Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: C
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 14 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 325
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Initial D
Initial D Stage 2 Collection
Initial D Stage 2 Collection Anime DVD Review
By Chris Beveridge
January 31, 2011
Release Date: February 01, 2011
Takumi's challenges grow and he finds himself facing some harsh new realities as the last team arrives to take him down.
What They Say
Takumi's rise to the top the street racing underground is the stuff of legend, but his status as the best is on the line once again. Team Emperor's in town with a singular goal: to crush all opposition. The team's drivers are as aggressive as their cars are advanced, and Akina's Eight-Six might be outclassed. There's a chance that Takumi's skills have surpassed the abilities of his beloved machine, and if he wants to maintain his rep, severe modifications must be made.
Unfortunately, mechanical woes aren't his only problem, thanks to some rumors going around about his girl. The distractions are definitely stacking up, and so are the challengers. That means it's time for Takumi to do what he does best - keep his eyes on the road ahead and floor it.
Contains episodes 1-13 and OVAs Extra Stage 1 and Extra Stage 2.
The series gets a fairly standard release here with the original Japanese track in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English 5.1 mix gets a bump up to 5.1 at 448kbps. The full impact of the 5.1 mix isn't really felt for a lot of it though the music has a much stronger feeling and the audio in general feels more solid across the forward soundstage. The rear channels are nicely used throughout the action scenes though as the cars whip around the curves, making for a more immersive feeling that you'd normally have. Outside of the action, much of the feature feels like a center channel based piece when it comes to the dialogue, but it's decent with a clean and clear feeling that allows for it all to be heard clearly with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released from 1998 to 1999, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series released across two discs in a standard seven/six layout that gives it plenty of space to work with. Initial D was not a high quality project at this stage, and really, not with later stages as well, so it has a very rough and almost raw feel to it at times. The show has a very murky look with much of it taking place at night and there's a fair bit of noise to the backgrounds in general, though it manages to avoid problematic blocking. The CG aspect of the show is definitely showing its age as well and it stands out, but there aren't any encoding issues with it. The gradients stand out a fair bit though. Initial D was never a great looking show but it's serviceable here and gets the job done.
The Second Stage follows standard operating procedure from FUNimation with a slipcover that holds two clear thinpaks inside. The front cover gives us one of Takumi’s opponents as the only focus with a good shot of it with a schematic style version of it slightly behind it. The white trim going up along the left side with the name of the stage and that it’s got the Extra Stage OVA as well. Underneath the car we get the Japanese logo with the cursive First Stage piece and all of it ties well to the other stages. The back cover has a fair bit of white as it uses an obscured view of the Eight-Six’s side as the main background. On top of that we get a few character shots on the right side while the left has a slick looking shot of several of the cars. The summary in the center is rather slim overall but it gets the basics across of the premise and a bit about this particular feature. The technical information is all laid out clearly and all the usual logos and other little bits of trivia are here.
Inside we get the two clear thinpaks that us some of the basic layout designs as the slipcover, though the strip along the left side is without any text which is nice. The front covers showcases the different cars that Takumi gets to face off against set against the gray and black background while the back cover has nothing on top of that background outside of the logo along the lower right. The reverse side of the covers features the side of the Eight-Six up close while the left side has the episode numbers and titles while the right has the logo along the top. No show related inserts are included in this release and while these thinpaks may be a bit meager, it does it right in my mind by showing off the cars without overdoing it too much.
The menus for this release are fairly disappointing considering the possibilities they had for a design as even the old TOKYOPOP menus were a lot better by a huge margin. The general approach here is that the full background is a small piece of the body of the Eight-Six with the navigation along the bottom done to a slight angle. There's a good metallic feeling to all of it but it's so bland overall with just the navigation and the logo there otherwise that it feels very weak and unappealing. I'd even rather have clips of the races playing behind the basic navigation over this which doesn't do anything to set the mood for the show. The submenus do load quickly and the navigation is quick and easy to use. The disc also follows the normal patter in not reading our players' language settings and defaulting to English language with the sign/song subtitle track.
The only extras included in this set is the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on the third disc. Also included in the extras, though it's hard to call it that, is the uncut version of the two Extra Stage episodes which has that tiny bit of added nudity footage to it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of Initial D introduced a really engaging world where on young natural genius at racing found his true calling after being nudged and manipulated by his father for several years. Watching him go through that period of discovery worked very well since he was very indifferent towards it all and just went through the motions until he realized he had a burning passion inside him that was being lit. The focus on the racing was strong and while it may have had a bit too much exposition at times in order to explain what was going on, it paired it all with some really solid music that made it work. This second season, coming in at half the episodes, takes all of that and works to build upon it.
With Takumi having excelled as much as he did in that season, he's going to have new challenges thrown his way this time around that will have to push him further. The problem is in doing it in such a way that doesn't make it feel like they're just creating newer threats for him to deal with but rather find a more natural way to do it. Considering the way the first season went, I had good expectations going into this set. The challenge that comes his way is in the form of Team Emperor, a rather cutthroat group that is attempting to sweep Gunma with Ryosuke Takahashi as their main objective. When they win in a race, they take the sticker of the opposing team and slap it upside down and cut in half on their car to show it as a victory. Their intent of dealing with Mount Akina runs into a problem though when they discover that the big bad racer here is some old Eight-Six.
