Initial D makes me realize how flawed Anime-Planet's score system is. Let me run you, Dear Reader, through my thoughts as I compiled the scores you see off to the side.
Story: "Huh. Well, the story is OK, I guess ... it's riddled with cliches and soapy masculinity, but what can you expect when the whole thing is about teenage street racers? At least the plots of each arc kept me engaged the whole. Actually, all of them except that arc with the woman who offers her virginity in exchange for the opportunity to race Takumi before she retires. Sweet Christ, what a disaster! Did someone actually approve that nonsense? Even for anime, that's dumb! Wow, I am getting angry all over again. 5/10."
Animation: "Uh, I guess the show sort of looks OK for being from the late '90s? The normal look is OK -- at least it doesn't do horrible things to my eyes like that ugly, chunky CG during the races! Good lord! I know it's probably been harped on endlessly over the years, but the races in Initial D look like they were farted out by the CG Crash Dummies cartoon from the mid-90s. When I saw the first race, I legit burst out laughing. In its defense, everyone thought this stuff looked amazing at the time. I still remember! But it's basically Final Fantasy VII: Looked incredible at the time, but it could not have aged more poorly. Also the character designs look like white Jynxes. I feel like I have to submit a complaint to the NAACP out of principle. 3/10"
Sound: "There is nothing here that I would ever listen to outside the context of this anime, but for the purposes of getting the audience pumped up for the race, the music works damn well. The sound effects for the racing are generally good, too. Nice and weighty. I tried listening to the English dub and couldn't make it five minutes without wanting to kill myself. Awful. But that's not really Initial D's fault. 7/10"
Characters: "Everyone is basically a big bundle of cliches, but they're inoffensive, so whatever. They at least get the proper amount of time for what they contribute to the show. My only wish is that Bunta got more time in the spotlight. When I saw him drive, I immediately wished the series were about his younger days. That guy is crazy! But Takumi is OK, I guess. He's not really interesting at all; his greatest trait is that he's a great driver. That's about it. 6/10 for Bunta."
So not too many great things to say about the anime overall. Wouldn't you expect me to give it a 4/10 or something? And yet I'm giving it a 6/10. Something doesn't add up. What could have contributed to that bump in scoring? Obviously there's only one thing that can account for it: Awesome races!
Yes, awesome races. Whatever my thoughts are on the soapy bullshit that surrounds them, the races in Initial D are consistently entertaining. There's a solid understanding that it's the way victory comes about that's more interesting than the actual victory itself. Takumi's strategies for winning are never as awesomely convoluted as Golgo 13's, as ballsy as Akagi's or as on the razor's edge between sucess and failure as Tokuchi Toua's. There's only so much one can do to make racing interesting beyond, "This guy has to go faster than this guy to win," but Initial D pulls out every stop it can. Takumi knows all the tricks, and he puts them to good use. I enjoyed seeing him find some ridiculous way to win every time.
What this means, clearly, is that Anime-Planet needs an "Awesome Races" score for its reviews. I would give Initial D an 8/10 in this category if it existed. They're awesome enough for me to enjoy them in the moment, but am I clamoring for more Initial D because of them? Not really, particularly if it means sitting through more tired street racing cliches to get to them. But, hey, the ride was kind of fun while it lasted.
overall score: 6/10