Takumi Fujiwara is an aloof, spacey high-schooler who does delivery runs in his dad's Toyota AE86 in the dead of night. Despite working at a gas station and having friends who are car nuts, he doesn't know a single thing about cars.
Takumi is introduced into the world of street racing and his natural talent draws attention from all across Gunma. Will Takumi face the challenges or back out from the call of the mountain passes?
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.
Vroom vroom vroom it’s anime’s most popular racing series, Initial D. Initial D stars Takumi Fujiwara, a constantly spaced-out and quiet gas station worker with no hobbies or interests in life. The normally reserved Takumi is forced into the spotlight when his incredible talent for street racing is discovered, honed by years of doing tofu deliveries for his father’s business. Takumi is forcibly encouraged by his coworkers and friends into putting his racing abilities to the test in order to defend Akina’s hometown pride. Takumi, who first considers racing completely uninteresting and cars a bore, gradually discovers the sense of accomplishment and pride his new
skills bring, and he’s even more desperate to prove himself as a racer when his carsick love interest compliments his smooth driving.
Takumi is supported by his best friend and racing fanatic Itsuki, as well as upperclassman and lead racer of the Akina Speed Stars, Iketani. Also important are the opponents Takumi races against, most notably the Takahashi brothers, elite racers whose region-ruling elder brother Takahashi analytically plots to defeat the new unstoppable racer. Initial D’s cast is generally realistic and likeable, with mild yet distinct personality archetypes. Characters are passionate about their hobby and take it seriously, but winning or losing at the sport is hardly considered the end of the world. Takumi’s interest in cars and racing grows at an appropriately slow pace and noticing the nuances of his changed perspective on the subject is rewarding and feels natural, but beyond that little of the cast evolves as people. Takumi’s hobby brings out a competitive spirit in him, but he remains unassertive and distant throughout the season. It’s endearing at first when Takumi is the underdog, his lack of charisma going full circle and becoming genuine charisma when contrasted with his confident opponents, but the small range of his personality gets old. His incompetent relationship with Natsuki is cute and does evolve throughout the show, but is otherwise uninteresting to follow. Natsuki has no involvement with the part of the show having to do with racing, and their chemistry is only supported by the childhood friend angle. I have no idea why Natsuki would be interested in a guy who only gives one word responses, doesn’t start conversations, and has no interests or hobbies, but she’s all over him. The supporting cast is weak because everyone plays diffident comic cheerleader to Takumi. The screeching and melodramatic Itsuki straddles the fine line between endearing and unbelievably annoying, just barely landing on the former because of the few subplots in which his incompetency with racing and people despite his passion garners genuine sympathy from the viewer. Iketani ends up listless outside of a short romantic subplot. He’s supposed to be Akina’s number one racer until Takumi shows up, but what little we see of his driving ability is completely unimpressive and far from knowledgeable about racing compared to the rest of the cast. Takumi is also observed in the shadows by his father Bunta, a former street racer who was legendary in his time, and his boss Yuuichi, an experienced driver and friend of Bunta.
The main attraction of Initial D are the races, but there can be a lot of time between them spent on developing the next opponent, preparation, or comedy/daily life between the main characters. Probably more so than most sports anime. This can occasionally be a drag as the races themselves are never in more than three episodes, with even the final race being a meager two. The anime does assume a fair bit of prior knowledge regarding racing and car terminology on the viewer, and it’s arbitrary which parts are explained and to what detail. I had a particularly problem following the physical logic of the races, where characters would explain how a technique was pulled off but without any kind of visual aid. With little racing knowledge such as myself, hearing about how one of the cars moved by shifting gravity and whatnot seems sensible, but it’s difficult to envision and perfectly understand just through dialogue and the simple racing animations which also makes it harder to appreciate the creativity behind the races and the technique itself.
