- Inital D
Fujiwara Takumi looks just like any ordinary 18 year old. He and his
best friend Natsuki have just got their driving licenses, but unlike most
teenagers his age Takumi hates driving and racing altogether (much to the
surprise of his friends). However, when the leader of the Akina Speed Stars
is involved in an accident, Takumi is forced to replace him in a downhill
race against the renowned Red Suns. Exhibiting unparalleled skill that
amazes even the best of the Red Suns, Takumi wins the race...with his
father's tofu delivery car. What is the reason for Takumi's skill? How does
his father factor into the equation? Can Takumi actually be the best racer
in the whole of Japan? How many more racer-wannabes is this anime going to
Mention Initial D to most racing fans (especially in East Asia) and
you'll see their eyes light up with the orange glow of overheated brake
pads. This anime is the latest trend among racer-wannabes and has spawned
video games, car models, merchandise, car stickers and plenty of
testosterone-fueled guys who have trouble leaving the gas pedal up (hereby
Basically, the story revolves around Takumi and his driving skills using
his father's humble Toyota Trueno AE86 (called a Corolla in the States).
This car isn't a very fast car, but due to Takumi's mysterious ability to
race down the Akina hill at dangerous speeds, he slowly becomes a racer
that everyone wants to challenge. The reasons behind his skills are
explained along the way, but mentioning it here will probably spoil the
surprise for most people.
Takumi isn't a very outstanding character, though. He's what I would
call "blur" - slow to grasp the situation, looks dopey and is
laid back (just like his father). He works at a gas station owned by his
father's old friend and this is where most of the challengers come to find
him. His friends (and fellow racers) work or hang out here as well, and try
their best to drag Takumi into the "wonderful" world of being a
This anime is one of the first few racing titles to make use of CG
rendered cars for all the racing scenes. Each car is rendered well enough
to recognize the make, model and some of the little racing decals on the
side. Most of the other scenes are not, though. The characters are based on
the original manga, and this shows in the form of crudely drawn (and
sometimes downright ugly) faces.
But that's not the point - this whole anime is about RACING. Well,
*drifting* in this case. Drifting is a racing style where the driver slides
the car sideways into corners (like a skid) and is a characteristic of many
Japanese track races, or in dirt rally. Most of the racers in this anime
make use of drifts and the tension is enhanced by their races taking place
on narrow mountain roads. The thing that sets Takumi apart from other
racers is that he is resourceful, and uses rather unorthodox techniques to
sway the race in his favor. He also receives guidance from his father, the
chain-smoking Bunta. Bunta was a legendary racer in his heyday, but now
runs a tofu shop (well *that* is the Career Move of the Year). Unbeknownst
to Takumi, his father discreetly manipulates situations (and equipment) to
steer him towards racing greatness (no pun intended).
Besides the racing action, the characters also spout some rather
technical terms here and there, like tire pressure, shifting techniques and
so on. This will appeal to the more technical people who enjoy messing
around with car settings or like to analyze driving techniques.
Unfortunately, some races do seem a bit artificial and the cars don't
exactly exhibit real-life physics either (think Daytona) but if you want
realism, then you've got the sports channel, right?
The plot does involve a little romance with a few characters involved,
but you'd hardly think that people watching a racing-themed anime would
bother about anything else. If anything, it does add some personality to
the otherwise two-dimensional characters. Otherwise, it's just racing,
racing and racing.
The soundtrack is techno/dance all the way, and pumps your blood through
all the racing scenes. While it's quite exciting when used properly, it
does get a bit generic at times and when listened to repeatedly will
effectively replace Grandpa's pacemaker.
Initial D will definitely have its appeal to racing fans, especially in
the US who are used to different other forms of races like drag racing or
NASCAR ovals. There is hardly anything objectionable in this anime besides
breaking speed limits and boyracers having too much testosterone for their
own good, so this is theoretically watchable by all ages. However, this is
an all-out racing title, so the interest would probably lie with those who
actually have driving licenses or their own car.