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Initial D: Fourth Stage – Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

May 11, 2010 by  



Exciting, enjoyable and downright cool!  A brand new start for the characters of “Initial D” as Takumi and his racing partners of newly formed racing team, Project D, take on the best racing groups all over Japan.  If you have an interest in racing, definitely give this anime TV series a try!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Initial D: Fourth Stage – Part 1

DURATION: 12 Episodes (280 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 13+

Release Date: May 11, 2010

Originally created by Shuuichi Shigeno

Directed by Tsuneo Tominaga

Music by Atsushi Umebori, Dennis Martin

Character Design by Akira Kano

Art Director: Masayoshi Banno

Mechanical Design: Hideaki Yokoi

Anime Production by Frontline

Featuring the following voice talent:

Shinichiro Miki/Joel McDonald as Takumi Fujiwara

Takehito Koyasu/J. Michael Tatum as Ryosuke Takahashi

Tomokazu Seki/Todd Haberkorn as Keisuke Takahashi

Kazuki Yao/Eric Vale as Koichiro Iketani

Masahiko Tanaka/Christopher R. Sabat as Kyouichi Sudou

Mitsuo Iwata/Josh Grelle as Itsuki Takeuchi

Takumi Yamazaki/Chis Ayres as Miki

Tomomichi Nishimura/Chuck Huber as Yuuichi Tachibana

Unshou Ishizuka/Kent Williams as Bunta Fujiwara

Megumi Toyoguchi/Caitlin Glass as Kyoko Iwase

Nobody drives like Takumi; his instincts, confidence, and downhill expertise make him seem unbeatable. Now that he’s joined the Project D racing crew, his reputation precedes him as the team travels the region, facing the competition on its own turf. Every challenger brings a unique style and each course holds its own dangers, but no matter the obstacle in Takumi’s headlights, he’ll do whatever it takes to put it in the rearview mirror. Because he knows when you’re born to race and driven to be the best, it’s not enough to be fast – Takumi won’t take his eyes off the road until he’s faster than everyone else.

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 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.

In the first season of “Initial D”, we are introduced to the Japanese racing scene at Mt. Akagi and a racing group known as the Speed Stars who 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 the son of Bunta Fuiwara, the great street racer known as “Ghost of Akina” and sure enough, Takumi ends up participating in races and receiving challenges which leads to the battle between Takumi and one of the best, Ryosuke Takashi (the Whte Comet of Akagi).

“Initial D” then continued on with the “Second Stage” continuing Takumi’s development as a racer and developing his technique. The series was then followed by two OVA’s titled “Initial D: Extra Stage” (which focuses on the female racing duo Impact Blue) and “Initial D: Extra Stage 1.5″continuing the storyline from 1.0.

The first animated feature film of “Initial D: Third Stage” was then released in theaters in 2001 and showed us how main protagonist Takumi Fujiwara joined with Ryosuke and Keisuke Takahashi to become part of the team known as Project D.

Three years after the film, “Initial D: Fourth Stage – Part 1” would air on Japanese television and focus on Project D as they would travel to different cities to take on other racing groups.  Ryousuke Takahashi is the mastermind of the team as he plans the strategies for both Takumi and Keisuke.

Takumi shows his maturity as he goes from a young man who didn’t know much about racing, to using his careful observations of the road and learning from his fellow Project D technicians about the technical side of racing and the vehicle as it races uphill or downhill versus opponents. Also, developing strategies against other competitors including the theory of infinite lines and Joushima (one handed driving).  As he grows confident about his racing, out of the blue, someone driving a Subaru Impreza WRX STI Type R Version V suddenly beats him on his hometown road.  Who is this mysterious racer?

Meanwhile, Ryousuke’s brother Keisuke often wonders why his older brother chooses Takumi for races instead of him.  But also meets a female racer named Kyoko who has fallen for him.

“Initial D: Third 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. After several races and developing his technique, Takumi who drives his father’s AE86 Trueno has become one of the best racers on Akina and has set his goal higher to become the best.

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 – Strategist of Project D.  Always focused on the upcoming competition and how his racers: Takumi and Keisuke can win.  A former racer who excelled until he lost against Takumi, now focuses on energy in leading the group. D rives a white Mazda RX-7 (FC3S).

Keisuke Takahashi – Younger brother of Ryosuke.  Focused on the race, often cocky but ready to win.  Drives a yellow Mazda RX-7 (FD3S).

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. Drives an AE85 Corolla Levin.

Kouichiro Iketani – Works with Takumi and Itsuki at the gas station. He is the leader of the Akina SpeedStars. Drives a Nissan Silvia K (S13).

Kenji – A member of the Akina SpeedStars and Iketani’s best friend. Very hardcore in his interest when it comes to his friends racing. Always teased by his friends for not having a girlfriend.  Drives a Nissan 180SX.

