Initial D Season 2 Box Set - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 49.98
  • Running time: 325
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Initial D

Initial D Season 2 Box Set

By Bryce Coulter     March 26, 2008
Release Date: October 16, 2007



What They Say
When Keisuke Takahashi of the infamous RedSuns racing team accidentally witnesses normal, everyday tofu delivery boy Takumi Fujiwara's expert drift technique, Takumi's life shifts into high gear. Keisuke challenges him to a racing battle and the race results in Takumi plunging headlights first into the white-knuckle, adrenaline rushing world of underground mountain-pass street racing.

Contains 13 episodes.

The Review!
Faster and even more furious...

Please Note: For review purposes, the technical section will cover only the "Enhanced" version of the release. The "Classic" version will be covered at the end of the content section. All grades listed above cover only the Enhanced Version.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in English. The audio is a huge part of this show and it across well. 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. We did sample some of the Japanese audio in the series and noticed that the music mix is significantly different. From this reviewer's perspective, the English music mix provided a greater sense of intensity and drama during the driving sequences. However, the music in the Japanese soundtrack seems to fit the show a lot better.

Video:
Originally airing back in 1998, Initial D has a decent looking transfer that makes the best of the materials. The show uses a mix of traditional animation and computer graphic effects. The CG is primarily used with the cars and racing sequences. Frame jitter was noticeable during the various scene transitions. This occurs when the CG switches over to cell animation and vise versa. For a series that was one of the first pioneers to combine CG and cell animation, I can excuse the jitters. There's a touch of cross coloration in a few scenes and a very light amount of aliasing. Overall, the colors look good if somewhat dull by design.

Packaging:
The thickpack collection (it's thick because it contains 5 discs) is packaged in a folded jacket that folds into a box and has a cardboard sheath to keep the contents secure. The front of the sheath displays the Initial D logo in English and Japanese. The cover also shows Takumi Fujiwara on front along with Kyouichi Sudou. CG images of the fastest cars in the series, including Takumi's Toyota Eight-Six. The back of the sheath features a brief description of the episodes. The foldable jacket that houses the 5 discs uses the disc-on-disc (or two discs per plastic housing) stacking design. You get a brief description of cars when you remove the discs from their respective panels. This was a nice design, but I think it could have been packaged better by using the thinpack design that is commonly used with whole series releases. This case is just way too thick for not having anything other than just DVD's.

Menu:
The menus here are a really slick, 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 half of the discs provide a nice shot of one of the featured cars (ie. Eight-Six, Skyline GTR, etc...) along with the selection options. 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 (via a license plate style format for Classic and Enhanced) and you can readjust it later in the settings menu, including the video choice.

Extras:
The extras provided with this collection are subpar compared to what was provided in the First Stage collection. There are no inserts or goodies with this one, which is a huge let-down as compared to the stuff you get with the First Stage collection. The extras are pretty similar to the single release volumes. The dub outtakes continue to bring about a few laughs, but nothing extravagant or really funny. A new clean opening and closing sequence that is characteristic of the Second Stage is provided here. It's a bummer that the English dub did not change any of its music for the Second Stage.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Second Stage takes Initial D into a whole new realm as Takumi is pitted against drivers who are even more challenging than the Takahashi brothers. Enter Team Emperor, led by the infamous Kyouichi Sudou (aka. Kyle), a professional driver. His team of Lancer Evo drivers are on a quest to conquer the Gunma Prefecture. They are swiftly moving through Gunma, challenging and defeating the best teams on each mountain. Team Emperor is notorious for trash talking and fierce competition. Nothing speaks trash talk more than taking the sticker of a defeated team and slicing it before slapping it upside down on your own spoiler.

