Archive for the 'Initial D' Category

Initial D S1 01-11

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Initial D is another discovery courtesy of Fabulous Anime Club at UNM. It does not top the amazing discovery of Nodame, but it underscores once again the importance of extending horizons once and again. No, I’m not watching Madoka. But I thought Initial D was some kind of stupid action flick like Fast and Furious, and I was traumatized by the EX-Driver.

Unfortunately for blogging’s usefulness, I come here encumbered. I drove a Neon, you see. Been to street races in Fremont. Visited The Riceboy Page when it was alive. I know what a “hachiroku” is, although I learned about it much later, when Toyota tried to re-create its mistique. Therefore, a lot of enjoyment for me here is the kind of thing engineers get when watching Rocket Girls, only less cerebral. It’s real. In the same time, it’s not: everything is idealized, like in idol anime. This assessment is a very important point: I want it that way.

Still, trying to step back a little, it seems surprisingly well made on merits. The basic 3D is not jarring, somehow. I reacted violently when the reference was made in Lucky Star, but here it feels in place. The old-time animation is adorable. Designs seem like caricatures of Kiminozo‘s. Characters are very likeable, although I harbor doubts about the nature and role of Mogi. This includes the initial antagonists. It is not very common when Sorting Algorithm of Evil can be employed with such fidelity and consistency while training on non-lethal enemies. Training in StrikerS? Bitch, please.

Not sure if I want to proceed from here on, the franchise is fairly long. But then I always rewatch 2 first episodes of Ai yori Aoshi, too. I am ok with loving a part.

Omitted Material:

  • Initial D is a mecha anime, albeit without power multiplier. It does have the concept of an ace though.
  • My Neon was an EX, with a SOHC, just like Itsuki’s AE-85 in the sense of its relationship with DOHC models before the PL2K generation. But it was lighter than ACR. True story. Also, I’m just as talentless and enthusiastic as Itsuki. Whenever I visit a kart track, I lap 110% of the track’s best.
  • About real-unreal: there’s a real-unreal inside the anime itself, with the selection of the downhill as equipment equalizer. The characters select the unreal because they want it.
  • Jeremy Clarkson once said that the speed is the only truly modern sensation. He was paraphrasing James Dickey, who actually said it about the flight. But then, a famous aviator once said that speed is the only reason for flight (I think it as Al Mooney).
  • Among animebloggers, I think the one with a connection would be Adun, but I don’t have a great relationship with him. He’s also gone inactive. He used to drive a Mazda of some kind, possibly an FD. The joy of living in a RHD country. {Update: Omo told me that he drove a 240SX!}
  • BTW, nobody uses the phrase “FR layout”. It’s a Japanism re-implanted.
  • It’s a FUNi’s title (“FUNi only licenses garbage” – precision 90%).

Curse of The Gifted in a car

Friday, February 8th, 2013

In the very beginning of Initial D, there is a scene where the three friends ride in the car. Iketani, leader of Akina Speed Stars, is behind the wheel and introduces the two others, Itsuki and Takumi, to the spirited driving. Both scared, and Takumi is scared senseless. But why? Takumi is an innate driving genius. Iketani’s driving should have been nothing for him. I thought about it, but could not figure it out.

CKS offers the following explanation:

What Initial D did really well was show and convince us that Iketani was actually not a good driver and his fast drive was pretty sloppy. Takumi was rightfully scared because he actually understood what was going on and how dangerous it was; Iketani was oblivious.

I think he’s spot on, in anime terms. But it did not work for me, not in that way. Of course, I have a great track record of misconstructing what I see. But in this case, it’s more: the scene directly contradicts my background.

Here’s how I consider it. Since Iketani did not, in fact, crash, we know that he did not “sit into a funnel”, or entered a zone where no control input was sufficient to prevent crash. If Takumi possessed the extreme abilities that we assign to him, he must have known it right there as the situation developed.

Once upon a time I rode shotgun with a certain young lady, grabbed the wheel, and saved us from an imminent death when she attempted to submarine a semi (it merged into us because its lane was ending). In this situation, a way out existed, and I took it. She could’ve have taken it too. And strictly speaking, it was impossible to know if she would.