Kyoko Iwase – A member of the Northwest Saitama Alliance racing team.  A tomboy who loves to race but when she meets Keisuke, she falls in love with him.  Drives an RX-7 Type R (FD3S) single turbo.

Here is a basic summary of each episode on “Initial D: Fourth Stage”:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Project D – Project D becomes known for their wins and now take on the Seven Star Leaf’s.
  • EPISODE 2 – Full Throttle! Downhill Battle – Takumi vs. Tohru in a downhill battle.
  • EPISODE 3 – The Most Powerful Man of the Toudou School – Project D. takes on Daiki of the Toudou Racing School.
  • EPISODE 4 – Two Pieces of Advice – Takumi takes on Toudo Racing School’s Daiki (EK9).
  • EPISODE 5 – The Starting Line to Victory – The Toudou Racing School uses a pro racer Tomoyuki to take on Takumi.
  • EPISODE 6 – Blind Attack – Takumi vs. Tomoyuki

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 7 – The 85s Raging Turbo – Takumi realizes that he may not be the best of Akina as a mysterious racer comes out of nowhere and easily beats him.
  • EPISODE 8 – Fateful Battle of the FD’s – Project D moves on to Saitama to take on a new team.  Meanwhile, Kyoko of the Saitama team falls for Keisuke and both race each other in a competition.
  • EPISODE 9 – Kyoko’s Confession – Kyoko’s emotions for Keisuke reach new heights and struggles if she should tell him how she feels.
  • EPISODE 10 – The Saitama Area’s Ultimate Weapon – The Saitama team finds a rally racer named Sakamoto to take on Project D.
  • EPISODE 11 – Rainy Downhill Battle – Both teams strategize about the race due to the rainy weather.
  • EPISODE 12 – Straightaway of Struggles – Takumi vs. Sakamoto

VIDEO:

It’s important to note that “Initial D: Fourth Stage” came out in Japan back in 2004.  For one thing, it’s not going to sport the HD/vibrant visuals of today’s anime but for an anime TV series, “Initial D: Fourth Stage” looks very awesome with its very well-detailed backgrounds.  Granted, most of the visuals during the race are on hills and a lot of trees and foliage with the night and starry sky.

But there is a lot emphasis on the details of the cars especially the environment.  For example, in episode 12, during the race in the rain, there is a very good amount of detail on water effects as the water is kicked up by the tires.  I also enjoyed the focus on the drifting as well.  Character designs are well-shaded and Akira Kano did a wonderful job in capturing the soul of Shuuichi Shigeno’s manga series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, similar to the recent FUNimation Entertainment “Initial D: Fourth 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.  Music courtesy of Japanese record label avex trax is well heard, especially the group m.o.v.e. who do the opening and ending themes.  A big part of “Initial D” is its electronic, trance, eurobeat music and that comes out quite clear!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Initial D: Fourth Stage – Part 1″ does not come with any special features but trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases.

“Initial D” is one of those anime series that appeals to those who have an interest in street car racing or drifting.  At the time the series first came out, I was actually assisting a Japanese auto fashion magazine covering auto fashion in the US.  But each time I received these Japanese auto magazines, I was always intrigued by the trends in Japan and this series was just like icing on the cake. Who would have ever thought that there would be an anime series on street car racing? Especially one that would also incorporate a pretty enjoyable storyline.

For the next few years, although I haven’t seen all episodes, I have been reviewing the “Initial D” and “m.o.v.e.” albums and releases and have waited for the new episodes and the film to be released in the US.  And sure enough, FUNimation Entertainment has now released both the film “Initial D: The Third Stage” and the television series “The Fourth Stage”.

If you have an interest in the racing culture or just want to experience an anime series on Japanese racing, “Initial D” is the way to go.  The big question for many people who may be interested in “Fourth Stage” is if you  need to have previous knowledge of the series to enjoy this.   The answer is no, you can start on this series and understand what’s going on. In fact, I recommend purchasing the film “Third Stage” and watching before “Fourth Stage” to learn how Takumi becomes a member of Project D.

Of course, if you want to enjoy this series at its fullest and learn how far the main character Takumi has come to get this far, then you will definitely want to watch the older seasons (which FUNimation Entertainment is planning to release soon).

But essentially, “Fourth Stage” is the next major step into the character Takumi Fujiwara’s life as the previous seasons focused on this teenager’s ability to beat his competition at home, with the assistance of his friends and father.  With this series, it goes beyond what he has learned in the past as he now travels with his business partners of Project D and take on the best throughout the Kanto area and continues to develop his skills.  So, it’s literally a fresh jumpstart of the series, focusing on an older Takumi and easy for the “Initial D” newbie to jump right in.

Overall, an exciting first part of “Initial D: Fourth Stage” featuring a good number of competitions and tech heads who are hardcore with upgrading and fixing up their cars will also enjoy this latest series as well.  If you are a fan of “Initial D”, this is definitely a series worth checking out!

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