FUNimation wraps up the latest Initial D TV series with
Initial D - Fourth Stage Part Two. These
final 12 episodes don't quite wrap up the story but brings a nice close
TV series. (There's also a compilation
special and a one-shot that aired on PPV in Japan
that haven't been released in the US.) This
time around Project D battles two other
schools, one with some of the best non-pro drivers in the country and
that isn't nearly as skilled. The latter
team makes up for lack of driving acumen with an impressive arsenal of
tricks and out and out cheating.
Unfortunately the show still has the same video problems that
set had, making it a marginal buy.
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
win. In the third 'stage' (a
feature-length film) Takumi is offered the chance to race on an amateur
local racer is putting together.
In the first set of the Fourth Stage, local racing genius Ryosuke
Takahashi created a traveling racing team, Project D and he's let
as their downhill racer. Ryosuke's
brother Keisuke handles the uphill portion.
The group travels all over Japan challenging the
races on their own turf, and not only beating them but often setting
records in the process. But it's not
always easy. Each new road is unique and
has its own advantages and disadvantages and the locals know the course
the back of their hand.
The teams they challenge aren't quite random however.
Ryosuke is very smart, and he's developed a
theory on racing and what it takes to win.
He's carefully selected each course to train one (or both) of
drivers in some aspect of racing. Some
are picked to hone a technical skill, such as accelerating gradually
consistently, while others are chosen to give the drivers general
about the way their cars run in different circumstances.
These last 12 episodes have Project D facing off against two
new racing teams. The first is a team
with limited skills. The shop that works
on their cars has agreed to pay them a hefty sum of money if they win
race, figuring that if the notoriety of beating the lossless Project D
bring the garage a lot of business. With
the added incentive of a pay day if they with the home team resorts to
cheating. First they spread oil across
the road when Keisuke is doing a practice runs which causes him to
then they let Takumi know that a group of thugs have been hired to beat
members of Project D if they win.
The second half of this set concerns the match with Purple
Shadow, a team from Ibaraki
prefecture. Project D's reputation has
grown so much that the two founding members of the challenged team come
retirement to race: God Foot and God
Arm. Yeah, Project D is good, but can
they compete with drivers who have "God" in their nicknames?
I enjoyed this set, but at the same time the series started
to become a bit repetitive. There are
only so many last minute come-from-behind wins that the series can have
they become expected. The races don't
have the excitement that they once did, mainly because there aren't any
big tricks for Takumi to pull out of his hat.
The racing techniques that they are now employing are too subtle
a big splash on the screen and even the writer seems to realize this. The last person Takumi races has the special
ability of being able to drive with one hand on the steering wheel. Granted this is supposed to illustrate his
skill, but it seems a little stupid, and doesn't come across as an
They did focus a lot on Takumi's teammate Keisuke in this
set of shows, in a valiant effort to mix things up a bit.
It worked to a certain extent, it was fun
hearing what was going through another racer's mind and getting the
Keisuke's style, but it didn't make a huge difference in the show.
One aspect I really like is the off-the-street drama with
Takumi and his friends. If they could
balance out that with the multi-episode races a bit more it would make
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
superimposed 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.
Arrgh. I was terribly
disappointed that the 1.78:1 widescreen image was not anamorphically
enhanced. With widescreen sets being so
available today, there's no reason for a widescreen show not to have an
anamorphic transfer, but this one didn't (even though the cover claims
it is.) Aside from that major flaw, the
okay. The image was on the soft side,
but the colors were satisfactory and the contrast was fine. It's just too bad the image is both
letterboxed and window boxed on a widescreen TV.
There are no extras included with this set, just a set of
This is a nice ending to a good series. It's
stopping at the right point. I was never
bored watching this show, but
when it was over I wasn't sad.
Unfotunatly the non-anamorphic transfer is a real pain and
value of the set. Even so, it comes recommended, these last two racing
challenges are worth sticking around for.