Takumi Fujiwara is an average eighteen-year-old teen from Akina in Gunma Prefecture with an average after-school 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 of Gunma without spilling a drop of water from a cup placed on the dashboard.Naturally, his secretly-instilled skills never went unnoticed by the Japanese street racing underground. When the local racing team, the Speedstars, 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 knew it, Takumi is quickly, and unwillingly, plunged into a high-speed world of white-knuckle contests on the most dangerous mountain passes in Japan. Assisted by the Speedstars, his slightly obnoxious friend Itsuki, his good-hearted yet somewhat shady girlfriend Natsuki Mogi, and the sage-like words of Bunta, himself a retired ace drifter, he'll need all the help he can get to outwit and outmaneuver Japan's most talented underground drifters and outmaneuver 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 anime adaptations. The focus is on the Japanese drift-racing underground, and as such, has acted as an anime Gateway Series for western car fans. The anime adaptation is also famous for its blatant use of Conspicuous CG on its racing scenes, making for a fount of Shout Outs in several other anime.A live-action movie based on Initial D was released in 2005. There are also numerous video game adaptations of the material, most notably the Initial D Arcade Stage series, which brought the competitive arcade racing game scene to life.
The Initial D anime and manga have examples of:
Adaptation Paint Job: Bunta's Subaru Impreza WRX STi is supposed to be painted Gunmetal Grey, just like Shigeno's own Impreza. It appears as such in the manga, the first 3 versions of Arcade Stage, and in Special Stage. When the car made its anime debut in Fourth Stage, the Impreza appears wearing the "555 Blue Mica" paint, and said color becomes the default paint for the car in subsequent games released from that point on.
Due to animation mistakes in First Stage sometimes cars swap colors. There is one scene in particular where the Takahashis' RX-7s change color.
All Love Is Unrequited: Two words: Lonely driver. Takumi is one lucky guy to have actually gotten a girlfriend who stuck with him for so long. And then he gets another one in the manga when the first one moves to Tokyo.
Anachronism Stew: The series was started 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 goes on, 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 racers. Technology improves at a similar pace, with the racers' timekeepers going from handheld radios to smartphones and laptops.
Armor-Piercing Slap: In an rare male-to-male example, Team Emperor leader Kyouichi slaps Seiji for refusing to follow a tactic that would've secured his victory against Takumi.
Art Evolution: The CG animation gets better with each new season. The characters themselves evolve as well, looking more realistic for more time on-screen, especially noticeable with characters such as Itsuki (who originally had constant googley-eyes and a squiggly line for a nose).
Art Shift: In the manga, the faces get closer to a more realistic look during a battle as adverse other situations, though even the out-of-driver's-seat drawing tends to be more realistic than usual manga.
Attempted Rape: Miki, the son of Natsuki's former "patron" attempts this on Natsuki in Third Stage, after she refuses him.
Awesomeness by Analysis: Ryosuke Takahashi, one of the hero's main rivals, is said to be the only racing driver who trains on the computer. Not through simulations, but apparently by mathematical analysis of the performance of different cars. note This is technically possible - all cars will have performance limits created by their characteristics that will dictate how they can attack a course - but you'd have to be REALLY imaginative to imagine all of that from the readout of an early '90s computer.
Character Development: Takumi goes from an apathetic tofu delivery guy to a hardened street racer. Natsuki realizes that prostitution isn't the best way to go for her and does her best to get out. Shingo, while remaining a jerk, stops being a Jerk Ass. Itsuki goes through his first love in the second season.
Cool Car: A lot of them, though in a bit of a subversion, the hero's has one of the lesser cool cars.
The subversion is itself subverted, as real-life demand for the hero's car increased through drift contests and the show's popularity. It was already popular in the drift circles, but Initial D was what made everyone want an old AE86.
While the reason for the AE86's popularity suddenly skyrocketing is up for grabs, Toyota created the Toyota GT-86 (Scion FR-S in America, Toyota 86 in Japan) specifically as a Spiritual Successor to the AE86. That's how cool this car is.
Cool Old Guy: Dr. Toshiya "God Hand" Joushima, Kozo "God Foot" Hoshino, and Bunta Fujiwara himself. All three are top-tier racers, and nobody have explicitly beaten Bunta. Even when he's not serious.
Lucky Star spoofed it. The really funny thing is that the driver is a cop, and should know better. And drives at 40 km/h (25 mph for the metric-impaired).
Combat Commentator: Nakazato Takeshi covered most of season one and two, along with Takahashi Ryousuke. Ryousuke continues commentary through Fourth Stage, though Ninomiya Daisuke and "Smiley" Sakai are added to the commentator roster after their defeat by Project D.
Much of the manga actually handles this through 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 a rap soundtrack. This did not sit very well with purists of the series, and for good reason.
The justification behind this was that Tokyopop was only going to change the music for the TV broadcast in order to introduce up and coming new artists, but that 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 left-hand-drive and moving on the right side of the road (well, mostly), however - likely because it would also have resulted in the gas pedal being on the left.
And now, FUNimation is releasing it with a proper dub and the original music. They're starting with Third Stage and Fourth Stage first though since neither series made it here.
Enjo Kosai: Natsuki Mogi, Takumi's crush, engages in this. Her giving said practice up and facing the consequences of such a decision is a good part of her Character Development.
Executive Meddling: The translators working on the English version of the manga originally wanted a straight translation, but Tokyopop executives demanded various changes because they were "aiming for a younger audience than Japan". This resulted in the translators writing an open letter to the fans in which they joked about releasing the manga shrink-wrapped with White-Out and a felt-tip pen.
