Initial D, Fourth Stage Part 1 – DVD Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 280 minutes
Genre: Drama/Sports
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

Meet Project D … now be prepared to eat their dust.

If anything, the Third Stage anime feature film for Initial D served more as a setup for the events that would make up the next full season of the series. Now in its Fourth Stage, Part 1 of this season of Initial D finds familiar characters concentrating on what they do best as the team of racers that include the newly recruited Takumi Fujiwara and his now famous Eight-Six go from formidable racers to street legends. Leaving the drama behind, it’s all about the racing in the Fourth Stage.

Taking place a few weeks after the events of the Third Stage after the brilliant and talented Ryosuke Takahashi invited Takumi to join his newly formed expeditionary racing team, the Fourth Stage begins with the Project D racing team kicking tail and taking named. Challenging racers on their own turf and beating them, Project D’s reputation seems to be growing faster with each victory and even more so since Ryosuke put of a website of their exploits and wins. With Ryosuke’s guidance, the team hasn’t met a challenger that gave them a run for their money.

Then again, nothing really lasts forever and new opponents seem to be coming out from the streets to put an end to Project D’s winning streak. In the first episode we meet the Seven Star Leaf racers who wants to put a stop to Project D and when we meet their star racer he begs his girlfriend for some money to make some changes to his car. Of course, she has had enough of him putting racing before her and gives him an ultimatum … she will give him the money but if he loses the race he quits for good. Ah, this is a little taste of the drama that made up the first few seasons and it actually adds a human touch to the series.

The Seven Star Leaf crew is confident in their skills and since this is their home turf the roads are etched into their minds permanently. On top of that, Project D brings only two cars to the race and one of them is the Eight-Six, which the opponents see as a relic so how can they not win this race. What the overconfident crew doesn’t take into account is that Takumi and Ryosuke’s brother, Keisuke, are what really make these cars perform miracles even on downhill stretches of road. How is it that Takumi is able to make a turn with a deep ditch making each curb a dangerous turn? Once again, we’re not sure if it’s insanity or just naturally amazing driving skills but Takumi pulls off a daring maneuver that wins the race.

Oh, the fate of the Seven Star Leaf racer is revealed but I won’t say whether or not her carries out with his girlfriend’s wishes to quit. That you will definitely have to see for yourself.

Hearing of Project D’s latest victory, though, is the Toudou School that was started by an ex-rally racer and since his return to Japan has acquired a number of “students” who have even gone off to become famous racers. So seeing Project D as nothing more than a bunch of punks who talk big, the school’s top talent picks their lower-ranked students to take them on. Once again, this is a case of racers underestimating the Project D team. Takumi is chosen to race and in a matter of seconds he does not fail to impress his opponent.

Oh, but the head of the Toudou School doesn’t want to leave it at a loss and doesn’t understand how a measly Eight-Six can defeat a car that, by all means, should have been even more superior. He calls for his ex-student-turned-professional-racer named Tomoyuki to avenge the school’s good name. Project D accepts the rematch and they select Takumi … a fact that doesn’t sit well with Keisuke. The race against Tomoyuki and Takumi is intense and Keisuke suddenly realizes that the right driver was indeed chosen for this race. However, after the race, Takumi decides to head home only to be secretly defeated by a mystery blue car that passes him.

Meanwhile, Keisuke is clearly not liking that Takumi is getting better with each race and definitely wants to surpass him. An interesting thing happens to the young racer when they meet up with another crew that’s worth challenging. An attractive female racer by the name of Kyoto falls instantly in love with Keisuke and – as fate would have it – is destined to race him. Some of that school drama from past seasons is back and thankfully makes the story even more interesting as Kyoto reveals she wants to stay by Keisuke’s side. His response is harsh but half the fun is Part 1 is watching Kyoto slowly try to win Keisuke over.

In the final episodes, Takumi takes on another professional brought over by Kyoto’s teammates. The race takes on a new kind challenge when it starts to rain heavily. It’s yet another intense race in a series that has been – so far – giving its fans plenty of hot racing action that’s fun to watch and a few of them will even have you biting your nails. Topped off with some funny bits and the Keisuke-Kyoto relationship, the season is off to a very good start.

Part 1 of the Fourth Stage of Initial D will not fail to satisfy the inner speed demon in all of us and with continued emphasis on the racing it is certainly a most exciting first half to this season. Those who missed some fun interaction and drama will not be completely disappointed but – for those Initial D fans who love a series about hot cars and awesome races – the Fourth Stage will not disappoint in the very least.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Ryosuke’s Project D team is winning against a number of talented racers on their own turf with Takumi surpassing all expectations. Meanwhile, two professional racers jump into a race against Project D and a cute racing girl has her eyes fixed on Ryosuke’s brother. Will they be able to keep up their winning streak?

VIDEO QUALITY: B
The CG can often look unnatural but at least the cars look hot in action. I wish I could say the same about the characters but at least they don’t look horrible either.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The music is thumping hot and was made for a racing series like this and if you’re a M.O.V.E. fan you are definitely in for a massive treat. On top of the great soundtrack and score, the voice acting for both Japanese of the English dub is great but you will definitely love the English voices that pushes the dialogue in a better direction.

EXTRAS: D
Just about the only bonuses found in this set are FUNimation trailers and nothing else. I would have really loved the inclusion of the music video to M.O.V.E.’s “Blast My Desire” and “Nobody Reason” since parts of the video are played over the ending credits.

OVERALL: B+
Focusing more on the racing than the human drama like in past seasons, this first part of Fourth Stage for Initial D is fast, slick and exciting enough to give fans of this series a real thrill. With some especially exciting racing sequences, the first 12 episodes of this season is off to a very good start.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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