a tragic turn of events Kouya’s brother passes away in an accident, leaving Kouya devastated. After some soul searching, Kouya vows to continue his brother’s legacy and begins fighting with Yuhya’s Garuda Eagle all in a bid to achieve the dream of his brother, to become the world’s greatest Gear Fighter.
The original series of Crush Gear ran for a whopping 68 episodes and ultimately spawned a spin-off series Crush Gear Nitro and even a manga adaptation. Series producer Naotake Furasato claims to have come up with the concept of Crush Gear after playing around with a motorized toy car. He envisioned a stadium with two of these motorized vehicles colliding in a demolition derby style clash and thus the idea of Gear Fighting was born. But what sort of story can you tell with two toy cars colliding? That was the question Furasato had to answer.
Drawing inspiration from classic series Ashita no Joe, Crush Gear Turbo became an underdog story about passion and the forces that drive us to fight for something. Furasato stated that his goal with Crush Gear was to encourage children to think and value friendship and trust. In the direction for the series Director Shuji Iuchi focused on deepening relationships between the characters and an exploration of the reasons why they fight. It all came together to make what remains one of the most thought-provoking series in the long history of children’s anime.
Rather interesting to note is the fact that Crush Gear Turbo attained relatively limited airplay outside of Japan, despite that fact that a complete English language dub exists. Only ever airing in complete English format in Australia, Crush Gear Turbo became a hit down under with Crush Gear toys even making their way onto shelves. Crush Gear Turbo staged a revolution in Australia all the while never even breaking into the American or UK markets. Very little information is known about the English dub’s production other than the fact it was distributed by the now defunct Magna Pacific, but it remains a classic in the hearts of many Australian anime fans.
So why is an obscure series such as Crush Gear Turbo so important? Well there are a number of reasons really. For one it arguably popularized the use of CGI in anime with its hugely successful 3D animation sequences, with a lasting impact remaining today with current series such as Majin Bone and Attack on Titan implementing the style for their action sequences. Most of all it is Crush Gear’s mature story telling that sets it apart from the rest of the pack. This is an anime that treated its viewers with a sense of intelligence, tackling topics such as death, loss and dreams with genuine sensitivity and heart. While it is decidedly a cult series, it is undoubtedly an influential anime in every regard. Crush Gear Turbo unfortunately is not easy to come by these days, with no legal English language release currently on the market with the series long out of print at this stage. However fans of the series have ensured it lives on online if you look hard enough.
Crush Gear Turbo is a series I personally hold near and dear to my heart. I vividly recall tuning in every Friday morning to Cheez TV and watching the series with my own Garuda Phoenix Crush Gear in hand. It is crazy to think that I was just a boy back then and here I am now almost 15 years later a man still in awe at this timeless series. I guess that great anime really never stop being great.