Team Emperor has the usual mix of characters that in some ways mirrors the Red Suns, but a lot of what's going on there comes down to the man behind it who has a real beef with Ryosuke over a loss the year before, so he's intent on showing him up on the road. That Takumi gets caught up in it is no surprise, but it also proves to be a huge challenge for him as he deals with the Lancer Evo cars as competition, which has him being forced into starting to understand more of what's involved with the vehicles he drives as opposed to just being a tool and nothing more. The two races that come from this, at least with Takumi, are really well done and ties well to what his father knows needs to happen. The race between Team Emperor and the Red Suns is a bit short, but it also highlights just how much Ryosuke can perceive of people and their capabilities.
Bunta continues to be one of the best anime dads out there and this season is no exception. He knows much of what his son is going through and has spent a lot of time tweaking the car and him in order to get the results he desires. He's fostering Takumi's skill really well, but he also knows that there's a key event that has to happen for him to really get to the next level. And while some can't quite fathom it, it makes perfect sense that Takumi has to suffer a loss. It'll force him to think about what he does and what he needs, but it also challenges him as to whether he really wants to continue doing this, that he can handle a loss and learn from it. There's a great series of events where Bunta deals with Takumi after the second race against Team Emperor and we see just how paternal he can be in his own way, but also the kind of long term planning he's done.
One of the other big arcs in this set involves the arrival of Kazumi and Wataru, siblings who have come from Saitama because Kazumi has come to work at her aunts inn for awhile in order to ease some of the pressures she has back at home. Itsuki falls for her hard, and quickly, which doesn't help how we perceive him at all. What is interesting is that Wataru, as the older brother, has a Levin of his own and he takes a vested interest in Takumi as he sees him as an interesting challenge. While Takumi is going through his own issues because of the Team Emperor release, Wataru is an ideal opponent as he's the type of person that's able to actually sit and talk with him and to highlight some of the things that Takumi needs to do in order to move to the next level. While Bunta wanted him to learn it naturally, coming to it in this form isn't all that bad either as it gets him to grapple with some real understandings of how little he knows. And a little knowledge can be dangerous, but it's uncertain as to whether Takumi with knowledge will help or impede his natural ability to race.
While we’ve seen the second stage of Initial D before from TOKYOPOP, one new thing that FUNimation has here are the two Extra Stage OVAs. They run 32 and 22 minutes respectively and they’re wonderfully fun little side stories that focus on Mako and Sayuri. Both of the OVAs spend a fair bit of time on basic character motivations and the like, enjoying the girls for who they are and some of their interactions with other racers. Mako’s in a different place than where she was before after racing Takumi and is thrilled with the potentials, but there’s that nagging uncertainty that she has to move on to other things. There’s a good race against some of the second tier Team Emperor characters that gives us some new Sileighty love because of this, but you know that the team of Mako and Sayuri can defeat them easily.
The second OVA is a good bit of fun that covers some of the same ground as the pair head up to the mountains for a weekend of snowboarding. As well as a little racing on their own since the roads are different there and the flavor of it all with the ice on the roads and the tires they use give it a new thrill. A lot of it is focused on the blind date that Sayuri set up with a friend of Shingo’s for Mako and this leads to one of the areas as to why there’s uncut versions of these two stages in the extras. Nudity. The girls spend some time in the hot spring and that means both get completely naked. While the main series has dealt with a mature issue with Natsuki’s dating, nudity has been non-existent. And for good reason as it doesn’t fit into the show. But the Extra Stage episodes have a bit of fun with it and manages to not make it completely out of place. If there was a show that I thought could avoid the hot spring element, I thought it would be Initial D.
One of the things Initial D tried to do with this season is to change its style of animation. The big focus is on improving the CG animation for the racing and they definitely made it much more intense and fluid. It still introduces a fair bit of line noise and jaggies with a number of the straight lines, especially with the interiors, but largely the added budget on the car animation is a big positive. Interestingly, the character designs are tweaked a fair bit as well. Ryosuke is largely unidentifiable at first as he looks much more like Takumi here and because of a change in hair color. Others have a similar feel where they've had tweaks made to smooth them out a bit, which on top of a more plastic-like feeling to the skin color, gives them an even more unusual look than we had in the first season. Character designs were never a bit part of the manga or the show to begin with and I continue to like the awkward quirkiness of them with this season.
Initial D really works well with this set as it takes what we got in the first season and builds wonderfully on it. The growth and change that Takumi is going through feels very natural as he wants more than what he' done so far as he starts to think that Akina isn't right for him anymore and he needs new challenges. He goes through some emotional moments as well with his car that really strikes home considering his age and the way he doesn't want to disappoint his father. The slowly moving subplot with Natsuki is frustrating, but it's balanced out by the heartbreak we see Itsuki go through again. The racing and all those involved in it and the work on the cars is spot on though. That's the real fun and Initial D does not disappoint here as Takumi is pushed to new levels and seeing him going through it, meeting the challenges and finding ways to conquer them, is what makes this series so much fun. Getting the Extra Stage episodes with this set is just the icing on the cake. With this set, all of Initial D is now out in the US and the series as a whole is a must own.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Uncut Extra Stage Episodes
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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