Additionally, they wanted even more significant changes including, but not limited to: removing the kanji from the show's logo and the car, changing "tofu" delivery to "pizza" delivery, and having Takumi renamed "Jeffery" because it was "easier to pronounce". In the end the translators elected to give everyone the "nicknames" used in the English versions of the Arcade Stage games. As a result, "Takumi" became "Tak", for instance.
Even Shingo takes his defeat well, despite flipping end over end in a failed attempt to kill Takumi by running him off the mountain pass.
Heroic BSOD: Takumi gets one after his AE86's engine breaks down.
He also gets a minor one after Bunta in an Impreza beats him.
Hoist by His Own Petard: In Stage 4, Episode 17, it happens to the opposing team. Earlier they sabotaged Keisuke's car with an oil spill in the middle of the road when he was practicing. During the downhill run, the opponent slips on it giving Takumi a chance to overtake him. However, they also called in some gang members to cause trouble in case they lost... not realizing that not only were they from Gunma (and thus, in heavy favor with Project.D), but the leader was Keisuke's junior some time ago.
I Am Not Left-Handed: While Takumi's driving down Akina, a Subaru Impreza drives by and passes Takumi's upgraded AE86 easily. It turns out that the car belongs to his father Bunta - and he was just taking it for a test run before deciding to purchase it as his personal vehicle.
Instant Expert: Averted in that Takumi learned to drift by driving delivery orders down the same stretch of road repeatedly for years, but also played straight in that Takumi is also theorized to have a "natural talent" for driving.
Kick the Dog: Jerk Jock Shingo. To illustrate, he wrecks Itsuki's date with his blind date, and nearly goes kamikaze on Takumi in a race, though this fails and only Shingo crashes instead. He doestone hisJerkassinessdown considerably in Extra Stage.
Leitmotif: Heavily used in the first season, where everyone Takumi races has a recognizably different theme that plays when they're racing seriously, usually relevant to their personality somehow. 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 the ruthless Jerk Ass driver Shingo has a theme that opens with an Evil Laugh. In later seasons, this is mostly dropped in favor of a more generic (though still awesome) rock soundtrack, but it still pops up here and there - most notably with one of the 'Final Boss' racers of the fourth season, whose theme is a remix of Nagazato's Theme from the first season... apparently for no other reason than that he drives the same type of car. (An R34 to Nagazato's R32.)
This series is what pushed it from "old used car" to "sought-after classic" both in Japan and the US; slightly subverted by the fact that the notchback coupe model is more sought-after than Initial D's hatchback due to a slightly stiffer shell.
And guess what? The notchback appears much later in the manga, driven by a young boy named Shinn.
Real Song Theme Tune: Every single Eurobeat track used in the series and games are taken from the label Avex Trax's Super Eurobeat compilation albums.
Rule of Cool: You can expect semi-accurate car designs, but don't expect semi-accurate physics.
The videogames, in fact, are notorious for their very arcade-like drifting physics.
Spit Take: Yuichi Tachibana, the owner of the gas station where Takumi works, does one of these when Bunta tells him that Takumi's been delivering tofu to the Lake Akina resort. This is because Takumi's driving is good enough to pass for his father's.
The Alleged Car/Joke Car: Wanting to be like Takumi after his reputation flourishes, Itsuki looks for an AE86 Corolla Levin. However, he gets duped into buying a Corolla Levin AE85, and not the Corolla Levin AE86. To put it in American terms, Itsuki bought the base model bastard cousin of the superior Muscle Car (or in USDM parlance, Itsuki bought a Toyota Corolla SR5, while Takumi drives around in at least a Toyota Corolla GT-S). The other characters make fun of this, but Itsuki is determined to stick with the car after some encouraging words from Takumi. This is further reinforced as Takumi takes the car and schools several street racers who disparages the car and Itsuki while out on a drive.
The Load: Iketani and Itsuki, in the sense they will never beat almost anyone in a race. Ever. Takumi came around to help them out for a bit but after he left, they were back to being a weak team.
Too Dumb to Live: The LanEvo team from Saitama. When you contact a group of bad-asses to beat someone up for you, make sure they're not a) fans of the team said person belongs to and/or b) former subordinates of the guy whose car you sabotaged.
Training from Hell: Every day, Bunta sends Takumi on a tofu delivery run up Mount Akina to a hotel at 4 in the morning (regardless of the weather) without spilling a single drop of water in the cup holder. In real life, this is physically impossible...but Takumi makes it possible anyway.
Not so. Especially since Bunta fills it half way\three quarters of the way, this is very possible. I wouldn't recommend street racing if this was what you're going for, but it certainly is doable.
Ryosuke also does this to his brother later in the manga by making him do runs up and down Akagi while trying to exactly match the time assigned to him—without a timer.
Trickster Mentor: Said tofu delivery runs are training for Takumi's road racing ability. This is not known to him until a few episodes/chapters into the series (at which point he had been delivering tofu for five years).
A more dramatic example happens during the battle between Takumi and Kyouichi, when the Trueno's engine goes boom. Bunta planned for this to happen so that Takumi would be forced to accept the engine swap that Bunta had prepared for the Trueno.
As if that's not enough, by the fourth stage he also has Ryosuke Takahashi playing the same role even while his father gets trickier.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Shingo and Nakazato, who often try to stay spaced apart from each other to avoid giving off the impression of being best friends.
Wax On, Wax Off: All he does, or so he thinks, is driving as fast as possible to have time to deliver the tofu, return home and have a little snooze before school, drifting so as to prevent the tofu from rolling and tumbling around the trunk.
We Win Because You Didn't: Inverted when Takumi ties with Kyouichi on Kyouichi's home course of Irohazaka. Kyouichi responds by declaring Takumi the victor; his reasoning is that Takumi, an away driver, was able to keep up with him on his own course.
Weak, but Skilled: Underestimating Takumi and his Trueno is a quick way to get thrown off-guard when you battle him.