This film was initially an anime and then was mad into a live action film. Having not seen the anime until after the film, I actually prefer the film. It is much like the Japanese live action version of Deathnote and I really liked the transition.
If you’re feeling a little confused, it’s fine. I am talking about Initial D, which is full of cars, speed, and cool driving skills. This was made before the Fast and Furious films, which changed up the style of car movies. They went all heist with fast cars, while Initial D is more about drifting on windy roads. It’s quite strange, considering that it’s based on a Japanese anime, but it’s a Chinese film. Usually when a Japanese anime gets the live action treatment for the first time, it’s done with a Japanese director and actors. This was different and rather enjoyable.
The film begins with empty roads in the late afternoon in Japan. It’s nice and quiet and there are a lot of winding roads. Two drivers are standing together, Nakazato and Takahashi. They talk about challenging all the other racers in the area to see who is the very best. They want to drive on mountain roads because it’s more exciting than driving on tracks. After the titles, a Toyota AE86 is drifting its way down the mountain roads, driven by Takumi, who is delivering tofu for his dad, Bunta. Takumi is calm and very still as he’s speeding along the windy roads with one hand on the wheel. Tofu in water is seen in the trunk of his car, but the water isn’t splashing because he’s in control of the car.
He’s at the tofu shop and finds his dad passed out drunk. He tries to help his dad up the stairs, but his grip slips. His dad goes tumbling down, but is still asleep. Takumi’s friend Itsuki is watching a baseball game on the school field with his friends. He’s ranting about the headmistress of the school and how he’s been mistreated. Everything he says is nonsensical and played for laughs. Takumi is seated, listening to Itsuki talking about being a racer at the Mount Akina Speed Stars Team. He talks about how to drift, but Takumi has his own way of drifting and a quick clip shows how he executes the maneuver. Itsuki offers Takumi a place on his racing team.
A group of girls walk past and Itsuki acts sleazy, but one of the girls looks straight at Takumi. Later on, Itsuki is working at his dad’s petrol station with Takumi. Nakazato pulls up in his black car. He’s part of another race team called the Night Kids. He’s there to challenge the racing god of Mount Akina. He is brushed off by Itsuki’s dad and he drives off saying “We’ll be waiting for him tonight at Mount Akina.”
Towards the top of Mount Akina, a group of young men have gathered with their cars and Nakazato and Takahashi are talking about how many races they’ve won. Itsuki turns up in his car and challenges Nakazato to a race. Takumi is commenting on how uncomfortable he feels around so many other racers. Itsuki drives off and Nakazato chases after him. They laugh in their car because Itsuki doesn’t know how to drift and crashes the car. He loses and drops Takumi off at the tofu shop with a busted headlight.
Takahashi and Nakazato are at a different petrol station and Takahashi discusses the weaknesses of Nakazato’s GTR car. This upsets Nakazato and he drives off. As he’s driving off, Takumi is driving behind him in his Toyota. He is keeping up with the GTR, every bend, every drift, it’s very cool. Takumi manages to overtake him mid drift. Nakazato is shocked as he watches this small car drive off in front of him. He stops his car and gets out to watch the AE86 drift its way down the mountain roads.
The next day, Nakazato turns up at Itsuki’s dad’s petrol station and asks about the AE86 that overtook him. He says he saw the tofu shop logo. Everyone, but Nakazato, looks to Takumi, who is in his own world, all aloof. Itsuki and his dad think the racer is Takumi’s dad. They don’t know who it really is. Takumi finishes a shift and sees his girlfriend, the girl in the group he locked eyes with in a previous scene, Natsuki. They go to a quiet place by the river to spend time together, she talks while he eats food. Itsuki’s dad, who Bunta calls Gasman, turns up to take Bunta for drinks. Gasman tries to get the truth out of Bunta about his nighttime racing, but Bunta explains that it is his son who is actually driving, not him.
There’s a series of flashbacks where Takumi is driving, delivering tofu for his dad. One night, the tofu is ruined and he is beaten up by his dad. Bunta sees Takumi in the car and hands him a cup of water to place in the car. Takumi has learned how to drift in a safer way, not ruining the tofu or spilling the water from the cup, tough love from his dad. Back at the bar, Gasman tries to convince Bunta to let Takumi race the other drivers.
The next day, Itsuki goes to race at Mount Akina. Gasman calls up Bunta asking him to let his son go and drive alongside his son.Takahashi drops by the tofu shop and antagonizes Bunta about choosing marriage over racing. Bunta is upset and tells Takahashi to leave. Night falls and after a conversation Takumi has with his dad, he goes uphill to race the GTR. Nakazato looks ready for the race, while Takumi doesn’t seem interested at all.During the race, Bunta is on the phone with Gasman talking about how quick Takumi is and how he’s able to drift through hairpin bends and sharp corners. Takumi manages to drift on the inside of a bend, on dirt and a long metal drain on the road. Nakazato is once again shocked by this.
Takumi wins and takes the GTR keys from Takahashi. The following evening, Itsuki is driving his own AE86 with Takumi in the passenger seat. Another racer, bandana guy, angers Takumi, who drives against this new driver. It’s more personal as Takumi uses his skills out of anger and the other racer crashes. Itsuki the next day is still throwing up due to the high speeds Takumi was achieving the night before. Takumi races bandana guy and bandana guy’s friend, but the AE86 breaks down and he loses.
After this setback, it’s time to fight back. The film itself feels like a Rocky film to me minus the boxing, but with cars and racing. Bunta is sad about the car and now he isn’t able to deliver tofu to his customers. Takumi just looks sad as he stares at his car with Takahashi dropping by and telling him of a rematch with bandana guy, Kyouichi. Bunta sees the sadness in his son’s face and gets Takumi a new engine for his car. He also shows him how he used to drive with an engine that belongs in a performance car rather than the AE86 that they put it into.
I won’t go into more detail but I would like to point out that the driving is intense and quite nicely executed. There are drifting scenes that put the first three Fast and Furious films to shame. More realism and racing, less cgi and I’ll just say it. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, though I am not typically a fan of racing films. This one was actually very well done. It is definitely worth checking out.
Thank you for reading my review of Initial D. Check out the film if you haven’t yet seen it or if you have seen it, come discuss it with me on Twitter, the handle is @immiebroods