High school student Takumi Fujiwara works as a gas station attendant during the day and a delivery boy for his father's tofu shop during late nights. Little does he know that his precise driving skills and his father's modified Toyota Sprinter AE86 Trueno make him the best amateur road racer on Mt. Akina's highway. Because of this, racing groups from all over the Gunma prefecture issue challenges to Takumi to see if he really has what it takes to be a road legend.
A sizable number of racing games based on the franchise were released for arcades, home consoles, handhelds and PC.
Japan's Avex Inc. and Hong Kong's Media Asia Group co-produced a live-action film based on Initial D. It was released on Jun 23, 2005 across Asia. While the film deviated considerably from the original story, it was nominated for multiple awards and won many of them, at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards.
I never thought a story about street car racing would be this entertaining. And if I had known what I would be watching when my friend made me watch the first few episodes, I would have said thanks, but no thanks. ...Boy, am I glad I didn't know.
Story: On the surface, it's about a pretty bland high school guy who's got a bunch of car-crazy friends... and turns out to be the 2nd fastest driver in Akina. (Who's first? Ooooh, don't you wanna know?) Below the surface...? Okay, pretty much the same thing. ;) Most of the "story" is just a bunch of kids in cars racing through dark mountain passes ...or talking about racing through dark mountain passes. I know it doesn't sound interesting if you're not into car races, but it was. There's something about the speed and the pressure and the tension that sucks you into the show. And of course, there's also your normal sports anime type general plot of competition and desire, rising to the challenge, overcoming obstacles, etc.
Art: I have to say, this is the biggest downside of the show. Especially in the first season. Thankfully, by the fourth season, there's a remarkable improvement overall in animation quality. One of the most jarring things is the awkward usage of computer graphics for the racing scenes in the first season. There's kind of an old-school feel to the way the people look and the brightness of the show... and then all of sudden out of no where, there's a cgi car that looks like it's from a different decade than the guy driving it. I don't think I ever got used to that.
Sound: Personally, I always prefer subs to dubs. Here, I would really suggest the subs... the voices for English dub didn't feel anywhere near as "right" as the Japanese actors. Whenever I heard the dub, I felt like the voices made me like the characters less. The downside of watching the sub, however, is the Japanese soundtrack. Maybe it's my close-minded American taste, but I would have preferred hearing the hip-hop on the dub to whatever that was used originally.
Character: The main character, Takumi, was somewhat atypical for this genre, I think, and I liked it. Unlike the normal archetypes like the loser who tries really hard or the cocky natural-born genius, Takumi is sort of actually unique: he doesn't know anything about cars and doesn't even really like driving. It was a nice way for the series to start because I didn't care about street racing when I started the show either. So, even though they toss around a little bit of racing lingo, I was never more behind than the main character was... and, as a viewer, I got a chance to become interested in street racing while Takumi got interested in it. I really liked that his development on the show kind of went down the same road that mine did as a viewer. So I thought they did a great job on his character design and development because his attitude and experience is what hooks you and reels you in to what I assume would be an otherwise complicated and technical world of street racing.
Enjoyment: I think you can tell I enjoyed it, right? I had to make mental notes to slow down while driving for a bit after watching the show. Thankfully, I'm too cowardly to try drifting for real! ...And let me tell you, my Corolla never drove like the 86. ;) I think it was also really appealling because Takumi starts off the show as what seems like a normal, typical driver -- it made me feel like there was an inner Takumi just waiting to be woken up buried somewhere in me. (There's not, unfortunately, but I like to delude myself sometimes.)read more
I like watching sports anime. People who know me and have accepted the fact that I am a hardcore couch-potato find this hilarious. But the irony doesn't end there. I am a member of minority who does not possess a driving license nor has the faintest clue about driving.
After my Yawara "Brain-Imploding-Annoyance-Rage" I was rather desperate. There were very few sports animes left I hadn't watched yet. And I was - still am actually, I can't take bludgeoned faces!- digging my heels in not to watch Hajime no Ippo.
Barring any alternatives I gave in to desperation and started watching Initial D though in my couch potato opinion Street-Car-Racing is no sport.
The art took some getting used to. Every time I saw one of those "fish-on-land-gasping-for-air" mouths I just wanted to smash my fist into it. But then pretty soon something weird happened. I got sucked into the Takumi-Bunta duo.
The story itself is nothing world-moving; the synopsis tells it perfectly accurate.
Like ParaParaJMo says, this anime's hook for me was and is Takumi. He is not only a reluctant hero, but rather a lethargic hero. He breaths, he talks and he walks and he helps out his father with the tofu shop by driving out the goods but driving, it is a chore, that must be done. His heart is not in it. It is not that he is lazy but he has no passion nor any direction in life. Enter the "woman" and the rock starts rolling.
