Manga / Initial D

"A car driven by a street racer who is at the level where he can maneuver it as easily as his hands and feet has an aura about it. Ryosuke Takahashi's driving has a strong aura. His brother Keisuke's aura is still weak. But that Eight-Six was emitting a strong aura. If he represents Akina, then the winner is still up in the air."
Takeshi Nakazato

Takumi Fujiwara is an average eighteen-year-old in Gunma Prefecture with an average part-time job as a gas station attendant and a not-so-average hand in his family's tofu business. Ever since he was thirteen — five years before he was even qualified for a driver's license — he has been helping out his father Bunta by delivering tofu on the latter's Toyota AE86 ("Sprinter Trueno" in Japan, "Corolla GT-S" in America) to a hotel at the summit of Mt. Akina every morning at 4:00 AM, but with a challenge: he must negotiate the slopes and curves without spilling a drop of water from a cup placed on the dashboard.

Naturally, his secretly-instilled skills didn't go unnoticed by the Japanese street racing underground. When the local racing team, the Speed Stars, get a challenge from the infamous RedSuns led by Takahashi brothers Keisuke and Ryosuke — the former whom Takumi met the night before — the team had to take him in as replacement for their currently-injured main driver.

Before he knows it, Takumi is quickly, and unwillingly, plunged into a high-speed world of white-knuckle contests on the most dangerous mountain passes (touge) in Japan. Assisted by the Speed Stars, his slightly obnoxious friend Itsuki Takeuchi, his good-hearted yet somewhat shady girlfriend Natsuki Mogi, and the sage-like words of Bunta, himself a retired ace drifter, Takumi will need all the help he can get to outwit and outmaneuver the most talented underground drifters in Gunma and make his way to the top of the heap.

Initial D is a long-running manga series (1995-2013) created by Shuichi Shigeno, with a series of Animated Adaptations called "Stages". The focus is on the Japanese drift-racing underground, and as such, has acted as an anime Gateway Series for western car enthusiasts. The anime is also famous for its blatant use of Conspicuous CG during its racing scenes, making for a fount of Shout Outs in several other anime.

In America, both the manga and anime were originally licensed by Tokyopop, whose alterations of the source material became controversial among the fans. When Tokypop USA imploded in 2011, Funimation picked up the rights to the anime; they carry the first four Stages, as well as the first Extra Stage OVA set. They also created a more accurate English dub, just as they had with One Piece. You can stream those episodes on their website, dubbed or subbed, for free here. Their YouTube Channel also has each episode available for free, albeit subbed only.

Early stages of the manga were remade into a three part anime film series called New Initial D The Movie with an all new cast of voice actors. The first movie Legend 1: Awakening was released in August 23rd, 2014, the second movie Legend 2: Racer was relased in may 23rd 2015 and third movie Legend 3: Dream was released in February 6th 2016.

A live-action movie based on Initial D was released in 2005. There are also numerous video game adaptations of the material, notably the Initial D Arcade Stage series, which brought the competitive arcade racing scene to life.

In 2017, Shuichi Shigeno began working on a new racing manga called MF Ghost first chapter of which was released on September 4th, 2017. It is eventually revealed to be set in the same universe, with Ryosuke Takahashi being the founder of the MFG League and describing it as the next step in Project D, while Takumi was the main character's teacher.

Compare and contrast the Wangan Midnight franchise. Not to be confused with the Will of D.

Tropes pertaining to the Initial D anime/manga with multiple examples include:

