The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Initial D

Title: Initial D aka Initial D First Stage
Genre: Action
Company: Pastel
Format: 26 Episodes
Dates: 19 Apr 1998 – 28 Nov 1998

Synopsis: Among the drag racers of Mt. Akina, there circulates a legend concerning a Trueno AE86 that can never be beaten. This “Ghost of Akina” turns out to be the unlikely Takumi Fujiwara, previously unknown to the racing world. As it turns out, Takumi has been driving on Mt. Akina to deliver tofu for his father every morning. Due to his amazing skill acquired on these trips, he finds himself being slowly sucked into the world of street racing.

The Highlights
Music: Fitting and catchy.
Characters: Bland and clichéd.
Jargon: Plenty of it.
Plot: What plot?

I’ll be frank with you: Initial D has a very narrow audience. It appeals to grease monkeys and those who are obsessed with cars and contains plenty of technical jargon concerning both the cars and the techniques involved with drift racing. This is where the flaws with Initial D become evident: its focus on the cars leaves it without a focus on the actual anime.

With the heavy motif of racing present throughout the anime, Pastel hit the nail on the head with the music involved. The upbeat and catchy euro-beat music works well with the race scenes, keeping the adrenaline high throughout each confrontation. The music choice, however, clashes horribly with the other aspect of production values: animation. The animation style and execution both fall flat, from the garish clashing of CG and traditional art to the downright hideous character designs. What bothers me most is that the designers clearly borrowed heavily in design from the manga. Since there was no obligation to do so on the developer’s part, it boggles me why they would stick to the manga style when they could have tried an alternative style that would have worked much better for them.

This clashing of ideas carries over to the story, which is largely nonexistent. The daily lives of the characters become nothing but filler to artificially lengthen the time of the series. This pallid character development made it hard for me to care about the characters, as it felt like the developers were attempting to stall for time in a feeble attempt to lengthen the episode count. Subsequently the races – which are entertaining and fast-paced – become increasingly unimportant, as I simply do not care who wins.

This is the downfall of the series: everything is focused on the races. While the automotive battles are great, the anime holistically feels incomplete and lopsided. The ending, along with the plot, is feeble and unfulfilling – the only true closure is the expectation of future races. If the races were separated from the bulk of the story and amalgamated into separate OVA’s, the series would have been passable as a fun diversion. However, as an entire series, it fails to move beyond the extremely narrow target group, and in doing so alienates its potential to become a good anime.

The Rating: 3

Reviewed by: royal crown

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