Fujiwara Takumi exploded onto the street racing scene six months ago, literally sweeping away all competition on the mountain slopes of his local Mt. Akina with the aid of his outdated Toyota AE86. Gone is the self-conscious, sleepy Takumi who wasn’t interested in racing one bit, only to be replaced by a young man who is yearning to become a proper racer of the highest regard.
There are only a few more weeks of school left, and Takumi and his best friend Itsuki need to begin deciding what to do with their rest of their lives. For some people it is easy to map out the future they want to achieve, but for others like Takumi, this can be one of the hardest decisions ever made in their lifetime.
The best and most famous street racer in the Kanto prefecture, a man Takumi has already defeated, Takahashi Ryosuke has extended a hand in friendship to the young man, offering him a place on his new elite team that is being formed. Under Ryosuke’s tutelage, Takumi will gain experience and skills never dreamt of before. But Takumi has always been a loner, so just how can he answer Ryosuke yet?
And then there is the unfinished business with Sudou Kyouichi, leader of Irohazaka’s Emperors racing team. Last time they battled, Kyouichi defeated Takumi thanks to a blown engine. Now, the AE86 has been restored and Takumi will battle Kyouichi again in an effort to restore his lost pride.
The AE86 can never rest on its laurels though. Another challenger has emerged from the woodwork, this time a legacy from Takumi’s father’s racing days. The son of Fujiwara Bunta’s greatest ever rival has come to battle Takumi – and regain some of his father’s glory. Against this challenge from both father and son, Takumi is going to have to turn to the most unexpected of sources for advice.
Amongst all these battles though, another battle of a different kind rages on. Despite what he saw and how he feels about it, Takumi still holds a torch for Mogi Natsuki. Though she is trying to right her sins of the past, will it be enough to bring these once friends back together again? Perhaps the right circumstances are all that are needed to force this relationship back on the tracks.
All in all, life if pretty busy for Takumi on his journey to becoming a true street racer!
Initial D: Third Stage brings the exciting world of the two Initial D television series’ to the big screen. A movie aimed mainly at existing fans of the title, Third Stage attempts to finish off the plot threads that remained after the two television series’ had completed. Takumi is again the focal point of the story that revolves around the exciting world of street racers, finding one’s goal in life, and first love relationships.
Although there is a brief background given in the story, first-time viewers to the Initial D genre will miss an awful lot of just what exactly is going on. As per usual, the movie features almost the entire cast of people from the first series, as well as a few exciting new ones.
The story however does feel a little forced, particularly because it feels so linear. It is as if the director kind of forced himself through all the remaining plot issues, neatly tying them up, one by one. The problem is that this kind of takes away from the excitement and flowing of the story. Nevertheless, as proper Initial D material requires, the action is fast paced and will without a doubt keep you glued to the edge of your seat as Takumi’s battered old Toyota takes on all challengers.
The animation has again went through an upgrade, with the 2D animation just about completely shaking the bad character style which so defined the first stage episodes. Still, the characters remain instantly recognisable, with no one losing any of their distinct appeal. The major change to the animation comes in the form of the updated CG special affects and their integration into the 2D surroundings. No longer plagued by the two shots that looked horrible when put together, the CG now blends seamlessly with the 2D, causing a much smoother and spectacular visual feast.
For the racing sequences, Initial D has once again turned to its ‘Euro dance’ beats that so characterised the first two seasons. The music is fast-paced and makes you want to get out there and race. The voice cast is pretty much the same as for the television show, meaning that all your favourite characters maintain their unique personalities. All in all, nothing is bad about the sounds of Initial D: Third Stage.
This is an exciting movie to watch, racing fan or not. Although it has lost some of the underdog charm of the first stage, it still tells one great story of skill triumphing over money and is a must watch for Initial D lovers, simply because it beautifully closes off many of the plot lines left begging at the end of the television series.
(Historical Note: This was written back in January 2005. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initial_D