Kyouichi's real goal is to have a rematch with Ryousuke (aka. Ry) Takahashi. However, Kyouichi is unaware that Ryosuke has recently been defeated by the Ghost of Akina. Upon discovering this new turn of events, Team Emperor issues a challenge to the Akina Speed Stars in the hopes that Takumi will compete in his Eight-Six. Takumi becomes the first person in Gunma to defeat a member of the Emperor team on the downhill by easily taking down Team Emperor's second best driver, Seiji Iwaki (aka. Hawk). This is the punk who taunted Takumi and the gang when they were at the beach in the First Stage Collection. The locals are cheering Takumi on, but he begins to show signs of boredom and disinterest in driving.

A few subplots continue to flesh out in this collection as Natsuki (aka Natalie) continues her relationship with her sugar daddy, who continues to feed her hunger for money and gifts. This begins to take on a more serious note as Takumi becomes more privy to the situation. Could it be affecting his driving?

A flashback plot of sorts surfaces in this collection as Bunta makes secretive plans to upgrade the eight-six with a new, and more powerful engine. A little bit of Bunta's past is slowly revealed here. He is on to Takumi's attitude and current approach to racing. Takumi's pushing the car beyond its limits to subdue his melancholic attitude. This will eventually lead to one thing, a lesson that Bunta wants Takumi to learn the hard way. Pride comes before for the fall, baby.

Kyouichi issues a challenge that he hopes will teach Takumi some things. The race is exciting as Takumi challenges Kyouichi at every twist and turn, but the way it plays out is not surprising. The unavoidable happens as Takumi pushes that Eight-Six beyond its limit by blowing up the engine. Takumi needs to have a loss in order to understand how it feels to lose before he go to next level of racing. The scene ends dramatically as the engine blows up rather violently. Sadly enough, Takumi coasts the Eight-Six to the side of the road where he sits inside staring at the dashboard. Bunta soon shows up with wrecker to bring Takumi and Eight-Six home. As Bunta interacts with Takumi, you can sense that father/son bond that is so often unspoken, but yet understood. You can tell that Bunta was expecting this and has been ready for this day as he can't be any more proud of his son.

Finally, the long-awaited battle between Kyouichi and Ryosuke commences. Kyouichi's obsession of beating Ryosuke has led up to this dramatic showndown for revenge. The race starts with the Ryosuke's white FC leading the way. Kyoichi implements his new plan for taking down Ryosuke, once and for all with his new technique, Simulation X. Midway through the race, the black Evo 3 slips by in very calculated and well executed maneuver. Kyoichi, confident in the execution of his technique, believes that he has the race in the bag, but Ryosuke discovers a weakness. Ryosuke exposes the weakness in a split-minute decision that puts him across the finish line. Ryosuke gives Kyouichi another lesson by explaining to him that he still had that fear of right-hand corners, wherein a car running to the opposite direction can collide head-on. Kyouichi's fear of the local mountain pass, Irohazaka, has a one-way road, which is why Kyouichi wasn't able to work on removing that fear. Game over, punk.

At this point Takumi is forced to deal with two situations that will teach him a lot about himself. First off, Takumi is on to Natsuki and what she is doing and confronts her about the situation. Natsuki's world is rocked as she has been hiding this from Takumi. Bunta, knowing that the engine in the Eight-Six was about to give out, receives the new engine that he was planning to put in the Eight-Six before it blew. This engine is a high-revving, race breed variation of the standard Toyota 4A-GE 20 valve twin cam engine, which is used for Group A Division 2 Touring Class races in the Japanese Touring Car Championship. Bunta installs the engine without a new tachometer to teach Takumi the importance of learning mechanical knowledge and understanding why the car behaves as it does. One of Tak's greatest weaknesses is in understanding the mechanical aspects of a racing car. Natsuki takes second fiddle as Bunta puts Takumi through the rigors of learning to drive again with the cup of water in the dash. One has to wonder what will come of Takumi as new training as Natsuku tries to figure out what she wants to do with her relationship with the older man.

