Initial D (頭文字D, Inisharu Dī?) is a manga by Shuichi Shigeno which has been serialized in Kodansha's Young Magazine since 1995. It has been adapted into a long-running anime series by Pastel, Studio Gallop, OB Planning, Frontline, Gainax and A.C.G.T which premiered in Japan on Fuji TV and Animax, and a live action film by Avex and Media Asia. Both the manga and anime series were initially licensed for distribution in North America by Tokyopop (2002–2009); the anime license has since been picked up by Funimation Entertainment, while the manga is no longer available in English.
The story focus on the world of illegal Japanese street racing, where all the action is concentrated in the mountain passes and rarely in cities nor urban areas, and the drift racing style is emphasized in particular. Keiichi Tsuchiya helps with editorial supervision. The story is centered on the Japanese prefecture of Gunma, (mostly Shibukawa where Takumi's home is) more specifically on several mountains in the Kantō region and in their surrounding cities and towns. Although some of the names of the locations the characters race in have been fictionalized, all of the locations in the series are based on actual locations in Japan.
Synopsis and Stages
See also: List of Initial D chapters. Set in the late 1990s in Japan's Gunma Prefecture, the series follows the adventures of Takumi Fujiwara, an eighteen year old who helps his father run a tofu store by making deliveries every morning to a hotel on Akina with his father's Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-APEX (AE86). It is revealed that Takumi has been driving on Mt. Akina every morning to deliver Tofu to the summit five years before he even had his license. As a result his skills in mountain racing were honed, and is able to drive under adverse weather conditions. Keisuke Takahashi (RX-7) vs Takumi Fujiwara (Trueno), the first battle of the series.
The story begins when street racers called the Red Suns, a team from Mt. Akagi, come to challenge Mt. Akina's local Speed Stars team to a "friendly" race. After seeing how skilled the Red Suns are, the Speed Stars treat it as a race for pride, determined not to be humiliated on their home turf. However, the Speed Stars are left in a bind when their team leader and primary downhill driver Iketani has an accident during a practice run. They were desperate for a replacement, until Iketani learns from Yuuichi, the manager of the petroleum station he is working in, that the fastest car in Akina's downhill was a panda-colored AE86 owned by a Tofu store owner, and traces the car back to a local Tofu store. He discovers that the store's owner, Bunta Fujiwara, was a street racer of great repute in his younger days known as the "Ghost of Akina" . Iketani appeals to the older man to take his place in the race against the Red Suns. Iketani is confident that Bunta will come to save the day. But when the race day comes, his son Takumi appears with his Trueno instead. Although at first reluctant to let Takumi race, Ikatani relents after it is revealed that he is actually the "Ghost of Akina," the one who outran Keisuke while on one of his delivery runs. Takumi proceeds to defeat Keisuke Takahashi and his Mazda RX-7 (FD3S), causing considerable astonishment in the local racing community and putting an end to the Red Suns winning streak.
Despite being originally apathetic about the notion of racing, Takumi begins to grow more interested as he receives other challenges, and begins to understand the concept of a street racer's pride. He then proceeds to defeat drivers in more advanced and more powerful cars, such as the Honda Civic (EG6) hatchback, the Nissan Sileighty, and the Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32). He defeats them in all sorts of conditions, mostly for the first time (Duct Tape Deathmatch, wet weather race, first race in a course other than Mount Akina), culminating in the battle between him and Ryosuke Takahashi, the so-called "White Comet of Akagi." Takumi handed Ryosuke his first defeat.
A group of street racers called Team Emperor, all using Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions, appear in the Gunma area, defeating anyone in their path, until their No. 2 racer, Seiji Iwaki, was defeated by Takumi, breaking their winning streak. Their leader, a professionally-trained driver named Kyouichi Sudo, challenged Takumi to a race to “teach him some things” and as a sort of cover event for his race with Ryosuke, his primary target. This race saw Takumi's AE86 blow its engine. While it may have been a defeat for Takumi, Kyouichi did not consider it a race instead considering it more as a seminar to show Takumi how much he needs a better car as he believes the 86 is far too old to match Takumi's skill level. Kyouichi, believing in his street racing philosophy that professional circuit techniques were adequate to conquer the mountains passes, races Ryosuke who had the opposing philosophy that somehow, the fastest street racing required more than just what the circuit could teach. Ryosuke proceeds to defeat Kyouichi after noticing and exploiting Kyouichi's inability to tackle some right-hand corners with full confidence. When Kyouichi confronted Ryosuke about the loss, Ryosuke explains that their techniques and abilities are actually quite close but that Kyouichi's weakness were right-hand corners which, on Japan's right-handed roads, had the possibility of encountering head-on collisions. He goes on to cite how Kyouichi was unable to conquer this fear due to the fact that circuits don't have the danger of head-on collisions and that his home-course, Irohazaka pass, was a one-way road. This proved once and for all to Kyouichi that street-racing had its own special requirements just as Ryosuke had believed.
