Takumi Fujiwara and brothers Keisuke and Ryousuke Takahashi have formed "Project D," a racing team aimed at bringing their driving skills to their full potential outside their prefecture. Using the internet, Project D issues challenges to other racing teams and posts results of their races. Managed by Ryousuke, the team has Takumi engaging in downhill battles with his AE86, while Keisuke challenges opponents uphill. Among their rivals are the Seven-Star Leaf (SSR) and Todo-juku.
Well the series has a certain pattern or formula which may seem repetitive, but the series is willing to somewhat break the 4th wall in an indirect sense to explain that and help you understand better. This will be explained between Takumi’s races with Tomoyuki and Sakamoto on the subject of “oh this opponent will be your toughest yet, etc.” For that formula, mostly one episode is that they introduce Project D’s opponents and the following episode they will race. At times the pace will change a bit, but I think it brings a more definitive balance to keep you hooked. It is very character
development driven which is what I loved best. Every race Takumi and Keisuke have is a new kind of challenge in multiple angles, and it’s Ryosuke’s purpose to use that factor to help develop them. The development is obvious and predictable, but Ryosuke keeps things at a certain ambiguity where it does make you curious to how they get to that goal. But it’s not about development as racers, but development as individuals as well. Especially with Keisuke since you get to learn about him more and sympathize with him.
Itsuki, Iketani, and Kenji are of course present. Itsuki will also have his time to somewhat shine again. I think they are useful but not impacting. I think the purpose of their presence is to demonstrate that Takumi is developing and can talk about racing and cars, and Takumi won’t explain things all spaced out like in 1st stage. Other characters from previous season will be making a return and they also have their own contributions. The newer characters are interesting in their own right and you’re getting characters from all kinds of backgrounds and skill levels. Granted it’s been the same with previous installments, but this takes it to a whole new level in ways you can never have expected. By the end, you get characters that are not traditionally found in Initial D, but you would tend to find in Wangan Midnight, another racing anime and manga. Some teams go as far as getting professional racers to challenge Project D. A flaw that will stand out to those familiar with the manga is that Keisuke’s races such as that with the Integra and the R34 are mentioned, but are never shown, but afterwards they show his races. I don’t know why. But I heard they were animated for Battle Stage 2, which I have yet to see. I also recall that Kyoko, the black FD driver being spunkier in the manga while in this one, she’s more of a likeable and sweet girl, but with a unique passion for cars and racing. Over looking these flaws, the pacing felt as fast as the races, which will be my next topic of discussion.
Well, you’ll notice a lot of changes in this series in style. What I liked is that it brings a style more manga-like. The art was sketchier and it used a lot more cross-hatching to show the shadowing. I’m personally more of a manga person, so I felt appreciated as a manga fan. I also loved how the coloring and resolution complimented this approach as well. But one thing in particular that really stood out to me was that the characters wore different clothes in every episode. Usually in cartoons, video games, and anime, characters will always wear one set of clothes just to make them “iconic.” I know it may sound stupid those who are listening to this review, but this quality just stood out to me and I just happened to enjoy it. But one thing I didn’t like personally is that Shigeno-sensei at this point is sort of getting lazy with his female designs. How come Kyoko and Nao have to look like Natsuki? Why can’t he draw women in the fashion of Impact Blue? I don’t know where he went wrong there.
The rendering of the cars this time has more of a cel-shaded style, though not really in the same nature of that as in Jet Set Radio or Okami. It still has a CG kind of look, and I thought the rendering blended excellently with the style of this season. The races in this one are of course more exciting than ever, but I think they relied on the chase race more. You know the races like what Takumi had with Impact Blue in first stage, and with Wataru in second. But I heard in mountain races in Japan, that kind of racing is most common. I prefer the time attack races and I think in addition to realism they used the chase race just to drag the races a little bit more, but I feel the conclusions and finishes are more dramatic as a result, though sometimes anti-climatic, but there are legitimate reasons and purposes. But like other installments as the series progresses, new courses will of course mean new features and factors to how the races will turn out which is another contribution to motivating development. And sorry to bring up a spoiler, but I couldn’t help but mention that by the end, it will feature Mt. Tsukuba, also known as the Purple Mountain, a course I used to live not too far from and have hiked. And the home team is appropriately named the Purple Shadow. And I haven’t played the newer games enough to give the judgment of the accuracy of the course’s portrayal.
