Initial D Fifth Stage: After waiting 6 long years, longtime fans of the series have been eagerly awaiting the triumph return of this explosive racer. Fifth Stage stays truly faithful to the series with its story, art/animation, characters, and sound. Fans will be happy to see that this anime keeps everything that is great about Initial D intact.
The storyline of Fifth Stage is based off the manga of the same name and takes place directly after the events of Fourth Stage. Here we see Project D is setting up to take on the rest of Kanagawa in its final phase to become the king of the downhill/uphill outside of their prefecture. The name of the game is still to capture every single time attack record in Japan and Project D is inching ever so closer to that reality. Project D faces its hardest challengers yet, and must use all of the skills they have acquired to overcome their rivals.
One thing about this storyline is that it’s very easy to follow. Newcomers to the series are strongly encouraged to at least watch the Fourth Stage to see how things got started. Series veterans will see that it fits right into what happened previously. Rivals continue to affect the overall plot and love interest are still here.
Fifth Stage has great progression. A viewer will get so immersed in an episode that they won’t even realize how much time has passed by. It never gets boring, or stale. Also it is always a fun and interesting watch. Foreshadowing on certain plot points is done okay. However, one negative is that the since the storyline is relatively simple and straightforward it does become predictable, but that’s to be expected. Although there’s not a lot to talk about, Fifth Stage’s storyline is another solid pillar in the world of Initial D. Fans of the series will be happy that it stays spot on.
+ Still Easy to follow
+ Great Immersion
With the anime industry’s leap to high definition back in late 2006, Initial D hasn’t had the chance to utilize this new standard. Fifth Stage is the first to step into the realm of HD, and it has had a good overall effect. Fans of the series already know that Initial D has used CGI to showcase its cars, and racing scenes since day one. The new high definition graphics make everything look quite sharp. Car models are superbly detailed, and look even more like their real life counterparts. Any kind of modification done to the exterior or interior of a car can easily stand up to close examination. Fifth Stage wants a viewer to see this by providing many close ups of them. This means that a viewer can truly appreciate every crease, bulge, or modified part on these great machines. To put it simply the car models in Fifth Stage look the best out of the entire series.
Environments are also given this special treatment. In previous installments, the environment was often fairly dark and grim. However, with Fifth Stage they are now much brighter, and have added contrast to bring out greater detail in objects. Things like roads, rock faces, and trees look much better because of this. A viewer is bound to notice the simpler details, like leaves being forced off the ground as cars whiz by, or the subtleness of fog or smoke enveloping the mountain passes and city. It is a real treat.
Character models are somewhat tweaked from fourth stage. They are given a bit more color to work with so now it is more pronounced. On the other hand, character models also lack shadow detail. They may not look as pleasing to the eyes compared to Fourth Stage’s models, but Fifth Stage’s character models still stay true to the series.
Finally, Fifth Stage’s animation quality is excellent. There weren’t any frame rate issues even when things get intense on the track, and things just ran smoothly without any hiccups at all. Overall, Fifth Stage’s art/animation has some good additions, and keeps in line with the rest the series. Viewers will be happy to know that there aren’t any drastic changes, which is welcomed.
+ Car Models (nice and sharp)
+ Smooth Animation
+/- Character Models
Just like the rest of the series, Fifth Stage has fantastic sound. Cars sound very accurate compared to their real life counterparts as well. It’s very great to hear the sound of a rotary engine as it revs up to its peak. Tire screeching is also satisfying as a viewer hears them going around a corner in a sick drift. Sound staging and imaging is also very good in Fifth Stage. A viewer will feel that they are actually their racing or watching for a distance.
Fans of the series also already know that it wouldn’t be Initial D without the energetic music. Even after 6 years since the last episode of Initial D aired, the creators still brings it when it comes to the music. Viewers will feel the joy of nostalgia when listening to all the tracks featured in the Fifth Stage. Each track gets a viewer pumped and makes them feel even more alive as they watch. Fans of the series rejoice because m.o.v.e is back! They created the opening song “Raise Up” and it is a very great fit to the Initial D universe. They are also responsible for many of the soundtracks used just like beforehand. The ending theme "Flyleaf" by CLUTCHO is again energetic rock themed song. It sounds so awesome. The final ending theme is "Yuushuusouka” by you guessed it m.o.v.e . It’s a pretty slow paced song, and it has a reminiscing feeling .