Meanwhile, Bunta knew that the engine in the 86 was about to give out. In fact, one of Bunta's "secret" tasks for Takumi was "to lose." In anticipation, he had already bought a new engine - a high revving, race bred variation of the standard Toyota 4A-GE 20 valve twin cam engine, which is used for Group A Division 2 Touring Class races in the Japanese Touring Car Championship. This is extremely unusual, because this type of engine is supplied to race teams only, and is not street legal. The source of the engine was unknown. It should be noted that in addition to being a high-revving engine, the 20-valve 4A-GE in Takumi's car is missing the timing cover and runs Individual Throttle Bodies (ITB). Bunta installs the engine without a new tachometer to teach Takumi the importance of learning mechanical knowledge and understanding why the car behaves as it does, though he has an instrument set ready for installation once Takumi knows of it. A fellow AE86 driver named Wataru Akiyama, who was surprised with Takumi's lack of mechanical knowledge, told him that he needs a new tachometer.
Once Takumi unsealed the power of his new engine, Wataru challenges him to a race anywhere of Takumi's choosing. Choosing Wataru's home course, the treacherous Shomaru pass, Takumi went on to race Wataru despite the risks. Wataru, who knew the course well, was absolutely sure that Shomaru pass was a test of endurance and that it was not a course where overtaking was possible. Despite this, Takumi, upon noticing that in the process of four back-to-back runs through the course that the landslide which covered one half of the road at a certain part of the course had flattened out leaving enough space for another car, took advantage of Wataru not noticing the change in the course and went side-by-side with Takumi eventually overtaking the clearly shocked Levin driver and winning the battle.
Capitalizing on the popularity of the all-female street racing team known as Impact Blue which appeared in First Stage, this OVA focuses on Impact Blue's dynamic duo of Mako and Sayuki rather than Takumi and the usual main cast.
As Extra Stage begins, Mako is battling emotional wounds from what she thinks was a rejection by Iketani, while Sayuki's childhood friend Shingo (of the Myogi Night Kids) and his teammate Nakazato arrive to warn them about Team Emperor, which defeated the Night Kids on their home course just as they have so many other street racing teams from around the region. Mako's driving has been adversely affected by her preoccupations, and she worries about her ability to measure up to the Emperor's challenge in her current emotional state. Finally, a pair of Emperor affiliated Evos show up in Usui. The challenger, an arrogant blonde driving an Evo 4, belitted the female racers and felt confident enough to win easily. Later on in the race, the Evo 4 could barely keep up with the Sil-80, until the battle was finally decided in a extended corner, called C-121 (also called "The Terror of Usui"). where the Evo 4 hit the guardrail and lost control. Shingo and Nakazato were late and didn't get to see the race. Thinking the girls also lost, they consoled them saying they lost in their home course as well, but Sayuki unexpectedly told them they won. The Night Kids leaders were startled, thinking they raced against the top Emperor drivers whereas they only defeated an off-beat member.
Though Mako decides she does not need a man in her life for a while, she gradually develops a relationship with a friend of Shingo's named Miyahara after Shingo and Sayuki discreetly play matchmaker. Miyahara is a street racer himself, not a good one though, and he intends to give it up because he believes he has reached the highest level he possibly can, with no chance of progressing further. He has lost interest and intends to move on. He drives a red Toyota MR2 and plans to switch to an SUV in pursuit of settling down after racing. Mako feels differently, knowing there are many drivers better than her whose level she wishes to attain. As Mako and Miyahara grow closer, Miyahara reveals that he wishes Mako would quit racing also for her safety's sake, because if she was his girlfriend he would be consumed with worry for her each time she raced.
However, after Mako takes him on a drive on an unknown pass, that was home to the mountain snow resort they were vacationing at, he finally understands why she will not give up racing and realizes that she is in love with another man, Iketani.