God knows, I would have been as much interested if not more if this was Bunta's -Takumi's father- story, because Bunta is a character like Hiruma & Co (Eyeshield 21). He does things with a purpose even if the main character doesn't have the dream of a clue why. In that manner, Bunta started his son on driving 5 years ago, when he was barely out of diapers and from what we understand he was a strict master. And the fruits of that are now very visible in Takumi.
I like an anime if I like the characters. I have watched and liked animes, anime-lovers would diss. I watch sports animes; yet I barely know the rules of any of the sports; just because I like the characters. The characters here grew on me too. Well most of them anyway. And in Itsuki's case (Takumi's best friend) it was rather like fungus. The development and growth of the characters drives the story on. Even though it is a repeated plot reel, - there is a challenge, Takumi drives, Takumi wins- weirdly it never gets old and you find yourself engaged time and again.
The music is just awesome. It had me wiggling around on my couch so much so that I had a b.tt-print on it every time I watched it.
I would have enjoyed it to the max if the female folk wasn't in there. And that is my only gripe about this anime. Honestly, I think the Mangaka needed to get laid really bad, or may be I am too outlandish but the female folk of this anime is just horrendous. Here is a summary of the female cast in this anime
Takumi's first love interest: A teenage prostitute. Literally. Also rather "I haven't exposed myself in the last 30 seconds so let me show you my panties" type. Color me stiff but if my girlfriend is ok with showing her panties to my father, I'd be rather "peeved"!
Mako: a challenger, also a love interest to Iketani, one of Takumi's friends/Sempai; here is what she says to Iketani: If you make the race happen between me and Takumi I will sleep with you.
Kyoko, a love interest to Keisuke: 3 Seconds after she sees him, he is her "Darling" and she is a whiny, clingy, .... something.
Oh and the mother is not even mentioned.
The art does get better, And by that I mean, thank God they do lose their utmost annoying fish mouths. And the girls are not always there so my annoyance was kept in check, which is why Initial D gets 9 Enjoyment points and 8 overall.
I recommend trying out Initial D. And extend the 3 episode rule to 4 if you are still undecided because Takumi doesn't officially race before the 4th episode. Initial D is worth at least that much of your time.
At first, I’ll admit that I did not think I would like the concept at first, but other factors which I will further elaborate on would keep on pulling me into this franchise and would like it more and more. I know it’s not the most exciting or appealing anime, and that I’m not the biggest gear head, but I felt something special about this one. Even though Takumi is not exactly the most appealing anime character of all time, it’s kind of weird that his lack of charisma in some ways makes him charismatic at the same time because he does all his talking behind the wheel and he’s a monster at it, and yet, he thinks his abilities are nothing special. The cast is well rounded and they all get equal attention for the most part. There’s not much that goes with story, but the characters is what really drives this anime. But it still has a lot of elements such as some romance, lots of comedy, and it’s a different kind of coming of age story.
I’ll admit the character design isn’t really the most beautiful, nor is the coloring the most glossy. Yes, it’s nothing really great, but the character design is diverse and distinctive in lets say in comparison to Gundam SEED’s, nor way too generic like History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi. I’ll admit Shigeno, the manga artist has a weird way of drawing, but he does have a style of making some of his characters, especially Ryosuke, look distinctively Japanese rather than relying too much on the trademark anime big eyes. Plus, there is none of this wacky hairstyle or hair color bull crap that is so trendy, so I was able to be glad to be away from that.
Plus, the designs of the cars are of course accurate to that of the real cars themselves. I really like how they used CG for the races and it brings a trademark trait to this show. Granted the CG isn’t that impressive looking, but this was 1998. Look at the other CG cartoons that were out back then and compare it to where CG is now in 2008. But despite that, the physics for the most part I will probably have to assume are 95% real because the drift king himself, Tsuchiya Keiichi, was an advisor to the races. A lot of environmental factors are put into play with the outcome such as gutter gripping on the corners for traction. Also, all of the courses present in the show are real life mountains, except Akina is really named Haruna and from what I have heard, they are accurately represented. The show has a lot of technical jargon in relation to the cars and driving techniques. If you don’t have any prior knowledge, it will be hard to understand but at least you’re getting something educational in some bizarre regard.
Now time to really talk about what made me a fan, the Eurobeat music. I first got into this anime in 2000 and was a junior in high school, and I was playing Para Para Paradise every weekend at my local arcade. I loved the music and even found other non-game dance routines on the internet and got addicted to the music. Then one day, my friend gave me this anime to watch and told me to watch it. I thought the opening theme, Around the World by Move, was pretty cool and catchy. Then, the moment things got underway, I immediately recognized the first song, Space Boy by Dave Rodgers and the last song, No One Sleeps in Tokyo by Edo Boys, and I thought, hey, this soundtrack alone has me sold. The Eurobeat in this anime is as synomous and central as is the jazz in Cowboy Bebop. I never watched the dub and to this day, I will refuse to watch it. I heard they change the music to 7th grade level grunge rock and to me, doing that is like replacing the jazz in Cowboy Bebop to Achy Breaky Heart! But trying to put a portion of my biases aside, I felt that the fast paced nature of Eurobeat really suits the fast paced atmosphere of this anime in its own unique way like that.
