Takahashi Ryousuke has always dreamed of becoming a legend amongst street racers, and with the creation of Project D, a team of highly skilled drivers, this dream is finally starting to become a reality. Ryousuke manages the team, the talented Takumi dominates the downhill races with his AE86, and the skilled Keisuke overcomes foes in the uphill races with his FD. Together, the talented group of racers set out for expeditions outside the Gunma region and will face formidable foes; and for Ryousuke, the battle to finally live his dream has only just begun...
Well the series has a certain pattern or formula which may seem repetitive, but the series is willing to somewhat break the 4th wall in an indirect sense to explain that and help you understand better. This will be explained between Takumi’s races with Tomoyuki and Sakamoto on the subject of “oh this opponent will be your toughest yet, etc.” For that formula, mostly one episode is that they introduce Project D’s opponents and the following episode they will race. At times the pace will change a bit, but I think it brings a more definitive balance to keep you hooked. It is very character development driven which is what I loved best. Every race Takumi and Keisuke have is a new kind of challenge in multiple angles, and it’s Ryosuke’s purpose to use that factor to help develop them. The development is obvious and predictable, but Ryosuke keeps things at a certain ambiguity where it does make you curious to how they get to that goal. But it’s not about development as racers, but development as individuals as well. Especially with Keisuke since you get to learn about him more and sympathize with him. Itsuki, Iketani, and Kenji are of course present. Itsuki will also have his time to somewhat shine again. I think they are useful but not impacting. I think the purpose of their presence is to demonstrate that Takumi is developing and can talk about racing and cars, and Takumi won’t explain things all spaced out like in 1st stage. Other characters from previous season will be making a return and they also have their own contributions. The newer characters are interesting in their own right and you’re getting characters from all kinds of backgrounds and skill levels. Granted it’s been the same with previous installments, but this takes it to a whole new level in ways you can never have expected. By the end, you get characters that are not traditionally found in Initial D, but you would tend to find in Wangan Midnight, another racing anime and manga. Some teams go as far as getting professional racers to challenge Project D. A flaw that will stand out to those familiar with the manga is that Keisuke’s races such as that with the Integra and the R34 are mentioned, but are never shown, but afterwards they show his races. I don’t know why. But I heard they were animated for Battle Stage 2, which I have yet to see. I also recall that Kyoko, the black FD driver being spunkier in the manga while in this one, she’s more of a likeable and sweet girl, but with a unique passion for cars and racing. Over looking these flaws, the pacing felt as fast as the races, which will be my next topic of discussion.Well, you’ll notice a lot of changes in this series in style. What I liked is that it brings a style more manga-like. The art was sketchier and it used a lot more cross-hatching to show the shadowing. I’m personally more of a manga person, so I felt appreciated as a manga fan. I also loved how the coloring and resolution complimented this approach as well. But one thing in particular that really stood out to me was that the characters wore different clothes in every episode. Usually in cartoons, video games, and anime, characters will always wear one set of clothes just to make them “iconic.” I know it may sound stupid those who are listening to this review, but this quality just stood out to me and I just happened to enjoy it. But one thing I didn’t like personally is that Shigeno-sensei at this point is sort of getting lazy with his female designs. How come Kyoko and Nao have to look like Natsuki? Why can’t he draw women in the fashion of Impact Blue? I don’t know where he went wrong there. The rendering of the cars this time has more of a cel-shaded style, though not really in the same nature of that as in Jet Set Radio or Okami. It still has a CG kind of look, and I thought the rendering blended excellently with the style of this season. The races in this one are of course more exciting than ever, but I think they relied on the chase race more. You know the races like what Takumi had with Impact Blue in first stage, and with Wataru in second. But I heard in mountain races in Japan, that kind of racing is most common. I prefer the time attack races and I think in addition to realism they used the chase race just to drag the races a little bit more, but I feel the conclusions and finishes are more dramatic as a result, though sometimes anti-climatic, but there are legitimate reasons and purposes. But like other installments as the series progresses, new courses will of course mean new features and factors to how the races will turn out which is another contribution to motivating development. And sorry to bring up a spoiler, but I couldn’t help but mention that by the end, it will feature Mt. Tsukuba, also known as the Purple Mountain, a course I used to live not too far from and have hiked. And the home team is appropriately named the Purple Shadow. And I haven’t played the newer games enough to give the judgment of the accuracy of the course’s portrayal.Even though I skim through this section in the last two reviews of Initial D, I need to really extend this particular section more in relation to the voice acting. First I will briefly talk about the music. My favorite song is the 2005 remix of Wild Reputation by Dave Rodgers, and it’s featured in episode 13. I just think the song really reflected the bad boy images of Wataru and Keisuke. And to conclude with the music, MOVE’s style has gone more radical where it was more reliant on rap in previous seasons, while they added more rock elements to come across as more extreme and it works out really well. So that’s it for music.The voice acting in this season starting with Takahashi Ryosuke played by Koyasu Takehito, is taken to a new level of appreciation in my book. It’s not just his unique charisma and intimidation, but I just love how he makes the character distinguishing. His acting abilities truly bring those qualities to Ryosuke. It makes him sound like a Bruce Lee of street racing though that’s really Bunta’s role, but Koyasu’s acting just steals that spotlight. Miki Shin’ichiro also brings out Takumi’s development in relation to his ability to articulate his abilities racing and doesn’t sound as spaced out. He just really pulls you into the character and you can’t call him an empty shell. And as usual, I love Seki Tomokazu’s hot tempered portrayal as Keisuke. And Toyoguchi Megumi, who you may know as the voice of Elena in Advent Children, Millaria in Gundam SEED, and Sei in Maria-san ga Miteru did an excellent performance with the anime’s portrayal of Kyoko who is passionate, but yet mellow and focused. Even though my perfect scores in previous installments was out of fanboyism on my part, I just feel that for the first time I felt moved and more educated by the performances.Despite how highly I rate this, I still acknowledge Initial D isn’t an anime for everyone whether new, casual, or hardcore. I’m just saying this as a guy who’ll try everything, and I didn’t expect to like Initial D. I like what’s fresh and original, which Initial D has always offered me and is free from most anime stereotypes, and it’s very educational to me as someone who has friends who like to race and I have been going to car shows and drag races since I was in high school, though I don’t participate in them. But the concept of racing isn’t something everyone is going to embrace and I know that eurobeat isn’t universally appealing. And the tech speak is something that can turn off people and I’ve seen that a lot. But if you want character and story development that is well motivated, maybe these qualities will make up for the surface ones that make you uninterested, I don’t know. Now I will conclude this on a note that people will call me stupid and crazy, and for all the right reasons by fans and non-fans alike. It’s just that when I watched this, I felt the execution and presentation made me start to think that touge racing is a legitimate sport in its own way and requires a unique set of skills and customization of your car. After all, some famous racers started out on the street and Tsuchiya Keiichi, the drift king and supervisor of this anime was no different. Outside of public traffic risk and legality factors, other conditions that are explained and portrayed truly demonstrate this distinction to make you come to that assumption and I do have a new sense of respect for touge racing as a sport thanks to watching this anime. As for a fifth stage, the manga is still going on, so you can look forward to it at some point, or read the manga.
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