Lastly, character’s VAs sound just as great as a viewer remembers them. Each person comes back to reprise the roles, and they do an admiral job. In short, Fifth Stage does everything right when it comes to sounds. From the frantic race music to the sound effects and character voices, Fifth Stage strikes all chords in the perfect manor.
+ Sound effects
+ Character Voice Acting
Initial D characters are once again the strong point in this series. Almost everyone fans know and love is here in some way, shape or form. Interactions between characters are still great. They feel natural and always had a great flow to them. When emotions run high, characters show it with convincing facial expressions. Conversations are filled with talk on car tech, and discussion strategies on beating rival teams. Characters often get into debates with each other, which leads to a wealth of information given to the viewer. This also helps to break up battles into many interesting chunks to see what other people are thinking besides the racers. It is great stuff and very gratifying to listen too.
Our main protagonist, Takumi Fujiwara and driver of the Hachi-roku, hasn’t changed much since Fourth Stage. He still, is stubborn, strong willed, and thinks on his feet as he races. Also he is still capable of learning even more. Everyone is out to beat this man because of his legendary skills. Keisuke Takahashi, driver of the RX-7 Type R (FD3S), has learned from his experiences in Fourth Stage. Now he thinks about things more realistic, and approaches races with some thought. However, he is still hot headed, but this actually helps him concentrate even more. Finally, Ryosuke Takahashi, driver of RX-7 Infinite III (FC3S), and leader of Project D, still shows how intelligent he really is without being cocky and realizing that his competition is formidable. He actually, has a much bigger role in fifth stage than just being the brains of the operation. However, it would be a spoiler to say what is going on.
Many other supporting characters, both old and new, are also given some time to prove their worth. All have certain traits that viewers will like about them. Furthermore, these supporting characters also affect what’s going on in the main plot whether they are rivals or friends. The only negative I can see is that Fifth Stage is pretty scarce with character development. Many of them just aren’t explored enough.
Although, Fifth Stage doesn’t do much in character development, it still stays true to what Initial D is. It’s great that fans will still be familiar with their favorites, and be at ease that newer characters blend in well with the old ones.
+ Character Interactions
- Lack of character development
There’s really nothing much to say here. Fifth Stage is an enthralling watch for long time fans, and viewers who are interested in racing. There are many high octane moments that will get a viewer pumped as I said before, and everything just feels right. So sit down and enjoy these extreme battles.
After 6 years Initial D is just how we left it. Fans will be pleased that it is still an exciting, fast paced racer full of action, and suspense. Fifth Stage is just as entertaining as any other installment in the series. It’s kind of sad to see that Initial D isn’t as popular anymore do to changing times, but the creators have managed to keep the series faithful to its core. read more
Taking place where 4th stage leaves off, Takumi on his deliveries is practicing at the one-handed steering technique of his final opponent from the last season. Though he is progressing, he still is trying to figure things out. At the same time, his father is giving him props for trying such a technique and acknowledges his progress. So where does this leave Project D after beating the Purple Mountain? Their next conquest leads them to Kanagawa, a prefecture south of Tokyo which is known for having the best street racers in the nation to the point that some of the drivers are trained and active professionals, and its up to Ryosuke, Keisuke, and Takumi to show that there is a world of difference between the track circuits and the mountain passes.
To some extent, you can say this is more or less an extension of 4th stage since the focus is still on Project D. Their new rivals take racing seriously and express the same passion to a more distinct extent than previous rival teams. Because of this, the races are harder with the higher level of competition and harsher course conditions, so Ryosuke always thinks of ways in which they can and will win. Even if the chances are at a small percentage, he will bank everything on it.
I understand the characters from the other teams have more elaboration in the manga, but the anime does enough to express how this character compares and contrasts with either Ryosuke, Keisuke and Takumi. I just feel that they don’t have enough individual exploration and seem to be only used as a comparison tool to our main characters. I guess in context to the anime, it does its job, and this has been somewhat of an issue in previous installments. My only exposure of the manga is through the arcade, PS2, and PS3 games and when I see what is different in how the characters are more fleshed out, it really surprises me.
