Well it's been a while, but Initial
D is finally back on US
shores. The first two seasons of the
were originally released in by Tokyopop (who changed the names of the
characters and replaced a lot of the music), way back in 2003. When the original company ran into financial
difficulties they partnered with FUNimation and released season sets in
2007. (I believe that Tokyopop released
season sets on their own too prior to the partnership, but that's
nor there.) In any case Tokyopop went
belly up and FUNimation ended up with the rights, but they didn't do
with the series. Until now.
At long last Initial D:
Third Stage (a 100 min movie) has been
released, along with the first part of Stage Four. (I'll
have a review of that up later this
week.) With the original music left in
tact and the names reverting to their original Japanese versions,
has done this series right at last. It's
only disappointing that the video quality isn't better.
Fujiwara is your average high school student.
He goes to school, works at a gas station and helps his father
his tofu business. Every day he wakes up
in the middle of the night to deliver fresh tofu to a restaurant on top
Mount Akagi. Even though he just got his
driver's license, he's really been driving up and down the curving
road, every day, for five years. It's a
long and boring drive, so Takumi started seeing how fast he could fly
road on his way home. He became faster
and faster and started drifting (letting the back end of the car slide
the direction of the curve) to increase his speed.
passing a street racer on the mountain road one night, Takumi finds
talk of the town. Everyone wants to see
him race again, even though he doesn't want to.
Was it a fluke that his father's ten year old Toyota Trueno
actually beat a souped up GTR? The local
street racing gang, the Akina Speed Stars, are desperate to find the
driver and recruit him for their team.
Over the course of the first two seasons, Takumi took on all
comers and became a local hero by beating them just about everyone who
to race. Even drivers with better cars
or more finely tuned engines couldn't out-race the young kid. Every time things would look desperate,
Takumi would learn something new about his car or driving itself and
pull out a
The leader of the Akagi Red Suns and best driver in the
area, Ryosuke Takahashi, comes to Takumi with an offer:
he'd like the young racer to join a new team
he's creating. It would be a touring
team, going to various prefectures in Japan and challenging the
a match on their home turf. Ryosuke
wants this new team to beat all of the competition and really make a
Before he can answer, Takumi has some unfinished business to
settle: He wants to beat Sudou, the
leader of the Emperors. The last time
they raced Takumi's engine blew and he couldn't finish the race. Now with a new, and significantly better,
engine the young driver heads up to Sudou's home turf to see just who
better driver is.
Takumi is starting to get a reputation, and with that comes
challenges. Kogashiwa Kai, who happens
to be the son of Takumi's father's main rival back when he was racing,
Akagi to throw down a gauntlet. Takumi
he's started to really love racing by now, and the race will be won on
where the two older rivals did battle years ago. Kogashiwa's
father gives him a lot of advice
and they plan their strategy, but Bunta (Takumi's dad) only gives his
cryptic words as he drives off to the race, and tells him that he'll
Aside from racing, and finding out what Takumi's answer will
be to Ryosuke's offer, this movie has some important events in Takumi's
life. The most important is how he deals
with his ex-girlfriend, Natsuki. She's
the first, and only, girl that Takumi's really dated, and he was heart
when he discovered that was having sex with a business man for money on
side and he subsequently stopped talking to her. She's
broken off her relationship with her
sugar daddy and gotten a real job in a fast food joint.
Though he's still giving her the silent
treatment Natsuki manages to corner him and, eventually, they talk.
There's another life-changing event that occurs: Takumi
graduates from high school. He has spent
most of the series unsure about
what he wants to do in the future, but when it finally arrives he
he does have a plan.
This movie is a lot of fun.
Even if you don't know anything about street racing (I certainly
the show makes it interesting. It does a
good job of explaining the finer points of each race.
At some point before or during every
competition someone will ask "Does Takumi have a chance?" and then
person will calmly explain the disadvantage that he's racing under. The program does a good job of upping the
stakes for each race without making it ever seem ridiculous.
The races are exciting, but the interaction between Takumi
and his friends are the best parts. Itsuki,
the comic relief of the program, has a smaller role than usual in this
but he's still a lot of fun and adds a nice light-hearted touch to the
show. His other friends also face the
some of the same dilemmas: finding
girlfriends, earning money, and deciding exactly what they want to do
their lives. The movie does a good job
of advancing the plots of his friends, without taking up a lot of time
The great news about this release is that the English dub
gets the names right, and the music has not been replaced.
When Tokyopop released the show they changed
many of the Japanese names to make them sound less foreign to American
viewers. Takumi was changed to "Tak" and
Itsuki became "Iggy". Yuk.
FUNimation has not made that mistake and
though fans who only screened the dubbed versions might be confused,
only last for a brief moment.
Like the first season, this set of episodes has a mix of CGI
and traditional animation. The cars for
the most part are computer generated and though these CGI elements
out like they do in some shows, they are only semi-successful at
the rest of the show. The cars don't
look like they are part of the picture; it looks more like a
image. This isn't terribly distracting
though and doesn't interfere with enjoying the show.
This set offers viewers the choice of 5.1 audio tracks in
either the original Japanese or in English.
Fans of the English dub may be disappointed to find out that the
cast has been replaced with new actors.
I was never a fan of the Tokyo Pop dub, so I checked this one
found that it was fine, but I still preferred the Japanese track. One area where the English dub is superior is
the use of the soundstage. Unfortunately
the Japanese track is only stereo and the 5.1 English track has some
aural moments. The rears really come
alive during the race scenes and that adds a lot to the atmosphere of
show. Unfortunately when the races are
over the show collapses into what is basically a stereo mix. The Japanese track does a good job with what
there is to work with too. The track
opens up the soundstage with a lot of nicely timed panning. When a car drives across the screen, the
engine sounds follow it from one speaker to the next, which sounds
pretty cool. Overall this was a good
sounding show with no
distortion or background noise.
I was surprised that the 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic image
didn't look better. The movie was made
in 2001, but the picture shows a lot of spots, hair, and dirt. The colors are also toned down a bit making
the show appear a bit dark. The lines
weren't as tight as they could have been either. These
are all minor defects, none of them are
incredibly significant, but when you add them all up you get a picture
doesn't quite hit the mark. As I said,
it's surprising for sucha recent movie.
It's pretty disappointing, but there are no extras included
with this movie. The only extra is a set
of FUNimation trailers. I wish they had
included Initial D Battle Stage, a 50-minute recap of season 1 and 2
CGI special effects. That would have
served as a nice way to bring viewers who haven't seen the series in a
of years up to speed, and I'm sure completists would have enjoyed
This feature film was a lot of fun, just like the TV
series. The races themselves are
exciting and the show never goes wanting for action, and the
the characters personal lives are interesting too.
Well worth picking up, even with the less than stellar video