Even though I skim through this section in the last two reviews of Initial D, I need to really extend this particular section more in relation to the voice acting. First I will briefly talk about the music. My favorite song is the 2005 remix of Wild Reputation by Dave Rodgers, and it’s featured in episode 13. I just think the song really reflected the bad boy images of Wataru and Keisuke. And to conclude with the music, MOVE’s style has gone more radical where it was more reliant on rap in previous seasons, while they added more rock elements to come across as more extreme and it works out really well. So that’s it for music.
The voice acting in this season starting with Takahashi Ryosuke played by Koyasu Takehito, is taken to a new level of appreciation in my book. It’s not just his unique charisma and intimidation, but I just love how he makes the character distinguishing. His acting abilities truly bring those qualities to Ryosuke. It makes him sound like a Bruce Lee of street racing though that’s really Bunta’s role, but Koyasu’s acting just steals that spotlight. Miki Shin’ichiro also brings out Takumi’s development in relation to his ability to articulate his abilities racing and doesn’t sound as spaced out. He just really pulls you into the character and you can’t call him an empty shell. And as usual, I love Seki Tomokazu’s hot tempered portrayal as Keisuke. And Toyoguchi Megumi, who you may know as the voice of Elena in Advent Children, Millaria in Gundam SEED, and Sei in Maria-san ga Miteru did an excellent performance with the anime’s portrayal of Kyoko who is passionate, but yet mellow and focused. Even though my perfect scores in previous installments was out of fanboyism on my part, I just feel that for the first time I felt moved and more educated by the performances.
Despite how highly I rate this, I still acknowledge Initial D isn’t an anime for everyone whether new, casual, or hardcore. I’m just saying this as a guy who’ll try everything, and I didn’t expect to like Initial D. I like what’s fresh and original, which Initial D has always offered me and is free from most anime stereotypes, and it’s very educational to me as someone who has friends who like to race and I have been going to car shows and drag races since I was in high school, though I don’t participate in them. But the concept of racing isn’t something everyone is going to embrace and I know that eurobeat isn’t universally appealing. And the tech speak is something that can turn off people and I’ve seen that a lot. But if you want character and story development that is well motivated, maybe these qualities will make up for the surface ones that make you uninterested, I don’t know.
Now I will conclude this on a note that people will call me stupid and crazy, and for all the right reasons by fans and non-fans alike. It’s just that when I watched this, I felt the execution and presentation made me start to think that touge racing is a legitimate sport in its own way and requires a unique set of skills and customization of your car. After all, some famous racers started out on the street and Tsuchiya Keiichi, the drift king and supervisor of this anime was no different. Outside of public traffic risk and legality factors, other conditions that are explained and portrayed truly demonstrate this distinction to make you come to that assumption and I do have a new sense of respect for touge racing as a sport thanks to watching this anime. As for a fifth stage, the manga is still going on, so you can look forward to it at some point, or read the manga.
Initial D Fourth Stage is the newest series in the long-running franchise. Fast-paced street racing, modified cars, and determined drivers all combine to create a series that has become one that is unique in it's style. Fourth Stage breathes in new art and an outstanding face lift to the series and guarantees to please fans of it's predecessors.
The story of Fourth Stage has come from the budding of Fujiwara Takumi's driving skill to the nationwide domination of Project D, a new race team established by Takahashi Ryouske. The story proceeds well from the small victories in various regions, to the eventual domination of the prefecture
as a whole. The story however, does also drop into the various personal lives of the characters. By allowing viewers to see what is driving the character's ambitions and dreams, they can come to understand the determination that all hold.