The rest of the cast for the most part is back. Most of the development is focused on Takumi, Keisuke, and Ryosuke and Ryosuke gets his own brief story arc. As for Iketani, Kenji, and Itsuki, they are still around and they do serve their roles in their own way. But I feel that their purpose is to now show how much Takumi has developed and is beyond them in context to expressing how he understands cars and the physics of racing. But I think at some point, they will get further development. But I think manga readers will tell me I am wrong. Some other past characters do show up and some of these brief returning characters do serve a significant purpose which I really thought did an excellent job for a certain new character.
In addition, Takumi now has a new love interest, Mika, a high school golf star. She is a real interesting character and I personally feels she is better than Natsuki. I feel she connects to Takumi more effectively because of her background and I like her out-going personality a lot more. I am pretty sure the manga at this point already has, but I hope when I watch future anime installments, they develop that relationship more. I thought the anime does its job building a good foundation to that relationship and I look forward to how it develops.
In terms of character design, the most significant change is Ryosuke’s. His hair is more shaggy and is not as well kept as it always has been. I don’t recall his hair looking like that in the manga based on my exposure through the games during that part of the story arc. Then again, this isn’t the first time, they changed Ryosuke’s hair style. In second stage, his hair color was changed to light brown from black and then changed back to black in 3rd and 4th stages. I thought his hair was fine. I guess my concern is on the basis that Ryosuke is my favorite character, but his fashion sense and his facial design and expressions are more or less the same. For the other characters, there are no other alterations to their designs.
The quality is not too different from 4th stage but has brighter resolution with the colors. The races are more back to a CG feel in comparison to the more cel-shaded feel of 4th stage and excellently does its job of bringing out the intensity and excitement of the races.
As for the races, the races are still done in a cat and mouse set of rules like in 4th stage. They do bring a sense of danger and risk to a higher level than previous installments, but I don’t think it’s to the level of that in Wangan Midnight or Shigeno-sensei’s previous manga, Bari Bari Densetsu. I suppose with a street racing manga, you want those factors, but in considerations to how well they organize and coordinate the street races, they can limit those risks so those factors justify that lack of them. I know accidents have happened in previous installments, but I just didn’t feel that danger. But this time, they do bring in weather and course conditions into a more specific and emphatic level in comparison to previous races and how they can appropriately customize the cars to prepare as well as actual physics to race in such conditions.
The races are planned with very intricate strategies that takes every possibility into account which is what I like about them. Even though this was also done in 4th stage, this quality is taken to a new level of technicalities in this season. The game plans Ryosuke comes up with is what makes touge racing very distinctive and makes me interested in it in a realistic point of view. For example, when Takumi invented his blind attack in 4th stage, this tactic is further elaborated and developed in a physics point of view. Also, some races focus more on effective breaking, and some are emphasized on carefully planned accelerating. Also, they do bring in very clever game planning which you may think is playing dirty, but considering this is the street, anything goes. But even though I don’t feel the danger, these new qualities does make it refreshingly exciting and educational. For that, I give the art and animation.
If you have been following my reviews of Initial D, then you know I always give the music and voice acting a 10/10. The voice cast is still the same and still bring their respective qualities to the same excellent performance they always have. Takumi is becoming nearly as articulate is Ryosuke and Miki Shinichiro does a great job of giving us that. The new voice actors also do a great job of capturing their characters. The music, the reason why I became an Initial D fan, is still unchanged. MOVE still does the songs though the hook is more of heavy guitars which perfectly reflects the more intense atmosphere of this installment. And if there is just one song that justifies my perfect score, it is the song “Wait for You” the Dancefloor mix by Ace from episode 11. It is just an amazing song you just have to hear. I can listen to this song over and over. It’s that song that makes you wish you were with that special someone in your life and it fits the mood of when the song was used. It is probably on my top 10 Initial D songs if i were to make one. So look that song up when you can I promise you’ll love it.
And the ending of the series perfectly sets up the last stage. read more
Initial D is the grittier anime equivalent of those adrenaline pumping fantasy car movies like Fast and Furious or Need For Speed. But one thing the movies and this series shares is a lineup of the sexiest cars around.