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Initial D: First Stage – Part One (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

October 14, 2010 by  



The 1998 anime racing classic, “Initial D: First Stage”, is re-released in America but this time by FUNimation Entertainment with a much better English dub soundtrack and uncut and staying true to the original Japanese presentation.  If you have never watched “Initial D” and have been curious of it or if you enjoyed it but never bought it before, this is the best version out there of the series on DVD to own.  Definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Initial D: First State – Part One

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 13+

Release Date: September 21, 2010

Originally created by Shuuichi Shigeno

Directed by Noboru Mitsusawaa

Scripted by Hiroshi Toda, Nobuaki Kishima

Storyboards by Masami Hata

Episode Director: Masami Hata, Yuzo amada

Character Design and Animation Director: Noboru Furuse

Anime Production by Pastel

Featuring the following voice talent:

Shinichiro Miki/Joel McDonald as Takumi Fujiwara

Ayako Kawasumi/Brina Palencia as Natsuki Mogi

Kazuki Yao/Eric Vale as Koichiro Iketani

Michiko Ney/Bridget Hoffman as Mako “Maya” Sato

Tohru Furusawa/Steven Jay Blum as Papa

Mitsuo Iwata/Josh Grelle as Itsuki Takeuchi

Takehito Koyasu/J. Michael Tatum as Ryosuke Takahashi

Tomokazu Seki/Todd Haberkorn as Keisuke Takahashi

Tomomichi Nishimura/Chuck Huber as Yuuichi Tachibana

Unshou Ishizuka/Kent Williams as Bunta Fujiwara

Takumi’s nights working as the delivery boy for his dad’s tofu shop have turned him into one of the most formidable drivers around. Behind the wheel of his modified Eight-Six, he’s one with the road – and his life shifts into high gear when the underground street racing world takes notice.

Local legend Keisuke, a member of the infamous Red Suns racing team, wants to take Takumi on. He’s not alone; drivers from across the region are lining up for a shot at the new guy. One challenger after the next, Takumi schools the competition with his amazing drifting technique and downhill expertise. But it’s not enough to simply rack up the victories – Takumi’s out to prove he’s the best.

For over 15 years, “Initial D” has been a favorite anime series for those interested in drag racing and drifting. Originally created by mangaka Shuichi Shigeno and serialized in Kodansha’s “Young Magazine” back in 1995 and still ongoing in Japan, the first season of “Initial D” was shown on television in 1998.

The manga and anime is about Japanese street racing and focuses on a teenager named Takumi Fujiwara, son of Bunta Fujiwara, who owns a tofu shop. Takumi works at a gas station but when he’s at home, he delivers tofu at 4:00 a.m. and is known to speed through the mountain slopes of Mt. Akitna at high speed driving his father’s AE86 Trueno. The purpose of this is that his father Bunta has wanted to develop his driving skills and sure enough, his skill is top notch.

But for Takumi, although he has been riding and delivery tofu for a long time and has sharp driving skills, driving fast and getting from point a to point b was merely doing it for his father and not for the sake of trying to race.

But when a well-known group of street racers known as the Akagi Red Suns come to visit Mt. Akina and challenge the Speed Stars.  But immediately, the Red Suns realize quickly, there is no one from the Mt. Akina Speed Stars talented enough to beat them, until one day, Keisuke Takashi was driving and practicing his runs through the mountains and someone driving an AE86 beats him.

Now fired up, Keisuke Takashi wants to know who drives the AE86 and wants to race him.

Meanwhile, the Speed Stars are in dire need of a member who exceeds in downhill driving after their team leader Iketani gets involved in an accident. The group hears a rumor about an AE86 speeding through the roads early in the morning. Needless to say, the group finds out that the driver is their friend Takumi, the son of Bunta Fujiwara, the great street racer known as “Ghost of Akina”.

And to their disbelief, despite having the talent to ride the corners, Takumi’s view on street racing is not exactly thrilling as his primary motivation was delivery.  He doesn’t know why people would care about racing or cars as he sees them as as just vehicles for transportation.

