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

November 28, 2010 by  



The 1998 anime racing classic, “Initial D: First Stage” receives its uncut release in the US and now the second half of the first season is here!  And what a wonderful, adrenaline pumping release the second half of the series turned out to be.   Both volumes of “Initial D: First Stage” are definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Initial D: First Stage – Part Two

DURATION: Episode 14-26 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 13+

Release Date: November 16, 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 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 RedSuns 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 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.

In “Initial D: First Stage – Part Two”, with Takumi having beaten his competitors with the AE86 Trueno, many competitors around the area now want to know more about the mysterious racer who is beating everyone with an AE86, as for many racers, they dismiss the rumors as false as they feel that no one can win with such an old car.

In this latest volume, Takumi takes on a cheating Shingo in a one-hand death race.  Takumi takes on the fastest racers of Mt. Usui, Impact Blue and for the conclusion of the first season of “Initial D”, Takumi takes on Ryousuke Takahashi, the #1 racer of Gunma.

“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 – Part Two” comes with episodes 14-26 on two DVD’s. Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 14: Evolving Drift – Takumi takes on Shingo’s challenge for a death match (one hand is duck taped to the gear shift).
  • EPISODE 15: Takumi’s Fury – When Shingo uses cheating tactics to defeat Takumi, Takumi is driven to beat him.
  • EPISODE 16: The Angel of Usui – Rumors are going on at that a pair of women known as “Impact Blue” are the fastest racers on Mt. Usui.  Meanwhile, Iketani meets a beautiful girl named Mako who is interested in racing and they go out on a date.
  • EPISODE 17 : Sudden-Death Death Match – Iketani finds out that Mako is part of “Impact Blue” (or Sil-Eighty as the Akina guys call them) and Mako wants to challenge Takumi in his Eight-Six.  But will Iketani risk his friendship with Takumi?
  • EPISODE 18: Hot Winds & Furious Driving! – Takumi races against the female duo on Mt. Usui.
  • EPISODE 19: Super Drift! – Mako and Sayuki are amazed by Takumi’s skill but both are determined on winning, who will win?
  • EPISODE 20: The End of Summer – Iketani learns more about Mako’s past and doesn’t know if he wants to pursue her again.  As Mako awaits for him, will Iketani go for her or stand her up?

DISC 4:

  • EPISODE 21: Challenge from a Superstar – The #1 racer in the Gunma area, Ryousuke Takahashi of the RedSuns issues a challenge to Takumi.
  • EPISODE 22: Fierce Uphill Battle! – Keisuke Takahashi of the RedSuns takes on Takeshi Nakazato of the NightKids.
  • EPISODE 23: The Rainy Downhill – A member of the RedSuns challenges Takumi to a downhill race in rainy conditions.
  • EPISODE 24: Akagi’s White Comet – Akagi’s White Comet – Ryousuke Takahashi takes on Akina’s Eight-Six Takumi.
  • EPISODE 25: The Last Battle – The race between Ryousuke and Takumi continues.
  • EPISODE 26: The New Downhill Legend – While racing against Ryousuke, Takumi discovers the thrill of streetracing when he meets a racer that pushes him to the limit.

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 – Part Two” comes with the textless opening and closing themes and the trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases.

“Initial D: First Stage” concludes with part two and what an amazing second half this anime series turned out to be.

As the first half of the series focused on Takumi being introduced to the world of street racing despite having the driving and racing skills that many people would love to have, he has looked at racing as just as somewhat of a hobby but not anything to take seriously.  By the second half, he starts to learn that there are people who would cheat to win, that there are female racers that are just as talented as the guys but most of all, being put to the test by the #1 racer in the area and now feeling the thrill of street racing.

What I enjoyed about the second half of the series is that we get more races but also more involvement with Takumi and friends, especially with Takumi and Natsuki (it’s important to note that the relationship and drama factor of this series is not a priority but it will be featured and concluded in “Initial D: Third Stage”, the movie).

“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.

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.  I know there are some people new to anime who probably can’t stand to watch older anime series and the fact is, this is an older anime series that was made 12-years ago, but despite it not looking as digital and vibrant as today’s anime series, at least give it a chance!

Overall, I’ve actually enjoyed FUNimation Entertainment’s release of “Initial D: First Stage” and both part one and part two volumes rocked. 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… “Initial D: First Stage” (both volumes) are highly recommended!

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