Initial D, Second Stage – DVD Review

 

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Drama/Sports
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Eventually we all hit a speed bump.

It takes a big man to admit that he has grossly underestimated a person or – in the case of Initial D – a vehicle but Ryosuke Takahashi is a big enough man to say that there’s more to the Eight-Six than meets the eye. Oh yeah, the second part of the First Stage of Initial D ended in a true Rocky Balboa moment but what happens next is something that makes the Second Stage of this racing series the beginning of Takumi Fujiwara’s education in illegal street racing.

It wasn’t too long ago that Takumi and his Eight-Six took on Ryosuke in a race that surprised everyone there including Ryosuke himself. As it stands, the Eight-Six is undefeated and has become something of a legend in the Gunma area. Unknowingly, though, a new racing team calling themselves the Team Emperor is prowling Gunma looking for a challenger worthy of the duo’s Lan-Evo cars. One of them is Kyoichi Sudo, a confident racer who seems to have a past with Ryosuke as well as a hatred for him. Then there’s the impulsive one, Seiji, who is out to make a name for himself as well. They also have a WWII fighter pilot like tradition of showing they defeated an opponent. In this case, taking the losers’ team sticker, tearing it in half them slapping it on their own car.

As fate would have it, the two racers encounter Itsuki and Takumi hanging out in Akina when they ask Itsuki who is the best racer in the area. As always, Itsuki impulsively tells them it’s the Eight-Six and Team Emperor laughs and tells them it wouldn’t be worth a tank of gasoline to race a dinosaur like an Eight-Six. This, of course, pisses off Takumi who is determined to show them exactly what his Eight-Six is capable of and make them eat their words.

Meanwhile, back in school, Takumi gets an anonymous note in his locker stating that his girl, Natsuki Mogi, is being paid for “dating” an old man who drives a Benz. The idea of Natsuki doing something like that seems farfetched but a part of him doesn’t doubt the note either. As it turns out, and I am not giving anything away since the first season does reveal something not quite right, Natsuki is doing exactly that and because she has fallen in love with Takumi she decides to end her relationship with the unseen older man.

With the thought of Natsuki doing that behind his back, Takumi still races against Team Emperor as he takes on Seiji. It’s a race that impresses Kyoichi and the outcome surprises him but – in an interesting twist – he offers Takumi a friendly race to prove to him that the Eight-Six just can’t compete with his own car. As it turns out, the friendly race turns out to be the first official disaster for the Eight-Six that the outcome makes Takumi break down and cry over his car.

With the Eight-Six out of the way, Kyoichi concentrates on finally getting that rematch from Ryosuke who reveals the reason why Kyoichi hates him so much. The race shows Ryosuke is still a major racing threat to those who challenge him. In the meantime, Takumi gets his Eight-Six back with a new engine but it feels strange to him. While his father won’t reveal what it is that has transformed the Eight-Six into a monster, it is a new challenger by the name of Wataru who tells him about it.

Despite the fact that Wataru isn’t a such a bad guy, he develops a hatred for Takumi that will eventually lead to a race. The catch here is that Wataru drives and Eight-Six as well only his is turbo-charged. In-between this rivalry and the race that is pure Initial D-styled excitement, this season gives us a juicy slice of romantic drama to go along with it. In the case of Takumi, he trails Natsuki and finds out the ugly truth and the aftermath is equally ugly as Takumi turns cold towards the girl. Then there’s Itsuki, who meets the fiery Kazumi who turns out to be Wataru’s sister. What starts out as an unfriendly meeting turns into true love for Itsuki but does she feel the same about him?

Unlike the first season’s two releases (or other seasons of this series), the Second Stage contains a third disc that includes two OVA episodes as well as their original uncut versions. In the first episode, we are re-introduced to the girls of Impact Blue, Mako (who is still getting over being rejected by Iketani) and her navigator Sayuki who hear that the Lan-Evo crew called Team Emperor is in town so the girls challenge them. In the second episode, Mako sets Sayuki up on a secret blind date with a Night Kid while they like the rumor that Ryosuke Takahashi is putting a racing team together. Oh yeah, there is fan service in both episodes so if that’s not your thing then you might want to skip them but I don’t recommend doing that.

The Second Stage of Initial D adds more drama to the human side of the story while maintaining the excitement of the racing action that this series does so well. What we have as a result is an even more interesting season of this fast and furious racing anime series. Add two OVA episodes that link up with events from the first season and we have a second season set that should be on every Initial D fans’ collection.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Having defeated the great Ryosuke, Takumi is at the top of his game and is now an Akina legend but this also means new challengers are popping up as well. With a determined rival offering a worthy challenge, Takumi is suddenly distracted by a horrible rumor about his girlfriend, Natsuki. With these troubles in mind as well as a mechanical nightmare, the legendary Eight-Six finds itself in quite a predicament.

VIDEO QUALITY: B-
Like past Initial D releases by FUNimation, the animation looks outdated but the video quality is still excellent and cleaned up just right on DVD. The CG cars might look a bit clunky in action but they still look just as hot as the real thing. The two OVA episodes contain some serious fan service for those who care about that sort of thing.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting has always been strong in this series whether you like the great Japanese cast or the stellar English dub voice actors. I personally feel that Brina Palencia brings more emotion to Natsuki, especially since we see more of her in this season. Then there’s the music that brings out the inner speed demon in me as well as the cool M.O.V.E opening tune as the beautiful Galla tune, “Kimi Ga Iru.”

EXTRAS: A
Sure it’s cool to have the textless opening and closing songs (and even better when the songs are as awesome as the ones in this series) but we’re so spoiled we love our extras and the Second Stage does not disappoint. The third disc contains two OVA episodes (plus their uncut versions with longer fan service) starring Mako and Sayuki from the first season.

OVERALL: A
A more dramatic and still riveting season worthy of this high-octane series, the Second Stage of Initial D doesn’t fail to keep you on the edge of your seat. While adding an intriguing twist to the Takumi-Natsuki relationship and the Eight-Six’s first real speed bump, there’s just no denying how intense and cool this season is so Initial D fans really should not be without this one.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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