Initial D Vol. #14 - 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: 14.99
  • Running time: 56
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Initial D

Initial D Vol. #14

By Chris Beveridge     November 11, 2005
Release Date: November 08, 2005


Initial D Vol. #14
© TOKYOPOP


What They Say
Episode 40
Beyond The Impact Blue
As usual Mako and Sayuki are racing on Mt. Usui. But Mako can't concentrate on her driving because of the break up with Iketani. They both learn from Shingo that a team made of Lancer Evolutions called Emperor is targeting Usui now, to conquer the Gunma area. Will Mako and Sayuki be able to defeat the Evolution team?

Episode 41
Sentimental White
Mako and Sayuki are out snowboarding. There they meet up with Shingo who introduces the Night Kids' Miyahara to Mako. This was Sayuki's and Shingo's plan to get them together. Mako and Miyahara gradually become closer, but one day Miyahara tells Mako that he is going to quit racing and asks her to quit, too.

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 released to video in 2001, the transfer for the two episode OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source material is pretty much the same as the previous stages but the show makes out better in general with a better budget which means better animation as well as much better CG animation for the cars and races which helps a lot, particularly in the transition scenes or places where the two types cross over. The cross coloration and aliasing however is completely non-existent compared to the TV series run with a very clean and clear look. The two episodes have a break in them only by the episode title showing up so there is only one opening and ending sequence across the entire show.

Packaging:
Though the artwork is different than the Japanese releases, the covers continue to feature different cars from the series with each volume. Since the Sil-Eighty is the main focus of this storyline it gets to shine on the front cover as it strikes against the guardrail with lots of sparks showing. 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 a couple of paragraphs talking about the origins of hot springs and how common they are in anime.

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 as the only thing we get is the dub outtakes section which 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)
The Extra Stage of the Initial D series is a welcome change of pace from the main series itself as it does a nice bit of filling in one of the side stories without Takumi and letting a couple of the more entertaining characters shine for a bit. With its focus on the Sil-Eighty team of Mako and Sayuki, it gives some time to dealing with the character issues as well as providing some good race sequences. Even better, we get some of the best looking CG car animation yet.

Taking place not long after Mako finds herself being dumped by Iketani, or at least believing that since we see what really happened and then find out just what kind of real idiot Iketani is, Mako's still not back into the swing of things with her racing. She's continuing her desire to race and working at it, but as Sayuki notes during one of their practice runs, she races by her passion and emotion and that's turbulent right now. She's able to coax it out of her and there's a great shocking moment for Sayuki when she learns just how far Mako was ready to go for this guy. What she needs though is to figure out how to get Mako out of her slump and back into gear.

That opportunity starts to come around when Sayuki meets up with her childhood friend Shingo whose brought Nakazato along to tell her about their defeat at the hands of the Team Emperor and their Lan-Evo setup. Sayuki's got the mindset to not be afraid of it and is more disgusted at how the guys performed and lost on their own turf, enough so that she doesn't realize that Nakazato's now got the hots for her which is an amusing turn of events. When the lower ranking members of the Team Emperor show up just to provide some intimidation against the folks from Usui, they end up in a race with the pair that gives Sayuki the impetus she needs – the guy rags on female racers in general which she takes extremely personally and it lights a strong fire inside of her.

Mako and Sayuki do a surprisingly good job of holding together the two episodes as the lead characters since there are so many small ties to the other characters and relationships that bring in people that are more prominent in the main series. Since the female characters have been minimal overall and these two are something of a rarity as the only fleshed out female racers in the show up through the second stage of the show, they're naturally popular characters and these episodes let them shine nicely. Mako even gets to provide some good naked fan service in a few instances, such as the shower and hot spring, which isn't as scary as it would sound at first since the character designs and animation is much better here than within the TV series. The first season of the show is faithful to the manga's designs and the second season took them to a digital look and altered several of them but this OVA smoothes out a lot of the wrinkles in their designs, adds more consistency across the secondary characters and brings in more of what you could consider a mainstream look while still retaining the key things that make them look so different.

What really got me excited throughout this show was just how fantastic the cars looked throughout it. Similar to how the character designs have evolved, the first seasons cars looked blocky and clunky but the tension was certainly there during the races. In the second season they got a lot smoother but still had some issues with meshing with the now very start digital character animation. With this new OVA series, the cars look amazing with gorgeous reflections and very smooth lines with hardly any shimmering lines on them as well as some solid meshing with the characters getting in and out of them. Pretty much every vehicle here looks great but it's the Sil-Eighty that I think really manages to shine the most since it's given such a focus.

In Summary:
With nary an appearance by Takumi, this one may be a bit of a hard sell for some folks but if you've gotten wrapped up in the addictive storyline that's run throughout the first two stages of the series, this extra stage does a solid job of fleshing out a couple of interesting characters and showing how they moved from defeat to being ready for something more while events swirled around them. The TV series has the natural focus on Takumi and the Eight-Six but this shows that there is much more out there that's just as entertaining. The two episodes here serve as a great bridge to tide you over after the end of the series and before the next big thing.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Dub Outtakes

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

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