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INFO FILE
Title:
Initial D
Format:
VHS / DVD [First Season - 26 Episodes, Second Season "Second Stage" - 13 Episodes]
Production:
Prime Direction Inc.
OB Planning
Rating:
A-
Comments:
Heart-pounding street racing anime with awesome CG!

ANIMEfringe Reviews:
Initial D
By Ikusabe Wataru


As I said in the August issue review of "Megami Kouhosei", computer-rendered graphics have become an increasingly important part of anime production today. Instead of doing a review on a new series, let's take a look back at one of the first animes that employed such technology in the past -- "Initial D", an anime about a eighteen-year-old kid who became a living legend in the street racing scene overnight, by winning over a modified Mazda Efini FD3S RX-7 with his Toyota Trueno AE86 in a one-on-one time attack downhill race.

Takeuchi Itsuki had always been a simple minded guy with no real goal in life. He works at a gas station with his best friend since middle school, Fujiwara Takume. Like many other teenagers, Itsuki had been wanting to get a car and be able to join one of the local racing groups, the "Akina Speed Stars," whose leader, Iketani, works part-time at the gas station along with Itsuke and Takume. After attending one of the weekly meetings of the Speed Stars one Saturday night, Itsuki got even more anxious about joining the group, because the leaders of the "Red Suns," another street racing group from across town, had challenged Iketani to a race down the Akina hill. However, because of an accident during a practice run a few days before the race, Iketani's car was heavily damaged. As a result, the members of the Speed Stars were all in a panic about who should be the one to replace Iketani in the race against the famous Takahashi brothers (who were even featured in a popular car magazine). But to everybody's surprise, at the night of the race, there appeared a Toyota Trueno AE86 -- the same mysterious car that was rumored to have defeated one of the Takahashi brothers in a practice run -- with none other than Fujiwara Takumi at the wheel. As it turns out, Takumi had been secretly driving every day early in the morning, for the past five years, to deliver tofu to a hotel miles away for his dad's tofu shop. Iketani and Itsuki also learned that Takumi had been practicing his driving and drifting skills every day, not just because he liked driving, but because he was bored for having to wake up early every day and delivering tofu for his dad -- He just wanted to make the trip as short and as quick as possible, so he could go back to bed... And as a result, Takumi developed driving skills that even the Takahashi brothers couldn't match, and he went on to beat them in the race!

Based on the smash-hit manga series by Shigeno Shuuichi, the Initial D anime was one of the first anime series to use a relatively heavy load of pre-rendered computer graphics in its production. All the cars and racing scenes in the series were 3D graphics similar to those used in video games such as the popular Gran Turismo game on PSX. Apart from the computer graphics, another thing that set this series apart from all others were the songs used in the series. Unlike most anime series, over 90% of the songs used in this series were sung in English and almost all of them were rock or rap songs (on average, approximatly two to three brand-new songs per episode), fitting perfectly into the atmosphere and theme of this street racing anime. The first season of Initial D was aired between April 19th and December 6th of 1998 with a total of 26 episodes and the second season (subtitled as "Second Stage") was aired between October 15th, 1998, and January 21st of this year with a total of 13 episodes.

When the manga / anime series was first launched, it sparked quite a controversy in Japan about whether or not the series should be broadcast over national TV networks, because of the content of the story itself -- a story about teenagers involved in illegal car racing events on city streets. Probably as a result from all the pressure the producers got, a disclaimer was later added before each episode stating that: "This story is entirely fictional. The names, places and organizations appeared in this series were all made up by the creators. Please follow all traffic rules while operating a vehicle and drive safe." ^^ Obtaining a car in Japan is not as easy as it is in North America, and many teenagers take pride in owning a vehicle and even more so from being able to operate them skillfully. Illegal street racing had always been a relatively big problem in Japan, with long highways around the coastal areas and high population density in big cities. Often, car racing groups are formed among friends, such as the groups that appeared in the Initial D series.

What makes this particular series exciting is not the character design (to be honest, the character design in the first season can only be considered average at best), but the way the series as a whole was put together -- the right musical score plus the non-stop action during the car races makes this series one of my all-time favorites. The way teenage viewers in Japan were able to relate to the series was also one of the major reasons for its success, with cars that are within their reach in real life and characters from their age group. And if you happen to be a person who love Japanese import racing, then this is a series you most definitly WON'T want to miss.

For more information on the series, visit Initial D's offical website at:
http://www.a-mode.ne.jp/d/index.html

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