But in a bind and wanting to defend Mt. Akina from the Akagi  Red Suns, Takumi’s friends are hoping he can race Keisuke Takashi downhill in Mt. Akina and win.

“Initial D: First Stage” focuses on the following characters:

Takumi Fujiwara – The son of Bunta Fujiwara, a former racer now tofu shop owner. Takumi delivers tofu for the shop early in the morning and has developed his skill on the road and works with his friends at a local gas station. Not very driven to race, nor does he understand the concept of racing or why people want better and faster cars, because of his skill learned through years of driving, his friends hope he can race Keisuke Takashi of the Red Suns in a race and win for Mt. Akina.

Bunta Fujiwara – The father of Takumi who was the legendary downhill racer of Mt. Akina. He has his son Takumi delivering tofu to deliver his driving skill.

Ryosuke Takahashi – The leader of the Akagi RedSuns. A racing strategist who gives advice to his younger brother Keisuke.

Keisuke Takahashi – The #2 racer of the Akagi RedSuns. Unlike his brother, he has a hot temper and quickly develops a rivalry with Takumi.

Other Characters:

Itsuki Takeuchi – A member of Akina SpeedStars and Takumi’s best friend that works at the local gas station. The comic relief character who talks a big game but is not a great racer.

Kouichiro Iketani – Works with Takumi and Itsuki at the gas station. He is the leader of the Akina SpeedStars.

Kenji – A member of the Akina SpeedStars and Iketani’s best friend. Very hardcore in his interest when it comes to his friends racing.

Natsuki Mogi – The girl who has an interest in Takumi but at the same time, is carrying a major secret in regards to what she does after school.

“Initial D: First Stage comes with the first 13 episodes on two DVD’s.  Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1: The Ultimate Tofu Store Drift – Introduction to the characters and learning about Takumi, an 18-year-old high school student who is aloof and doesn’t care for fast cars or racing.  But his friends of the Speestars are part of the local racing team are passionate about it and also defending Mt. Akina from the Akagi Red Suns.
  • EPISODE 2: Revenge! The Rumbling Turbo – Keisuke Takashi is looking for the mystery driver of the AE86 who beat him.  Iketani looks into it.
  • EPISODE 3: The Downhill Specialist Appears – The Akina Speedstars vs. the RedSuns but something happens to Iketani that may prevent him from racing.
  • EPISODE 4: Into the Battle! – Iketani hopes Bunta will race Keisuke Takashi but is surprised when Takumi shows up with the AE86.
  • EPISODE 5: Dogfight! – Takumi vs. Keisuke in a downhill race.
  • EPISODE 6: A New Challenger – Iketani wants to learn for himself of how Takumi drives well.  Meanwhile, a new challenger has arrived.
  • EPISODE 7: A Racer’s Pride – Nakazato of the Nightkids challenges Takumi in a race but unknown to Takumi, Itsuki agrees to it without consulting him first.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 8: Time’s Almost Up! – Nakazato and everyone awaits for Takumi and his AE86 to arrive for the race, but why hasn’t he showed up?
  • EPISODE 9: Battle to the Limit! – Nakazato believes that there is no way an AE86 can beat his GT-R32.
  • EPISODE 10: The 5 Consecutive Hairpins – The conclusion to the race between Takumi and Nakazato.  Meanwhile, Itsuki buys a new car.
  • EPISODE 11: Shingo Arrives! – A racing team makes fun of Itsuki’s car and Itsuki and Takumi.  Upset with how they are treated, Takumi challenges them using Itsuki’s car.
  • EPISODE 12: The FR Killer – With Iketani learning about how Takumi used Itsuki’s car, now Iketani wants to test his theory and have Takumi drive his car.
  • EPISODE 13: First Date – Takumi and Natsuki go on a double date with Itsuki and Natsuki’s friend.  Meanwhile, there are rumors of a gumtape match.

