Ah, Initial D. Subject of many parodies that I don’t understand. Until now, of course. Suddenly, that one episode of Lucky Star is a lot funnier…
When Keisuke Takahashi of the infamous Red Suns racing team accidentally witnesses normal, everyday tofu delivery boy Takumi Fujiwara’s, expert drift technique, Takumi’s life shifts into high gear. Keisuke challenges him to a racing battle and the race results in Takumi plunging headlights first into the white-knuckle, adrenaline rushing world of underground mountain-pass street racing.
With his incredible techniques and top notch AE Eight-Six, Takumi blows the competition away battle after battle. As the word rapidly spreads about a new racer beating out the best drivers and cars that drift racing has to offer, one by one, new challengers quickly step out to battle him. Yet, time and time again, Takumi proves himself to be a force to be reckoned with. Can Takumi be the best?
In the past, my experience with Initial D has pretty much been limited to seeing the game at arcades and seeing parodies of the Eight-Six in anime like School Rumble and Lucky Star. I mean, seriously, how good can an anime about street racing be, right? The anime constantly gets good reviews, though, and it’s made the Toyota Trueno into something of a legendary vehicle (or was it the other way around?).
The first few episodes were incredibly slow. The characters would spit out facts about cars and racing and blah blah blah. I’m probably not the demographic target for this anime; I drive a Toyote Corolla and I totally love it. All this racing jargon just irritates me.
Once the anime got to the actual racing, though, I got interested. Drifting is essentially cool. Slowly, I found myself getting drawn into this story about a guy who thinks driving is boring while beating the pants off all other contenders. His car is a beat up Eight-Six, yet he can still beat riced-out sports cars? Neat.
I won’t lie. After watching the first DVD, I immediately popped my old copy of Gran Turismo 3 into the PS2. And I remembered why I hate these racing games. Everything is too technical. Plus trying to drift in GT3 just ends up making me look retarded. But still, the point is that the anime actually engaged me enough to pick up the controller again and try some drifting. I think Ridge Racer probably would’ve been more appropriate. Though the drifting in that game is waaayyy too over the top. But I’m digressing.
Everyone likes a story about a successful underdog. While Takumi isn’t “really” an underdog (he sort of starts at the top), his car is. With hard work and guts, he beats any opponent, even when the odds are stacked against him. Currently, the formula of Takumi meeting a formidable opponent, and then beating him is interesting. I can totally see it getting old quickly, though.
Character Designs and Art:
The sad part about me popping in GT3 after watching Initial D is that the graphics in GT3 were hella better! The anime aired in 1998, so it’s about 9 years old. And it shows. All of the racing scenes are pre-rendered CG, and they all look very crappy. Once you get past the flat polygon tree walls on the sides of the road, the graphics aren’t all that bad. But it takes some serious getting used to.
Also, the character designs are fugly. Thankfully most of the action occurs in the cars. Initial D is not an anime to view based on its visual merits. I’ll just leave it at that.
The Actual DVD(s):
I’m reviewing the Initial D First Stage collection released by Funimation (though I think the anime was originally published by Tokyopop). There’s this strange selection of “Original” and “Tricked Out.” Essentially, I think “Tricked Out” means the version where all the Japanese names are changed and they substitute the Euro Beat music for American music. I just watched the Original mode.
As far as extras go, this collection has a lot. There’s some fairly standard extras on the DVD as well as some stickers (Akina Speed Stars and one for the tofu shop, I’m thinking of sticking one on my white Corolla) and a “user’s manual.” The user’s manual actually has some useful info, like instances where Initial D has been parodied or mentioned in other anime/manga. It’s nice to see a lot of effort put into this package.
For an anime fan like me, I think watching Initial D is worth it just to get parodies in other anime about it. It’s an essential series to watch. Though I’m pretty bad when it comes to watching those.
Initial D isn’t very nice to look at. In fact, it’s downright ugly. But really, it’s what’s inside that counts: drifting, hard work, and guts. Initial D even got me to play a little Gran Turismo again. Though I think I’ll be sticking to Burnout to satisfy my arcade racing appetite.
Many thanks to Funimation for sending me a review copy of Initial D: First Stage – The Complete First Season!