If you're somebody that enjoys auto racing, or just being on the road, then rev up your energy and get ready to watch one of the most exhilarating anime series to come out of Japan. That series is Initial D, a fast-paced series that makes it nearly impossible to wait for the VCR to rewind the tape before popping in the next one. The series first aired in Japan in 1998, and lasts for four stages, which includes a total of 39 episodes, a couple of OVAs, and also a movie, which came out early in the year 2001. Based on the manga by Shigeno Shuici, Initial D is ideal for fans who love cars, racing, adventure, or just a refreshing series, free of magical girls and fuzzy animals.
The story revolves around street racers, people who have a passion for driving and barreling down tight mountain passes at more than a hundred miles per hour. At the center of the story is Takumi Fujiwara and Itsuki Takeuchi, two high school friends who just obtained their driver's licenses. Itsuki dreams constantly of becoming a street racer and joining the local team, the Akina Speedstars. Takumi, on the other hand, is less than enthusiastic about driving, much less driving fast.
Within the first episode, the plot kicks off to a fast start as a nearby racing team, the Akagi Redsuns, challenge the Speedstars to a race down Akina Mountain. Knowing that they are no match for the Redsuns, the Speedstars frantically search for a driver who can help them win the race, and defend the local pride. According to rumors, the fastest driver on Akina is a man who owns a tofu shop and drives an out-dated Hachi-Roku, known in the US as the Corolla. The man agrees to race for the team, but when the car shows up at the race, it turns out that he sent his son, Takumi, in his place. To the surprise of everyone, Takumi has been delivering tofu for his father on Akina Mountain since he was in middle school, thus making him a highly skilled driver. The rest of the series deals with Takumi's feelings about racing, as well as the inevitable conflicts that occur as illustrious street racers from around Japan challenge the invincible Hachi-Roku.
The animation is interesting, if a bit hard to get used to, using regular cel animation for the characters and backgrounds, while the cars are done in 3D CG. Amazingly, the two mediums mix decently, giving a thrilling experience every time the drivers start their engines. Although the race scenes look suspiciously similar to the ones seen in arcades, the exciting ride makes it easy to bypass any joking remarks. It's no surprise, though, that this series has also spawned a racing game for the Playstation.
If the race scenes don't get you too excited, the music will. Throughout the series, extra action is added by the pumping soundtrack. The music fits the situations well, surfacing at the crucial moments to give the already cool scenes an extra kick. Ranging from hip-hop, to techno, to sugary pop, the music is stimulating, and is a never-ending dance party, compared to the sluggish soundtracks of some other anime series.
Initial D is definitely something that hordes of racing fans would enjoy. Filled with references to cars and racing techniques, it's a wild ride for auto aficionados. As for all the skeptics out there who don't think that a series filled with car races sounds too promising, well, you'll have to decide for yourself. Every episode is a mind-blowing adventure, and every race is even newer and more enjoyable than the last. To cut a long gloat short, this is the first time in a long while since I've been so fired up about a series, so I recommend to everyone to at least check this out. Buckle up your seatbelts, and get ready to drive to the limit.
By the way, some cosplay.
At first, I’ll admit that I did not think I would like the concept at first, but other factors which I will further elaborate on would keep on pulling me into this franchise and would like it more and more. I know it’s not the most exciting or appealing anime, and that I’m not the biggest gear head, but I felt something special about this one. Even though Takumi is not exactly the most appealing anime character of all time, it’s kind of weird that his lack of charisma in some ways makes him charismatic at the same time because he does all his talking behind the wheel and he’s a monster at it, and yet, he thinks his abilities are nothing special. The cast is well rounded and they all get equal attention for the most part. There’s not much that goes with story, but the characters is what really drives this anime. But it still has a lot of elements such as some romance, lots of comedy, and it’s a different kind of coming of age story.
I’ll admit the character design isn’t really the most beautiful, nor is the coloring the most glossy. Yes, it’s nothing really great, but the character design is diverse and distinctive in lets say in comparison to Gundam SEED’s, nor way too generic like History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi. I’ll admit Shigeno, the manga artist has a weird way of drawing, but he does have a style of making some of his characters, especially Ryosuke, look distinctively Japanese rather than relying too much on the trademark anime big eyes. Plus, there is none of this wacky hairstyle or hair color bull crap that is so trendy, so I was able to be glad to be away from that.
Plus, the designs of the cars are of course accurate to that of the real cars themselves. I really like how they used CG for the races and it brings a trademark trait to this show. Granted the CG isn’t that impressive looking, but this was 1998. Look at the other CG cartoons that were out back then and compare it to where CG is now in 2008. But despite that, the physics for the most part I will probably have to assume are 95% real because the drift king himself, Tsuchiya Keiichi, was an advisor to the races. A lot of environmental factors are put into play with the outcome such as gutter gripping on the corners for traction. Also, all of the courses present in the show are real life mountains, except Akina is really named Haruna and from what I have heard, they are accurately represented. The show has a lot of technical jargon in relation to the cars and driving techniques. If you don’t have any prior knowledge, it will be hard to understand but at least you’re getting something educational in some bizarre regard.
