Tag Archives: Initial D

Initial D Fourth Stage – Anime Review

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

Genre: Racing Sports Action Drama

Length: 24 episodes (Fourth Stage), 14 episodes (Fifth Stage) & 4 episodes (Final Stage)

 

Positives:

  • More supporting backstory and drama.
  • More of the same great music.
  • Races are still intense.
  • Improved visuals over time and better dub acting.

Negatives:

  • 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.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Great MusicRiveting Action

Negative: None

Initial D – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Initial D

 

Related: Initial D Second Stage (sequel – included in review)

Initial D Third Stage (further sequel – included in review)

Initial D Extra Stage (side story)

Initial D Battle Stage (remastered summary of key races)

Initial D Fourth Stage (even further sequel)

Similar: Yowamushi Pedal

Fighting Spirit

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Racing Sports Action Drama

Length: 26 episodes (First stage), 13 episodes (Second stage) & 1 hr. 54 min. movie (Third stage)

 

Positives:

  • Races are intense and varied.
  • Great attention to driving and car mechanics.
  • Shows love and respect for mountain racing culture.
  • Hype music.

Negatives:

  • Duckface art style is weird and CG shows age in First Stage.
  • Underwhelming romance side plot.
  • Tokyopop dub (see Sound section for details).

Initial D got me interested in cars and racing. That should tell you what I think of this anime, and while Initial D may not be as beginner friendly as the likes of Top Gear, it could be what sparks your interest as well.

While driving the mountain pass one night, Keisuke of the Akagi Red Suns encounters the ‘Ghost of Akina Mountain,’ an AE86 (Eight-Six) car that takes corners at seemingly impossible speeds, passing him with ease. Keisuke challenges the local team, Akina Speed Stars, in the hope of a rematch. Unfortunately, the Ghost isn’t a part of the team. Akina leader Iketani has his pride on the line to defend his turf. However, after seeing his opponents’ speed, he pushes it too far and crashes, totalling his car. He now seeks the 86.

It turns out the 86 is driven by Takumi, a high school kid, son of a racing legend, friend of Iketani’s, and a guy everyone swore had no interest in cars. Takumi inadvertently learnt to drift while transporting deliveries for his father’s tofu shop since the seventh grade. He has to deliver tofu on time and undamaged while driving at night when no police are out to catch an underage driver.

This is a great origin story. It has a good mystique to it, yet remains within the realm of plausibility. Having driven the same roads for years and used the most efficient racing lines, it makes absolute sense that Takumi would have mastery over his car and the road. He comes into the challenges with a natural instinct for racing, but no clue on the mechanics of cars – he doesn’t know why his technique is effective, he just knows it works. To top it all, he has this no-cares-given attitude that infuriates his best friend Itsuki, who can’t understand why the guy who cares least for the sport is the best among them. Takumi only agreed to race in exchange for time with the car on Sunday and a full tank to go on a date.

To counter Takumi’s dry sensibilities, Itsuki brings humour with his desperation to find a girl (despite his motto, “Street racers don’t need girlfriends!”) and his overblown reactions to the most minor of incidents (the duckface art helps in this regard). He becomes Takumi’s cheerleader, fancying himself as a great racer too one day.

As word spreads of the 86’s prowess, more drivers come to challenge him, often in disbelief that a young guy could be as good as his reputation. He meets all sorts of personalities from the proud to the arrogant to the douchebags. These varied opponents also bring a variety of challenges, which keeps the action from becoming stale. Against Keisuke, it’s a simple race; later, there’s an overtaking race; my favourite is the gum tape deathmatch, where the driver’s hand is attached to the wheel, restricting steer unless one is willing to break their wrist.

The passion for drift culture is evident from the outset. The creators put a lot of effort into detailing the cars, exploring the mechanics of drift, why people love it so much, and what it’s like to be behind the wheel on the mountain at midnight. And I would expect no less, as legendary Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya is an editorial supervisor for the anime. (Watch Itsuki’s actor unleash his inner anime character when Tsuchiya takes him out for a spin in his own 86.) In fact, Takumi’s driving life is based on Tsuchiya’s own – both learned doing deliveries, came from humble roots, and gained fame in mountain racing. It would be like having Michael Schumacher for an F-1 anime.

Initial D isn’t all racing, however. Between races, the plot takes the time to develop characters – the third challenge doesn’t start until halfway through First Stage. They could have easily doubled the number of races at the expense of characters if they so wished. Even with Takumi’s romance subplot not amounting to much in the long term, I am glad they gave the characters equal screen time to the cars. It does drag a little, though it isn’t anything serious. I actually grew more tired of the pessimism from Takumi’s friends each race. One would think that after seeing his talent, they would have a modicum of faith. Thankfully, Itsuki carries the optimism before long.

Initial D strikes a good balance between cars, characters, and mechanics. Even if you don’t know the difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger, it doesn’t matter; Initial D gives you enough to work with to enjoy these intense races.

Art – Medium

Initial D’s distinctive style doesn’t look great by today’s standards. I still laugh over a decade later at the duckface character art, and the car CG is noticeable. That said, do bear with the art – the series is worth it – and it improves with each season. (I would give Third Stage a ‘High’ art rating.) The jump between First and Second Stage is significant.

Sound – High

The music is hype-inducing eurobeat and the acting is great in Japanese. For the English, however, you need to be aware of two different dubs. In Tokyopop’s dub, they not only supplied weak acting but also replaced all the music with garbage 90s teen rock and hip-hop. This is what an awful dub looks like. Thankfully, once Funimation acquired the license, they redid the whole show with the original music and better acting – still not as good as the original Japanese, but certainly watchable.

Story – High

The birth of a Drift King in Central Japan’s Gunma prefecture. Tense races, nice cars, and a love for drift. Worthy of the source material.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must for petrolheads and those looking to get into cars. If you have no interest in cars, Initial D is unlikely to hold your attention, unlike Top Gear, which had mass appeal for three blokes being ambitious but rubbish.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Great MusicRiveting Action

Negative: None