Some anime and manga series have a way of never going away. Initial D: Legend 1: Awakening does just that. That’s right, more of the series that made you fall in love with illegal street racing. And I’m not talking about The Fast and the Furious.
Initial D made us fall in love with illegal street racing 20 years ago. By us, I mean anime fans. Initial D: Legend 1: Awakening not only has a long and awkward name but looks to revive this popular series. In a long line of manga, anime, and video games, this is the first of a trilogy that looks to recreate the early volumes of the anime. Hopefully while updating, they will avoid losing any of the charm that made the earlier renditions of the franchise so appealing.
The story starts with a race between a Keisuke and a mysterious driver racing down a mountain. The unknown driver manages to outmaneuver and embarrass Keisuke. The following day, Keisuke’s team, the RedSuns are racing the Speedstars. Iketani of the Speedstars tries everything he can in the race but winds up crashing his car. Knowing that he is out of the next race, he searches for a replacement on the team. The search for the Eight-Six that beat Keisuke leads him to a tofu delivery car of Bunta. Bunta can’t replace him in the race, but it is revealed that he was not the driver who beat Keisuke at the beginning of the movie. The driver is someone else who may be able to fill in after all.
Awakening moves pretty quickly. It is covering a decent amount of ground in about an hour of time. It doesn’t really seem rushed as the story unfolds. But it does end up appearing pretty thin. It honestly just feels like I watched a couple episodes of a TV show instead of a film. But honestly, that works fine. I just think that this really needs the other two entries to feel whole.
I do remember watching some of the original anime when it came out but was never a devoted fan as many were. As such, it is hard to judge whether this lives up to that series or not. I will say that it does feel updated and still works despite its contemporary feel. I just hope that the full series of new movies feel like a complete and satisfying story.
Technical Side: 3.5/5
Initial D: Legend 1: Awakening comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a rather clean transfer. The animation looks solid throughout the film, which is important for a racing anime. The night scenes always feature good contrast and clarity despite low light. The audio also holds up. Despite the focus on racing, a lot of the film is spent on character interaction and the dialog always stays clear throughout. Nothing disappointing here.
Special Features and Packaging: 2/5
All that is included is a preview of the next film and some other releases available from Sentai.
Awakening comes in a standard Blu-ray double case with both Blu-ray and DVD. Nothing else really notable about the packaging.
Initial D: Legend 1: Awakening Overall: 3/5
Initial D: Legend 1: Awakening is a pretty good start for re-igniting the series. If the next two movies are as well executed and paced, then they should make for a good three-hour telling of the story. This release looks and sounds good, but lacks any extra material. At only an hour, this seems a little light so I wish they were releasing all three parts together instead of one at a time. If you can find it for a good price, it is worth it for anime fans. Available from Amazon or wherever anime is sold.