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Initial D: Third Stage (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

May 4, 2010 by  



“Initial D” makes its return on DVD with the animated film “Initial D: Third Stage”.  Featuring three exciting races and also the conclusion of the Takumi/Natsuki storyline, this film sets the pace for the TV series “Initial D: Fourth Stage”.  If you are a fan of this racing anime series, street racing or modifying your car, definitely give “Initial D: Third Stage” a try!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Initial D: Third Stage

DURATION: 1:44:37

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 Noboru Mitsusawa

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

Masahiko Tanaka/Christopher R. Sabat as Kyouichi Sudou

Mitsuo Iwata/Josh Grelle as Itsuki Takeuchi

Takehito Koyasu/J. Michael Tatum as Ryosuke Takahashi

Takumi Yamazaki/Chis Ayres as Miki

Tomokazu Seki/Todd Haberkorn as Keisuke Takahashi

Tomomichi Nishimura/Chuck Huber as Yuuichi Tachibana

Unshou Ishizuka/Kent Williams as Bunta Fujiwara

Anyone can drive fast. Only one driver can be the fastest. It takes nerve, skill, and the right car – and Takumi’s got all three. His rep as a dominating downhill racer is growing, but when he’s invited to drive for an all-star team that could change the face of local racing, Takumi’s got to beat his stiffest competition before he’ll join their ranks: himself.

With graduation approaching, his classmates drift toward uncertain futures. For Takumi, looking ahead means putting as many challengers in his rearview mirror as he can. If he can prove to himself that he’s ready, the next stage is waiting, and it’s all downhill from there.

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 nearly a decade later, the movie makes its first appearance in the US on DVD courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

“Initial D: Third Stage” features three main storylines.  The first major storyline deals with Ryosuke who is planning to start a new racing team which consists of the best in the Gunma Prefecture.  But Takumi is not interested in making a decision until he beats Team Emperor’s leader Sudou Kyouichi who has made fun of Takumi and his AE86.

The second storyline features the rival of Takumi’s father, Bunta –  Kogashiwa Kai is wanting to challenge his rival’s son Takumi.  This leads a battle between Takumi’s AE86 vs. Kogashiwa Kai’s Toyouta MR2 (SW20).

The third storyline in the film features the return of Takumi’s former love Natsuki who wants to patch things up with Takumi and her ex-boyfriend Miki has gone crazy since she had broken up with him and poses a major threat to Natsuki.

Can Takumi beat his father’s rival?  And can he save Natsuki from Miki?  And most of all, will Takumi join Ryosuke’s new racing team?

“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 – The leader of the Akagi RedSuns.  A racing strategist and very skilled but loses his first race against Takumi.  Known as “Akagi’s White Comet”.

Keisuke Takahashi – The #2 racer of the Akagi RedSuns. Unlike his brother, he has a hot temper and is rivals 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.  Once dated Saori.

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.

Natsuki Mogi – The love interest of Takumi but somehow ends up in a mess as she makes money via sexual relations with an older man.  She has also been with Miki.

Miki – The jock at Takumi’s school who constantly brags about his sexual exploits of Miki and goes even further in “Initial D: Third Stage”.

VIDEO:

It’s important to note that “Initial D: Third Stage” is an older animated film released back in 2001.  So, for those used to today’s modern, digital animated films will need to know this is an older animated film.  But even though this film is not HD , it still looks great.   “Initial D” has always had its own unique style courtesy of Shuuichi Shigeno’s character designs.

A lot of CG work (2001 CG) detail is seen when it comes to the cars, the roads and the trees but the CG actually holds up in certain areas of the film.  Artistic background is well-done.  The film is full of detail and shading and a lot of the animation like the series takes place during the night and also during the winter.  Lighting effects were really well done.  Definitely an improvement animation-wise compared to the TV series.  I did notice some dust and speckles but they were not numerous and show up a few times throughout the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, similar to the recent FUNimation Entertainment “Initial D: Third 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.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Initial D: Third Stage” does not come with any special features but trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases.

When it comes to animated films, most of the time, the films have no connection to the television series.  But for “Initial D: Third Stage”, the film is actually quite important to the series and definitely sets the stage for “Initial D: Fourth Stage” (which is being released in the U.S. on DVD at the same time as “Third Stage”).

The film definitely showcases quite a bit of racing, especially Takumi taking on three major competitors including a rematch between Takumi and Ryosuke Takahashi.  The races are all exciting but as it is something to expect from “Initial D”, one thing that I was surprised when I first watched this film was that one storyline that has kept people wondering for quite awhile…what will happen between Takumi and Natsuki?  For longtime viewers of “Initial D”, for so long people wondered how the relationship between Takumi and Natsuki Mogi would end and if there would be any romantic connection between the two and “Initial D: Third Stage” answers that question.

As for the DVD release, it’s pretty much a barebones release but I have to admit that I’m very grateful for FUNimation Entertainment in picking up the series.  Tokyo Pop changed the names of the characters for the first volume (and going back to the Japanese names in volume 2) in order to reflect the changes made by Sega in the “Initial D Arcade Stage” video games.  But further edited storylines in the manga release but most noticeable by replacing the Eurobeat tracks with hip hop to capitalize on the import scene.

When Tokyo Pop’s original distributor went bankrupt, there has been a lull and the “Initial D” series went through years of hiatus but fortunately FUNimation Entertainment has rescued this series and re-dubbed the entire series.   Also retaining the original Japanese Eurobeat music and will be releasing “Third Stage” and the “Fourth Stage” first but also has plans to re-release the earlier stages.

Overall, I’m pleased with the release of “Initial D: Third Stage”.   Again, there is plenty of racing and fans who want to get ready for the “Fourth Stage” will definitely want to purchase this DVD.  Definitely recommended for “Initial D” fans!






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