Post Reply Review: Initial D
♡♢♤Superhero: Social Genius
3663 cr points
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23 / M / Los Angeles, CA
Posted 2/19/16

I've decided to review the anime title: Initial D. Why? I love 90s anime, Initial D is rad and I love it and I have yet to find another series like it. I'm also a huge fan of JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) vehicles and drifting. Though my drift/street racing whip was a 2010 Chevy Camaro RS.

I'll be reviewing season 1, and will talk about nuances noticeable the first few episodes of Season 2 (Initial D: Second Stage).

Initial D began its first season run in April of 1998. Since then its creators have released several OVAs, films, and additional seasons, spanning all the way to 2014.

I'll start with the opening: Charmingly retro (even for its time) J-Rap, fitting for the theme of the show. There's plenty of Engrish, cute girls, and PLENTY of wannabe gangster tropes from the artists themselves, but the production of the actual opening sequence is done quite well: it contains clips of the protagonist, Takumi Fujiwara, doing his drift thang. Yanking the e-brake, showing some fancy footwork as he alternates the clutch, brake, and gas pedal, a steering wheel view of him counter-steering into inertia drifts, and "climbing the tree" (shifting gears). As a racing fan and driver, I could immediately appreciate the direction the show was apparently going to take: a racing show by and for RACERS.

I was wrong. Yes, the references to cars such as the Toyota Trueno, Mazda RX-7, Nissan GT-R SKYLINE, Honda Civic, DOHC and SOHC engines, and various driving techniques make it a great show for car/racing enthusiasts. The show does not, however, limit its audience so crudely! That's right, even if you know nothing of JDM, drifting, or cars, you'll have plenty to appreciate. Take my word for it: The show even serves as reliable subject matter for the world of drifting and racing.

Protag Takumi is a spacey kid who couldn't care less about cars, drifting, or racing. His father Bunta owns the Fujiwara tofu shop, a hole in the wall mountain town tofu shop which delivers all over the prefecture. So where does driving come in for Takumi? He makes the deliveries for the tofu shop, in what he didn't realize was an absolute top-of-the-line street racing/drift car back in the day. On top of that, his equally lethargic-mannered, downplayed local drift legend of a father has been playing undercover Drift Sensei since Takumi got his driver's license.

Bunta gives Takumi a small paper cup containing water before every tofu delivery. In order to "prevent damage to the tofu," Takumi has been taught that he must drive as fast as he can up and down the mountain, using whatever techniques he deems necessary to traverse the tight turns, without spilling a single drop of the water in the paper cup! To that end, Takumi has mastered the art of power-sliding his father's car down a twisting and turning mountain road to save time, never so much as spilling a drop of water from the cup. The purpose of the paper cup is to constantly remind Takumi that the car is best controlled when its center of gravity is perfectly balanced. Naturally, Takumi's father timed him on delivery runs.

Before long, the mysterious "Eight-Six" labelled with the Fujiwara Tofu Shop's logo, drifting through the local mountain pass with unmatched speed, grace, and technique is the talk of the town. Every street racing kid in town wants to meet this "Eight-Six of Mount Akina," to ask for advice or test their meddle as a drifter.

Drifting in the real world actually came to life for reasons not unlike Fujiwara's dedication to fast deliveries. Japan's tight mountain passes developed a need for lightweight, agile cars to traverse them quickly. They shared Europe's need for "Rally Cars" due to the variety of terrain and curvy roads, though drifting is truly a Japanese art.

By the time I finished the first episode, I was hooked not only as a motorsports enthusiast, but also as a fan of anime in general. Takumi's relationship with his best friend, Itsuki, is hilarious! Itsuki is also a high school student but is the polar opposite of Takumi: A loud, obnoxious, girl-chasing, penniless street-racing fanboy. Normally, these types of tropes bother me, but Itsuki's obnoxious demeanor is perfectly balanced by Takumi and reserved for comic relief, rather than being forced on the viewer at every turn.