The artwork has come a long way since the original First Stage. Character animations are more fluid and polished. Overall, they more attractive as well since they were pretty hard to view in the beginning. The biggest improvements have come, of course, in the vehicle and race animations. All the cars are depicted almost flawlessly both inside and out to let auto enthusiasts truly appreciate their favorite vehicles. The races are much smother and the vehicles have lost that "paste-on-top" feel that they used to have. A very welcome change. Fans can now truly feel the races blend together in solid animation.
The soundwork of Initial D has always been a key point to it's success. The squeeling tires, high-revving engines, and bursting exhausts are all delivered in an excellence that is to be expected. The background music has stayed true to the Initial D style with it's happy-pop Eurobeat soundtrack. The music, while perhaps annoying on it's own, does help to provide a great sense of energy during the race scenes. By combining the music and sounds in great choreography with the revamped animation, a completed scene gives it's viewers a real sense of awe. The new introduction and ending music are pretty similar to the previous tunes held by the earlier seasons. The intro music is fastpaced and energetic while the ending themes are a bit softer to give a sense of closure after each episode.
The characters in Initial D have come a long way since the original series, yet they still seem to have a hard time developing aside from their driving skill. Anger, drama, sadness, and determination are all delivered well enough, but any actual development is rarely made. The traditional overcoming by Takumi is nothing new but is fun to watch as new techniques and skills are found. The drama, itself, is pretty much based on a would-be relationship that is similar to one found in Second Stage. Again, while the characters learn and grow as drivers, they don't seem to evolve much as people.
Overall, Initial D Fourth Stage is an excellent addition to growing franchise. The new artwork will be a welcomed upgrade amongst fans of previous series and may even captivate the eyes of new viewers. For series focused on automotive enthusiasm, drifting, and driver determination, it does well for itself. However, it may find difficulty in capturing the attention of those that have little or no interest in auto racing or drifting.
I’m starting to get why I don’t review series that last beyond 26 episodes (I watched them, mind you, but takes a lot of time to review) and as much as the first 2 editions of Initial D were pretty good and the third stage movie was…..okay to say the least but I starting to think like in any of the Dragon Ball series, the story and the races do tend to drag (no pun intended) as they go along.
This series focuses on the exploits of the new team founded by Ryosuke, Project.D, which is composed of Ryosuke (leader and strategist), downhill
specialist Takumi, uphill specialist Keisuke, and a staff consisting primarily of members of the Akagi Red Suns. The team travels the region, challenging other teams and posting the results of the battles on their website. Each race is intended by Ryosuke to develop a specific area of his drivers' skills. By this time, Takumi matures slowly into a more confident and knowledgeable street racer, while Keisuke improves on his technical driving skills.
In the series, the main drivers and their racing skills do develop as they race against the opponents they’re matched with and could make their better drivers, but as normal people and in my opinion, they are flawed (which is a good thing) but they are crazy to think that racing is the only thing that fulfill their lives. For example, Keisuke has this girl named Kyoko Iwase, who is a fellow Mazda RX-7 FD driver and uphill ace racing for the Northern Saitama Alliance, has a crush on him as she admires his racing techniques and he does like her but he doesn’t want her to interfere with his racing, even though she said she wasn’t going to. Look, I get not being distracted during your time of racing but are you seriously going to say that it’s more important than a girl who has some interest in you because of your talent? Okay, maybe it could be distracting but still after hearing enough crap about that “lonely driver” thing from Takumi’s crew (friends who we never see race anyone BTW) during the first three stages and soon they realize what they been saying is a bunch of bulls**t.
As for the main story, it’s the same as always. People think the Eight-Six can’t race worth jack squat, they challenge him, they race which lasts about 2-3 episodes, they think they are about to win until Takumi tries this stunt that makes it impossible for the opponents to believe, they do the same thing and mess up and Takumi wins……only this time, it also happens to the other racers on Project D. It’s basically the same story with a few different story elements thrown in and some of the other drivers in Project D doing the same thing.
