Choosing a path on an unfamiliar mountain road at high speed against the best opponents may prove easier for Takumi than choosing a post graduation path and the course to take with an old friend.
What They Say
Anyone can drive fast. Only one driver can be the fastest. It takes nerve, skill, and the right car - and Takumi's got all three. His rep as a dominating downhill racer is growing, but when he's invited to drive for an all-star team that could change the face of local racing, Takumi's got to beat his stiffest competition before he'll join their ranks: himself.
With graduation approaching, his classmates drift toward uncertain futures. For Takumi, looking ahead means putting as many challengers in his rearview mirror as he can. If he can prove to himself that he's ready, the next stage is waiting, and it's all downhill from there.
Content :( please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Initial-D Third Stage picks up where Second Stage left off. Mogi and Takumi are still avoiding each other after he found out about her being involved in compensated dating. She hears Itsuki yell for Takumi and hides around a corner and overhears Takumi say how he has gotten used to driving his AE-86 with its new engine and Itsuki's jealousy. Takumi's growth is shown in that he now is looking to learn more about the mechanical side to racing whereas before he was content to be an instinctual driver and cared nothing for the machine side of things. The movie takes a moment to recap the change in Takumi from someone who had no interest in racing through his victories to the present moment where has come to realize he likes to race. At this point Ryosuke arrives to make Takumi an offer.
Ryosuke has a dream of putting together an all star team from the area and then going to other prefectures with the team and setting records no one else can touch before disbanding. Ryosuke offers to exchange his knowledge to help Takumi grow in exchange for Takumi's skills. Ryosuke tells him he doesn't have to have an answer right away which is fortuitous as Takumi doesn't have one. To help him come to a conclusion he feels he has to challenge Kyoichi Sudou of Team Emperor as their last meeting was a disaster for Takumi and his AE-86.Takumi shortly learns he wasn't the only one targeting Sudou as the son of an old rival of his father was aiming for the same. Kogashiwa Kai appears before Takumi to challenge him and both get some advice from their fathers-but which one will learn the most from that advice?
The final act of the film deals with Mogi and her attempts to apologize to Takumi and return them to where they were before he found out her secret. Mogi has taken on a part time job in an attempt to prove to Takumi she has changed and learns about herself as well. As the emotional rift between them starts to close an old partner of Mogi's arrives (who Takumi already punched out in the past) on the scene and attempts to force himself on her. Will Takumi be able to make it to save her in time-and even if he does will his new dream take him away from her anyway?
Third Stage is rather satisfying in that it does a decent job of at least getting cameos for almost all the major characters who have been introduced and wrapping up a few loose ends before moving forward to the next stage. Irritatingly the intro of Kogashiwa Kai almost feels like a forced piece in the story with the sons of two old rivals competing with their fathers metaphorically in the passenger seat. While Initial-D's primary story telling device is vehicle races it would have been nice to see a bit more of the supporting cast as it appears they will be either far more limited or gone from the next stage. The film tries to give a bit of a send off to them but it just feels there could have been more done to celebrate what those characters had done and their place in Takumi's life.
Initial D Third Stage is a rare anime film that bridges the gaps between series but doesn't forget that along with the action the audience wants to see some progress with some of the other characters they have come to know and feel for over the course of the first two stages.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.