[Throwback Thursday] Initial D First Stage Review - Gonna Get You like A Space Boy


  • Episodes : 26
  • Genre : Racing, Coming of Age, Seinen
  • Airing Date : April 1998 – December 1998
  • Producers : Studio Comet, Studio Gallop

Initial D Preview/Plot (no spoilers)

Every Friday night on Mt. Akina, a secluded section of Gunma prefecture, all the young people gather to watch touge, or mountain pass racing. So what makes it so exciting? It's the breathtaking drifts on the dangerous corners of the mountain. However, Akina is now being invaded by another team, the Akagi Redsuns. Akina’s only hope comes in the form of an unassuming teenage tofu delivery driver, Fujiwara Takumi, the driver of his family’s business’ Toyota AE86 Trueno hatchback model. Despite being an outdated car compared to what's hot on the scene, what Takumi makes up with his car’s inferior performance and superior driving skills that has the entire prefecture on red alert.

What is Initial D like? This is for anime for people like what?

In a very unique sense, if any of you want to introduce friends to an anime and they are into either cars or the Fast and the Furious movies, then this is the anime for them. The anime is very straight to the point with what it is about and the pace is excellently balanced. Maybe some of you readers love to play the arcade gaming series by Sega and haven't watched it yet. Want an idea of what the source material is about? See the anime!!! For people who love drifting in general, then they should not miss this great franchise!!!

What's so appealing about this work

The first thing that is appealing is obviously the Eurobeat music. It keeps things exciting and does an excellent job of setting the mood. Along with the races, the music is a huge part of the series identity. What's also captivating is now educational the series is. Even though certain scenes will come across as ridiculous, the characters will always provide a concrete and detailed explanation on how drifting techniques or other cornering methods work from the conditions of the tires and breaks to how one should customize their car. Even if you're not into cars, the explanations are very helpful and easy to follow. With all the information provided, it may want you to go out and try some of the stuff you see. With all the fireballs and crazy stuff that goes in some anime, Initial D provides some realism that's nice to have every now and then.

Initial D Anime Trailer Full Version

Initial D Main Characters List

Fujiwara Takumi

Voice Actor :Miki Shinichiro

High school student by day. Tofu Delivery Boy in the early morning. The King of speed on Friday nights. Other than that, Takumi is pretty much a very unassuming character. Due to the nature of him helping out his family business from 4am, he is tired and spaced out all the time. However, his years of delivering tofu for his father’s business since he was 13 has given him the skills necessary to be the greatest racer in the Gunma prefecture. At first Takumi is hesitant about joining the scene but after some motivation and seeing what his achievements bring him, he embraces his role as a racer.

Fujiwara Bunta

Voice Actor :Ishizuka Unshou

Takumi’s father and a retired street racer turned tofu shop owner. In spite of retirement, he has passed on those skills to his son Takumi by having him deliver tofu to the hotel on Mt. Akina. Like his son, Bunta is very unassuming, somewhat quiet, and easy going on the outside but put him behind a wheel, he's still one of the best to the point that currently active racers should be grateful he retired.

Takahashi Ryosuke

Voice Actor :Koyasu Takehito

The leader of the Akagi Red Suns and one of the fastest racers in the East Japan region, Ryosuke wants to use his team to become one of the best street racers in the country. He is also known as the White Comet due to driving a white Mazda RX-7 FC. Despite his skills, Ryosuke has declined all offers to go pro because he prefers the thrills of the streets where things feel more unpredictable. Another reason is that he is in line to take over his family’s hospital. After seeing his younger brother Keisuke lose to Takumi he wants to have his revenge.

Mogi Natsuki

Voice Actor :Kawasumi Ayako

Takumi’s crush and a classmate of his who recently came back into his life after not talking for a year due to Takumi beating up her ex-boyfriend. Natsuki has asked out Takumi and is very interested in going out with him. However, Natsuki is in a secret enjo kousai (or compensated dating) relationship with a Mercedez Benz driver who she refers to as her “papa.”


