Intro: Although it is not the smart thing to do, this will be a review for the entire Initial D series (First stage, Second Stage, Third Stage, Fourth Stage, Fifth Stage and Final Stage).
Although at first the story may seem boring or not appealing it actuallty is great and dosen't get too repetitive but towards the final seasons the story is getting less real.
The story takes place in about a 1 year interval and revolves around the journey of a ditsy highschooler (Takumi) who will join his friend's race team and become one of the fastest street racers in his area, later being recruited by the great team "Project D" and in the end becoming a profesional racer.
The writer seems to enjoy creating relationship only to later destroy them, thing that can bother some viewers.
The story is fast paced, engaging and reality-like but it does have it's flaws.
Some of the things I did not like or flaws I found:
1. It is 1996 but they seem to forget they have phones and that certain characters exchanged phone numbers. (Iketani and Mako in First Stage)
2. Mogi at the age of about 16 years old has inappropriate relations (sex) with an older man she calls "papa" in exchange for money, clothes or other benefits. Mogi is engaging in Enjo Kosai, prostitution if I may call it that.(explained in First Stage, Second Stage, third Stage)
3. This show creates relationships and then brutally kills them, only resulting in wasted screen time. Since I am not an emotional person I don't care but many other viewers were bothered by it.
4. There are no cops, not even once.
5. It is annoying how some of these good friends betray each other. Ex: In first stage Iketani threw Takumi under the buss by setting up a race just to please Mako.
6. At times the story gets repetitive.
7. Even though the story happens in 1 year's interval, in Stage 4(1999) they have huge old computers and old style mobile phones but in Stage 5(2012) they have new laptops and smartphones. Has techonlogy improved that much in 1 year?
8. Certain facts are exagerated, but I guess it's ok since it is an anime series.
9. In the Fifth Stage and Final Stage the races got a lot more dull, with way more talking and way less racing.
10. Where are Mogi's parents? They are never shown or talked about.
11. In final stage it is explained that Takumi's 86 (the hatchback) is slower than Shinji's 86 (the coupe) because of the car geometry/structure. But the hatchback's 3rd door would only make it slightly slower but for plot purposes, that "slightly slower" is very exagerated. Takumi is way, way slower in corners because he is driving a hatchback. Give me a break!
12. The Final Stage was not vey exciting and dragged on for too long.
13. In Fifth Stage and Final Stage the OST was not as good as in the previous seasons.
14. The character design changes form one season to another.
The characters have various diffrent personalities and are developed over the course of the series, each character has something unique about them.
Takumi, the main character, is likeable and a good protagonist, he is well characterized and gets more than enough development.
In the beginning Takumi is an emotionless guy who is driving out of necessity and during the series he becomes a lot more emotional and is driving out of pleasure. He starts as a good driver and develops into a "monster" that outclasses everyone, a genius in the making, he is better than most of the drivers he races and yet during many races he struggles to win, which makes the series more real.
Bunta is Takumi's father, he is one bad ass dude. I wish there were some OVAs showing his past as a street racer.
Itsuki is Takumi's best friend, he introduced Takumi to street racing. Itsuki always has hope in Takumi's skills as a racer and does his best to help his friend, even though he does not know much about racing.
Iketani is one of Takumi's friends, he helps the protagonist with mechanical and other issues and is always happy to help. Iketani played a big part in Takumi's debut as a street racer.
Inui Shinji, this Final Stage downhill expert that is in highschool is just a "made in china" poor copy of Takumi, having no other reason for wanting to race than the juvenile attempt of trying to get the attention of girls he knows are out of his league(ex:Mako). The fact that he does not quietly leave for his race, instead stoping, showing off and making sure the girls(Mako and her friend) know he is the opponent of Fujiwara lacks any charisma and only comes out as despicable compared to Fujiwara's behavior.
He started driving in upper elementary school, about 3 years before Takumi started driving. Are you serious? Next thing we'll see is a new born baby in a R32 rocking the road.
Natsuki Mogi used to be a prostitute and Takumi's girlfriend for a period of time, her purpose is to show the "real" Japan.
I personally liked Mogi's character and think she is one of the most developed characters in the series. There is a lot of hate aimed towards her character and I can understand why.
- Mogi did not have any morals, self-respect or sense of shame until she met Takumi and decided to change. We do not know anything about her past/family, she may have reasons for ending up the way she did.
- Mogi used to be a young prostitute and a slut, at the age of 16 she was having sex with an older man in exchange for money while she was having sex and doing who knows what with an upperclassman. Long story short: she was not a respectable woman or someone you would want to be envolved with.
- Mogi was a prostitute until she decided to be Takumi's girlfriend. Out of love for him she stopped seeing the older man and ceased any other "odd" activities, deciding to be a good person. Unfortunately someone left Takumi a note, revealing her past and causing their break-up. (in the manga, the person that left the note was the older man's daughter and a friend of Mogi).
- Her relationship with Takumi eneded because she was not honest and did not tell Takumi about her past nor did she stop her "meetings" the moment she decided to become Takumi's girlfriend. I will give her credit, she did stop seeing the older man but it was too late.
- I did not like the following contradiction: Mogi stated in the first episode that she hates "people who smoke and people who break their promises" and later when she was confessing her sins to Takumi in Third Stage she stated she liked the older man, who was a smoker. How does that work?
Japanese girls these days can easily fall in the trap of "Enjo Kosai" or prostitution like Mogi did. Girls these days want the money but not the honest work to make them, especially in the contemporan society where people don't have as much sense of shame as before.
Mogi kept oscilationg between making me pitty her and being a nuisance for wasting screen time.
Even though the animation differs between seasons, I personally enjoyed the animation and art, especially in the street races the CG was well put to work. The animation is mostly fluid and the art is nice but the character design changes too much between seasons.
All the opening and ending themes were good as well as both the english(funimation) and japanese voice actors.
What I really enjoyed was the surpisingly good background music that cointained various diffrent songs, the OST does an outstanding job.
This anime got me hyped up and gave me goosebumps, action with just enough romance and comedy mixed in to create a great series.
A great anime series that started great and ended not so great.
I paricularly am interested in cars but I think anyone would enjoy this show. I would recommend Initial D to anyone.