Team Emperor is long and gone now, but a new drifter has slipped in to town with same colored horse. Another Eight-Six has been seen driving around and this guy seems to be pretty good. This guy has a sister too, and she kinda likes Itsuki, which brings about some much needed humor as he is now head-over-heels for her. Still learning the ropes of the retooled Eight-Six, Takumi runs into Wataru, the owner of the other Eight-Six. Wataru passes on some tips and explains that high-powered engines require high-revolution tachometers in order to take full advantage of the extra power that is under the hood.

Heeding Wataru's advice Takumi follows through with the recommendations. Wataru challenges him to a race anywhere of Takumi's choosing. Takumi chooses to race on Wataru's home course of Shomaru, an abandoned mountain pass that is very dangerous. The race becomes one of endurance, and will only end if the chaser overtakes the leader, or the leader greatly outpaces the chaser. The ending of this race is a nail-biter and one of the best ones yet.

The last two episodes are a teaser for the Initial D: Extra Stage set that will follow. These two episodes focus on the girls of Impact Blue, Mako (aka. Maya) and Sayuki (aka. Simone). I was beginning to wonder what happened to them, especially the relationship between Kouichiro Iketani (aka. Cole) and Mako. What we have here is a failure to communicate. Itekani's failure to communicate with the goofed up rendezvous that was supposed to happen between the two has left Mako feeling hurt and rejected. Sayuki notices that it's directly affecting her racing in a negative way. Mako is battling emotional wounds from what she thinks was a rejection by Iketani. Sayuki's childhood friend Shingo of the Myogi Night Kids calls and arranges a meeting with him and his teammate, Nakazato (aka. Zack), to warn Impact Blue about Team Emperor as they are headed towards Usui.

Up to this point, everything has been clean and clear, but an unneeded fanservice scene appears with Mako in the bathtub naked. It leaves one thinking why? And why put here now? It doesn't make sense as this never really had an fanservice up to this piunt.

Still preoccupied over her failure to connect with Iketani, Mako worries about her ability to measure up to Team Emperor. Finally, a pair of Emperor affiliated Evos show up in Usui. The challenger, driving an Evo 4, insults the female racers and overconfidently states that he can easily win . The ensuing race that follows is one of the best as we see Mako begin to climb back in the saddle. How it ends, you'll have to see for yourself.

Classic Version:

After watching the enhanced version in its entirety, I decided to watch some of the Classic Version. While I respect the Classic Version's artistic originality, I believe that the Enhanced Version does a descent job of portraying the look and feel of Initial D. This reviewer typically prefers to view dubbed anime that closely resembles the original artist's work. I understand the intricacies, difficulties, business decisions, etc... that play a significant role in how anime is distributed and produced in the United States.

Overall this reviewer believes that the Enhanced version will appeal to anime viewers who have not been exposed to the original Initial D anime and manga. The music choices, while different from the original, felt appropriate and matched the scenes. The enhanced visual effects also felt appropriate and added a sense of coolness to an otherwise dated use of CG effects. Overall, the name changes were not completely annoying, but could have been omitted as they did not seem to enhance the feel for the storyline. Most seasoned anime viewers have grown beyond the need for Americanized names.

Regardless of viewing format, Classic or Enhanced, Initial D is a fun ride and the overall storyline is well preserved.

Summary:
Initial D: Second Stage takes the story to a whole new level as the characters, especially Takumi, begin to mature. Support characters are bit lacking in this series and often appear to be as an afterthought. There are higher stakes in the races for this stage as new and more challenging course and drivers confront Takumi. Takumi is forced to transform his thinking and approach to downhill racing as his car undergoes a catastrophic event. Like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes, Takumi and the Eight-Six are born again. Initial D: Second Stage will not disappoint as it still remains to be a fun ride.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Bonus Episode: Season 2 Episode 1,Clean Opening and Ending Credits,Dub Outtakes

Review Equipment
Hitachi 62VS69 62" UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, Samsung BDP-1000 Blu-ray Player with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jnager 3/13/2012 12:54:41 PM

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