Contains Spoilers

Initial D First Stage Review (Spoilers)

I’ll be the first to admit that I did not think I would like the concept of Initial Dt, but other factors which I will further elaborate on would keep on pulling me into this franchise and love it more and more. I know that I’m not the biggest gearhead, 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 rest of the cast is excellently 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 some people don't get every day.

I’ll admit the character design isn’t really the most beautiful, nor is the coloring the most glossy. I’ll acknowledge that Shigeno Shuuichi, the original 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 in a realistic sense rather than relying too much on the trademark of anime big eyes.

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 presented in the show are real life mountains, and from what I have heard and seen on google maps, they are accurately represented. The show has a lot of technical jargon in relation to the cars and driving techniques. Anyone with zero knowledge on cars will probably not get it at first but at the same time, get something rather educational and (illegally) applicable.

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 this soundtrack alone had me sold.

The Eurobeat in this anime is as synonymous and central to the jazz in Cowboy Bebop. I never watched the TokyoPop dub and to this day, I refuse to watch it as do many of the other hardcore fans of Initial D. Tokyopop changed 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. However, I have heard positive things about FUNimation’s new dub.

The Japanese voice cast is very excellent and multi-talented and contains a list of who’s who. Miki Shin’ichiro (who you may know as Van from Escaflowne, Mustang in FMA Brotherhood, and Lockon in Gundam 00) does a great job as Takumi. He brings out his qualities 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 does the “Kuuuuuu” sound when he’s excited. And I was moved by Koyasu Takehito (Zechs from Gundam Wing, Hotohori from Fushigi Yuugi, and Dio from JoJo) as Ryosuke, and his performance 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 (Miyata from Hajime no Ippo, Kenichi from Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple, and Domon in G Gundam) as Keisuke is great because his voice suits him being so moody, hot tempered, and is straight out no nonsense.

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.

1. Takumi vs Keisuke

In Takumi’s debut as a street racer, he goes up against Keisuke, the co-leader of the Red Suns. Despite Keisuke having the lead throughout the majority of the race due to the superior performance of his car, Takumi’s superior knowledge of Akina’s environment finally gave him the victory to become an overnight sensation.

2. Takumi vs The Night Kids

After defeating Keisuke, Takumi becomes the target of another team, The Night Kids from Mt. Myogi, or their co-leaders, Nakazato Takeshi and Shoji Shingo. Takeshi is the driver of a Nissan Skyline GT-R32 and Shingo drives a Honda Civic EG6. Both drivers brought unique challenges to Takumi. Nakazato, like Keisuke, is very reliant on superior horsepower but prefers the grip style of cornering as opposed to drifting.

While with Shingo, he challenges Takumi to a gum tale death match, where the right hand is taped the the upper right side of the wheel with one hand free for shifting. Despite these unique challenges, Takumi’s creativity and experiences on Akina helps him pull through.

3. Takumi vs Ryosuke

To close out the season, this becomes the race that determines who is the best racer in Gunma. Unlike Takumi’s other opponents who relied more on power, Ryosuke is more calculating and technical. While Ryosuke’s brother likes to go for the finish, Ryosuke takes his time analyzing his opponent and wait for his opportunity. However, Takumi finds new ways to use the gutter grips to solidify his victory and Ryosuke acknowledges his defeat with class.


Conclusion

It is understandable that a good number of audiences might not be able to relate to this anime nor most of its characters. 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 anime based on that. But eventually, I personally came to embrace Initial D the anime itself. It just felt like it was something out of the norm, I was able to enjoy it. Despite being one installment of five, this season tells its own unique story with a very solid ending in itself but with a few things left in the open (such as Natsuki). However, it’s great because every character gets their time to shine and giving audiences the chance to know them. And last, please remember to stay safe when driving and see you next review.

Justin

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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