  • Adaptation Paint Job: Bunta's Subaru Impreza WRX STi is supposed to be painted "Cool Gray Metallic", just like Shigeno's own Impreza. It appears as such in the manga, the first 3 versions of Arcade Stage, and the Sony PlayStation 2 port Special Stage. When the car makes its anime debut in Fourth Stage, the Impreza is wearing the "Sonic Blue Mica" paint, and said color becomes the default paint job for the vehicle in subsequent games released from that point on.
    • Due to animation mistakes in First Stage, sometimes cars swap colors: in one particular scene, the Takahashi brothers' Mazda RX-7s change color.
  • Affectionate Parody: Densha de D is a parody of Initial D WITH TRAINS!.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Two words - "lonely driver". The Speed Stars bemoan this to no avail (particularly Itsuki). Kyoko Iwase for Keisuke would be another example, but Takumi with Natsuki is one of the few relationships to work until they graduate from high school, where she goes to study university in Tokyo and Takumi stays in Gunma. Halfway into joining Project D, he begins dating Mika Uehara.
  • Anachronism Stew: The series began in 1995 and takes place in the then-present day (stated in the manga as 199X to allow vehicles up to 1999, which many of them are on the cusp of). As the series continued, despite two or three years passing at most, cars from the early to mid-2000s start showing up, not just as background fluff that the untrained eye wouldn't notice, but as actual racing machines. Technology improves at a similar pace, with the racers' timekeepers going from handheld radios to smartphones and laptops.
    • The most egregious example by far is the cameo of the 2012 Toyota 86 in the ending of the anime.
    • With the New Initial D movie, this is even more obvious as more modern cars and technology appear in the background, including 5th Generation HiAces note  replacing the older HiAces as support vans for Red Suns and Ryosuke's computer having a flatscreen monitor while they all still use 199X era cars.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Circuit and professional racers generally look down upon mountain racers as amateurs trying to imitate them and refuse to acknowledge that touge requires its own special racing techniques.
  • Art Evolution: The Conspicuous CG gets better with each new Stage. The characters themselves evolve, looking more realistic on-screen, especially with characters such as Itsuki (he originally had constant googley-eyes and a squiggly line for a nose).
    • Art Shift: In the manga, drivers' faces get closer to a more down-to-earth look during a race; even the out-of-driver's-seat drawings tend to be more realistic than the usual manga.
  • Auto Erotica
  • Badass Driver: While the series is full of these, Takumi and Keisuke deserve special mention.
    • Takumi has such complete control over his car that he can get within a centimeter of the railing while drifting, and drift his car uphill while managing to not spill the water in a paper cup 3/4 full. The reason he developed these skills? His father made him drive up and down Mount Akina every day for five years, and the trip was so boring he tried to do it as quick as possible.
    • Keisuke is implied to be as good as Takumi by the end of the series; at one point Keisuke responds to an opponent accusing him of trying to cause a crash by running side by side by rattling off the dimensions of their car and saying that he had judged they had about 5 centimeters to spare.
    • Bunta at one point demonstrates that he's the real king of the touge by easily passing Takumi (post Project D training) while test driving the Impreza.
      • And, because it deserves mentioning, Bunta at one point 'lights a cigarette while in a full-speed four-wheel drift'.
  • Battle Aura: Post-Second Stage, with the exception of Third Stage
    • Foreshadowed by Takeshi Nakazato on the first battle between Takumi and Keisuke.
  • Back for the Finale: Nearly every named driver introduced in the story (with the exception of the Northern Saitama Alliance and the Purple Shadow duo) come back to watch the Project D vs. Sidewinder battle in Fifth and Final.
  • Berserk Button: Don't be a misogynist in front of Mako Sato and Sayuki, both Action Girls in the contrasting spectrum - the latter will chew you out verbally, the former will leave you in the dust with her Nissan Sileighty, and they'll be ''very'' feminine and classy while doing it.
    • Badmouthing his friends or abusing his girlfriend, and Takumi will give you hell for it, be it punching your lights out or smoking you in an impromptu downhill race.
  • Bland-Name Product: All over the Stages
    • The car brand "Trueno" (in the front of the Fujiwara's AE86) is spelled as "Toreno" in First Stage, until Toyota allowed the use of the actual product name.
    • There's also "Nisino", "Missan"; even "Dunlop" in Fourth Stage becomes "Danrep".
    • In Fifth Stage, "Trust" and "HKS", two famous Japanese tuning companies, become "Trest" and "NKS".
    • In Final Stage, an AE86 with a surprisingly true-to-life rally livery is manufactured by "Toyoda" and tuned by "TRE" ("TRD", short for "Toyota Racing Development") and "Advam" ("Advan", a high performance tire/wheel company), which is odd due to the free use of Toyota for well over a decade, including other scenes from previous Stages with AE86s.
