Takumi Fujiwara’s been driving down Mount Akina for over two decades now, but it’s been a fair time since a new Initial D anime raced its way west. The first of three feature films, Initial D Legend 1: Awakening takes us back to the very beginning of Shuichi Shigeno’s classic motorsport manga, rebooting the drift-racing drama covered by the original 1998 anime series.
The movie opens with skilled street racer Keisuke Takahashi pelting down mountain roads – only to get outmanoeuvred and overtaken by an old Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86. The driver of the Eight-Six is none other than our 18-year-old protagonist Takumi Fujiwara, speeding through the night on a tofu delivery run for his ex-racer dad Bunta.
Wanting to take on the mysterious Eight-Six again, Takahashi and his Akagi RedSuns team challenge the local lads of the Akina Speedstars to a race down the mountain. But while the apathetic Takumi’s night-time travels have made him an expert at drifting round Akina’s twisty roads, he’s never been interested in car racing. Bunta, however, has other plans for his son…
Covering the first five episodes of the 1998 anime in a mere 70 minutes means that, like its street racing stars, Awakening really has to put the pedal to the metal. Love interest Natsuki draws the shortest straw, with her role essentially reduced to a panty shot and bikini scene. Overall, though, the faster pacing is a positive – Initial D veterans may be irked by the sacrifices made to cram so much action into such a short runtime, but it won’t feel rushed to newcomers.
A definite improvement over the original Initial D is the visuals. CG animation is notorious for not aging gracefully when used without models or animatronics, so it’s hardly surprising that Awakening’s racing scenes top those of its 20-year-old predecessor in the graphics department. The character designs also get a boost; still recognisably Initial D, but toning down the rather goofy look so that it’s less jarring to modern tastes.
While the jury’s still out on Initial D Legend until we see how the trilogy hangs together as a whole, Awakening has got Sanzigen and Liden Films’ reboot off to a flying start. Initial D has always been the quintessential petrolhead anime, and these films mark a welcome return for a classic franchise, with wheel-to-wheel action that’s as fast and furious (sorry) as ever. We do wish that they’d kept that über cheesy Eurobeat soundtrack, though!
Release: 26 March 2018
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Age Rating: 12