Initial D #1:
Akina's Downhill Specialist


75 minutes
English Subtitles
Released: 09/16/2003
Reviewed: 01/25/2005

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Long have I lived in a dire fear of the show called Initial D. There are nights where I'd wake up in a cold sweat, screaming. "Boom Boom Japan!" I'd intone, the horror encroaching over the very soul of my being. The show would consume my thoughts, I'd sit in class wondering how, exactly, a "Space boy" WOULD "get you". And why? Why would he do such a thing?

My first impression of the show -- or its music, more specifically -- was nearly five years ago, as the formidable crew of myself, Andrew and JL spent our time in the Park Towne Place, home of Jerry and Skabs, helping the dirty Pinyo work on an art project that Skabla could not be bothered to finish. A thirty second animation piece with approximately seven frames of animation and the catching tune from Initial D. This song was called Space Boy.

Jerry and Skabs, though I'm sure they'd seen nothing more than clips themselves, cautioned me against Initial D. They warned me that it was a hodgepodge of crap. Hastily thrown together CG car animation so blatant you'd wonder how it managed to squeak through the wheels of the mid-90s Japanese anime business. Is this what passes for quality in the land of the Rising Sun?

The terrible two were not necessarily wrong. Initial D is bad. It's a poor plot wrapped up in similarly poor animation, both traditional and computer generated. The story goes that young Takumi is besieged on all sides by his friends desire to street race up and down a nearby mountain. He doesn't seem to get it, what's so great about racing cars?

What the show doesn't tell you is that Takumi is secretly the ultimate downhill specialist who's been training on that very mountain since the seventh grade while he makes tofu deliveries for his father. The show plasters clues about Takumi's true identity all over the place, prevalent and visible as dollar bills in a stripper's underwear. The scintillating boobs might distract you, but you're really just thinking about knocking her down and stealing her money.

The concept is patently ludicrous. I understand that there is a subculture and all, but to see a teenager raise his fist as he divulges his sinister plan to set all the time attack records in Japan is really pushing it. They couldn't be trying to control the street racing arena to traffic drugs? I feel like that'd provide a better sense of adventure, then Takumi could totally dress up like a ninja and ride on the hood of an MR2 while throwing shuriken at opposing drivers.

So it's not creative and it's about as niche as it gets. To make matters worse Tokyopop, Mr. "100% Authentic Manga", destroys any chance of a good dub with name changes, excellent effects (that anyone with a copy of Premiere could muster), and hip-hop/metal that's so bad I find it hard to believe that anyone outside of a country like Japan could possibly like it. "Tricked out" mode, as they call it, is a horrible mutilation of a show that really wasn't all that good to begin with. And they're forcing me to watch subtitles again! Goddamit!

I won't say that I like Initial D, even in space that wouldn't be an accurate statement. However, there's something absolutely enrapturing about it and there's a piece of me that understands why people would want to watch it despite its absolutely horrendous animation and hackneyed plot. I will not spend (more) money on this show, but if the opportunity to watch it presents itself wouldn't say no (after a lengthy internal debate). Some people have their Dragonballs and their Inuyashas. I could probably do worse to have a secret shame that wasn't Initial D.

But if you tell anyone I said that I will deny it to my grave.