18 year-old Fujiwara Takumi has been driving on the slopes of Mt. Akina for the last five years. Every morning at 3:00, whether rain or shine, Takumi delivers tofu from their shop to the hotel at the top of the mountain. To Takumi, driving is a chore, nothing more, nothing less. As with most things in life, driving just doesn’t interest Takumi.
However, his best friend Itsuki doesn’t think that. To drive is to be a street racer. All over Japan these people dare to race along mountain passes, challenging their limits as well as each other. Itsuki has his sights set on joining the local Akina Speedstars team, but first he needs a car. An endeavor he can’t convince Takumi to join him in.
But things change when the Akagi Redsuns team arrives in Akina to battle the Speedstars. When things go wrong for the team and Takumi is forced to compete for them, Takumi begins to enter the realm of the street racer.
His father, a skilled street racer of old, has been training Takumi all these years, leaving Takumi with an impressive array of driving skills. Using nothing more than the shop’s ten year-old Hachi-Roku and his drifting techniques, Takumi sets out on his journey to becoming a true street racer.
Initial D is one of those anime titles that when you start watching you simply can’t put it down. Even if you are not into racing, you can’t help be swept up into the street racing world. The journey which Takumi takes from being uninterested in the world to a true racer is a most enjoyable watch.
Initial D is a story about street racing, more specifically racing along mountain passes. The story is set in Akina, a small town alongside Mt. Akina. Takumi and his father Bunta operate a small Tofu shop in order to survive. To help the shop out, Takumi has been forced to deliver tofu for the last five years to the hotel at the top of the mountain since he was thirteen years old. His dad, a legendary street racer of old, has secretly been teaching Takumi the art to racing. But Takumi isn’t really interested in driving – he sees it more as a chore than as a passion. But this slowly begins to change when he and his friend Itsuki are sucked up into the street racing realm when the local Akina Speedstars team is challenged by the visiting Akagi Redsuns racing team.
Initial D places a lot of focus on cars and driving techniques. Everything is based in reality. The cars are all authentically modeled and the driving (especially drifting) techniques are faithfully represented throughout this title. The anime made heavy use of CGI throughout the series. They opted to use CGI models to depict the cars and the racing scenes. This leads to large parts of the anime seeming to come directly from a racing video game. However, the blend between the traditional animation and the computer-generated animation is seamless and actually heightens the quality of the anime.
The animation style is lifted directly from the style used in the manga. Shuichi Shigeno the creator of Initial D is not very good at drawing people. However, he is unrivaled when it comes to depicting cars in all their detail. The anime picks up on his style, leading to very strange character designs. However, the designs do allow for very emotive facial expressions.
Part of what makes Initial D so enjoyable is the wealth of music behind it. A lot of EuroBeat dance music was used, creating a fast and upbeat environment for the races. You can’t help but tap your foot in rhythm as Takumi’s Hachi-Roku screams through yet another corner.
Overall, Initial D is a really enjoyable anime. Apart from the weird looking characters that take a little time getting used to, there is almost nothing wrong with this title. It’s thoroughly engrossing and you can’t wait to see how Takumi progresses. A must see for all racing fanatics and otakus alike.
(Historical Note: This was written back in September 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initial_D