The situation in Iketani’s car was basically the same, so it came down to trusting him to do it right. Which Takumi did not. Why? Iketani drove that way before. What is the panic about?

The whole scene made no sense to me.

Chris, however, figured it out instantly. And it came naturally to him.

UPDATE: What they were aiming for was portrayed better by an episode of BBC series "Top Gear", where Mika Hakkinen teaches James May how to drive on a rally circuit. Watch the facial expression of Hakkinen playing Takumi while May is missing a tree at 140 km/h:

Heavy spoilers for Omo: Iketani and Mako-chan

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Omo asked:

Want to see how you react to the Iketani romance stuff.

Your wish is my command: I reacted with delight.

The story of Iketani and Mako-chan is nicely tragic. Not tragic in the same sense the story of Simon and Nia is. That one is tragic epically. This one is tragic taxonomically.

It was staged and played well, starting with the very foreshadowing. I could not guess how the chips were going to fall, and in the very last moment I knew they the creators played the uncertainty on purpose.

Characters did well, too. They probably didn’t conform to any watcher’s wishes. But I don’t think I would’ve done any better. In any case they came out sympathetic, in my opinion.

By the way, it’s a great “young adult” demo thing, for the lack of better word. I am so sick of school romance. I think the last good one in this area for me was Dai Guard. Kiminozo? Eyeroll. H&C? Puke.

In the same time, the romantic duo were plugged into the main story of a highschoolers very well. It was not their anime, but they had a lot of screen time, and it was not wasted. It’s a great balance and purpose, I would say.

P.S. A little secondary in importance, but I think that for all the heartbreak the protagonists came out on the upside. On the one side, Iketani is a great upstanding guy, an excellent boyfriend material, but no more than that. He lives with his parents and works at a gas station. Worse, apparently has no plans for the future, when even a goof like Takumi considers it. On the other side, Mako is a bit underdeveloped, for her age. It’s impossible not to fall in love with her, but knowing what I know now, getting saddled with her is not going to be a picnic for whoever. This knowledge helps to get over it (not helping the characters, but provides a helpful distance for the viewer).

P.P.S. A dog that did not bark: I expected angst on the topic of “my girlfriend is a better driver than I am”, but none followed. Very nice.

Thomas M. Kreutzer, the witness

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

In an unlikely coincidence one Thomas Kreutzer wrote for the TTAC today:

Given the natural perfectionist bent of the average Japanese construction worker and the sweetheart deals the Japanese government often makes with local construction and paving companies, you can only imagine those roads; they go places and do things that no road ever should. Isolated ribbons of silky smooth pavement punch through mountains in a gross display of Japanese tunneling prowess.

This explains everything! But wait!

The Japanese anime series “Initial D” gives a pretty good view of the Japanese street racing scene back then. Local heroes in small highly modified cars gathered along the route wherever the road widened just enough to park. // It was there that the vast majority of cars would gather, their hoods open, while sullen young men in black t-shirts bearing nonsensical English phrases shuffled about or stood in small groups, their hands in their pockets and cheap bad smelling cigarettes hanging from their bottom lips. These were the “hashiriya” or runners […]

Occasionally I would see an accident but they were always minor. The big crashes happened in the dead of night, long after the lightweights like myself had gone home.



[…] One of my students got a little too far over one time and tore the front wheel completely off his car. I thought it was just a dumb accident until I saw Initial D years later, now I know what he was thinking…


Sunday, February 17th, 2013

It was a while since I bought obsolete physical media, but I think this was worth it. I’m going to rewatch it in glorious low-def now!

Funny how FUNi choose their licenses by rummaging in a dark bin and mostly fetching drek. But once in a blue moon they win big.

Deparking in Initial D

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

One thing bothers me in Initial D slightly: when the characters unpark to get moving, they always take the car off the parking brake first.

But isn’t it backwards? One uses parking brake when there’s a possibility of a rollaway to begin with. But if so, why defeat the safety before the gear is engaged? Drop the brake when you engage the clutch was the common sense where I learned to drive. In an anime with this attention to detail, surely creators portrayed the deparking this way on purpose, but why?