  • Book Ends: The beginning and end of the manga shows Takumi Fujiwara racing alone in the Gunma prefecture on Mount Akina. Likewise, the beginning of First Stage shows Takumi in his AE86 drive past Yuuichi's Toyota Chaser, while in the end of the Final Stage, a new Toyota 86 note  drive past him.
    • On a larger scale, the plot itself has Book Ends. Both First Stage and Final Stage feature a young man who has been driving the local mountain pass every night for many years for reasons unrelated to racing. This young man is asked by the local racers to help defeat an invading team headed by Ryousuke Takahashi that has been going around conquering all the courses in the area. He does not see the appeal at first, as he does not realize how fast he truly is. However, he hesitantly accepts, and drives the course as he would normally. During the course of the battle, he gets fired up due to being challenged for the first time. Ryousuke then expresses interest in recruiting him for Project D.
  • Brick Joke: In the first episode, Takumi spends his entire ride up the mountain with Iketaki screaming in terror; it's implied that he's terrified of Iketaki's amateurish and dangerous driving style. When they're at the top, both Iketani and Itsuki make fun of him for it. Five episodes later, after it's revealed Takumi is one of the best drivers in the cast, Iketani asks him for a ride-along on the downhill. Not only does he react the same way Takumi did in episode 1, he actually passes out by the third turn.
  • Calling Your Attacks: From Fourth Stage, care of the gray Silvia S15 driver: "EXTREME SUPER ULTRA LATE BRAKING!!!" It fails.
  • CCG Importance Dissonance
  • Character Development: Takumi goes from an apathetic tofu delivery guy to a hardened street racer, Natsuki realizes that Enjo Kosai isn't the best way to go for her and does her best to get out, Shingo Shoji stops being a Jerk Ass and Itsuki goes through his First Love in Second Stage.
  • Cool Car: A lot of them, though subverted with the AE86, as it's one of the lesser cool cars.
    • The subversion is itself subverted, as Real Life demand for the car increased through drift contests and the show's popularity. While drift circles had already praised the vehicle, Initial D is the reason why every fan wants an old AE86.
    • Once the reason for its popularity suddenly skyrocketed, Toyota and Subaru collaborated together to create the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ, specifically as a Spiritual Successor to the AE86. That's how cool this car is.
  • Cool Old Guy: Bunta, Dr. Toshiya "God Hand" Joshima and Kozo "God Foot" Hoshino. All three are the oldest known top-tier racers in the series, and nobody has explicitly beaten Bunta.
  • Conspicuous CG: Well known for it, and usually turns up in parodies through blatant Art Shift.
  • Combat Commentator: Takeshi Nakazato covers most of First Stage and Second Stage along with Ryosuke. The latter continues commentary through Fifth Stage, though Daisuke Ninomiya and "Smiley" Sakai commentate in Fourth Stage after their defeat by Project D. In Fifth Stage, Team Sidewinder's Gou Hojo and Eiji Kubo replace Ninomiya and Smiley. In the final race, all of Project D's old opponents and everyone from Gunma including the Night Kids, Impact Blue and Team Emperor come back to watch and commentate on the race.
    • Much of the manga handles this through the author's notes.
  • Cultural Translation: The first English dub from Tokyopop had all kinds of special effects added to it, and threw out the Eurobeat soundtrack in favor of rap. This didn't sit very well with purists of the series, and for good reason. The justification behind this was Tokyopop was only going to change the music for the TV broadcast in order to introduce up and coming new artists, but the original music would be retained in the subtitled version (or something like that).
    • They did avoid flipping the transparancies for the manga reading left-to-right, which would've yielded the "bonus" of all the cars being driven on the left side of the road and moving on the right side (well, mostly), likely because it would also have resulted in the gas pedal being on the left.
    • After Tokyopop folded, Funimation redubbed the first four Stages along with the first Impact Blue OVA, keeping the original music and scripts intact.
  • Darker and Edgier: General tone-wise, while the anime and manga can have some dark elements around it, the Legend anime film series is a darker retelling of the first parts, while retaining general humor as well. The films also feature more-serious rock music instead of more-upbeat Eurobeat music. (see Real Song Theme Tune below)
