Initial D, Fourth Stage Part 2 – DVD Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 280 minutes
Genre: Drama/Sports
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Will Project D finally meet its match?

The fourth season of Initial D is quickly becoming one of the series’ best seasons yet as Project D not only showcases what good teamwork can accomplish but also how to take advantage of those poor saps that underestimate your ride. In Part 2 of the Fourth Stage of Initial D, the crew find themselves in even more troublesome territory and opponents that might just have what it takes to put an end to Project D’s winning streak.

A lot has happened since Takumi Fujiwara joined Project D and his Eight-Six wasn’t the only one that turned heads at their various races. The very young man that wants to beat Takumi so badly is also winning races and Keisuke Takahashi’s skills have been improving. Thus, the legend of Project D’s best drivers is spreading across the various territories and many a racer is prepared to put an end to Project D’s amazing record. As Takumi finishes the race that was introduces in Part 1, his opponent comes to respect him and ask him a very important question.

Just what motivates Takumi to the point that he makes such daring and dangerous maneuvers that have his opponents thinking that he’s insane? This is the question that is asked of him and the answer is a bit unclear to the young man. What he does know is that he not only races to win but also because he loves it so much yet something is bothering him. The defeat by the mystery car has him wondering that maybe he isn’t as good as people tell him he is and when he sees the car again near his home the identity of the driver is revealed and it’s a shocker.

Keisuke‘s motivation, on the other hand, isn’t just proving to his brother, Ryosuke, that he’s a capable driver but he also wants to be good enough to beat Takumi. This determination drives the young man into ignoring things he deems unnecessary distractions … such as the cute girl, Kyoto, who continues to show up at his races. He’s a cold dude but Kyoto is the type of girl who doesn’t give up.

Meanwhile, Project D’s next opponents are shady racers who are confrontational from Day One and make it difficult for the crew. They don’t even allow them a chance to properly take some practice runs on their road but, when Keisuke does gets a chance to practice, the other crew spills some oil on the road that takes Keisuke’s ride out of the game. Interestingly enough, a replacement car comes from the very person Keisuke is trying to drive away. Despite the threat of violence, Takumi takes his Eight-Six and races.

Oh, but both Takumi and Keisuke show these jokers real driving in one of the more intense races of this series. Still, the real interesting part comes during the finale of the last race when the rival racers call up some thugs to beat up only for the confrontation to conclude in a hilarious manner. It’s clear that Keisuke’s bad boy days had him running with the wrong crowd.

Although he won the race, Takumi is in something of a slump that has him making mistakes during his practice runs on his home turf. He gets to test drive the mysterious blue car and finds himself amazed by the new set of wheels as well as a bit worried that his Eight-Six might not be enough to defeat a skilled racer. When the chance comes really prove himself comes, it comes in the form of two veteran drivers that have earned the nicknames God Arm and God Foot. Their race is nothing short of epic and to reveal any details would be to ruin it for Initial D fans.

Part 2 also brings back the series’ sense of humor and romance that was lost along the way when the series decided to concentrate on fast cars and the racing. In this second half we get both as we get a funny peek at Takumi’s friend, Itsuki, as he tries to rekindle a romance that quickly (and comically) fizzles. Then there’s Keisuke and Kyoto as their relationship, if you can call it that, takes an absorbing turn.

The Fourth Stage in its entirety is Initial D at its very best and Part 2 adds to the excitement by returning to the elements that made us fall in love with the series in the first place. On top of the fact that the racing is still intense, the series finds its sense of humor and romance once again. If you’ve been following this series from the beginning, Part 2 will not disappoint.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
With Project D proving that they’re indeed the stuff of legends, new territory opens up a number of challenges that will test Takumi and Keisuke’s skills behind the wheel. There’s some trouble in one spot and a pair of racing gods in another that will push the two to their very limits. Meanwhile, romance troubles and Takumi in a slump might spell the end of Project D’s impeccable record.

VIDEO QUALITY: B
The CG cars are still a tad awkward and the characters still look a bit funny for those who aren’t familiar with the Initial D manga but they work fine and the cars are still hot to watch in action. There’s more tension in this second part so racing fans will find a lot of visual candy in this one.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The English dub voices are still excellent and add more depth to the characters and some profanity missing in the original Japanese dialogue. Still, the Japanese voice cast is great and the soundtrack is still killer. The opening and closing theme songs do not fail to keep me pumped up.

EXTRAS: D
Once again, there aren’t any extras to speak of besides a few FUNimation trailers so those still expecting M.O.V.E. music videos won’t find them here.

OVERALL: A-
Part 2 of the Fourth Stage finds Project D going up against opponents that will give them a run for their money and thus making things even more exciting this time around as even Takumi begins to questions his skills. It’s good to see the series’ more comical and romantic side again but, more importantly, the racing action that is more intense. Initial D fans, this one is for you.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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