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Initial D - Battle 01: Akina's Downhill Specialist

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 77 mins . PG . PAL


Well, I’ve seen and reviewed a fair bit of animé now, and this one comes in so close to the bottom as to be underfoot. I remember seeing the preview for it on another animé DVD and thinking that it looked a bit like a video game. Watching the whole thing brought those memories flooding back, along with a bunch of new thoughts, some too grisly to write here.

Initial D is such a leading title. What could the D possibly stand for? I shall leave out the negative words in the D section of the dictionary, summing the entire thing up into one word: dull.

This show totally sucks in the worst way. The animation is substandard, the colours are washed out, the storyline is a piece of crap, the transfer is well below average for the usual level of Madman quality and the computer animation just has to be seen to be disbelieved.

Three episodes are granted here, in which the story goes practically nowhere. The writing is trite and penned to appeal to young people, obviously, but the current hackneyed American quips were current maybe five years ago. I’ll speak more about those in the audio section though.

"This seriously blows…"

Allover this show is a wretched disappointment, seemingly made to cash in on the Fast and the Furious genre of high-octane cars going really fast and teenagers being cool. Unfortunately though, it looks and feels so much like a pathetic relative struggling to keep up that it becomes embarrassing.

Anyway, I could go on about how weak it is for ages, but I’ve got to get to more important things. Here then are the first three episodes of this amateur hour (and a quarter).

  • Act 01: The Ultimate Tofu Store Drift
    Tak and Iggy are two friends intent on one thing; owning a car and driving really fast. Except Tak, who isn’t really into it. They join the mountain racing circuit as wannabes, but Tak brings some secrets with him. As a tofu delivery boy, he’s well versed on the mountain and brings some perfect driving to the contest which both annoys and confuses the opposition.
  • Act 02: Revenge! The Rumbling Turbo
    The leader of the Akina Speed Stars, Cole, a friend of Tak and Iggy, struggles to find out who drove the 86 that Tak showed his skills in. While on his search and practicing to do better, he crashes with poor animation.
  • Act 03: The Downhill Specialist Appears
    Tak is being prepared for Saturday night’s race, when he finds out he must fill in for the injured Cole. He gets to the battle just in time for the episode to finish.

To all intents, this show just looks amateurish from the outset, with very poor animation, simple camera effects used in simpler film editing suites and dodgy dialogue.


Whilst the colours are a bit washed out as I mentioned, they don’t look all that bad. The background drawings, however, all look fairly rushed and made to an extremely low budget. The computer animated cars look like The Need For Speed video game and the animation on these seems limited to one particular move called ‘drifting’. It also looks so unlike the rest of the show as to almost be a separate entity dropped in over the top, resulting in a completely bogus look. The aforementioned special effects look pretty crappy as well, but at least they follow the theme of crap.

We get two versions available for viewing, the Tricked Out or Classic modes. 'Tricked Out' is the English language version with ‘enhanced viewing’ while the 'Classic' is the original Japanese version. I don’t exactly know what the so-called ‘enhanced viewing’ difference is. I couldn’t pick it – they both looked rubbish.

There are occasional film artefacts here too, although this show was made for television in the 4:3 ratio. The DVD picture is nice and clear, but this helps show the cel wobble in certain frames. There are multitudes of still images, no lip synch and as to the transfer, well, it looks fine, but at nearly every scene cut the film jitters horizontally a couple of times, which gets real annoying even by the end of Act 01 (if you’re not annoyed enough already, that is).


Well, at least they’ve tried here. Dolby Surround 5.1 is the go, but it only gets used to any real degree during the car racing scenes. Herein the driving sounds throaty and realistic and the subwoofer growls a little, but when it comes back to regular dialogue the sound effects get quirky and stupid sounding. This is more prominent when a character changes moods swiftly (to disbelief, to embarrassment etc.) and seems to switch the genre of the show at the same time. Is it a comedy? Is it serious? Who can tell?

In our 'Tricked Out' mode dialogue is understandable, there’s no trouble there, but it’s filled with clichéd Americanisms that sound shithouse. ‘Get jiggy’, ‘Panties in a bunch’ and my all time favourite, ‘Don’t go there’, all make sterling appearances and add lameness to the production overall. Musically there is a bunch of harder-edged hip-hop metal thrown in for the car driving bits, while in the 'Classic' mode we get the usual cheesy animé music about overcoming waterfalls and looking to the heart of your soul in freedom or whatever. Yeesh.


The first thing is the nicely themed menus here. They have been designed quite well utilising various car parts to keep the theme. However, what they hold isn’t much at all.

Firstly, there are the outtakes. Taking animation from the show they’ve attached it to bungled lines from the voiceover talent to create a truly unfunny and poorly devised 1:43 of filler material.

Follow that with the Showroom.1 This is basically a five page gallery showcasing five of the cars used in the show with their specs. All are written in indecipherable abbreviation and jargon that only people in the know could understand or care about.

Then there’s three trailers which aren’t even labeled the usual Madman Propaganda. These are for Argentosoma, .HACK//sign and Last Exile. Truly the highlight of the extras.

Lastly the DVD Credits page which is considered an extra here for some reason. There’s also a DVD update catalogue included inside the disc and a sheet of stickers as well. These have various Initial D insignia all over them, so discretion might be well advised.


Entirely disappointing from the start to finish, this DVD has little to redeem itself and is embarrassingly amateurish. The animation is weak, the special effects cheesy, the storyline thin and the transfer sub-par. Perhaps diehard street-racing fans might find some value in it, but I’m sure they’d have more fun with their Playstation.

Not wreckommended.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3538
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      And I quote...
    "Not wreckommended."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
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    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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