As for the animation, it’s done by another anime studio. Remember Studio ACGT (or Adenine Cytosine Guanine Thymine), the same studio that did the formerly reviewed Koi Kaze? Well, of course in this series, the animation is still better than what it used to be and ACGT definitely animated this better than the other aforementioned anime. The music is slightly better with the first opening theme, “Dogfight” by move, which is the better opening theme in either one of the Initial D series but, however, that theme only lasts for 10 episodes and the other one, “Noizy Tribe” also by move, is very lackluster at best. The ending theme songs you can just skip to the next episode since there is no next episode clip as they do in most anime.
FINAL VERDICT: 4th stage is the weakest of the series and it shows with shifting pace on storyline from turtle-like slow to roadrunner fast. At some parts, you will know what’s going to happen during the show. It’s becoming too predictable for its own good and doesn’t care about the other situations going on at the same time. The characters are merely just there and only motivate on one thing and make themselves look like robotic and stiff. I would say to watch it only to continue the saga but frankly, while doing that, just skip over the parts that you can guess already.
Initial D Fourth Stage Review
There are no spoilers in this review
Well what can I say? I enjoyed it allot like I have with the previous instalments. It felt different though. They fixed the biggest flaw that I though there was but another one came up which just messed with atmosphere of the show. My enjoyment was somewhat less because of that but I'll explain in detail later.
What can I say, it's typical Initial D fashion. Absolutely immersion for a car fanatic like me, with them layering on more and more technical talk about the mechanics and the techniques used I enjoyed
it allot. I have to say my favourite battle was the AE86 vs the Cappuccino, it was a truly thrilling race.
I have to say this series move the story along quite well and it was interesting learning more about some of the side characters stories allot more than just the main characters. The Third Stage focused more on Takumi, probably because it was a movie. As usual I can't wait for the next stage.
Now this is probably the section where I saw the most change in the quality and atmosphere of the show. I said in my Third Stage review that the art in it had increased in quality but wasn't up to how I wanted quite yet. I was happy to see in the Fifth Stage that the art is finally where it should be at. The CGI was a massive improvement and really makes the series greater.
The animation quality and sound quality both improve really well to and is note worthy to mention. The sound effects where also better and generally the show felt allot more developed than previous seasons.
This is all good. But unfortunately it isn't all a jolly good time. The biggest new floor to come from the changes is the sound track. The Eurobeat music which Initial D is famous for is gone and replaced with more typical OST music.
This I think damaged the atmosphere of the show and the thrill factor the most. It was one of my favourite things about the show and the loss of it has prevented Initial D getting a 10/10 in my book. Which is a shame because it's such a great show. But overall I am mostly happy with the improvements to the show.
The characters developed nicely and we saw a bit more about some of the side characters and their love interests. It was interesting seeing a certain best friend spending time with his interest from Stage 2, but it was unfortunate how it ended.
I feel sorry for the guy but I doubt we have seen the last of that. I do think I missed out on a bit of character development by not seeing Extra Stage 2 yet. It hasn't been translated officially yet and may not have, so we don't see any more of Mako and how she's doing. Hopefully she surfaces in the Fifth stage.
Fifth Stage increases the standards the rest of the series has set and is a vast improvement overall. Some changes to the music did take away the thrill factor of the battle scenes somewhat but it can't be helped.
Unfortunately I can't give a stage of Initial D 10/10 status yet but I have high hopes for the Fifth Stage. I have to say my love of cars has become somewhat increased due to Initial D and I am thankful for that. I'd highly recommend Initial D to anyone who is a car fan like me. I think it's the best of it's genre and it's reputation amongst fans mirrors that.
Nothing gets the blood pumping like a high-intensity race, be it in a car, bike, or even mecha suit. Youthful passion and energy fuel these shows about drivers, pilots and athletes all striving for that #1 spot. As Ricky Bobby once famously said, "If you ain't first, you're last".
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.