While the framerate of Initial D can be choppy and there might not be a lot of movement, the art itself is solid and pleasant to look at – for the most part. Many criticize the “fish-like” eyes and lips of the character designs, but they’re meant to resemble original manga artist Shigeno Shuuichi’s art style and it’s distinct otherwise, so I like it. By far the most controversial aspect of Initial D’s animation is its use of computer-generated 3D renders for the cars. CG animation was starting to catch on around this time with many studios believing it was the natural evolution of animation. Initial D’s studios jumped the gun on what was still a niche form of animation and haphazardly shoved it into their series in an attempt to look hip and progressive. The irony, as we know now, is that the CG is immediately the aspect of Initial D that dates it the most. Even though CG was a newer animation form than the cel animation used otherwise, the older form is professionally done by experienced animators and has hit around a universal standard of quality in anime, while the CG is technologically primitive and employed by people who have less experience using it. Initial D’s CG cars are basic models that lack texture to give them a realistic surface and have bold, flat colors that contrast heavily with the surrounding environment of 2D animation. So the animation styles clash, look ugly, and break the series cohesion, but what else?
Initial D’s studios also use the CG as an excuse to cut corners (as is often the case with CG ever since). One of the most noticeable things about scenes with CG in the frames is that the 2D cels they’re on will be completely unanimated. Not only is this awkward if you take the time to notice how everyone and everything in the background is as still as a tree as a car pulls up, but any attempts to mask this lack of moving frames is hilariously embarrassing. A constant technique used is to have a CG car pass in front of a group of people in the background, such as driving across a road horizontally, and then have that still frame of spectators swapped another single frame of them looking in the other direction. Cheap animation has been a part of anime since its inception, but not often will you find a 90s anime that reminds you of Astro Boy of all things. And It really is laziness – I can count on one hand the amount of times the series has 2D animation in the same frame as CG animation, but they can clearly do it. There are also occasional instances of disproportional scales and perspective, where a person standing by a car is way bigger than they should be given their distance. Use of CG also discourages use of traditional animation techniques to emphasize a sense of speed. There’s no motion lines, blur, or anything of that sort to drive that sense of whiplash in your face.
This makes the way the races are directed and portrayed far duller than they have to be, or should be. Without such things as those traditional techniques noted earlier there are no ways to distinguish how fast the cars are going in the animation other than speeding up the rate at which the CG model is dragged across the screen, which could look ridiculous. The visual dynamic of the races is extremely hindered in this way, as the cars going across the screen looks the same no matter how many times they do it throughout the series. This means the drama and intensity of the races is primarily conveyed to the viewer literally, by characters commenting on what’s happening during the race or the sense of speed. But the audience should feel like a front row spectator, not needing to have it explained to them in a visual medium about racing what the stakes are or what the rhythm of the race is. The visuals should shift throughout the races to mimic the adrenaline rush and conflicts of the drivers themselves and recreate the dramatic perspective of what the characters are experiencing, rather than have it delivered in such a plain, flavorless manner that it doesn’t sell the intensity of the race but instead dilutes it by having it conflict with the excitement of the literal narrative as delivered through the dialogue. This is, without a doubt, the weakest part of Initial D. The CG cars are not cute or endearing, nor do they simply look aesthetically unappealing as they clash with the primary animation style. The real issue is that they’re an active detriment to the very core purpose of the series, that are used to circumvent positive direction and animation techniques that would make the series more exciting. The studios didn’t have the ambition to take Initial D to the level it should have been and the most important part of the show, the races, suffer greatly for it. Basically, watch Redline and note the masterful ways it manipulates the motion of its animation to emphasize fluidity and speed and notice how none of them are used in Initial D. Even noting the fact that Redline is a blatant fantasy while Initial D is more grounded, that’s no excuse why a series in that vein can’t attempt more tactful use of such techniques to push the action without crossing the line into absurdity. If it’s not even going to try any of that, then what’s the point of animating?
I’m definitely interested in the future of Initial D. While storytelling progress in this first season has been leisurely at best, it hasn’t paused for long enough to give me the impression that Initial D has reached its full potential. Shuuichi Shigeno seems to realize the basics of having to introduce twists to keep the races interesting, and as he should predictably become more desperate he’ll hopefully bring more dramatic and significant deviations to the formula. This is all presumption though, as it still depends on Shigeno’s intelligence and ambition to take Initial D to the next level. Improvements in directing and animation could also be a major help. Though Initial D is a lukewarm thriller so far, there are enough hints of promise to keep me curious in where it could go so I’ll probably watch to its completion. A street racing anime is a fine concept, but it hasn’t come close to full throttle.
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.)
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.
Do you know what was the first Racing anime series? Or the first Ninja anime series? What about the first Real Robot series to be aired? In this article, we’ll be looking at 10 of the first anime series of the different genres we have in anime today.