By this time Ryosuke approaches Takumi with an offer. Ryosuke has been putting together a racing team featuring the best racers of the Gunma prefecture, and would like Takumi to join. Takumi doesn't want to decide whether or not to accept the proposal until he settles his score with Team Emperor leader Sudou Kyouichi, who had looked down on the AE86 because of the car's age and had seriously damaged Takumi's confidence in the AE86 after being defeated by him. Takumi proceeds to Irohazaka pass to challenge Kyouichi. Kyouichi had chosen to let Takumi lead; if Takumi prevents Kyouichi from passing him, he wins, if Kyouichi passes him, he loses. Takumi notes how the match is unfair, but this is quickly dismissed by Kyouichi. In the end, Takumi is able to prevent Kyouichi from passing. Kyouichi, who takes great pride in his knowledge and ability to race on his home course, concedes defeat and also gave praise to the new AE86, although Takumi still believes it was more of a tie and was more concerned about Kyouichi finally acknowledging the abilities of the AE86.
Kogashiwa Kai, the son of Bunta's old rival, driving a Toyota MR2 (SW20) later challenges Takumi upon knowing he beat his original target, Kyouichi. He and his father planned to beat Takumi by using a line strategy his father had devised and used against Bunta: the In-Air hairpin jump on the hairpins of Irohazaka. Bunta, knowing how Kogashiwa has used the special line factor before, predicted to Takumi that Kai would surely be in front by the later half of the race and proceeds to give Takumi some obscure advice on how to beat Kai. Kyouichi, who had been with Iwaki Seiji , Keisuke, and Takahashi Ryouske, had predicted as well that Kai would use the technique and explains how he himself could not come to use the strategy due to his pride in his skills alone without need for strategy. Kai, upon realizing that he cannot win in a straight-forward clash of skill, uses the line strategy to overtake and further distance himself from Takumi. Takumi then finds it in himself to try this technique and masters it at the first try, finding himself catching up to Kai. At the last moment before they reach the finish Takumi realizes the meaning behind the advice given earlier by Bunta when he notices dead leaves piling up on one side of the road. Takumi proceeds puts his car past the shrubs and into the gutter to sling shot side-by-side forcing Kai to the side of the road where Takumi guesses the leaves would pile up on. Bunta, while talking to Yuuichi, has predicted that Takumi had a 50% chance of passing Kai. As they pass the bridge side-by-side airborne, the 50% chance presents itself as Kai had landed on the side of the road where the leaves had piled up where he lost control and spun out right before the goal.
This stage also saw the appearance of Miki, a former student at the same high school Takumi attended who Takumi once punched over Miki's bragging about his sexual exploits with Natsuki (seen in a flashback from 1st Stage). It was Christmas season, and Natsuki surprises Takumi at his house, and celebrates Christmas with him and Bunta. On New Year's Day, Miki takes Natsuki under duress, even attempting to rape her near Lake Akina. But Takumi, after hearing a few words of a call from Natsuki which was cut short, came to the rescue.
As spring comes, Takumi tells Ryosuke that he wants to request another battle with him, this time on Mt. Akagi, before making his decision regarding the team. It is unclear who actually wins the race, but during the race Keisuke reveals to the other members of the Red Suns that the race is not really about who wins or loses. As they approach the finish, side by side, Takumi decides that it is his desire to remain with Ryosuke and join the team.
Initial D Battle Stage (special) summarizes the major street races from the two TV series. Rather than simply using clips from the TV series, the new special entirely re-animated all of the original CG car and background footage with new computer graphics rendering. The special also features a battle between the yellow FD3S of Keisuke against the white Evo 4 of Seiji, but no such race took place in the anime (although it does take place in the manga). Music is from an entirely new Super Eurobeat songs and guest commentary from legendary "Drift King" Keiichi Tsuchiya.
