Initial D Legend 3: Dream
by Paul Jensen,
Sometimes my life lines up with my review schedule in amusing ways. Right after reviewing an Initial D movie for this week's column, I spent the weekend in the grandstands at an actual sports car race. As I sat there commenting on the race with the people next to me, I realized that I had become one of those minor characters whose sole purpose in a sports anime is to keep the audience informed by spouting expository dialogue from the sidelines. I guess we can't all be the protagonist. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Initial D Legend 3: Dream
On Shelves This Week
Assassination Classroom the Movie: 365 Days' Time BD+DVD
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Currently cheapest at: $24.59 Amazon
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Extra: This movie apparently has some new footage, but serves mainly as a compilation of the TV series. You'll find some reviews of the series here and here, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.
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In Another World With My Smartphone - Complete Collection BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$63.74 Right Stuf
Synopsis: After being accidentally killed by a divine lightning bolt, Touya Mochizuki is reincarnated in another world with his most prized possession: his smartphone.
Extra: We've got episode reviews for this series, which a few of our writers picked as the Worst Anime of 2017. If that dubious honor piques your curiosity, you can stream the show on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.
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Extra: For those of you who are keeping track, this season is the "Stardust Crusaders" arc of the series. We have episode reviews and a full season review, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.
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Shelf Life Reviews
I never got a chance to review the second of the three Initial D remake films, but the third movie gave me a good excuse to catch up on the trilogy. Here's my take on the high-speed conclusion, along with a little bit of catch-up on the middle film.
Takumi comes into the movie fresh off of victories against Takeshi and Shingo from the NightKids racing team, only to receive a new challenge. Ryosuke, the leader of the RedSuns, has been following Takukmi's sudden rise to street racing fame and has decided to take him on personally. Ryosuke's reputation as a smart and fast racer precedes him, and the previously apathetic Takumi finds himself excited to compete against a strong opponent. At the same time, Takumi is still trying to sort out his relationship with Natsuki, who he's been getting along with despite their somewhat contentious history. For our tofu-delivering hero, it's time to make some big decisions in and out of the car.
Before I get too deep into this film, I should briefly address the second part of the trilogy, which I didn't get a chance to review when it came out on disc earlier this year. I watched it before taking on this third movie, and it's arguably the weakest of the three, if only by a small margin. The issue is not so much one of execution as it is of story structure. Both of the NightKids drivers bring some interesting new tactics to their races against Takumi, but they simply don't carry the same narrative significance as Keisuke or Ryosuke. Takeshi and Shingo are more episodic antagonists, which works fine in a long-running manga or anime series but makes for a less consequential standalone film. It's still entertaining, but it's arguably the least important of the three movies in terms of Takumi's personal growth.
That brings us up to the third and final part of the trilogy, which avoids its predecessor's problem by skipping straight over a couple “battle of the week” storylines and jumping straight to the showdown with Ryosuke. This story arc served as the conclusion of the old anime's first season, and it's easy to see why it makes for a good ending. Ryosuke is arguably the most compelling of Takumi's early opponents, both in terms of his own characterization and in terms of the challenge he presents to our protagonist. Previously, people just challenged Takumi because they had something to prove: Keisuke wanted to avenge his unofficial defeat, Takeshi wanted to prove that his car and driving style were superior, and Shingo wanted to gain power within the NightKids by one-upping Takeshi. Where these were all small-scale goals, Ryosuke has a much bigger plan in mind, and he has more to lose if he's unable to beat Takumi. At the same time, his talent and technique are strong enough that Takumi can't easily win by busting out a gimmicky special move; this is a direct competition between skilled drivers, and that makes for a more exciting premise.
Another upside here is that Takumi shows signs of growing into an actual character, rather than a blank-faced driving machine. This is something I griped about in my review of the first movie, and part of the issue there was that Takumi's initial disinterest in racing meant that the emotional and material stakes were simply too low for him. That changes for the better in a couple of ways in this installment: Takumi has discovered that he enjoys racing and is excited to take on a strong opponent like Ryosuke, and that desire to continue driving means that winning or losing now matters to him on a personal level. There are still some notable weaknesses in the writing (Natsuki in particular continues to exist in her own little bubble of a side plot with minimal connection to the main story), but overall this is a step in the right direction.
The final showdown between Takumi and Ryosuke makes for an appropriately thrilling end to the films' story. Momentum swings back and forth between the two drivers, the visuals do a good job of conveying a sense of speed, and there's genuine emotional investment on the part of both the guys racing and the people watching them. Of course, the appeal of the racing sequences continues to depend largely on the viewer's level of interest in car racing in general, and in this particular vintage of Japanese cars in particular. If you can spot the product placement of a modern sports car in a couple of scenes and are genuinely annoyed that said vehicle is from the wrong decade, then Initial D is very much your franchise. Otherwise, all the technical jargon about understeer and horsepower will just serve as a distraction from the plausibly entertaining action of cars doing sweet drift turns.
This release from Sentai Filmworks will look familiar to anyone who picked up the previous two movies. These theatrical remakes continue to look infinitely better than the old TV series, and the music remains effective but can't quite replicate the thumping electronic charms of the old soundtrack. There's still an English dub if that was your preferred audio option in the previous movies, and the extras are fairly sparse apart from a summary video of the second film.
My overall opinion of this new incarnation of Initial D remains more or less the same as it was after watching the first movie: the vastly improved visuals and snappier pacing make this trilogy a far more accessible point of entry for new viewers, and I'm glad that we now have an adaptation that looks good enough to successfully bring the manga's visuals to life. At the same time, I still feel like part of the fun of the old TV series was knowing that it was kind of crappy, openly admitting that it was kind of crappy, and enjoying it anyway. While any reasonable person would likely prefer this newer adaptation, I'm perfectly happy to keep running in the nineties.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send your Shelf Obsessed entries to [email protected]!
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