Now time to really talk about what made me a fan, the Eurobeat music. I first got into this anime in 2000 and was a junior in high school, and I was playing Para Para Paradise every weekend at my local arcade. I loved the music and even found other non-game dance routines on the internet and got addicted to the music. Then one day, my friend gave me this anime to watch and told me to watch it. I thought the opening theme, Around the World by Move, was pretty cool and catchy. Then, the moment things got underway, I immediately recognized the first song, Space Boy by Dave Rodgers and the last song, No One Sleeps in Tokyo by Edo Boys, and I thought, hey, this soundtrack alone has me sold. The Eurobeat in this anime is as synomous and central as is the jazz in Cowboy Bebop. I never watched the dub and to this day, I will refuse to watch it. I heard they change the music to 7th grade level grunge rock and to me, doing that is like replacing the jazz in Cowboy Bebop to Achy Breaky Heart! But trying to put a portion of my biases aside, I felt that the fast paced nature of Eurobeat really suits the fast paced atmosphere of this anime in its own unique way like that.
The Japanese voice cast is also very excellent and multi-talented. I think Miki Shin’ichiro does a great job as Takumi. He does a great job of being quiet and unassuming, but in certain moments, he knows how to sound enraged if you push the right buttons on him. And the voice of Kaneda from Akira, Iwata Mitsuo, is funny as Itsuki. I just love it when he goes Kuuuuuu sound when he’s excited. And I really loved Koyasu Takehito as Ryosuke and his role in playing Ryosuke is why he’s my favorite character. He’s very serious about what he does and he is very charismatic and intimidating, but yet, knows how to act approachable at the same time. Tomokazu Seki as Keisuke I like him being so moody, hot tempered, and is straight out no nonsense. And to conclude, the sounds of the car engines are actually based on the real cars themselves. I saw a documentary on Initial D one time and they showed how they got the real car engine sounds and applied them to the anime. Unfortunately, I will restate I have never seen the dub, but have heard only bad things about it.
OK, I’ll admit that you might not be able to relate to this anime nor most of its characters, or more specifically their situations. It’s definitely not for casual anime fans, or those who like Naruto, Bleach or DBZ. Hell, it’s not even for a lot more dedicated anime fans as well. But as a Para Para Paradise veteran, I just felt the music alone was something I could relate to and I know it’s weird to get into some animes based on that. But eventually, I personally came to embrace Initial D the anime itself. I just felt because it was something out of the norm, I was able to enjoy it. So if you’re truly looking for something different, I say give Initial D a try. I know this anime is not for everyone, but it takes the right circumstances when you get into it to enjoy it for some people.
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.
Now don't get me wrong i was never a fan of racing and i'm still not. I have never inspired to be a race car driver or make the most kick ass turns. I have never wanted to be a legendary street racer or thought that people who did things like that were cool. But i LOVE Initial D, like Gurren Lagann i also satyed away from this show for a long time. I thought i'm not into racing so how can i like an anime about racing??? But then i watched this show and it kept me on the edge of my seat every race. Something about this show kicks ass. It has the ability to draw you into these races and really ponder what is going to happen all the way through. Now if i am being honest there are some down sides. This show has a very simple plot, it tends to get a bit repetitive, and the characters are not really that intresting. I have to say my favorite character is probably the main character but just because he is hard to figure out so it makes him intresting. However regardless of what type of anime you like or even if your into racing or not, i really suggest checking this show out :). The story is about a young man named Takumi Fujiwara who has been driving since he was 10. He never wanted to become a driver and never even thought he was good at it, untill some show off street racers came to his town and started causing trouble for his friends. After realizing how well he can drive he begins a conquest to become the best street racer in Japan. From there the series pretty much revolves around him facing the best drivers and climbing the ranks.
Now, I could spit off the worse JDM puns. Thankfully I am above that and will spare my Otaku brethren o(^▽^)o.
After about 15 years worth of a horrible smoking habit.Years of smoking,damaging the interior my car had always left me uninterested in the care of cars and car culture, especially JDM (Japanese Imports).
Now, after kicking the habit I am finally paying more attention into the maintenance of my vehicle. With my new found interest in cars,(Japanese Imports of course)and at the same time searching for my newest "late night anime'. I come across Initial D.
A"slice of life", set in a rural Japan, in a town probably not to far outside of Tokyo. It seems that if you do not live the liveliness of the Neo-Edo, then all you can do is drift. I really like the story. I love rural towns. Working at the gas station may sound like a simple, mundane job,but you really get a sense of pride of the daily lives that only from the Land of the Rising Sun. Racing scenes do carry a longing of "what happens next". Any intelligent person will already know its ending though.
Animation is just shameful. It seems hard for a couple of reason to chastise the young anime company Pastel at this time (1998). CG was in is infancy and I would have to say that the company had no budget being their first anime. Which if anything, it does not come across as a animation studio at all.With reasoning that it only produces the Initial D franchise anyway.its animation style looks like it's a shaky version of GTO.
Sound is rudimentary J-Pop. Warning! Do not consume high energy drinks while watching racing scenes. Soundtrack is high BMP techno that just might make you drive a little to fast the next day. So be careful on the roads.
Characters had a decent depth. A broad spectrum of anime personas decorate the screen. To bad the animation crudeness makes it hard to focus.
Overall this anime is a watch for the "slice of life" fan who love backgrounds and scenery of Japan. JDM embrace and rejoice!