Initial D Vol. #09 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

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. #09

By Chris Beveridge     January 05, 2005
Release Date: January 11, 2005


Initial D Vol. #09
© TOKYOPOP


What They Say
The downhill battle between Tak and Ry heats up as Ry matches every move Tak makes. But Tak ultimately manages to regain his calm, executing a final "inner drop" to win the race. Tak's infamy, however, brings a new team to Gunma, and team Emperor isn't about to be defeated.

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.

Packaging:
Though the artwork is different than the Japanese releases, the covers continue to feature different cars from the series with each volume. With this being the big race volume, obviously the FC that Ryosuke drives takes the center stage with its all white exterior looking sharp against the red filtered highway background. 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 just what tofu is and specs on Ryosuke's car.

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 though none are terribly amusing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Thanks to TOKYOPOP's weird release plans and the doubling of content on a disc so that you can't get more than three episodes per volume, the ninth volume of the series concludes the first stage, which ran for twenty-six episodes. So yeah, nine volumes for a twenty-six episode series just doesn't sit well. Even worse, the first episode of the second stage/season shows up on this disc as well and the striking differences between the two stages are even more apparent than they would be otherwise.

Thankfully, this show is just so completely engrossing that you can look past this to a large extent, but when you're away from the show it just becomes annoying in the back of your head.

The end of the first stage culminates in a two episode downhill race in Akina where Takumi finally faces his biggest challenge yet in Ryosuke Takahashi. Ryosuke is definitely one of the best racers in the area because he's able to really work it out methodically and logically what it takes to win in these kinds of situations but he's also got the skill and talent to back it all up, so it's not just a thinking man's game. He's worked years to perfect his theory on what kind of driver can be the invincible type and he's finally found him in Takumi. The real way to become a top notch driver is to be able to truly master a course from top to bottom and rule it for some time before moving on, allowing all the nuances and differences to soak in. Though he would never have guessed it, Takumi fits that bill perfectly and this race lets Ryosuke sit right behind him for about half the course so that he can copy and learn exactly how Takumi performs.

With the stakes so high, this race is pure fun to watch in and of itself. Getting to see both men sweat at each others skills and to have things up in the air for several points during it certainly adds to the excitement level. A lot of the good moments come from watching the reactions of those around them on the course as they fly down the roads. Though it's a cheap way of providing exposition, it's something that a show like this almost has to rely on due to the nature of it, but getting the goods on the performance from the spectators helps to liven things up a bit but it doesn't detract from the race itself. This race is almost like a who's who of people that Takumi has defeated before and each has different opinions on who should really win here. This is probably the best race to be had on the Akina Pass in the series so far.

The start of the Second Stage in this volume brings in a lot of changes and visually it's very striking. The first season had plenty going against it with the level of CG that's used for the cars, the character designs and the overall low-quality feel of the animation. But it managed to overcome all of that due to a hugely popular manga series and a very engaging series of races that just kept bringing the people back. The second season looks to have actually gotten a bit more money and it's had a varying effect on how it comes across. In terms of the cars, they look more stylish, more detailed and rounder edges to it that give them an even better feel. They're not quite the boxy things we got at the first couple of episodes of the first season.

The world that everything is in is also improved. The backgrounds have much richer colors to them and look more alive while the CG backgrounds are even more detailed and feature more movement to them when necessary. The bigger change is in the characters which now look less flat than they used to but still retain the same kind of designs. In fact, with the added colors and greater variety to areas such as skin palettes, some characters make out worse. Itsuki in particular looks even freakier looking in this season. Strangely, Ryosuke turns up for a bit but he's sporting a brown hair style now instead of the black we just saw him with, enough so that it's easy to mistake him for Takumi at first. Overall the new look helps to improve things but it does look representative of a lot of shows that started playing with digital painting and coloring back in 1999.

As for the plot, the show has things somewhat laid back since the results of the last big race but it doesn't stay that way for long. One of the groups that we saw scouting out Gunma in the first season has come back, Team Emperor, and they're intent on conquering Gunma so that they can expand their power with their all Lan-Evo racing team. Their first goal is to have a rematch with Ryosuke since he defeated them back on their own mountain a year prior but their meeting with him sets things up to realize that the status quo isn't the same anymore and what they came to find isn't what's going to cause them the most trouble. There's some fun character bits tossed into the mix here and some good simple moments with Takumi and Natsuki that show their relationship is continuing to improve that gives the series more life beyond the cars. The setup in this episode is pretty obvious though and the focus of this season is definitely going to be on Team Emperor.

In Summary:
With the conclusion of the first stage, we get an amazing race over the course of two episodes that succeeds in giving us what we thought it would from the first time Ryosuke talked about challenging Takumi. In a real rare moment, the season ends in a way you wish more shows would with a clean simple break but the open-ended setting for more to come. The second season does kick off with this volume as well and while there are some radical visual changes, the heart of the show remains the same. This series is like a pure drug as it's got us hooked hard.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Dub Outtakes,Showroom

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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