Initial D Vol. #13 (of 14) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, September 08, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2005



What They Say
The battle of the Eight-Sixes has begun and not only do Tak and Wataru dash down the treacherous mountain roads but they race up it as well. It’s a grueling clash of two warriors with neither willing to give an inch. Tak, thrilled by his new high revving engine, wants to win this battle no matter what but as the battle goes on his car starts to lose grip! What will the outcome of the battle be?

The Review!
Please Note:
For review purposes, the technical and content section will cover only the "Classic" version of the release. All grades listed above cover only the Classic Version. For thoughts on the "tricked out" version, please see the first volume review.

Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing back in 1999, Initial D's Second Stage transfer is pretty much the same as the first stage but the show makes out better in general with a better budget which means better animation as well as much better CG animation for the cars and races which helps a lot, particularly in the transition scenes or places where the two types cross over. The cross coloration and aliasing picks up somewhat more heavily here as the show does a lot more panning scenes which results in both of those problems. It's more problematic early on in the volume but it does continue throughout. 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.

Packaging:
Though the artwork is different than the Japanese releases, the covers continue to feature different cars from the series with each volume. With the race being between two 86's this time, it makes sense for both of them to be the subject of a rain swept cover against the bright lights of the city buildings. 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 a couple of character bios and some information on the upgraded 86.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras are pretty similar to past volumes as the only thing we get is the dub outtakes section which brings a few more goofs and gaffes from the show though none are terribly amusing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Second Stage of Initial D comes to a close with this volume and it's fairly understated in a way but the content itself more than makes up for any lack of a real push for the end of this season of a series that continues to surprise me just how much I get involved in it when it's on. All that's supposedly left at this point is the final third stage, or Battle Stage, and what TOKYOPOP initially picked up will have come out in full.

The last arc of the show continues to play out in two distinct storylines alongside each other and each of them has their own little thrills. The surprisingly fun one involves Itsuki and Kazumi as the two of them are getting really close. During one instance, Kazumi shows up at the gas station as she needs to talk with him and he basically bolts out of there, ready to accept whatever punishment the boss wants to mete out to him. The rest of the guys are just amused by this until they realize that the self styled "Lonely Rider" that Itsuki promotes actually dates more than they do. Kazumi's going through another rough spot at the inn where she works at and just had to leave to get away from things. It's going so badly that she's ready to just give it all up and move on to figuring out what she's really interested in and passionate about.

What causes the real problem is that she doesn't want to go back that night and stays out with Itsuki and they sleep in his car, all innocent and the like for the most part though you can imagine what's going through his mind. When this gets back to her parents, they end up sending Wataru down to get her since she's untrustworthy and all. All of them continue to consider her immature and unable to handle being out in the world so they decide what's best for her is to come back home and be kept away from the world. What this does set up though is it brings Wataru back into Gunma and he's ready to go up against Takumi again if he's figured out what he's missing.

Takumi's been having a hell of a time trying to figure out what it is that he's missing and knowing that the car is being sealed up only makes things all the worse. He finally decides to take things into his own hands and agrees to the race with Wataru so he gets his friends at the gas station to help him install a tachometer that will go to the level he needs as well as other instruments and things he needs. As it turns out, the only place that has what they need is from the guy who did the engine install so Bunta learns about it easily enough. It's a really subtle moment but it's a great little father and son thing when Bunta tells him what he needs to know about the car so that he can unlock its potential. Now it's just a matter of whether he can master it.

And that mastery will come on a course Takumi has never been on before and one that involves uphill and downhill racing where none of his usual tricks will actually work. The course is almost comical at times with extremely sharp turns, no gutters for him to use and a number of areas of it are under construction and covered with dirt and barrier signs. With it being to go on until one of them gives, going up and down the course as many times as it takes, it turns into a real endurance race that we haven't seen before and the stresses of it are shown on both the drivers. Between Takumi and Itsuki, these final episodes really have both of these characters growing quite a lot and really accepting of their place in the world while still challenging for it to be better and to keep moving ahead.

Itsuki really sums it up best when he talks about why he likes driving, "Having the wheel in your hands and being able to control where you go, it opens up a whole new world for you." Both of these guys really have their hands on the wheel now and those worlds are becoming reality for them.

In Summary:
There's a lot of little moments that get taken care of during the end credits sequence of the last episode that helps to show where most of the secondary characters have gone and what everyone is dealing with so it ends nicely on several notes. The final race is exciting like previous ones but it definitely has a different feel to it as we get both the uphill and downhill racing but also the more intense challenge that Wataru seems to offer Takumi. It's also good to finally see Takumi truly straining and trying to master something new under difficult conditions without it being an easy lesson like some previous tricks. Initial D has really won us over and this capping of the second stage brings things to a great close while still leaving more than enough open for the next couple of stages and all the material that's still coming in the manga. Great stuff, definitely recommended if you can get past the visuals.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Dub Outtakes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, 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: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Initial D