Initial D Vol. #14 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: D
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 240
  • ISBN: 1-59182-464-8
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Initial D Vol. #14

By Jarred Pine     January 23, 2006
Release Date: October 01, 2004

Initial D Vol.#14

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Shuichi Shigeno
Translated by:Dan Papia
Adapted by:

What They Say
With his reputation growing, Tak gets an offer to join a new racing team. While mulling it over, Tak wants to give the upstart, Kyoichi, a taste of his own medicine. As the race heats up, romance beings to sizzle, too!

The Review
With the R1 anime release now in limbo, it’s time to jump on over to where the story left off in the original manga for some more street racing action. It provides the same level of enjoyment but its not without its share of issues.

Instead of going with the original cover artwork from the Japanese tankoubon, TOKYOPOP has created a custom cover featuring a colored version of a piece of artwork from the header page for chapter #152. The coloring looks very nice, the design done by Gary Shum who is also responsible for the great looking BECK covers as well, and the action shot really highlights one of the major selling points of this title--high tension street racing. The English logo integrates the original kanji from the Japanese logo, with the “D” sporting a nice, glossy finish.

Inside the volume, the print reproduction looks okay. Shigeno’s artwork features a lot of dark ink work, and it comes through clean and crisp here without it looking too muddy. The one weird thing is that there appears to be a lot of “dirt” in the panels (tiny black speckles or white blotches), which I’m not clear on whether it is a printing issue or was original part of the artwork to begin with. The beginning of the book features character profiles, with the original Japanese names, as well as a few pages of “vehicle specs”. There are no other extras at the end of the volume.

Shigeno’s art style is one that will probably put off most who expect all the characters to be unbelievably cute, pretty, handsome, or sexy. His characters might not fit the good-looking mold, but his style is very unique and the execution really works well with the story. The line work is really heavy, with a lot of scratching and etching into the character designs and backgrounds, that is much more realistic in its approach and filled with a lot of great detail. Backgrounds are fairly rich and uses a nice technique with line effects and smudging during the racing sequences in order to heighten the tension and on-the-edge feel of the high speed cornering. The detail work put into the cars is also pretty exquisite, surely pleasing all the auto geeks out there who are reading this. His character designs do all seem very similar to each other, with facial expressions looking very static most of time.

The most controversial part of TOKYOPOP’s release of Initial D, which has turned off the original hardcore otaku fan base, is the below average adaptation job done in a failed attempt to bring in the uninitiated, Fast and the Furious crowd. Most of the character names have either been shortened (“Tak” for Takumi) or given more Western style names (“Kyle” for Kyoichi Sudoh), even though their original names are listed in the character profiles along with their new “nicknames”. Some of the new names you could get away with, like “Tak”, but “Cole”, “Natalie”, and “Iggy” are just downright a bit insulting.

The adapted dialogue also features a few instances of slang and cultural references that are purely American/English related. Some of the slang I can deal with, as it does feel appropriate to some characters (Sudoh saying Takumi’s “ride is tight”), but most of the time it feels out of place. This is especially true for Takumi, who is a very humble and soft-spoken character that I would not think would speak about someone else’s car as being “bad ass”, as well as Itsuki, who is a sweet, hopeless romantic that I would think would never use the term “dumb broad”. I’m also sure that “Brad Pitt” and “Days of Thunder” were not in the original text, but not being familiar with it I could be wrong.

SFX are not translated. Leaving them untouched was definitely the correct decision, as they are really integrated into the artwork during the racing sequences. But the SFX are big enough and there is enough free space in the margins where some subs could have been implemented with ease.

Contents: (As always, contents review may contain spoilers)
My first exposure to the Initial D franchise was through TOKYOPOP’s R1 release of the first two “stages” of the anime, which recently came to an end at the close of 2005 and itself was not free of controversy. The high tension street racing, eurobeat music track, ensemble cast of street racers, and relationships all worked together to create a story that I was instantly hooked on. With the anime release now halted, and no licenses of future stages announced, I decided to pick up this volume of the original manga to pick up the story where the 2nd Stage left off. The release is not without its share of issues, but the core story and reasons for my enjoyment are still intact.

After going up against a fellow Eight-Six racer in Wataru, Takumi (“Tak”) changed in a way that will now take him into the next stage of being a street racer. He now has respect for his car, which in turn is increasing his own self-confidence. With more interest in his car, Takumi seeks out some mechanic help and know-how from his good friend Koichiro (“Cole”). However, he still is not confident enough in his own abilities. So when Red Suns leader Ryosuke (“Ry”) comes to Takumi with an invitation to join his new all-star racing team he is putting together, Takumi decides that there is one last issue he must take care of in order to prove his worth--defeat Kyoichi “Kyle” Sudoh, Team Emperor leader and driver of the Evo III. Even though Takumi lost to Kyoichi in their previous match, I think readers of this series can guess how this race will turn out. What is important here is that we are now seeing a determined and driven Takumi, as he takes his Eight-Six onto the opponent’s turf to beat them on their own track. It is not an easy task to go away to beat someone, so this brave move by Takumi will leave him to rely on his newly tuned car and his one-of-a-kind driving skills honed on the streets of Mt. Akina.

This volume truly is the development of Takumi from humble, unsure newbie into humble, confident legend as Takumi goes out to take on the one man who defeated Takumi on his own turf. Kyoichi finds out the hard way that this new Takumi and reworked Eight-Six have changed and will become a team that will tough to beat. This being my first time experiencing a race outside of the anime, I was pretty impressed with how Shigeno is able to get across the high tension and drama of the race without any movement or loud techno beats. Even though the action is illustrated wonderfully, a lot of the tension is described by both Takumi and Kyoichi inside of their heads while they are driving. The action also cuts away at key parts to the Takahashi brothers as they are off site discussing Takumi’s new car and driving skills as it coincidentally relates to the ongoing race. It’s hard to really feel the little intricacies and split-second change of events in a street race through paper, but with the nicely timed dialogue from both the racers and observers, the tension and dramatic effects are kept quite high.

Between the races, the more personal dramas are explored a bit more here with Takumi still feeling angry at Natsuki after finding out about her “sugar daddy”. After being voted as the 2nd most popular boy in their grade, Takumi runs into a girl whose voice sounds exactly line the one who tipped him off about Natsuki over the phone. Takumi confronts the girl and finds out the secret behind how she was able to find out this information. It is still an ongoing story that is nice to go back to in between all the racing hijinks

While the release is not without its issues, Initial D in its original manga form is just as enjoyable as its anime adaptation. Racing hijinks and off the track personal drama are mixed in well here as Takumi raises his level of driving and starts down his road into racing legend. There is some good development here as Takumi is no longer that naïve newbie he was earlier. This is Takumi taking control of his racing with confidence and enjoying himself while doing it.

I am still a little surprised that TOKYOPOP has maintained this level of alterations to the script after 14 volumes, as I’m not all that positive that the result has pulled in that many new readers--especially enough to cover the otaku fan base that was turned off by the changes. For myself, the changes don’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the story but I am a little frustrated that such a great title was not treated with a bit more respect.


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