DVD Review: Initial D Legend 1: Awakening

We go downhill to explore what MVM Entertainment’s DVD release of Initial D Legend 1: Awakening has to offer; but is it a film worthy of first place or does it crash and burn? Well’s start the race and find out (Ok, I’ll put the break on with the puns).

Synopsis:

In Initial D Legend 1: Awakening, when aspiring racer Koichiro Iketani witnesses an unplanned street duel between Keisuke Takahashi, a member of a rival race team, and a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86, Koichiro’s totally blown away by the skill of the 86’s driver. What Koichiro doesn’t know is that the driver is fellow gas station attendant Takumi Fujiwara, who was making a late-night tofu delivery for his father, a legendary Mt. Akina driver himself.

Unforeseen events are about to springboard Takumi into the center of the street-racing world, turning the rivalry between Iketani’s Akina Speedsters and Takahashi’s Akagi Red Suns into an all-out street war! The legendary series that introduced the west to the sport of drift racing is reinvented in an all new feature film that’s even faster and more furious than ever before: NEW THEATRICAL MOVIE INITIAL D LEGEND 1: AWAKENING!

Our View:

Initial D Legend is a trilogy of films that recreate the original Initial D story to offer a more streamlined viewing experience and this first film, Awakening, is where it all begins. Initial D Legend 1: Awakening begins the story of how a seemingly uninteresting person, known as Takumi Fujiwara, becomes the legendary Drift racer in his dad’s Trueno AE86 – or more commonly referred to as the 86.

This first movie, of which is just over sixty minutes in length, plays out the introductory portions of the franchise by introducing viewers to the world of downhill drift racing, the notable teams within this area of Japan (Speedsters and Red Suns) as well as the infatuation that those working at the gas station have for taking part in competitive racing. Well; that is everyone par Takumi Fujiwara.

Takumi Fujiwara is the seemingly expressionless character that by day attends school and by evening works at the local ‘General’ Gas Station; however at night he is the incredibly talented driver of the Trueno AE86 who helps his dad deliver tofu during the night. It’s this incredible talent which Keisuke Takahashi, a hot-shot racer and lead member of the Red Suns, notices and throughout the film he attempts to find him so that they can race. That’s not all as members of the Speedsters, who coincidentally work at the same Gas Station, also try to find the driver of the Trueno 86 so that they can have him represent them at future races.

Naturally Takumi Fujiwara is uninterested in races, and at this point nobody knows it is him that drove the car on that fateful day, but when a developing love-interest with high-school-friend Natsuki Mogi begins to appear Takumi Fujiwara’s interest in driving become clear; to which Takumi Fujiwara’s dad offers a challenge. Beat the Red Suns and you’ll be able to use the car for your date – to which an intense downhill race ensues between Takumi Fujiwara and the Red Sun driver Keisuke Takahashi. It’s here where the Legend of Initial D is born.

From the perspective of a film Initial D Legend 1: Awakening is nothing but an extended anime episode, not solely because of its short run time but because of how things are seemingly dragged out to fill that short run time.  It has the essence of being a recap movie, with scenes and the pace quickly changing from one another, but at the same time manages to stand on its own with its developing story and the prospect of competitive racing.

One thing is for sure though it is a short lived film and just as things start to get interesting, such as the developing relationship between characters and the street racing, it stops to leave itself open to the next film. A shame, but I guess it was obvious as it is the first of three films.

Extras:

As with most Sentai Filmwork authored releases the amount of bonus features is limited, and it is the same here, as the only inclusion are a short preview for the next film and trailers for other Sentai Filmwork releases.

The preview for the second film, known as Initial D Legend 2: Racer, is presented in both English and Japanese audio tracks and is dependent on which audio option has been selected from the main menu. This particular preview teases the a new character, the driver of a Nissan Skyline GTR, and the prospect of a new race.

Specs:

Media:  DVD 5
Region: 2
Running Time: 1:04:00
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 448kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

Initial D Legend 1: Awakening acts as the first film in a trilogy of films that recreate the story found within the Initial D manga and, in turn, the original Initial D anime series. Having not seen the original series (or read the source material) it’s unclear if this is simply an edit of past scenes into a film or an entirely new project, but at just sixty-four minutes long (and being a brand new IP to me) I don’t entirely care.

This first film in the trilogy introduces viewers to the world of downhill drift racing and the competitive nature it brings with the film highlighting two different groups, the Speedsters and Red Suns, competing against each other in a bid to be the best. Underlining this competitive storyline is the fact that Red Suns hot-shot Keisuke Takahashi wants to race the person he saw driving during the early hours of one drift session. It’s a mindless man-hunt, with some character building with Takumi Fujiwara, until the penultimate moment when Takumi Fujiwara agrees to race Keisuke Takahashi – mostly so that he can use the car for a potential date with a high-school girl.

As someone that is familiar with the name, but unfamiliar with the story, I found it to be a story of regular episode length flushed out over a sixty minute period. I’m not saying it’s not entertaining, but much more could have been implemented to keep the flow of the film as fast paced as the driving. One positive aspect of this film is that English Dub as despite being released by Sentai Filmworks, who are known for having terrible English Dubs, the dub is actually really good. This is due to the fact that English Voice actors from the FUNimation TV Series release of Initial D return to reprise their roles of notable characters – so some familiar voices can be expected. Of course this wishing to experience the original Japanese audio track can do so as it is included – with both audio tracks being in 5.1 Surround Sound for that added cinematic experience.

Initial D, and in turn Initial D Legend 1: Awakening, is a franchise for car fanatics and those who enjoed the competitive drifting nature of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but the film does have a sense of ‘dropping you into the deep end’ with backgrounds into characters, locations or events being mostly unexplained in order to focus on the star character. It’s good; but nothing special.

Score: review-stars-3

Initial D Legend 1: Awakening is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray within the UK via MVM Entertainment.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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