Initial D, First Stage Part 1 – DVD Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Drama/Sports
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

This is where the legend of the Eight-Six really begins.

As a car enthusiast, the Initial D series has always been on the top of my favorite anime and manga series of all time and FUNimation has certainly done right by fans of the anime with the release of the remaining seasons. The only thing missing, of course, was the first season and – thankfully – it is finally here and it is looking as sharp Takumi’s Eight-Six as Part 1 of the First Stage of Initial D is here and just as good as I remembered it.

The First Stage introduces us to Takumi Fujiwara, a local Mount Akina resident and High school student, who happens to work at a gas station. While his friend, Itsuki, dreams of buying his first car, Takumi doesn’t really care about cars or driving seeing he does plenty of that for his father as a tofu delivery driver. It is his friend and gas station co-worker, Iketani, who convinces Takumi to tag along to the winding roads of Akina to a street race.

While Takumi isn’t too thrilled about the races or being in a fast car, he can see that racing is a serious game. Iketani, you see, is a member of his own little crew and one night they meet the founding members of another racing crew that goes by the name the Akagi Red Suns that is made up of two brothers, Ryosuke and his younger brother Keisuke. While Ryosuke is the calm one who thinks it might be fun to race with new opponents, it is Keisuke who is determined to go for the glory.

Then, one night, as Takumi is making his nightly delivery runs in his father’s customized Eight-Six, he encounter Keisuke on the road and beats him in a downhill challenge. Furious that he lost to such a mysterious and skilled opponent, Keisuke goes on a quest to find and challenge the Eight-Six again and when Iketani crashes his ride he gets what he gets his wish.

Unfortunately, Takumi still isn’t interested in racing but he is interested in taking the cute Natsuki out on a date so his father proposes that he go race Keisuke in exchange for letting Takumi take the car out with a full tank of gas. With a date on the line, Takumi does race and what happens after that changes Takumi’s life. It is then that the legend of the Eight-Six begins and rumors of Keisuke’s defeat becomes big news among other racing crews.

As it turns out, all those delivers have taught Takumi how to handle himself on the Eight-Six but his friends feel that his skills are abnormal. For a guy who doesn’t know much about cars or is interested in racing, Takumi’s skills are too well honed for the guy not to like racing. This is what Keisuke tells the younger racer as he swears to one day beat Takumi in a race. Meanwhile, challengers start appearing such a the leader of a crew called the Night Kids. Unfortunately for Takumi, his friend Itsuki is the one that accepts the challenge without Takumi’s knowledge.

Forced to race once again, Takumi proves that he is not only a master of downhill drifting but he can nail hairpin turns flawlessly. Meanwhile, the Night Kid’s second best racers issues a challenge that could very well lead to somebody dying. It’s the Gum Tape Deathmatch challenge where each racer’s right hand is taped to the steering wheel. Takumi is good but is he good enough to survive a challenge like that?

Part 1 ends in one hell of a cliffhanger and sets up the second part nicely but what we have here is a story that pushes the racing action and character development nicely. If you’ve read our reviews of past Initial D releases I often look back at the lack of humor and the likeable romantic elements of this season. The truth is that both these things really do make the first season so darn fun to watch whether its watching Itsuki horribly ruin his chances for romance or Takumi and Natsuki’s budding romance.

The first season does look a tad on the dated side but FUNimation does a good job of restoring TOKYOPOP’s original release. On top of that, the English dub voices that include the talents of Brina Palencia, Joel McDonald, Todd Haberkorn and Vic Mignogna are excellent.

Part 1 of the First Stage of Initial D is an excellent first entry and a thrilling racing anime series that – like Takumi’s Eight-Six itself – doesn’t fail to impress. The first season is also one of the best seeing as the humor, romance and exciting racing makes this the perfect package and a great introduction to this series. If you haven’t checked out Initial D before, this is the perfect opportunity.


Takumi Fujiwara has never really thought much about cars but having been suddenly thrown into the street racing scene he discovers that he has a talent driving his father’s Eight-Six to the point that he quickly makes a name for himself. As Takumi’s legend grows, so does the number of challengers that come to Akina to race him.

Seeing this is the first season, the animation is a bit on the dated side and so is the CG that makes the cars look a tad clunky and unnatural at times. Thankfully, the series still looks good on DVD.

The soundtrack for the Initial D series has always been consistently good throughout the anime series’ seasons and I’m not just talking about the opening and closing theme songs. Add a top notch cast of voice actors for both the original Japanese and English voice actors and we have ourselves a series with great sound.

Once again, we would have loved the actual M.O.V.E. music videos to the songs that make up the opening and closing theme songs. At least you can watch them sans the credits, though. There are also some trailers and nothing else.

The First Stage of Initial D is where the legend is born and the first 13 episodes that will make an Initial D fan out of you guaranteed. Not only is the first half of this first season filled with hot cars and intense racing action but also a charming sense of humor and some romance thrown in to make this the start of an anime series that has everything for everyone.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment


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