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  • Utsunomiya, Tochigi, Japan
  • Joined Jul 20, 2007
  • 39 / M

Wangan Midnight

Mar 14, 2014

Obviously, your 1st reaction so far will be you’re thinking Initial D. I don’t blame anybody for doing so, but if you’re going to watch this with expectations based on Initial D, then you’re going to watch it for all the wrong reasons. The 1st portion of this series will be repetitive and slow, but it’s done for the purpose to build suspense, motivate development, and establish the story. I felt that things got exciting way too much at the end and it leaves you wanting for more, but I guess there’s the manga to make you satisfied which I’m now getting into. Depending on how you get into it, it will be either hard or easy to accept, but I feel this presentation was done for the right reasons even though it will take awhile to get into this anime. Yes, consequences of that kind of story telling makes the pace slow, but it gives chances to focus and introduce other characters and their relationships which the anime is truly about.

The anime has great character exploration. I really like how the racing lifestyle and car obsession results in consequences to the normal lives of the characters and in relation to those around them. In the case of Akio, he has to repeat a year of high school because he ditches to make money for his car.

However, I felt there were some characters that had no use or contribution to the progression or establishment of the story, though they had an interesting origin and develop individually. But in the end, they seemed more like filler or side story characters, and felt the anime could have focused on other things instead. But regardless, these characters were likeable and engaging. As for the main characters, I felt their personalities were too strong and established to make any significant development throughout the course of this anime, but I think it was mostly about the relationships and interactions that were more of the central focus.

There is heavy duty tech speak, but I felt it was really easy to understand because it demonstrates the explanations hand in hand very effectively. But because the series is seriously technical, chances are you may be turned off by it because it gets really deep and I know a lot of people were turned off by this in Initial D because it was used as a riddle for foreshadowing thus made it very confusing to those not familiar with cars, but with Wangan Midnight, I felt it’s presentation made it like an auto class. But the drama thanks to the back-story of the Devil Z, is odd but engagingly driven in its own right. It does create a sense of curiosity of whether or not there is something possessing the Z, but its history and its tuning has a certain aura to it that attracts the characters, thus moves the story.

Well, the character designs share an obvious resemblance of Initial D’s, but simpler looking. The art design will of course look more dated since the original manga came out in 1992 and is sticking true to the original designs. Yeah, it’s really nothing cutting edge, nor is it really over the top. So the awkward designs will probably turn off people, but I don’t think it should really overall negate the anime as a whole. I like how Akio tends to be a white shirt and jeans kind of guy, and the way he’s drawn, it’s like he’s an anime version of James Dean himself. Hell, he’ll even wear the red jacket like he does on the cover of Rebel Without a Cause.

The races are also in CG, though it doesn’t really look as cel shaded as 4th Stage, but the style accurately portrays the features of the cars, and the corresponding engine sounds. The buildings and the Wangan are also rendered in CG as if it were the PS3 or arcade game. The cars presented are also a nice flavor (I get the notion that the original manga-ka is a Nissan fan and loves the GT-R), and the racing brings a different kind of suspense such as a danger risk and the portrayal of the consequences of reckless driving. Such consequences are wrecks and even engine blowouts, which gives it a sense of limitation to the cars. Initial D has that risk factor, but I don’t feel it, but I do feel it with Wangan Midnight, which makes the races more edge at your seat. Plus, I felt Initial D’s world despite praising it for it’s realism, in comparison to Wangan Midnight, it way too idealistic. But the races are more one-dimensional because it mostly takes place on the Wangan, and the style of racing itself to some people doesn’t feel as exciting as drifts or as innovating as gutter gripping on hairpins. But outside of the risk factor of driving at 300km/h on a public highway, the only other contributing factor to excitement is that races can be at 4 cars at once while it’s not exclusive to two cars. But the fact they push it to the limit should be exciting enough for some people. Now that I think about it, why aren’t their cops out there after them? I wonder if it’s true according to Tokyo Drift that cops in Japan can’t catch you if you’re exceeding 180 km/h. 

The voice cast is excellent though there is one big name that stands out to me that took some adjusting, and that was Miki Shin’ichiro the voice of Takumi in Initial D, as the voice of Shima. I’m so used to hearing him as Takumi to a point that I really couldn’t imagine him in this role. By the time I got to the end, I finally accepted him as Shima and started to appreciate his performance And I felt it was unique that they casted J-Drama actor, Oguri Shun, who was in the live action versions of GTO, Gokusen, and Hana Yori Dango as Akio. I thought he captured Akio’s characteristics in a typical fashion where you’re convinced he’s a unique kind of teenager and shows great variety to Oguri’s acting abilities in this approach. I also liked Suhou Reiko as Reina. I thought she did great as a seiyuu by being a down to earth idol. And I was most impressed with Miyake Kenta’s performance as Kitami Jun, the tuner from hell. You probably know him as Tsume from Wolf’s Rain, Vetor in Sonic, and is also casted as Zangief in SFIV. Anyway, I think he brings a unique charisma and intimidation to the character where he can freak you out to a point that yeah, he tunes crazy cars, but hey it’s probably worth the risk. So he swept me off my feet.

Unfortunately, there is no Eurobeat. Music isn’t really that emphasized in this anime. The track you’ll tend to hear is a more techno driven Eastern Indian song that sounds similar to what you hear in Ghost in the Shell. It suits that risk factor that this anime has, but gets overused and we also have extreme techno rock every now and then. The opening and the ending themes do sound like MOVE’s songs, but they are more upbeat and up lifting, and not as emphatically hip hop driven, nor do they comes across as extreme as MOVE, but likable. 

Like Initial D and some other anime I review, Wangan Midnight is for people who want to try something different, but it’s still an anime that isn’t for everyone whether you’re new to anime or hardcore. Granted you can say that about DBZ, Lucky Star, and EVA, but Wangan Midnight is just a different tune to truly apply that because its racing, people will jump to conclusions that it’s stupid just because of what it’s about. In some aspects, I think Wangan Midnight has distinguishing qualities that keeps me interested, such as the character exploration and the realism, and I love the arcade game. But hey, growing up with a father who loves cars and going to school with people who love to drag race, I could get into this anime and I had familiarity with the arcade game, Maximum Tune which should be at your local arcade. Give it a try, it’s a lot of fun.

I doubt this anime is getting licensed, so you can go to your usual torrent sources to get it. And remember: this review is a review of a work of fiction and I encourage you to please drive safely and obey traffic laws at all times, and stick to racing at your local arcade, gaming console or public circuit track

8/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall

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