Initial D Vol. #04 - 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: B-
  • 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. #04

By Chris Beveridge     March 04, 2004
Release Date: March 09, 2004


Initial D Vol. #04
© TOKYOPOP


What They Say
With the Night Kids' #1 driver defeated, out of nowhere comes their #2 racer, the arrogant Shingo, who challenges Takumi to the most challenging street race yet!

Meanwhile, Takumi and Natsuki openly express their feelings for each other and finally start dating. Little does Takumi realize that Natsuki is dating someone else...

The Review!
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. Some areas on this particular encoding don't come off so well, such as when Itsuki is with Takumi under the tree, you can see the red in his shirt breaking up a lot. There are a few areas like this, mostly with the traditionally animated reds.

Packaging:
Though the artwork is different than the Japanese releases, the covers continue to feature different cars from the series with each volume. The front cover for this let's the EG-6 take center stage with Shingo now entering the picture. Images 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 in my book, and the back lists the episode numbers and titles. There are a few animation shots on the back cover as well as a brief summary of the series 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. The insert provides another shot of the front cover and opens to provide a panel on various technical terms. The other panel provides some car specs and a bio on Shingo.

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 are pretty similar to past volumes. There's the latest showroom piece that talks about the moves done during these episodes with some small explanations about them. The dub outtakes section brings a few more goofs and gaffes from the show. The most fascinating thing is a three-minute home video that some of the folks took while in Japan as they went out to Gunma Prefecture and hit up Akagi. There's a great piece where they go into some little rest stop area and the place is just filled with all sorts of Initial D goods. While the show probably didn't put the area on the map, there's definitely some love for it by those you come across in this piece and it's helped add an attraction to the area.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the wait between the second and third volumes seemed endless, the releases have started to pick up a bit more now, but it still feels painful since you get through these three episodes so quickly that by the time you really get a high from the show, it's already over.

This volume is pretty heavily filled with races, picking up with downhill race between Takumi and Nakazato. The race between them is pretty intense, particularly due to the kind of car Nakazato has, but also because we get filled in along the way about what's happening via a commentary from the Takahashi brothers as they're trailing behind so that they can observe and figure out their own plans. There's plenty going against Takumi in this downhill run, plenty of it oblivious to him, but the results are the same since he's able to take advantage of it.

One of the best aspects of this volume is the growing characterization bits, such as the bit of time that Takumi and Natsuki spend together just having a meal as their relationship gets closer and closer. In particular, we get Takumi agreeing to another road trip date with her but this time following-up on a promise to Itsuki to ensure he comes along, so Natsuki puts out some feelers and gets a date for the cornball. Itsuki fits that role so perfectly that he's just plain amusing when the two of them are waiting for their dates. The two guys are mirror opposites of each other and just the way they wait for the dates shows their differences. Itsuki lucks out though and manages to get himself quite the catch, and she even seems to like him. Continuing proof that there's someone for everyone.

Itsuki makes out well in this volume in another area as he buys his own Eight-Six. Well, at least he thinks that's what he's bought until it arrives. It's got the body of an Eight-Six, but once you get under the hood, it's actual the model year before that, an Eight-Five or a Levin. Itsuki is made quite a lot of fun of for his miscalculation in buying something that's so completely bad, but there's a great honesty moment where Takumi tells him how he envies him since Itsuki at least owns his car. The friendship between these two definitely runs quite a long time and it's a great moment to see them deal with this, though they do both act like males over it.

Since Takumi helps Itsuki regain some of his confidence, he feels better taking the car out on Akina and getting some time in on the course. The two guys hanging out and just enjoying the drive is a great moment, but like all great moments something just has to come along and ruin it. For these guys, it's a trio of racers from elsewhere, not affiliated with anyone I believe, who see the Levin and just start laughing at it and insulting Itsuki left and right over it. This proves to be another critical moment in Takumi's evolution into a real racer as he's feeling some pride for his friend and his position. So when the trio take off in their two cars and head downhill, Takumi takes the wheel of the Levin and gives them a race they certainly don't expect.

While it's a thrilling ride, as well as the subsequent race as things against the Night Kids lower ranks try to upstage Nakazato, it's the moment when Takumi just gets that look that he's taking control that brings this volume so much power. Through his race with the Levin against definitely higher powered vehicles, he gets to illustrate unknowingly that it's not always the machine that wins the race but the driver ? something the elder Takahashi brother knows well, hence his time spent observing Takumi so much. Takumi continues to build his record as someone simply born with a gift that he's able to master easily, especially when he takes Iketani's car out for a spin and gives him a repeat trip downhill screaming.

In Summary:
As we're getting to know the characters better, the races become more exciting since we're tied more to them now and we're in the flow of some of the tricks. The moments that Takumi does his magic and drifts ahead take on a new appreciation, especially as you get more and more used to the CG animation for the races. Even better, the personal side of the characters and their lives is being nicely built upon and starting to warrant more attention. I can't wait to see more of Natsuki and to see if her friend comes back to give Itsuki a really good time.

The downsides for this series just continue to be the same though. The lack of an accurate dub continues to hurt, the release schedule is painful and the simple fact that I'm already so much further ahead of this in the manga makes it somewhat frustrating. It's great to see the races I've read about animated (though I come back to thinking the manga version makes it more exciting at times), but at the same time I keep wanting to get to the really good races and competitions that are still to come in the series.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Outtakes,Showroom,Mount Akagi Footage

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 Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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