Takumi Fujiwara is back behind the wheel of his old Trueno 'eight-six'
wiping up the competition in Initial
D - Fourth Stage Part One. The
young racer has joined a group of very
serious amateurs and in doing so has challenged himself even more. Filled with exciting races and just a touch
of drama, the series is still firing on all cylinders.
With the original music left in tact and the
names reverting to their original Japanese versions, FUNimation has
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
win. In the third 'stage' (a
film) Takumi is offered the chance to race on an amateur team a local
Local racing genius Ryosuke Takahashi has created a
traveling racing team, Project D and he's let Takumi join as their
racer. Ryosuke's brother Keisuke handles
the uphill portion. The group travels
all over Japan
challenging the locals to races on their own turf, and not only beating
but often setting new course 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 like the
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
while others are chosen to give the drivers general knowledge about the
their cars run in different circumstances.
Under Ryosuke's tutelage Takumi quickly grows as a racer,
intuitively picking up new skills and learning what it takes to be a
racer. Which is the reason he's so
surprised when he's driving home on his old training ground and he's
a mysterious car with no trouble at all.
Like the seasons (and movie) that preceded it, this set of
shows is a lot of fun. There are more
races and close calls, but even if you don't know anything about street
(I certainly don't) 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 another person will calmly explain the disadvantage
racing under. The program does a good
job of upping the stakes for each race without making it ever seem
With Takumi's girl friend off in Tokyo at school, there's not a lot of
romantic sub-plots with the young racer this time, but there is with
mate Keisuke. A girl from Impact Blue, a
racing team that appeared in an earlier series, see's the uphill driver
and gets smitten by his good looks and driving skill.
The only problem is that Keisuke doesn't have
time for a girl. He knows that Takumi is
getting better every day, and if he lets up for a second the younger
pass him in ability and prestige.
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.
Arrgh. I was terribly
disappointed that the 1.78:1 widescreen image was not anamorphically
enhanced. With widescreen sets being so
readily available today, there's no reason for a widescreen show not to
anamorphic transfer, but this one didn't (even though the cover claims
is.) Aside from that major flaw, the
show looks 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
There are no extras included with this set, just a set of
Even with the non-anamorphic transfer this was a fun series
to watch. They creators manage to put Takumi in some interesting
it's always fun to see how he works his way out to them.
If you've enjoyed the earlier installments,
you'll like these too. Recommended.