  • Dramatic Irony: Bunta makes it a point during Second Stage several times that the Trueno's original engine is close to the end of its life, a fact that he decidedly does not tell Takumi because he plans for the engine to go out so that Takumi can better appreciate the planned engine swap. Takumi goes on to race against Kyouichi unaware that the Trueno's 4AGE engine is about to blow, the race interspersed with shots of the Trueno's engine and Bunta's commentary on the soon-to-be-gone engine and the engine swap.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The first minute or so of the anime does an excellent job of establishing what to expect. It starts with a group of establishing shots of a mountain pass in the middle of the night. The very first sound you hear is tires squealing in the distance. A background song begins with the standard guitar with drum accompaniment. Then the AE86 makes its appearance in all its Conspicuous CG glory, with the speedometer reading almost 130 kph, and the background music abruptly changes to Eurobeat. From there, the 86 goes through several tight, high-speed drifts. Then we switch to the perspective of another driver coming in the other direction, who upon seeing the 86 comments on how the driver of the 86 hasn't changed a bit.
  • Fanservice: Some fans complained this was the whole point of Extra Stage.
  • Feuding Families: Between the Fujiwaras and the Kogashiwas, though it seems to mostly come from the latter.
  • Foreshadowing: After spinning out and losing the race in Third Stage, Koshigawa Kai asks Takumi "Why don't we race again someday?". They meet again in Fifth Stage, where Kai once again loses after spinning out.
  • Gratuitous English: "COOOOOOOOOOOOL!", "Thank you!", and "Don't miss it!", just to name a few examples.
  • Graceful Loser: Quite a few racers are pretty accepting of their defeats. Of note is Kyoichi Sudo, who ties with Takumi, but considers a draw on his home course a victory for the visitor.
    • Even Shingo takes his defeat against Takumi well, despite his car flipping end over end in a failed attempt to ram Takumi off the mountain pass.
  • Hollywood Darkness: After First Stage, even at night with sparse lighting in the mountains, the interior shots of the drivers are almost always well lit, with nary a shadow passing over the interior. From Fourth Stage on, there is a noticeable blue tint in race scenes where there should have been darkness.
  • Irony: The song "Night of Fire" plays in the middle of a race in the rain. The song itself even has samples of rain noises in it.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Keisuke Takahashi. At one point in 4th Stage, he spots his prospective opponent broken down by the side of the road. He pulls over, berates and insults her for not realizing something was wrong sooner, says he wouldn't want to race someone so "sloppy", and drives off... then returns a little while later with a full parts van to fix the car for her.
  • Last Episode Theme Reprise: Downplayed with the usage of m.o.v.e's "Rage your Dream" (the Ending theme from First Stage), as the background end credits theme for Final Stage.
  • Leitmotif: Heavily used in First Stage, where every racer has a recognizably different theme that plays when they're racing seriously, usually relevant to their personality. For example, Awesomeness by Analysis driver Ryosuke has a theme featuring the sound of keyboard-buttons and dot-matrix printouts combined with an electronic voice, while ruthless Jerkass Shingo has a theme that opens with an Evil Laugh. In later Stage, this is mostly dropped in favor of a more generic Eurobeat soundtrack, but is still present here and there, notably with Hoshino of the Purple Shadow in Fourth Stage, whose theme is a remix of Takeshi's from First Stage, due to the same type of car he drives (a Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 to Takeshi's Nissan Skyline GT-R R32). This is also notable with Rin "Shinigami" Hojo, whose Nightmare Fuel-inducing driving style and Dark Is Evil aesthetics match well with a theme featuring an Ominous Pipe Organ.
  • Left the Background Music On: Happens frequently, particularly during the first couple of Stages. A scene-cut will leave the music playing on somebody's car stereo or radio, or the other way around.
  • Limit Break: In the final battle, Takumi accidentally hits 12,000 rpm on his engine that is capable of only 11,000 rpm, causing his engine to blow in the last corner. However, the extra revs let Takumi squeak just ahead of Shinji, and he used his previous experience of handling mid-race engine failures to guide his broken-down car to victory.
  • Limited Wardrobe. For First Stage; averted afterwards
  • Medium Blending: With the live-action automotive series Best Motoring. An early episode has the Speed Stars watching a segment from Keiichi Tsuchiya's Drift Bible, referring to the advertisement for the original Japanese release of it in the last pages of the first volume of the manga. Second stage also includes clips from the series.
  • Meaningful Name: The "D" in Project D, as revealed by Ryousuke in the epilogue of Final: "Dream", particularly his dream of training up-and-coming-street racers into proper professionals.
  • Meet Cute: Right after meeting and identifying Takumi, Mika gives him a full-swing slap to the face because a fake Takumi had taken advantage of Mika's friend Tomoko. They begin dating after Mika realizes she slapped the wrong person and she apologizes to the real Takumi.
  • Mirror Match: What Takumi's battle with Shinji in Final Stage essentially boils down to. Shinji drives a stock AE86, and has been driving the pass every night for many years, to the point of mastery. Like Takumi, he doesn't see the appeal in racing at first, and like Takumi, he has to be persuaded to participate by the local racers. In short, Takumi is up against himself at the start of the series.