In addition to Itsuki, Takumi's coworkers at the gas station (all members of the "Akina Speed Stars," an amateur group of street racers) add variety to the cast, and their interaction with Takumi is often quite entertaining. Takumi's apparent love interest in the show is Mogi, a high school girl who, like Takumi, knows nothing of the street racing world. I found myself rooting for them throughout the entire first season: she's a cute, kind girl, who seems to be a very average "girl next door" type, but she does flirt with Takumi often and laugh at his spacey, clueless nature.

Before long, a fateful series of events leads to Takumi being revealed as the driver of the Eight-Six, and his introduction to the street racing world begins.

The characters in the show often contrast with Takumi in the sense that they are all racers, concerned with little other than winning races and their pride and fame as drivers. This not only adds excitement to the show, but it is also highly representative of racers in the real world. They're often short-tempered, hyped up, and arrogant. Takumi's demeanor makes you really want to root for him, and as a viewer you will have plenty of chances to do so; the show is PACKED with street racing sequences, monologues, and suspense while the races are going on.

In addition to the suspense and excitement of the races, there is also a fair bit of mystery, drama, twists, and even fan service! There is one story arc in particular which brings about a feels parade for one of the main characters as he is spun in a web of deception and lies. Though, personally, I found it hard to recognize any of the female characters as moe; the art (especially their hair, face shapes, and lips/noses) was a bit derpy at times in terms of character design. But it does its job perfectly: each character is styled to convey their aura, and the illustrated and CGI car sequences are fantastic, for its time. The scenes containing a steering wheel, clutch/brake/gas pedal, and shifter view of Takumi and other drivers' technique are all crisp and detailed, showcasing a dedication to the art of racing.

The final 3 episodes of the first season had me cheering and raising my arms even more than the rest of the season did. Loose ends weren't left flailing in the wind so much as leaving the viewer wanting to see them tied off in the next season. There is a fair amount of closure, and some promising nibbles of Takumi's future. It's not the type of season ending that seems hastily thrown together, forces closure, or leaves the viewer with more questions than they had to begin with. I am especially sensitive to unsatisfying endings, and felt that this was a good one.

Initial D: Second Stage shows improvements to just about everything I was itching for in the first season (and, while the same artist returns to do the OP/ED for the second season, in my opinion it was nowhere near as good as the two openings in the first season). The visual budget was obviously raised quite a bit, and the art of the show takes on a much more crisp, defined western comic-book style without straying too far from the original character and set design. Everyone seems to have received a face lift, and you will be able to recognize everyone from the first season right away (with the exception of Ryosuke Takahashi, whose hair was... different?). All of the main voice actors also make their return, about which I was delighted. The attention to detail of the vehicles was raised considerably, both in 2D and 3D, and the sounds improved exponentially.

All in all, I love this series. It's true to its roots and explains everything that may not be clear to everyone without feeling like it's "pandering." The characters are developed well, and each of them has their own clear strengths and weaknesses. The Protagonist is refreshing and keeps the show interesting in terms of his progression. Supporting characters and love interests all serve their purpose very well without muddling the main focus of the show: racing. The art style can be a bit difficult to get used to, but it is also a sign of its time, I think; the manga's 20th anniversary was in 2015.

This show is ideal for fans of sports anime, as well as grease-monkeys and driving enthusiasts like myself!

♡♢♤Superhero: Social Genius
3663 cr points
Send Message: Send PM GB Post
23 / M / Los Angeles, CA
Posted 2/19/16 , edited 2/19/16
Thoughts? Criticisms? Additional thoughts on the show if you've seen it/intend to watch it?

Initial D can be found on Hulu ^_^

Depending on the reception of this review and the eagerness of you all to write your very own reviews, I may begin the screening process to get people writing anime reviews for specific genres, era, styles, etc. for credit toward gifts!
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