Japanese Title: Initial D Fourth Stage
Related: Initial D (series start)
Initial D Fifth Stage (sequel – included in review)
Initial D Final Stage (series conclusion – included in review)
Initial D Extra Stage 2 (side story)
Similar: Yowamushi Pedal (cycling)
Fighting Spirit (boxing)
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 24 episodes (Fourth Stage), 14 episodes (Fifth Stage) & 4 episodes (Final Stage)
- More supporting backstory and drama.
- More of the same great music.
- Races are still intense.
- Improved visuals over time and better dub acting.
- Nothing new.
Note: This review contains mild, not-really-spoiling, spoilers from Initial D Third Stage.
After learning all that he can in his area, Takumi joins Ryosuke Takahashi’s elite team, Project D. Along with Keisuke and a full support crew, they seek to conquer Japan’s mountain tracks by issuing challenges and posting results online. As their reputation grows, so too does the desire to see them beaten.
Initial D as a whole is split into two halves. Stages 1-3 are domestic racing, Stages 4-Final are foreign tracks. If you watched the first half and felt you have had your fill of mountain racing, then feel free to stop, as Third Stage ends satisfactorily and the second half doesn’t bring anything new. Different, yes – more cars, different drivers, more backstory for the Takahashi brothers – but not new. That’s not to say it is worse in latter stages; the series maintains the same level of narrative and action quality.
However, if you do have a drive for more racing, then these seasons will please. Keisuke is as much a protagonist as Takumi now, for both are the driving aces of Project D, and Keisuke experiences his own arc of drama and romance. Ryosuke too has his arc in Fifth Stage, though I found it a tad empty – they didn’t delve deep enough, in my opinion.
Regarding races, Takumi’s development is focused on reading his opponents, learning their weakness rather than solely relying on his own strengths. Each driver brings new racing techniques and car specs for the spectators to analyse in detail on behalf of the audience.
My favourite part of this second half is the realistic approach to success. Hands aren’t held. Initial D doesn’t pretend that you can be the best driver, have a great personal life, and pursue other dreams at the same time. It knows that if you want to reach the top, sacrifices must be made. Every day you spend not driving is an extra day your opponents have on you. I love that there is no magical ‘you can have it all’ solution.
So, while these seasons don’t reinvent Initial D, they are more of a good thing for racing fans. The worst I can say is that Final Stage’s new character goes a little overboard with the mystique (they try to draw parallels to Takumi’s origin) and rubbish about auras, but that is a minor complaint to an otherwise great anime.
Art – High
Fourth Stage drops a little compared to the movie production of Third Stage, but Fifth and Final take it further until the CG is almost imperceptible.
Sound – High
Much improved acting in English – I would call it good now; however, Japanese is still preferable. Eurobeat is back for the music and it is excellent. First time I loved the OPs and EDs. Strangely, Final Stage lacks eurobeat during races.
Story – High
More Initial D. The team seeks new opponents to beat. Same quality as before.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: If Initial D’s previous seasons left you wanting more, then Fourth Stage and up should satisfy. If you have had enough, then Third Stage was a good conclusion.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)