Initial D

Also Known As: Initial D: First Stage
Genre: ID, ID: FS
Format: 26 Episodes
Allegiance: Pastel
Director: Mitsusawa Noboru
Vintage: 1998
Intelligence Agency Report by: Mira
Takumi has his first driver’s license and couldnft care less. He doesn’t even know what an Eight-Six is though his friend insists it’s the coolest car ever. Takumi’s old man has made him deliver tofu in the family car for years and driving is a big yawn… until Takumi finds he’s much more than your average tofu delivery boy and the family junker has a secret!

Field Agent Report by: Mira
Overall 8.00
(not an average)

Initial D is an anime for street racing fans and I avoided it as such. I am not a fan of auto racing. Or at least I wasn’t before Initial D. I don’t remember what made me finally relent to watching Initial D but I’m thankful for it. I found there is plenty in Initial D for the rest of us. There are stories about love, friendship and growing up woven between the races as well as one of the most engaging soundtracks in anime. Don’t be surprised if you are obliged to buy all the Initial D soundtracks. You’ve been warned.

What makes Initial D remarkable is that it isnft just a superb street racing anime. Initial D works beyond the world of race fans. All the main characters are believable and generally likable. Relationships between characters are subtle and slow. Their naturalness makes the fantastical premise easier to swallow. The story is well done so even if you don’t get hooked on the races you’ll want to stick around to see what happens.

Drift racing is the backbone of Initial D. Drift is a unique Asian racing form that’s more complicated and intricate than the usual NASCAR style of competition. Drivers purposely throw their cars into a controlled skid to round corners rather than slowing down and apexing the turn. The series really shines portraying the technical aspects of the style and the cars used to perform it. Unfortunately, this degree of technical accuracy may go over the average viewer’s head. The good news is that it doesn’t matter to anyone outside of the “inner sanctum (race fans and gear heads)” and it only adds to the experience. I was excited about these battles, and believe me, “battles” is the perfect descriptor. Each race is endowed with strategy, technique and deep inner conflict. Where the relationships are understated the races are over the top and full of drama.

The most glaring negative about this series is the artwork. Initial D’s backgrounds are boring and its characters are ugly. Above all the mouths in this series really bother me. Even in anime, human mouths shouldnft look like duck-bills. The animation in Initial D is also below average, leading me to suspect the bulk of the budget was devoted to the mediocre race CG. What I find compelling is the portrayal of driver/car synchronization. The attention to detail is excellent; foot movements, shifting, gauges and car movements all match up. But the same recycled clips show these details in every race so it’s hardly a triumph in terms of animation.

Initial D is an enjoyable series despite its flaws, as supported by the fact that it ranked number one in Japan when it aired. I was surprised at how interested I became in the races and the cars. I also appreciated the juicy story when my interest in front wheel drive or accurate downshifting waned. Initial D is worth checking out. You never know, you could find yourself in touch with an inner car racing aficionado.