The Japanese voice cast is also very excellent and multi-talented. I think Miki Shin’ichiro does a great job as Takumi. He does a great job of being quiet and unassuming, but in certain moments, he knows how to sound enraged if you push the right buttons on him. And the voice of Kaneda from Akira, Iwata Mitsuo, is funny as Itsuki. I just love it when he goes Kuuuuuu sound when he’s excited. And I really loved Koyasu Takehito as Ryosuke and his role in playing Ryosuke is why he’s my favorite character. He’s very serious about what he does and he is very charismatic and intimidating, but yet, knows how to act approachable at the same time. Tomokazu Seki as Keisuke I like him being so moody, hot tempered, and is straight out no nonsense. And to conclude, the sounds of the car engines are actually based on the real cars themselves. I saw a documentary on Initial D one time and they showed how they got the real car engine sounds and applied them to the anime. Unfortunately, I will restate I have never seen the dub, but have heard only bad things about it.
OK, I’ll admit that you might not be able to relate to this anime nor most of its characters, or more specifically their situations. It’s definitely not for casual anime fans, or those who like Naruto, Bleach or DBZ. Hell, it’s not even for a lot more dedicated anime fans as well. But as a Para Para Paradise veteran, I just felt the music alone was something I could relate to and I know it’s weird to get into some animes based on that. But eventually, I personally came to embrace Initial D the anime itself. I just felt because it was something out of the norm, I was able to enjoy it. So if you’re truly looking for something different, I say give Initial D a try. I know this anime is not for everyone, but it takes the right circumstances when you get into it to enjoy it for some people.read more
I was really hard-pressed to decide what to rate this anime. I've known about this anime for more than 10 years but never came around to watching it. The thing I find amazing about this anime is how much it pulls you in to the story. Everything is executed perfectly. I admit, especially from watching it now when CG is so much better than it was almost 20 years ago, that the CG kind of turned me off but overlooking this anime because of that reason would be a big mistake. This anime manages to create excitement, intensity, great comedy, compelling romance and wonderful character development.
I'm not into cars nor am I into racing but this anime somehow pulls me in anyway? How?? I can only speculate that the characters and execution of the plot and story is just too well done. Even when ignoring the racing aspect, the setting of having a character completely un-interested in racing grow as a character was so entrancing. All the characters see the main character Takumi grow. The interesting thing is even when the story focuses on other characters in the story, I didn't lose any momentum or interest in the show. All of the character were well-rounded and all had their own worries, goals, and ambitions in the show. Each racer was striving to become better and find their own identity. This anime, consistently manages to introduce to people with no interest in racing or cars, and keep glued in anticipation to the outcome of the race, and the outcome to the character's problems.
The soundtrack was very great. And I've become hooked on the ringtone that Sayuki used on her phone. If anyone finds it leave me a comment on my profile. xD I thorougly enjoyed this anime not only because I learned about racing and the racing culture but I discovered some good romance in the story as well. Part of the reason for this is the way they executed the drawing of the girls as well as they used, and the plot made the romance engrossing and personal. Despite their blocky like heads, the artists managed to capture that moment when you see a girl that just makes you drop your jaw and heart skip a beat. Being able to create a mood like that especially when I'm biased against older looking anime just speaks of how well the animators created mood using the art, costume, character, and music. It just does everything right.
The climax and situation reversals were logically well-thought out and never have I been unsatisfied or bored with the characters in the show or the outcome of the races. The characters are all utilized to their full effect for the main plot, racing, comedy, romance, or some combination thereof. Despite some of the technical nature of racing itself, the show feels really authentic and still manages to pull off some great comedy and romance as well. The reason why I've decided to give this a 9 (Great) versus an 8 (Very Good) is not all anime can pull in an audience that have no interest in the sport of racing or race cars and this anime manages to pull that off by having an amazing story. Initial D: First Stage is not only an example of how to do things right but how to introduce audience to a world completely foreign to them and suck them into the story. This isn't an anime about racing alone but about racers, a racer's identity, and the people's stories surrounding them. A studio could've done everything the same, the races, the plot, the music, the art and with different pacing and transitions executed poorly. But Initial D: First Stage from racing to comedy, comedy to romance, romance to racing, gets it all right, all the way till the finale.read more
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