Initial D Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:JT Stone
Review Date: Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2003



The Review!
The most controversial anime title this past year, has finally been released on U.S. Region 1 DVD, and... Houston, we have problems.

Audio:
The good thing was that TOKYOPOP got the Japanese Language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track that was also released for the Japanese R2 DVDs. Separation was solid, great engine sounds, bass separation, etc. The bad news is that the English Dub track has been FUBAR'd. There is only *one* English Dub track and while normally this is no biggie, in this case, it is a drastically altered, "made-for-Saturday Morning Cartoon" kiddy track. Boo. The English Dub has all the names changed from the original character names. They've been "hipped up" with American-friendly names like "Cole" "K.T." (whut up dogg!), "Natalie" and "Iggy." The dialogue also strays from the original story translations to make it more "hip" and "urban" maybe?

And the English track has been further disgraced with the messing with the original sound effects! One of the biggest highlights of Initial D when it first came out in Japan was the extent of the care and work they did for it, especially the audio - The original Japanese version sampled the real engine sounds for all of the cars in the anime! They sampled the real engine idling and revving of Toyota 86, the Honda Civic, the Mazda RX-7, etc. Well on this new dub track, they've decided to "spice it up" and add in horrible car sound effects that are supposed to make it sound "cooler" I guess; any car enthusiast can tell you that adding fake rice burner effects on these pro-tuned race cars is just stupid.

Also, the Music track on the English Dub is completely cut out and replaced with bad unknown American garage bands.

Video:
The video was pretty solid... for the "Classic" version. There is a bit of grain, and some aliasing jaggies problem, but nothing too noticeable. Some slight analog noise with some rainbowing going on. The problem comes with the "Tricked Out" version of the episodes. If you choose "Tricked Out" version, the episodes' video is pretty bad with altered video on every episode! All the titles / Op/Ed are changed to English hard titles, and the races are filled with bad, cheesy "hip MTV, wanna-be, music video" effects - like some Wipes, Inverse Negative effects, mirror effects (WTF?), during each episode! It's pretty distracting and really destroys the feeling of the race - you're watching a *race* to see who's leading, who's catching up, not a music video from the 80's!

Packaging:
Solid. The layout and colors are cool, but they've gone with a more painted/rendered version of the main car for this cover (similar to what Disney did with Kiki in painting in her face w/ more shading to make it more American friendly). Also the packaging uses all of the Americanized names for the characters like "Will Cole be able to..." blah blah.

Menu:
One good highlight has to be the very cool menus. They are done by Nightjar, the cool dudes behind Trigun DVD menus, and feature Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio for the menus themselves and nice transitions.

Extras:
Not much. Outtakes, Car Gallery.

Content:
Last year or so, word got out that TOKYOPOP was editing Initial D to make it more "Americanized" and friendly for all us non-Japanese fans. They started by cutting and editing the manga graphic novels, editing out the sex scenes, panty shots, and changing all the names of the characters in the story to "American hip names" like Cole, Iggy, etc. Then, fans wondered if the anime would suffer the same fate. They decided to give us 2 "versions" of Initial D on this one DVD -"Classic" (which is supposedly uncut), and "Tricked Out" which is some modified version maybe for TV? But there are problems: There are edits on BOTH versions -

All references to Natsuki's relationship to her "lover/sugar daddy" have been toned down or removed (in all versions). Natsuki is a high school girl selling herself for prostitution (enjou kousai(?) - it was a real life controversy in Japan) to get money and gifts back. She calls her benefactor "Papa-san" in the original Japanese version, but that is completely removed here. Also, when she's sitting in the Benz w/ her rich Papa-san, she says in Japanese that "you've seen ALL of me already" (i.e., naked), but in the English Subtitles, it was changed to "you've seen me in a swimsuit." The problem is that Natsuki's relationship is a BIG issue later in the series, and if TOKYOPOP is changing this around now, how are they going to explain it later?

English Dub fans are S.O.L. There is only one English Dub track and it is some badly written "I'm trying to be hip an' street an' down wit' it" script. The English Dub uses the Americanized names for the cast like Iggy, Cole, Natalie, etc.

The Dub lines, when compared with the English Subtitle track are totally different at times seemingly to make the dub more cool for kids? The problem is that the actors come across as "we're a bunch of actors trying to sound really 'hip' and we got 'street cred' and Bling Bling."

There are new video edits to insert bad, 1980's music video "effects" thrown all over the screen for the races. Cheeseball mirror effects, negative effects, wipes, stuff you can do in an Aftereffects demo. It comes across as pretty annoying.

English Dub Track's Music is 100% totally edited, cut and new American music is put instead! There are some terrible wanna-be R&B and Hip Hop tracks, some American grunge tracks, and other songs from bands that no one's ever heard of. All the cool Avex Trax Japanese music is cut. Also the Opening and End Songs are also cut, and replaced with that bad rap song remixed, they used on the Initial D trailer found in various TOKYOPOP DVDs earlier this year.

The English Dub's sound effects are also changed. The authentic car engine sounds in the original Japanese version (they sampled real race car engines from the actual Toyotas, Hondas, etc.) have been modified and "tricked out" with some annoying fake car sounds.


For the actual show, it's about a high school kid named Takumi Fujiwara who delivers tofu for his dad's tofu shop. Well over the years, he's gotten so good at driving the mountain passes delivering tofu that he has developed mad racing skills and he doesn't realize it. These 3 episodes focus on introducing Takumi, his crazy buddy Itsuki, and the rest of the local town friends. There is a local team in town - the Akina Speed Stars - and his friends are all in it. Then they get challenged by an outside team and get their asses kicked. They find out about some famous Akina driver who was better than anyone and the Speed Stars captain tries to find out who. It turns out to be Takumi's dad, the tofu shop owner! He begs and begs and finally gets Takumi's dad to agree to help them out... maybe.

Little did they realize that it was Takumi who has been racing the mountains for the past few years, getting almost as good as his dad, and it is Takumi who gets pushed (by his dad) to try an race the Red Suns. What's funny about the show is that Takumi drives a beat up Toyota 86 Trueno, but it is tuned perfectly for drifting / powersliding the curvy mountain passes around their home of Akina. The 3rd episode ends with one of the Red Suns getting into an impromptu race with the 86 (Takumi) and he gets overtaken by a crazy move at the end.

Initial D is a solid series that's pretty enjoyable about street racing. What's weird and cool is that even though I hate street racing, I found it to be really fun and addicting. The problem is that this U.S. R1 DVD by TOKYOPOP has quite a few problems with it like I said earlier, so it is bad U.S. release. With so many years of anime companies in the U.S. doing it right, how did they screw this one up so badly? Also, with only 3 episodes per DVD (and this being a long series - over 2 seasons long in Japan), this is not a good way to collect the series. I guess if you're an 8-10 year old kid who doesn't know anime, the hip changes might be fun, but for everyone else... skip it.



Review Equipment
Sony 32" XBR TV, Denon DD5.1/DTS5.1 receiver, Sony DVD player, NHT speakers



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B/F
Video Rating: B-/F
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Initial D