Without knowing quite what to expect I decided to give Initial D a try after it coming highly recommended by a friend. Seems that the last few anime I have chosen to watch have been based on recommendations but when someone things of a series so highly I can't help but give it a shot.
Knowing that Initial D was an older series I was prepared to face some questionable looking old-school animation and I was not wrong. In the early episodes there are some interesting stylistic choices in regards to the facial expressions. Not exactly what I have come to expect from the various anime styles out there. More than anything else I must admit that the mouths kind of bothered me. Fortunately this is only the case in the first season, with the series' overall quality improving significantly in the remaining seasons or "stages." No other visual aspects of note stood out, save perhaps that this was one of the first anime to implement the combination of traditionally drawn cells and CGI.
Having gotten only a few episodes into the series I quickly realized that I was getting hooked, and fast. The story is very strong and the way that the characters get into the technical side of street racing kept me interested. In a way, the first season was perhaps also the best because most of the character growth happened within those episodes. Later stages continued to get more and more technical and battle focused, with character development eventually becoming secondary. Still, the Extra Stage OVAs did try to make up for this by focusing on character relationships.
While the introduction of protagonist Takumi as the clueless and inexperienced protege, though genius behind the wheel, was a brilliant hook for starting Initial D off, the technical minutiae and drawn-out racing battles eventually became repetitive as the series drew to a close. Not to mention that this anime lacks an actual climax and ending. Maybe that's because each battle is a climax in itself. It would have been nice to see the completion of "Project D" as the proper ending of the series but perhaps audiences had lost interest at that point.
Personally I would have loved to see more development in the romantic relationships between many of the characters instead of breaking everybody up and trying to ingrain the notion of "the lonely driver" into the viewer's mind. I also would like to have back the couple of hours spent watching the live action movie. All the characters were so different by having the production be Chinese that I had a hard time enjoying the film after spending so many episodes with the anime's characters. It's not that the actors didn't do a good job but rather that the characters were portrayed very differently.
So here I am again. Another anime series that I enjoyed quite a lot and can't seem to stop complaining about. This tends to happen quite often for some reason and maybe I just don't like seeing so much potential not being reached. When it comes down to it, I really had a lot of fun with Initial D and would recommend it to anyone with even a small interest in automotive sport. Not only is it entertaining but it's also informative and has made me pay more attention to my driving technique. Oh, and now I want to own a late '80s sports car. Probably a Subaru XT6. Go figure.