Live-Action Initial D Still Great to Watch After Almost 20 Years

initial deck D

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Netflix Has Japanese Mountain Drift Movie initial D available for transmission. If you liked the original animated series, the full picture is definitely worth adding to your watch list. initial D (the “D” stands for drift) is a Japanese street racing manga series written and illustrated by Shuichi Shigeno. Released in 2005 by Japan’s Avex Inc. and Hong Kong’s Media Asia Group, this live-action film was directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak.

Initial D tells a family story in a good way

initial D is a wonderfully accessible film that shows how the love of cars is universal. The entire movie—kids with fast cars, rivals with their fast cars, cautious parents, authority figures, The Love Interest—is also similar to what you see in American car movies. Seeing the same thing, only with Toyotas and RX-7s and drifting, it’s nice and comforting.

the more i looked initial D, the more I realized: It’s a family story because us gearheads are family people, no matter what country we come from. Put another way: car people are car people, they are car people.

Takumi Fujiwara's AE86 in front of his father's tofu shop in Initial D.
Takumi Fujiwara’s AE86 in front of his father’s tofu shop in initial D.

setting the stage

Takumi Fujiwara (Jay Chou) is a high school student who works as a tofu delivery boy in picturesque Mount Akina. He drives his father Bunta Fujiwara’s Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86. Yes, the AE86 so loved by drifters the world over, and the car known as the Corolla here in the US. Maybe initial D and other movies like this are responsible for all this love?

Takumi also works part-time at a gas station with his friend Itsuki Tachibana (Chapman To), a general kook and walking nuisance. Itsuki’s father, Yuichi, owns the gas station and has a past with Bunta from the past. There’s also Natsuki Mogi (Anne Suzuki), Takumi’s attractive classmate with romantic designs for our hero, despite her ongoing secret relationship with a mysterious Mercedes-driving sugar daddy.

The race is on!

there are two others friends, street racers Takeshi Nakazato (Shawn Yue) of the NightKids, who drives a Nissan Skyline GT-R, and Ryosuke Takahashi (Edison Chen) of the RedSuns, who drives an FC Mazda RX-7. They want to compete with each other, but only after they defeat the mysterious “god of races of Mount Akina”.

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Yuichi and Bunta get involved because Bunta was the king of the mountain when he was young. Soon, more menacing bad guys appear, like Seiji Iwaki (Will Liu) from Emperor Team in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV.

Who will win the final climactic race? Will Takumi get the girl? Will anyone get hurt? You get the idea, shoot, you’ve already seen the picture. Throw out Takumi and Natsuki and the tofu shop, and throw in Fabian, Annette Funicello, a Boss Mustang, and a Malibu burger stand, and you’ve got a similar movie. Or Brian O’Conner, Mia Toretto and blank, crustless tuna, and you’ve got a similar movie.

Initial D movie poster

Initial D stands out from other movies

Aside from the Japanese signatures in a movie like this (fat goofball, for example), parts of it seem strangely American and easily familiar, as we discussed earlier. but you know what it is different, and surprisingly so? The lack of aggression. There’s none of that masculine posturing, no testosterone-fuelled nonsense that “threatens to spill over” on the track. There are no fistfights over the girl or insults directed at someone’s car. None at all.

Even when the main antagonists talk about their respective cars, driving styles, and win/loss ratios, they always do so with a base of respect and deference not found in American car movies. When our hero Takumi first meets and talks with Takeshi of the NightKids, he has an air of mutual respect and curiosity about each other. “Nice AE86. Thanks, it works for me. I bet yes. Things like that.

Should you watch Initial D?

initial D it is understated and not over the top in its delivery and production; there’s even an unexpected nod to John Frankenheimer. I can see why this movie, and the manga comics it’s based on, were such a hit. initial D Well worth a look one night after work if you’re a fan of cogs. As of this writing, you can stream it on Netflix or pick up a DVD or Blu-ray copy on Amazon.

Tony Borroz, a long-time writer for Automoblog, has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, as well as working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a stuntman. He lives in the northeast corner of the most northwestern part of the Pacific Northwest.

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