Release schedules and cliffhangers

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

I am not fan enough to know what’s going on with it, but apparently Initial D Fifth Stage ceased its run after ep.10 at a major cliffhanger, the likes of which we didn’t see since Pioneer releasing Tenchi on VHS. Except that apparently this is not an OVA and it’s happening in anime’s original market. Are rankings this bad? ANN says DVDs sell very well.

P.S. Apparently it’s on a monthly schedule, analogous to initial broadcast of Katanagatari, only not on NoitaminA, but on a PPV channel. Sounds like an excellent way to drive the whole thing into the ground, congratulations to rights owners. Works even better than Takumi getting over Natsuki and jumping at that golfer chick in a space of two episodes.

About Initial D Fourth Stage

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

The Initial D franchize stitched from several seasons (and a movie) that form a fairly good continuity. But they are quite different in the animation techniques and even character design. The first season had a definite feeling of something old-fashioned, like Gundam almost, if not Ranma. It also introduced and established a lot of characters, including the goofy sidekick Itsuki and notional sempai Iketani. There was quite a bit of typical cartoon violence and hijinks in the spirit of the period.

I think I liked it the most. The subsequent seasons firmly switched into the battle of the day mode. It’s not like the First Stage didn’t have those, mind. But the focus was strengthened thereafter, and it was almost boring, if you can call a fast-paced action that. The plot explored the envelope of the enemies, including the malicious corner, but I don’t even remember most of it now, with only the finale of Fourth Stage staying in memory.

Said finale comes back to the envelope’s center, meeting fairly plain opponenents, only stronger than before. And then… The two middle-aged guys turned out to be something else. One part that I rewatched several times was the battle with a pudgy gentleman in Nissan R34 aka GT-R. The director went very, very heavy on the foreshadowing in the episode, so even an ingnorant and lazy viewer like me knew that something was up… But what? I could not figure it out. By the time the dramatic BGM played, I gave it up and went with the flow of action completely. It was glorious.

Car is a mecha

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

I built the analogy of anime mecha with a fighter airplane before, but it may be taken further. It’s not like every mecha flies (for instance, more “real” Gundams do not). Also, power multiplier and the ace factor are not the only attributes that make mecha attractive as entertainment. Surely the sheer fun of piloting a Gundam would be tremendous. Of course, nobody can afford a Gundam, but a few people have fighter airplanes, and a very large number of people own cars. Car is basically a populist mecha, which you can experience. Although I did not know it until I rode an Auto-X run.

I think the other appeal of Initial D lies in how real it is. There were series that gave attention to the mechanical side, e.g. Lotus 7 of Ex-Driver. But that one was set in a fake police force environment, while this one captured the real world subculture. Come to think of it, there’s not a whole lot of technobabble in Initial D, except the very rough outline of what layout has what capabilities, and how various forced induction setups differ. We don’t know a whole lot about functioning of Gundam either. I suppose the people reality works just as well as the otakuist reality of Garupan.

We can say that a fine balance and synthesis of visceral experience and narrative fidelity makes the series so appealing.


Thursday, April 25th, 2013

This was my first time applying a no-background vynil, and of course I did not know what I was doing. Behold:

The problem is, the tiny letters came off the backing improperly: they tried to stay on the paper. Thus, in parts they had paper backing under them, and elsewhere they were deformed. So, two lessons. One: pay attention to the decal size. This one is tiny. It’s possible to order a larger one, but I missed it. Two: be extraordinarily vigilant and ready to help with a knife.

Certainly, Evirus is not going to add this to his Itasha picture collection at Pinterest, but this is the first time for me to have an anime sticker on my car, and I’m taking it slowly.

P.S. I forgot to mention that I feel like this is going to be obscure enough, like the big yellow “X”, meaning of which eludes me even now. I figured out the yellow “railroad ties” in a blue square (spolier: they mean “gay”). The meaning of the “fox” logo is not so clear, but apparently it’s a snowboarder. This might as well work of “anime”. Does not have to be a cartoon face with saucer eyes.

UPDATE: Evirus humoured me, while Steven asked “what is a `speed stab’?”. Oh, you. But yes, it does kinda look like that.