Fourth StageThis series focuses on the exploits of the new team founded by Ryosuke, Project.D, which is composed of Ryosuke (leader and strategist), downhill specialist Takumi, uphill specialist Keisuke, and a staff consisting primarily of members of the Akagi Red Suns. The team travels the region, challenging other teams and posting the results of the battles on their website. Each race is intended by Ryosuke to develop a specific area of his drivers' skills. By this time, Takumi matures slowly into a more confident and knowledgeable street racer, while Keisuke improves on his technical driving skills. Takumi instinctively develops many new techniques through his own ingenuity after some prompting by Ryosuke, such as passing with his headlights off so that his opponent is unable to see him coming and block him, and using weight shifting to execute maneuvers similar to the gutter-hook technique on Akina. Ryosuke also formed the team because in a few months he is headed for medical school, and this is his last chance in a long time to indulge in street racing. Takumi, on the other hand, contends with the "Four-Wheel Drive Complex" when he was overtaken by a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, a 4WD car, on one of his delivery runs. It is later revealed that his father was driving the car. Bunta then allowed Takumi to deliver Tofu, as well as practice, in the Impreza (alternating with the Trueno) to improve his skills as a driver and to get a feel of what modern cars can do.
Project.D's opponents grew tougher and tougher, as well as more deceitful and threatening. They defeated local racing teams (like the Seven Star Leaf), students of the Todo-juku racing school (including a professional driver who is a graduate of the school), the combined forces of the Northern Saitama Alliance (who even used a Suzuki Cappuccino kei-car), thugs in Lan Evos, and the "Godfoot" and "Godhand" tandem of Team Purple Shadow. In the shadows, Wataru Akiyama watches Takumi from a distance and looks for weaknesses, but it ceased when Project.D conquered Saitama, so he began giving Takumi a few pointers, especially with the 4WD problem. There are also glimmers of romance, like Kyoko Iwase, Keisuke's fellow Mazda RX-7 FD driver and uphill ace racing for the Northern Saitama Alliance, falling in love with him, even lending her precious car to Keisuke—but, although he likes her, he rejected her, deciding to focus more on driving.
Takumi also learned a lot, including the theory of infinite lines and Joushima (the "Godhand" of Team Purple Shadow) teaching him the theory of one handed driving. Though he doubted that Takumi would start driving with one hand, he did believe he would master using the infinite lines to his advantage in future races. Hoshino, the "Godfoot" of Purple Shadow, offered his racing connections to Keisuke, who refused, saying he has still got a lot to do in street racing.
This seems to be the conclusion of Initial D. The audience was left with the unanswered question as to what the D in Project D stood for and who was the better driver between Takumi and Keisuke.
Battle Stage 2
Initial D Battle Stage 2 summarizes the major street races from the recent Fourth Stage TV series. While the first Battle Stage had every battle re-animated from scratch, the only episodes altered in the second version were the early races in stage 4, to match with the visual style of the latter portion of Stage 4. Additionally, two races that were previously seen only in the manga were animated specially for the feature. The first race is Takahashi Keisuke vs. Atsuro Kawai's Nissan Skyline 25GT Turbo (ER34), and the other is Keisuke vs. Smiley Sakai's Honda Integra DC2. Both races are noticeably shorter than the other races in the feature.
Battle Stage 2 was released on DVD on May 30, 2007. The official soundtrack to Battle Stage 2, featuring 24 Eurobeat songs that played during the feature, was released on September 5, 2007.
Extra Stage 2
Extra Stage 2 provides a closure on the relationship between Iketani and Mako. This story took place during the time Project D battled the Toudo school. Iketani finally met up with Mako Sato and apologized for not being able to meet her 6 months ago. Mako told Iketani she had something to tell him and asked him to meet her again. Iketani was excited that Mako gave him a second chance, he arrived 2 hours early this time. However, an old man was lost and asked Iketani for directions. Being a good person, Iketani agreed to help the old man back but on his way back. The only problem was, the old man's destination would take almost 2 hours roundtrip. While making his way back, Iketani hit the tire's shoulder on a jagged rock and got a flat tire, but he ran and was lucky to find a public phone and called Mako to take him to where they first met. This time, however, Mako tells him that she is leaving for Tokyo for a one-year professional racing season sponsored by a publishing company and the experience will be published on a magazine. With Iketani's blessing and his goal of making her happy, Mako pursues her dreams. Mako also discussed her situation with her teammate Sayuki, whom she also gave Mako her blessing, disbanding Team Impact Blue in the process. Iketani then goes back to Akina and tries to forget about her for now while replenishing his driving skills with Kenji, while Mako and Sayuki are gearing up for their final race in Usui as Team Impact Blue... In the end, they never knew that Iketani and Mako would never see each other again directly and admit their true feelings for each other.
Announced in chapter 530 of the Initial D manga, Extra Stage 2 aired on pay-per-view on October 3, 2008 and is available on DVD from December 5, 2008.