It was about three months later after the Clone incident, as we know of the Hybrid that he was severely wounded after defeating his clone and finally putting an end of the blood feud between him and the Anime Gods, despite him thinking he actually killed them but none of the bodies are recovered and anybody hasn’t pronounced them deceased. Now, inside an unnamed underground fortress where only few anime fans knows of its existence, he is in a comatose state and is being kept in for major medical need, possibly rebuilding him and studying him to see how he can survive the ordeals he went through and what of the anime world that no one knows about. Luckily, someone that Hybrid know has someone they know working on him and trying to prevent them from knowing about the rest of the group. The insider calls himself “Tron” (apparently at first, I thought he was named after the movie but I was wrong) and his job is to blend among the scientists, grab whatever data they got on me and burn it and to have the Hybrid escape safely. In other words, that card that Paradox had……that was the code for his plan and it was called INITIAL D (Don’t ask why?).
This review both covers First Stage & Second Stage. I’ll try not to spoil as much as possible.
Well, for me, this is a rarity for an anime series where the subject involves street racing although it is not strange in Japan since the concept of that is known in 8 countries and the fact that street racing has been involved in other parts of media including videogames like Midnight Club, some elements of street racing have been shoved in Grand Theft Auto & later iterations of Need For Speed franchise and also in the cinema, which I will bring up later in the review.
Anyway, it is based off the manga series created by Shuichi Shigeno and it’s been serialized in Kodanasha’s Young Magazine. The story focuses on the world of illegal Japanese street racing, where all the action is concentrated in the mountain passes and rarely in cities nor urban areas, and the drift racing style (a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels, while maintaining control from entry to exit of a corner is emphasized in particular.
In the first stage of the series, it focuses on high school student Takumi Fujiwara, who works at a gas station attendant by day but at night he’s a delivery boy (since 7th grade) for his father’s tofu shop. His father is Bunta Fujiwara, a street racer with a great reputation in his younger days and was known as “The Ghost of Akina”. What little did Takumi knew, he does have an inherent sense for drifting on local mountain roads and is a natural expert yet he never seem interested doing that until a local race team called the Akina Speed Stars, who is in need of a replacement driver after the last one had an accident, is going up against reigning skilled street racers the RedSuns.
In the second stage of the series, a team from the Tochigi Prefecture called Team Emperor and their leader Kyoichi Sudo challenges every racing team in the Gunma area and does come out victorious and once they heard of The Akina Eight-Six and they see what it can do, the tension around there raises not only for the Akina SpeedStars but for all of the racers in the Gunma area.
As for characters, while Takumi seems like it doesn’t give a damn about street racing, later in the series, he starts to understand the pride of a street racer and does begins accepting challenges, despite the car he was being a Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86, which is considered inferior towards the other racer’s cars and when Takumi outshines them in the races, even though, what he’s got wasn’t up to current standards, it makes me ask this question………does he have the touch?
Okay, that was a bit stupid.
As for the his team, his friend Itsuki is the comic relief of the show and yes, he is loud and obnoxious and won’t staple his mouth shut for a while but he does play the role of being confident in Takumi and his racing skills. Iketani is the leader of the Akina SpeedStars and while he is an average driver, he fits the leadership at a few times and Kenji, best friend of Iketani and possibly one of the level-headed members of the group (Iketani is a close second).
I would mention Natsuki Mogi, the love interest of Takumi, and they do have this subplot of him and her hanging out and eventually ending up together but her part doesn’t get bigger until the 2nd stage, where we (but mostly Takumi) also learned that she’s engaged in enjo kosai to make some extra cash on the side but Takumi isn’t the only one with love in the brain. Iketani does have a crush on this girl named Mako Sato, who is part of the racing duo Impact Blue with her as the driver and her partner Sayuki as the navigator, but that relationship also have dire consequences during that course and Itsuki did have…….or had a relationship with this girl but that part is very unimportant to the plot of the series.
