Friday, December 20, 2013

Rewind: Initial D

I don't remember the first time I watched Initial D. I know that I saw it on Hulu before I understood how Funimation rotates the availability of its shows. I put the second season on my Christmas list that year, and I received it... though it ended up being available on Hulu anyway. Oh well. The second season is officially the only anime TV series I own - the three other anime on my shelf are movies. I don't mind the that the honor goes to Initial D: Second Stage. But I digress. That's the second season, and I'm writing primarily about the first.

Initial D is about street racing. People race cars, especially on hills. Okay, they call it a mountain, but Mt. Akina is a bit short to be considered a mountain in my book.

Is their racing legal? No. Does anyone in the anime care? No. So I choose ignore the little legality issue, too. The main character, Takumi, is a pretty normal teenager at first glance. He doesn't seem passionate about much. He goes to school, works partime at a gas station, tolerates his excitable friend, and makes deliveries for his dad's tofu shop. It's not exciting to drive over the pass in his dad's old car every night, so he gets it done quickly, with no regard for any speed limit signs. He's picked up some pretty amazing skills in the process, with a little guidance from his dad, a former street racer. Takumi is clueless about this, of course. Then he catches the right people's eyes, and one thing leads to another until he's on a street racing team. Let the fun begin.

The animation isn't pretty. It was made fifteen years ago, though, so what do expect? Initial D wouldn't promise to be super popular either, so it's not like they were going to be generous with the budget. The animation does its job. Figures and, more importantly, cars move across the screen. What more can you want? I love watching Takumi drive. The screen shows him shifting and his feet working the pedals - to me, it was like he was dancing, especially with the background music.

The races always had me on the edge of my seat. Takumi is bit of an underdog. Yes, he has skill, but he's new to the scene. Plus, his car is the same old Toyota 86 that his dad raced in. His opponents consistently underestimate him. Since he races downhill, his lack of horsepower and such doesn't get in his way at first. Actually, the simplicity of his car sometimes gives him an advantage over those who let their car do too much with its automatic features. It's still an old car.

Initial D comes to mind anytime I drive a winding downhill road or mountain pass. Unlike Takumi, I've always followed speed limits fairly well. During my first long drives, I generally paid attention to the suggested speeds for curves. Then I stopped taking those suggestions seriously. It wasn't because of Initial D's influence, of course - just plain overconfidence in my vehicle and myself. I can now tell you from personal experience that it's a really good idea to slow down around corners. We don't all have reflexes and control like Takumi, and his car is definitely more loyal to him than some of ours are. I bet his Trueno's steering system would never rebel against him.

It's been a while since I last watched Initial D, but I still do a double take every time I see a small, old black and white car. I couldn't identify a Lamborghini or any other fancy car for the life of me, but I know the basic look of an old Toyota Trueno.

Initial D is pretty bland in all ways that don't relate to driving. I just tolerate the bits of romance and drama. Thankfully, that stuff rarely distracts from the parts I like: the races and preparation for the races.

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