Anime Review: New Initial D The Movie: Legend 1 Awakening

By Drew Hurley 11.03.2018

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New Initial D The Movie: Legend 1 Awakening (UK Rating: 12)

The Initial D franchise from Shuichi Shigeno has become iconic. It is the go-to street racing manga and anime series. Since its launch in 1995, the original manga ran for a massive 18 years, being collected in 48 volumes. It received numerous anime series, each entitled a "Stage," with the "Final Stage" being released in 2014. In the same year, the first of a trilogy of films was released, re-telling the start of the long-running story. Now those films are coming to the UK, with this first film - New Initial D The Movie: Legend 1 Awakening - landing 26th March courtesy of MVM, but Initial D has had numerous issues with its Western adaptation, so can this release redeem Tokyopop's failings?

It's always great when classic series receive new anime adaptations. The dated animations and art of older series often put off potential fans. Whether it be Hellsing, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Fullmetal Alchemist, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Fate or one of numerous others, mostly, the new releases breath fresh life into older series and occasionally give a chance to right past wrongs. Telling the real ending to a story is just one example, instead of the adapted one made for the anime because the manga hadn't finished yet, or just adding some much needed visual improvements. There are, of course, the odd occurrences of disasters like Berserk that manage to be even worse than the original... but, hopefully, they will one day be corrected, too, especially so in the case of Berserk, one of the greatest manga series of all time that deserves so much more.

In the case of Initial D, though, there are plenty of wrongs to right in the West. Originally released by Tokyopop, the series was "adapted for American audiences." Much like how 4Kids ruined the impression of One Piece for many fans outside Japan, Tokyopop butchered Initial D. It changed the characters' names to English names or silly nicknames, cut out adult content, and delivered a horrendously bad dub. Worst of all, though, it removed the series' signature Eurobeat soundtrack, instead replacing it with some awful rap music.

This release undoes almost everything Tokyopop does wrong and improves on the original Japanese first season, too, with some improved art. It does lose the Eurobeat, though, with it replaced by some decent J-Rock track… but regardless of fans' preference of music genre, the Eurobeat themes felt an integral part of Initial D and it just feels wrong without them. It should have at least been included as an optional dub track; the races would feel much more authentic with Heartbeat or Night of Fire.

This first film covers the first five episodes of the original anime series. When a team of popular racers, known as the Akagi Red Suns, come to the sleepy town of Akina, they expect to stomp the local enthusiast racers under their feet, especially when it comes to their leaders, the Takahashi brothers, Keisuke and Ryosuke. When Keisuke decides to check out the route late one night, though, he gets left in the dust of a certain Eight-Six. The driver of that Eight-Six happens to be Takumi Fujiwara, the protagonist of this story. Takumi is a quiet and reserved kid with no real passion for anything, but unbeknownst to him his father has been training him for years in the art of street racing.

His father was the top racer in the area and opened a little tofu shop at the top of Akina's mountain. He would have his son deliver tofu using his Eight-Six every day, forcing Takumi to learn how to drive the downhill slopes perfectly, keeping the car steady to stop the tofu from separating and also keeping the speed up to keep the customers happy. It's on one of these deliveries that Takumi speeds past Keisuke and unknowingly sets up a rivalry with the Takahashi brothers.

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There's not much more to this first movie than the initial introduction; a few racing scenes and setting up a relationship between Takumi and a girl from his childhood who is taking part in enjo kosai, although that particular plot point is yet to come to fruition in this film and was previously edited out in the Tokyopop release.

Visually, the movie is drastically different to the original. Gone is the PlayStation 2-style CG for the racing and in its place, Studio Sanzigen is providing some quality CG, the same studio that put out the super stylish Black Rock Shooter. The rest of the art is done by Liden films, which manages to capture the '90s anime aesthetic while still delivering some quality looking art. Both the English and Japanese dubs are here. The English dub keeps most of the original dub, but they are far superior here thanks to some extra experience, along with a better script, but the Japanese dub is where this movie really stands up. There's a new cast here and at its head is Mamoru Miyano, a star of considerable talent who has previously starred as Light Yagami in Death Note, Kei Nagai from Ajin, Ryuuji in Persona 5 and many more. The bonus feature front is rather lacking, however - just a trailer for the second movie, along with a handful of trailers for other upcoming titles.

Rated 6 out of 10


New Initial D The Movie: Legend 1 Awakening is a decent introduction to the franchise for new fans, one that will likely inspire them to pick up the original. Ultimately, it looks better than the original and the new Japanese cast is superb but, stuffing this entire introduction into just 50 minutes delivers something worse than the original. At least this could get viewers on the track to the original and there are still two movies yet to come.

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