Now, originally I thought this series was going to be a rip-off of The Fast and The Furious movies but that’s due to the fact that when TokyoPop originally got the license of the anime and the manga, they would Americanize the characters’ names and some did reflect the changes Sega pushed when they implanted into the Western releases of the video games following (Iggy, Tak, Natalie, Maya, Simone, Cole), throw in some street slang which to attract the younger audiences and where the original had some Eurobeat music mixed in, they replaced with some (IMO) very generic rock and hip hop music done by the CEO of TokyoPop, Stu Levy or better yet, his stage name DJ Milky (Really? DJ Milky? I thought Plies was a worst name for a rapper and/or producer). That result just seem like they want this to be like The Fast and The Furious when it’s not. Unlike those movies, the plot of the series actually involves racing and so far it sticks to it and I’m a guy that actually likes Fast Five……and possibly a bit of Tokyo Drift but I see why want to cash in with those movies and it’s a horrible reason nevertheless a reason.
Also, the music in the original Japanese and Funimation dub was alright but it never drawn that much attention from me, although the first opening and ending songs was good, the later ones I could care less about. The music just seem like videogame music for Dance Dance Revolution rather than anything to do with racing but hey, I think it fits more into the series than the other music. The TokyoPop songs were honestly too corny and too self-reliant on grunge rock and hip hop to sell to Western audiences and possibly that and the awful excuse of a rap song from the 4Kids dub of One Piece are mostly the reason why sometimes anime and hip hop don’t mix that well together (except for Samurai Champloo and Afro Samurai, those actually go well together).
The animation for both series is proved to be dated, considering the anime was made in the late 90s, some character designs were a bit crude but it is realistic and differs from the traditional anime look. The CG racing cars does clash with the 2D animation and it is not a good sight but the animation does improve during the second stage with the character designs being less crude-looking but still retains its realistic look.
FINAL VERDICT: The anime is actually good and I didn’t have any high or great expectations of this but this one actually surprised me. It actually focuses on its prime objective and doesn’t glamourize the life of being a street racer (i.e. drugs, parties, women at the palm of your hands) and while it does show illegal street racing (albeit only on mountain passes), the show does advise you to only do this at safe locations like a track where you won’t run over somebody and takes what lessons about drifting seriously, as in, this is nothing to joke about. I would recommend if you are somebody that expected more from the you-know-what movies, this is your treat. The 2nd stage of the series actually covers more of the plot without putting much filler episodes like in the previous one.
Also, for the ones who are prefer dubs like me, stick to the FUNimation dub. The TokyoPop dub may have voice actors you like but honestly, this dub does no justice to them.
Therefore, the scores of both series:
INITIAL D: FIRST STAGE – 8/10
Planet Tyro Rating: Solid B.
INITIAL D: SECOND STAGE – 9/10
Planet Tyro Rating: First Class
So, Tron heard about the plans of what they’ll do to me. He received Intel that they are planning to study my brain for any secrets from the anime world that no one dares to know or find out, then extract the info from my brain and then deactivate me and toss me aside like yesterday’s trash and dump the body so no one will search for him. As soon as Paradox received the information from Tron, he needed to act fast on how to break Hybrid out of the underground.
Three hours later…..
Tron snuck into the lab while a disguised Paradox is monitoring the outside office in case someone checks in there. While there’s no one around, Tron indiscreetly switch charts with some other unlucky idiot who’s also in a coma and Tron went into the room to quickly roll the Hybrid out of there, disguising him as a cadaver and went out the back door and escape without any detection from the security staff and alarmed Paradox to get out of dodge quick.
Then, when they went into the road to take Hybrid into a hideaway, both Paradox and Tron try to revive him from the coma without giving him an anxiety or heart attack. After attempting that 4-5 times, they noticed a finger movement and soon, The Hybrid started to wake up, looking around his surroundings, and wonder where he is and how did he get here. Both guys tried to calm him down and say everything is alright but then the Hybrid asked this very shocking question, “Who Am I?”
Until next time, Initial D still continues with………
along with OVA’s BATTLE STAGE 1 & 2 and EXTRA STAGE 1 & 2.
And until then, I’m MAK2.0 aka HybridMedia, bringing all the elements in one format.
INITIAL D: FIRST STAGE & SECOND STAGE – animation by STUDIO COMET / STUDIO GALLOP / PASTEL, distributed by FUNIMATION Entertainment (formerly TOKYOPOP)