DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds

Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Initial D: Third Stage Movie
Initial D: Third Stage Movie
FUNimation // Unrated // May 11, 2010
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted May 16, 2010 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Printer Friendly
The Series:
Well it's been a while, but Initial D is finally back on US shores.  The first two seasons of the series 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 late 2007.  (I believe that Tokyopop released season sets on their own too prior to the partnership, but that's neither here nor there.)  In any case Tokyopop went belly up and FUNimation ended up with the rights, but they didn't do anything 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, FUNimation has done this series right at last.  It's only disappointing that the video quality isn't better.  
Series Background:
Takumi Fujiwara is your average high school student.  He goes to school, works at a gas station and helps his father out with his tofu business.  Every day he wakes up in the middle of the night to deliver fresh tofu to a restaurant on top of Mount Akagi.  Even though he just got his driver's license, he's really been driving up and down the curving mountain road, every day, for five years.  It's a long and boring drive, so Takumi started seeing how fast he could fly down the road on his way home.  He became faster and faster and started drifting (letting the back end of the car slide out in the direction of the curve) to increase his speed.
After passing a street racer on the mountain road one night, Takumi finds himself the 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 "eight-six" actually beat a souped up GTR?  The local street racing gang, the Akina Speed Stars, are desperate to find the mysterious 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 wanted 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.
Third Stage:
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 locals to a match on their home turf.  Ryosuke wants this new team to beat all of the competition and really make a name. 
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 the 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, comes to Akagi to throw down a gauntlet.  Takumi accepts, he's started to really love racing by now, and the race will be won on the road 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 son some cryptic words as he drives off to the race, and tells him that he'll probably lose.
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 broken when he discovered that was having sex with a business man for money on the 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 realizes that he does have a plan.
This movie is a lot of fun.  Even if you don't know anything about street racing (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 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 movie, 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 with their lives.  The movie does a good job of advancing the plots of his friends, without taking up a lot of time doing so.
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, that will 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 don't stick out like they do in some shows, they are only semi-successful at blending with 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.
The DVD:

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 voice cast has been replaced with new actors.  I was never a fan of the Tokyo Pop dub, so I checked this one out and 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 impressive aural moments.  The rears really come alive during the race scenes and that adds a lot to the atmosphere of the 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 that 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 with new CGI special effects.  That would have served as a nice way to bring viewers who haven't seen the series in a couple of years up to speed, and I'm sure completists would have enjoyed seeing the new imaging. 
Final Thoughts:
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 developments in the characters personal lives are interesting too.  Well worth picking up, even with the less than stellar video quality.  Recommended. 
Popular Reviews
1. The Passion of Joan of Arc
2. (Robert Altman's) Images
3. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (4K)
4. The Strangers (Collector's Edition)
5. Birdman of Alcatraz
6. I, Tonya
7. Heat and Dust
8. Boys
9. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
10. The Lion In Winter: 50th Anniversary Edition

Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2018 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use