Unveiling the Mystery: Scooby-Doo's Anime Adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun

A Fresh Spin on a Time-Honored Tale

Scooby-Doo and the gang are going to Japan, but there’s a twist! The popular Hanna-Barbera animated series is getting a makeover as an anime-infused mystery comedy. Cartoon Network will release the series Go-Go Mystery Machine, in which Scooby-Doo and his friends visit Japan. Cartoon Network hopes that the show will add fresh frenetic energy to the classic, problem-solving, gooey-in-the-middle series. The people behind Mystery Machine suggest that the show will appeal to viewers old and new. It will also join a growing list of anime-inspired shows that include Avatar: The Last Airbender, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and Gravity Falls. But there’s a bigger question. Will Go-Go Mystery Machine capture what has made Scooby-Doo a staple in homes across the world for decades?

The Plot Thickens: A Culinary Quest with a Twist

At the centre of Go-Go Mystery Machine is a story of foodie kink becoming monster kerfuffle. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are in Japan, and not just because their taste buds have led them there but because what they find to eat releases a swarm of mythological monsters upon an unsuspecting public. In an online clip Warner Bros. released to promote the series, our heroes are shown chasing after a butterfly-winged sumo wrestler before being pursued across Tokyo in a rebooted Mystery Machine – the classic five-tinted van, no longer hippie van but restyled as a racing Kei truck.

New Friends and Ancient Foes

What is different about Go-Go Mystery Machine is the large supernatural element: not only is the series set overseas, but the opening scene ushers in a mysterious trio at the Scooby gang’s doorstep that promises to join the gang. Toshiro, the tech wizard. Etsuko, the magic helper. Daisuke-Doo, Scooby’s Japanese uncle. The gang is in for new dynamics, and Scooby and the gang have a chance to trade in some of the campy elements for style and cool. The series promises both a true female presence in the gang, and implies its heroes will spend time facing off against real, supernatural threats. That last bit is a point of debate among the franchise faithful.

Navigating Through a Sea of Skepticism

‘Go-Go Mystery Machine’ plays against the backdrop of a franchise on uncertain footing. The recent poor response to the Velma film, as well as the cancellation of several other projects, has been cause for alarm from fandom at large. And although it borders on the unthinkable – a combination of Scooby-Doo’s antics and the sinister atmospherics of Japanese horror, aka movies in the style of The Grudge or RING – it could be a gamechanger that either disillusions or delights.

A Score That Bridges Worlds

Uncommonly, the announcement promised a score that could only be called a high-stakes mash-up – to be made by musicians such as Babymetal, Shonen Knife and Melt-Banana – which parallels the series’ larger ambition of matching western animation with anime but with a distinctly Japanese flavour, to include watercolour backgrounds. While each adds to the sense of authenticity surrounding the show, it also raises the stakes.

What Lies Ahead: The Future of Mystery Inc.

Setting the ‘Go-Go Mystery Machine’ in motion does at least put fans in the driving seat – but will ‘Scooby-Doo! and Friends: The Legend of the Vampire’ be a breath of fresh air for the brand, or go too far for a fan base rocked by product implosions? The mystery won’t really be solved any time soon.

About "Ring"

Diving deep into one of the main inspirations for the ‘Go-Go Mystery Machine’, Ring, this series of horror films is one of the most influential in Japanese horror history and one of the most iconic cultural exports from Japan into other countries. It is also one of the bleakest film series in horror history. What sets the Ring films apart is not necessarily straightforward horror, but a level of cultural mystery that is at once chilling and unforgettable. Its stain lingers after the credits roll, and the empty sound of the payphone stays hanging in the air. That is the essence of some of the best horror cinema. But it’s also a thematic aspiration made by translating Scooby-Doo into anime in 2020. It isn’t the mystery of it all that the new series is aiming for; it is also the eerie sense of wonder that is at the heart of some of the best horror films of all time, from all around the world. The former makes the series recognisable as Scooby-Doo – because there is nothing quite like it but these cartoon sleuths. The latter makes it a continuation of Scooby’s legacy, a clamorous, messy and uneven work that also leans into one of Western pop culture’s first long-running pieces of Japanese storytelling.

Jun 14, 2024
<< Go Back