Initial D Vol. #02 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: C
  • 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

Initial D Vol. #02

By Chris Beveridge     September 28, 2003
Release Date: October 14, 2003


Initial D Vol. #02
© TOKYOPOP


What They Say
One week ago, Tak was delivering tofu for his father's shop. Now he finds himself in the middle of a new world of speed and excitement.

When an undefeated racing team arrives in Akina to challenge the Speed Stars, Tak steps in to accept the challenge. He has years of experience maneuvering Mt. Akina's hairpin curves on daily tofu runs, but is that enough to defeat the Red Sun's RX-7?

The Review!
The races starting becoming more of a thrill for Takumi, but as any young guy will attest, going to the beach with an attractive girl will top anything.

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 1998, Initial D has a decent looking transfer that makes the best of the materials. The show is a mix of traditional animation and CG effects, with the CG mostly used for the cars. The main problem that will bother some people more than others is the frame jitter during scene transitions; this occurs more doing the anime -> anime transitions than an anime -> CG or vice versa. There’s a touch of cross coloration in a few scenes and a very light amount of aliasing. 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:
With the Japanese release, they used each cover to showcase a different car from the series. This looks to continue here albeit with different artwork. The front cover for this volume has a nice CG style shot of Keisuke’s FD with some light motions behind it. Shots 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 for me, and the back lists the episode numbers and titles. There’s a few animation shots on the back cover as well as a brief summary of the 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. I continue to think it’s very wrong however to list the running time as 150 minutes when, even though there’s two versions, it’s essentially the same thing. The insert provides another shot of the front cover and opens to provide a panel on various street racer terms which are pretty version-neutral. The other panel provides a brief breakdown of four of the main characters. Also included in this first volume is one of the CCG cards from the upcoming game release. I got the “start dash” card. I feel cheated.

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 take a sizeable drop here, not that there was much on the first volume. The second vehicle showcase gallery provides a look at more cars. One dubious “extra” that’s really nothing more than cross marketing promotion is the Introduction the Initial D Collectible Card Game. I continue to be enthusiastic over the fact that I never got into CCG’s at all.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a fun first volume that took a bit of adjustments to get used to the strange mix of CG and animation – never mind the creepy character designs, the second installment moves forward quickly into the race concept itself and gets Takumi into things more seriously.

With his father now trying to find a way to change Takumi’s perception of driving from being a chore to something that can be fun, he’s set a goal for his son by casually indicating he’d pay for a full tank of gas for him if he manages to win on the Akina downhill that weekend. With gas being as expensive as it can be for those still in school, Takumi ends up taking the deal. After all, how could he not want to spend a day at the beach with Natsuki? (ok, ok, just imagine you look like they do in that world and then ask the question.)

This brings us to the first real on race between Takumi and Keisuke but also brings the revelation to the Speed Stars at just who is really behind the Eight-Six. In an amusing sequence where the Eight-Six arrives just as the race is about to start, you get Iketani excited that it’s there but expecting Takumi’s father. When Takumi gets out, the reactions of the friends is spot on, as much as I continue to dislike Itsuki. This kid needs a serious beating and to be put in his place. Talk about overreactions.

Iketani ends up realizing what’s going on pretty quickly and entrusts the fate of the race and the honor of the Akina Speed Stars to him. Watching the race as the two cars shoot downhill, it’s an interesting difference in styles that makes it interesting. Keisuke is completely into the moment but also arrogant about his prospects, letting it accentuate his wild side. In watching Takumi, all I could do is think of him as Shiro from Wings of Honneamise, where he’s simply going through the motions and almost disinterested in what’s going on. His blas style is thankfully not apparent to others since externally his Eight-Six is catching up faster and faster than Keisuke would ever admit.

The racing and the strutting takes up a good chunk of the episodes, but there’s a fair amount of other interesting areas as well. The date between Takumi and Natsuki is played out interestingly enough, especially when Natsuki ends up in a brief moment where she reveals a bit too much about herself and her sugardaddy. The change in relationships between Takumi and his father is slight, but it’s amongst his friends and co-workers that his status changes completely. Itsuki still can’t believe it, but everyone else is just in awe over what Takumi considers mundane maneuvers and pretty much explains it as such.

Some of the most interesting moments come from the other racers. With Ryosuke very interested in how Takumi pulled off what he did, his keen eye manages to discover the secret. But the secret was also figured out by Nakazato, the best racer from the Nightkids group. His arrival on the scene is played out with an almost comical effect as his black GTR slips into the stream behind Ryosuke at one point and the music just hits it perfectly with how it looks.

The series continues to be addictive and fun to watch even with the weaknesses in how it looks as well as the loss of the informational text you get in the manga. Between the music and the racing effects though, you feel the charge that Takumi’s starting to feel, but it just drops off quickly due to the limited number of episodes on the disc here. While the price point helps, I’d still much rather have more episodes at a time at a higher price.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Intro to the CCG,Showroom #2

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50” LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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