  • No Ending
  • Oh, Crap!: The initial reaction of many racers upon seeing Takumi's AE86 catching up to them, and later overtaking them.
    • Yuichi does one of this riding with Bunta in the AE86 as Bunta lights up a smoke in the middle of a drift.
  • Only One Face: Fifth Stage really took this direction, as all characters begin looking more and more like Takumi, including Mika.
    • In most of their appearances, such as the original manga, Mako and Sayuki looked nearly identical, with the latter having a somewhat more rounded jawline (as well as certain other parts). Final Stage made them look less like twins, but also switched their head shapes around.
  • On The Next Episode Of Catchphrase: "Don't Miss It!", although it doesn't happen in episode two of First Stage (it appears in all subsequent episodes). Next Episode previews disappeared from Fourth Stage on, but Previous Episode recaps came back in the Fifth and Final Stages.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Deliberately invoked by Ryousuke for Project D; he intends to "play the part of a hated villain" to make their opponents more competitive.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Takumi, Itsuki and Natsuki
  • Panty Shot: Used and lampshaded as the characters (especially Itsuki) wonder why the school decided to make the uniforms so short.
  • Previously On: Every episode after the first of every TV season except Fourth Stage spent between 90 seconds and 3 minutes after the opening to recap the end of the previous episode.
  • Real Song Theme Tune:
    • Every Eurobeat track used in the anime and games are taken from the label Avex Trax's Super Eurobeat compilation albums.
    • The Legend anime film series uses songs from Japanese rock bands like Backdraft Smiths and CLUTCHO.
  • The Rival: At least half the cast.
  • Rule of Cool: Viewers can expect semi-accurate car designs, but don't expect semi-accurate physics, despite the realistic logic behind the races (yes, inertial drift is a real thing).
  • Schematized Prop: Pretty much the point
  • Secret Legacy
  • Smoking Is Cool: In the First and Second Stages of the anime, Bunta and virtually every racer except Takumi and Mako smoked. Almost every episode featured a shot of someone smoking, occasionally coupled with a shot of them throwing the cigarette on the ground and stomping on it. From the Third Stage on smoking was shown much less; it was mostly just Bunta at that point.
  • Stealth Pun: An auditory one in the Funimation dub of episode 24 in First Stage "Akagi's White Comet"; during the sequence when Bunta lights up a cigarette in the middle of a drift, you can hear a few bars of the song Look Away, Dixieland. It's funny because he's not looking at the road.
  • Those Two Guys: They're from Tokyo, driving an S15, though they get walloped by Takumi driving Itsuki's Eight-Five.
  • Training from Hell:
    • Every day since he was thirteen, Bunta sends Takumi on a tofu delivery run up Mount Akina to a hotel near a lake at 4 in the morning (regardless of the weather), and without spilling a single drop of water in the cup holder; the idea being that if the water spills, the box of tofu he's delivering in the trunk will get damaged. This is physically impossible in Real Life, but Takumi does it anyways.
    • After Project D is established, Ryosuke forces his brother to do runs up and down Mount Akagi, while trying to exactly match the time assigned to him — without a timer.
  • Trickster Mentor: Bunta's tofu delivery runs for his son are training for his road racing ability. This is not known to Takumi until a few episodes/chapters into the series, at which point he had been performing deliveries for five years.
    • A more dramatic example occurs following Takumi and Kyoichi's first race: Bunta planned for the stock engine in the AE86 to be used to its limit, so that Takumi will be forced to accept the engine swap his father had prepared for the Trueno.
    • By the time Project D is founded, Ryosuke plays the same role, even while Bunta's mentoring becomes even trickier.
  • Victory by Endurance: Starting from Fourth Stage, the winner is no longer considered after just one run. Instead, the winner is conceived based on "cat and mouse" rules, where the cat wins by passing the mouse or the mouse wins by losing the cat. While some battles ended quickly based on technique, few notable battle take up more than just one or two runs. Notable examples are Keisuke vs Wataru and Takumi vs Joshima. note 
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Takeshi and Shingo, who right until the end try to stay spaced apart from each other to avoid giving off the impression of being good friends.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Early on in Fifth Stage, Takumi starts dating Mika Uehara. However, at the end of the series, it is not clear whether or not they make the Relationship Upgrade.
  • What a Piece of Junk: Woe to the racer who underestimates the AE86 or Takumi to a group of racers at the wheel of Itsuki's AE85.
    • At one point, one of Takumi's opponents notes that Takumi's signature technique—the gutter run—is only possible because he drives an older car with a higher ride height and less fragile undercarriage.