Memes and humor aside, here’s another look at Initial D.
What made it so cool?
Street Racing was incredibly popular in the 80’s and 90’s. It was no surprise that Initial D gained popularity when Shuichi Shigeno started producing this masterfully-storyboarded adrenaline-packed seinen.
Initial D is set in Japan’s illegal touge street racing scene; the story revolves around a young driver named Fujiwara Takumi (18), who’s been driving (drifting) up and down Mt. Akina’s touge delivering tofu for their family’s shop since he was fourteen years old. As you go along, you watch Takumi and his friends’ pursuit of higher levels of skill, as well as his growth as a young man.
Spilling water means breaking the tofu, with this as training, Takumi acquires great driving skills.
The formula was perfect. (it’s easy to say that in hindsight) Imagine you’re a teenager in the 90’s; you and your friends just got, or maybe about to get your driver’s license, there’s not much to keep you busy at home and your parents just bought you a car. What do you do? You go out for drives! Some of you might even race (Illegally, because you’re young and rebellious). Takumi and his friends even get several love interests throughout the series, what’s not relatable about it?
Not everyone can drive like Takumi, though, not immediately anyway (please race on the track).
Cars and racing, eh? I wonder what else they could use to reel in young men?
The Animation and Art
Now, this is an anime review; but I just have to point out that while the character art style might not have been the best, Shuichi Shigeno was remarkable at drawing cars for the manga.
Here you’ll also see a bit of that storyboarding I mentioned earlier, It worked well when it came to making it look fast and action-packed in the manga; this kind of storyboarding worked even better for the anime.
Being an anime, there are plenty of notions and/or actions that they do with cars that are nigh-impossible or too risky to do in real life; aside from those, the anime is actually quite technically sound (thanks to supervision and inputs from a real racer).
The racing scenes are almost exclusively 3d CGI; were you to watch the first stage of Initial D today you’d be surprised at how bad and buggy it looks, but remember, this came out in 1998! You would also have to pardon any mis-spelling (probably a legal measure?) errors on the badges of cars.
That ain’t right.
As the years went by, graphics got better and more refined; and by the fourth and fifth stage, they went for cell-shading graphics that looked more like an anime/manga compared to the realistic-looking (and overly shiny) approach they had in the first and second stages.
It is in this exact scene where we hear “Gas Gas Gas” by Manuel.
I’m a fan of all kinds of music from metal, jazz, funk, classical- all the way to eurobeat. It’s okay to like eurobeat. Just throwing it out there. It’s fast-paced with rapid beats, melodious and oftentimes complex; undeniably catchy, a fellow writer of this page couldn’t stop humming deja vu for a week when the memes started coming out.
Eurobeat is sure to get you pumped.
Eurobeat’s fast-paced beats and melody make it perfect for a racing anime and has become an integral part of Initial D. you can’t have one without the other. So it kind of stressed me out when I realized that the new Initial D legend movies (and newer arcade games) don’t have eurobeat! More on that issue in another article.
(Try googling ‘para-para dancing’.)
Initial D had a big impact, to say the least. Countless anime have referenced it. It’s driven up the price of a certain 1980’s Toyota into the sky. It’s turned car and racing lovers into anime fans and vice versa. For many, (including me) Initial D is a two-way gateway into two very different interests. Actually, make it three-ways; If you’re not a fan of either of them, this might get you into both.
Keiichi Tsuchiya, the ‘real’ Fujiwara Takumi
If you haven’t seen it yet;
and you’re looking for an anime that’s jam-packed with action and details, humorous and heartbreaking moments, give this 90’s gem a chance.