Initial D Fifth Stage – 01
OP: 「Raise Up」 by m.o.v.e.
「運命の出会い」 (Unmei no Deai)
“Encounter of Destiny”
Initial D’s fifth season might not be the place for newcomers to start as its story begins immediately after the previous season ends. It is possible though, and hopefully a brief summary of the characters will help ease viewers new to the series. Fujiwara Takumi (Miki Shinichiro) has been driving the mountain passes in Akina delivering tofu for his father Bunta’s (Ishizuka Unshou) shop ever since he was 12 years old, which has honed his drifting skills to a point approaching that of a genius. After about a year or so of racing, he has joined forces with his onetime rivals – the Takahashi brothers Ryousuke (Koyasu Takehito) and Keisuke (Seki Tomokazu) – forming a racing team called Project D. Together they travel around Japan racing at other mountain passes to hopefully improve Takumi’s and Keisuke’s skills enough for them to pursue careers as professional racers. These races form the story arc that spans across Initial D’s Fourth Stage and Fifth Stage.
While I would have preferred a little more racing action in a premiere episode, fans of this longtime series already know what to expect so the choice to reintroduce the cast of characters after such a long hiatus wasn’t a bad call, and to my knowledge, it lines up well with the manga as well. I don’t think I can ever fault a show for sticking with the original material as much as possible. A welcome surprise in this episode was the humor, an aspect about Initial D that I had forgotten about, so it was great seeing that side of the show from Iketani Kouichirou (Yao Kazuki), Takeuchi Itsuki (Iwata Mitsuo) and Kenji (Takagi Wataru) again.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but after seeing how ugly Takumi and Keisuke’s doppelgängers (Katsu Anri and Miura Hirokazu respectively) were, I’m going to have to agree with Keisuke because I’m not sure if I would be willing to accept that flattery either. The imposters did serve to remind how dedicated the real Project D drivers are to improving their skills and not just using their celebrity status in the world of street racing to pick up girls. Takumi, who is coming off a close victory over God Hand (a driver who only used one hand on the steering wheel at all times), was very mindful of exactly what he needs to do to attain his dreams, and what he has left behind in his pursuit of them. It will be interesting to see if the appearance of a potential love interest Uehara Mika (Hayami Saori) will throw a wrench into his plans or not. As for Keisuke, I’m hoping he’ll have more screen time in the coming episodes, or at the very least, his Mazda RX-7 FD.
Even after all these years, I still haven’t been able to find a show that delivers adrenaline fueled excitement quite like Initial D does. Unfortunately, when I was selling the series to a friend, the six years since the previous installment had dulled my memories of the excitement each race brought. I could recite the models of the cars involved in each nighttime battle, and I could somewhat recall the stories of the characters, but these are facts that anyone can look up – I had lost an emotional connection to a series that I grew up with.
Yet Initial D has a wonderful formula for rekindling that connection. Even better, it’s one that is successful no matter the decade, no matter how outdated music or cars might be, or how crummy the animation or CG looks – which is very important for a series that began in the late 90s and sometimes looks like it too.
It’s actually quite simple. All it takes is an energetic Eurobeat song reaching a crescendo in tune with the hum of the famous Panda Trueno’s engine as it speeds towards a sharp curve. With the preternaturally talented Takumi behind the wheel, you know that an otherworldly, almost inhuman drift is coming up soon, and your adrenaline level rises almost as high as the speed of the car. This excitement may not match the pure exhilaration that comes with the thrill of experiencing the visceral speed and lateral forces while behind the wheel, but to me, it’s a great alternative that is not only safer but also more frugal. So far, Initial D Fifth Stage is shaping up to be another worthy addition to a franchise that played a major role in sparking my love for all things automotive, as I’m sure it did for many others.
- Judging from the OP, looks like we’ll see a Mazda Roadster RS, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII GSR, Toyota MR2, Toyota Supra RZ, Honda NSX-S, Nissan Fairlady Z, and a Nissan Silvia this season as opponents for Project D
- Full-length images: 05, 07, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 42, 45.
ED: 「Flyleaf」 by CLUTCHO