The cars that go boom
Initial D is one of the most popular anime series out there revolving around street racing (let’s be honest, probably the most popular), and it continues to attract new fans as the years pass. So it’s not surprising that the film trilogy is being released in North America via Sentai Filmworks.
The “New Initial D,” or “Initial D: New Theatrical Edition” film series isn’t a set of new content based on Shuichi Shigeno’s manga or anime, though. It’s actually a retelling of the beginning of the manga, split into three parts: Legend 1: Awakening, Legend 2: Racer, and Legend 3: Dream. With that said, you’ll absolutely have to have seen the first two films or have seen the anime and/or read the manga for this installment to make much sense. If you decide to take the plunge and watch the first two films to get amped up for the third, you’ll be in for a treat: everything looks, sounds, and feels so much better than you may previously have remembered if you got into Initial D early.
After having seen the first two parts of the trilogy, I was ready to round the curve with Legend 3: Dream, similarly updated and cleaned up with gorgeous new animation and decidedly less clunky CG scenes. The series has always been known for its subpar racing scenes with CG cars that used to be impressive at the time the series made its debut, but it’s obviously become dated over time. The new animation breathes new life into the story of Takumi Fujiwara, Mount Akina, the Akagi RedSuns, and the Akira Speedstars, and it shows.
The third leg of the trilogy finds Fujiwara taking on Ryosuke Takahashi of the Akagi RedSuns as Fujiwara navigates his apparent double life as a gas station attendant and delivery driver as well as boyfriend to Natsuki Mogi. Their relationship continues to blossom and Fujiwara continues to find himself in the world of street racing, and we finally see a victor emerge for the race the series has been building up to. Takumi and Ryosuke’s cutthroat race is the crowning jewel of this entry, and for good reason—it gets your blood pumping from the first few moments of the film.
One thing that fans of the anime’s drama and ever complicated relationships will appreciate is the attention paid to Takumi’s time spent with Natsuki and the additional information revealed about her as well as her past with an ex-boyfriend. There’s plenty of time spent, similarly, on the ties between the human elements behind the cars and the races. For me, that’s always been one of Initial D‘s strongpoints, well beyond the speed machines.
This installment, like viewing the final piece of the Berserk film trilogy, ties up the clean new Initial D package with impressive new animation, voice acting, dialogue, and expanded scenes that make it easy for newbies to jump aboard without investing as much time in the anime series. It’s easy to see why anime series are often chopped up into films like this one—it’s a fast, efficient, and lavish way to treat classics as well as get a swath of new fans on board. This film wraps up the trilogy nicely, and comes highly recommended.
Studio/company: Sentai Filmworks
This story appears in the August 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.