Initial D Vol. #07 (of 14) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, September 14, 2004
What They Say
After the battle on Mt. Usui comes to a shocking conclusion, Tak contemplates his future as a racer. The end of summer is fast approaching, and with it comes the long awaited challenge from Gunma's #1 racer, Ry Takahashi. The challenge causes quite a commotion within the racing community, and several of Tak's friends worry that his growing relationship with Natalie will cause him to lose his street racing edge.
Takumi's latest downhill battle ends up not being the biggest challenge he has to face.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese, which is also encoded in 5.1 from the original Japanese release. The audio is a huge part of this show and it comes across beautifully here. While there doesn't seem to be a lot of sounds going to the rear speakers, they're used quite well during the race scenes. The 5.1 track is also very well used in providing forward soundstage directionality with the car engines and movements. Dialogue throughout this is crisp and clear and we had no issues with it at all. Add in the music mix to this and you've got one fantastic sounding release.
Originally airing back in 1998, Initial D has a decent looking transfer that makes the best of the materials. The show is a mix of traditional animation and CG effects, with the CG mostly used for the cars. The main problem that will bother some people more than others is the frame jitter during scene transitions; this occurs more doing the anime -> anime transitions than an anime -> CG or vice versa. There's a touch of cross coloration in a few scenes and a very light amount of aliasing. Colors look good if somewhat dull by design. The opening and ending sequences are left in their original form with the Japanese text and completely untranslated.
Though the artwork is different than the Japanese releases, the covers continue to feature different cars from the series with each volume. This particular cover goes for a shot of Takeshi's care racing throughout the city with a lot of the lighting played with. Images from the manga are lined along the bottom and we get the usual bar along the left for the TOKYOPOP logo. The front cover and the spine both sport the volume number, a plus in my book, and the back lists the episode numbers and titles. There are a few animation shots on the back cover as well as a brief summary of the series premise. The discs features and technical aspects are clearly listed, though it's impossible to really explain the two video versions included on the cover. The insert provides another shot of the front cover and opens to provide a panel on various technical terms and specs on some of the cars.
The menus here are a really neat piece and in full 5.1 at that, courtesy of the excellent designs by Nightjar. Splitting up the screen a bit, the top three quarters of the screen has several race scenes from the show playing done in a colored filter that looks great while playing the sound effects to it as opposed to music. The bottom have provides a nice shot of the Eight-Six and provides the selections. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast. When the disc first loads, it lets you choose which version you want to play (through a nice license plate style) and you can readjust it later in the settings menu, including the video choice.
The extras are pretty similar to past volumes. There's the latest showroom piece that talks about the moves done during these episodes with some small explanations about them. The dub outtakes section brings a few more goofs and gaffes from the show though none are terribly amusing. The big plus extra for this volume is the clean ending sequences for the first three used in the series, including the new one that starts with this volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Digging into the Classic Version once again, Initial D manages to captivate and fascinate me as it plays out. With the ugly character designs, the usually awkward looking CG animation and the entire concept of it being about car racing just means it's something that I'd ordinarily have zero interest in. Yet it's a show that when the races are on keeps me on the edge of my seat and when the characters interact I can't wait to see how they deal with each other.
This volume has one of the more engaging racing pieces on it and then goes heavily into character relationship material as well as a lot of fanservice. There's probably less racing on this volume than previous ones but it doesn't diminish it at all since the characters have really grown onto you by this point and you want to see them get involved, grow and change. The race for this volume is quite exciting though and one of my favorites so far. With the duo of Mako and Sayuri together doing a combined sort of drive where one focuses on the immediate and the other on things coming up ahead on the road, it's an interesting way to do it and requires a rare kind of trust, which is why the sisters are able to get away with it probably. There's a lot of tension on this particular road since there are so many turns and it's really edge of your seat material, especially during the last turn when they actually slow motion it and you go through all their expressions as the race changes so completely. I had to rewind and play that part again it was so good.
On the relationship side of things, it's amusing watching the two main relationships that take up the screen during all of this. Takeshi and Mako are quite cute together and each of them are just so different yet the same. Takeshi isn't sure he's good enough for her, so much so that he's rather negative about his prospects even though she's offered herself to him quite plainly. She even makes sure he knows that's exactly what she meant in this volume when Sayuri invites everyone to a water amusement park since she's got a huge crush on Takumi. Takumi is of course oblivious to all of this though he does get some good skin time with her.
But even that's minimal to the time he gets to spend with Natsuki this time around since school starts again. Since the two of them see each other more and more now, he's actually thinking about her a bit more since she's playing up to him somewhat aggressively and ensuring that she's on his mind. It conflicts with the other big thing on his mind which is the challenge that Ryosuke Takahashi has sent him demanding a new race since he's convinced he knows what it takes to beat Takumi now. Takumi actually starts to open up to Natsuki because of this and about what he does as a hobby, which of course gets her a bit excited. What makes it even more worthwhile is that it means he's not only talking to Itsuki about everything and that alone means he's going to be better off.
Itsuki's a good guy but man you just want to smack him.
With yet another three episodes, this volume is over before you know it but it's a great bit of fun for the hour or so that it runs. I still feel dirty in some ways for liking this show but it's just so much fun and addictive that once you get hooked that's it. All of the parts that look bad, from the character designs – particularly their lips, to the car animations are things that should be keeping me away and telling others to avoid at all costs. But there is just something so completely charming and unsettling about this show that it's something that I'd recommend, if it wasn't for the "tricked out" version. If you don't mind watching it in Japanese, you'll get a great show but avoid the English version at all costs.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Dub Outtakes,Showroom,Clean Endings (1-3)
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Initial D