VIDEO:

It’s important to note that “Initial D: First Stage” was aired on television back in April 1998 through November 1998.  So, this is an old school anime TV series.  Right off the bat, modern anime fans who have not watched older anime series will notice how the animation is not clearer, vibrant and sharper than today’s series are.  But with that being said, this is a classic anime series that has its unique character designs, well-painted backgrounds and of course, CG graphics from 1998.

By no means is “Initial D” expected to look like a modern anime series but the fact is that the series is an anime TV series classic and it delivers in storyline and the animation was good for its time.  With that being said, picture quality shows the age of the series, there is little artifacting, combing and edge enhancement as well.  But if you are a fan of the series and want to know how it all began, the anime series is still very watchable and addictive.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, similar to the recent FUNimation Entertainment “Initial D: First Stage is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital and Japanese 2.0 Stereo. There is an obvious difference in terms of sound volume and more of a presence of the sound effects (such as the cars revving and tires screeching) which come out much more clearer through the English dub track. But if you have a modern home theater receiver, for me, I chose to have my audio set on stereo for all channels.

Dialogue is clear and understandable as well as the eurobeat music and J-Pop music from m.o.v.e which was pretty cool to hear again.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Initial D: First Stage” comes with the textless opening and closing themes from m.o.v.e and the trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases.

“Initial D” is an anime classic.  I’ve watched this series when it first came out and I still don’t get bored by watching it.  I love the humor, the underdog Takumi these over-confident racers and the characters are also fun to watch.  And as a big fan of this series, I have to say that the FUNimation Entertainment release was well-done.

With that being said, there are obvious differences between this FUNimation Entertainment release and the Tokyo Pop version that came out back in 2002.  For those not familiar with the release, there was a bit of controversy when that series came out on DVD because they wanted to make it accessible to a wider American audience and that included changing the names of the characters and giving it an American hip-hop soundtrack.  Granted, Tokyo Pop did release an unedited/subtitled version for the purists courtesy of a box set released by Tokyo Pop but distributed by FUNimation Entertainment.

In 2009, FUNimation Entertainment acquired all home entertainment, broadcast, digital and merchandise rights to all “Initial D” titles from Kodansha and announced that they would be re-releasing “Initial D” but with a new English dub cast and release the series uncut and also utilizing the original music.  Staying true to the original Japanese version.

It’s important to note that earlier in the year, “Initial D: Third Stage” (the movie) and “Initial D: Fourth Stage” were released on DVD from FUNimation Entertainment and now the first and second stage will be released on DVD, beginning with “Initial D: First Stage – Part One”.

Personally, I’m very happy to see “Initial D” being released again but with a new cast for the English dub and with FUNimation Entertainment in charge, I have to say that I am quite pleased with the English dub.  It was well-done, well-acted and if anything, it was great to see FUNimation stay true to the series without having to change things up.  I understand that Tokyo Pop was trying to make it accessible for the American Viewers (especially since they covered the racing scene, they had a responsibility to their demographic) but this time around, I am grateful that FUNimation kept things uncut and unchanged and we have the characters with their original names and of course, keeping the soundtrack with the Eurobeat and music by m.o.v.e intact.

As for the DVD release, it’s pretty much a barebones release as there are no special features but the textless opening and ending themes and it is an older anime series, so I’m not going to get picky at all.  But it is what it is and for me, “Initial D” is an exciting, addictive anime series and I can never grow tired of it.

It’s important to note that the anime series is focused on street racing and drifting and although there is a drama element to the series, especially between Takumi and Natsumi, it’s a very small part of each episode.  But I believe that non-racing enthusiasts can get into the series but for anyone expecting anything deeper, this anime series may not be for you.

Overall, I’ve actually enjoyed FUNimation Entertainment’s release of “Initial D: First Stage”.  But the fact that the series originally came out back in 1998 and many people probably own some incarnation of it, I will say that FUNimation Entertainment did a great job with the English dub and subtitles as well.  If you haven’t owned “Initial D” or have never watched it but are curious… definitely give “Initial D: First Stage” a chance!






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