Hello and welcome back to Manga Talk!
Today we are imagining the eurobeat as we dive into the first volume of Initial D! As usual there will be MASSIVE SPOILERS for the first volume, so please support the official release.
I would also like to say that if you liked this, like it and comment if you feel like saying something. I want to start interacting with you guys more, and that is the best way to do so.
Also note, that the version I am reading of Initial D is the official version that is supplied from Comixology, and there are a ton of English translated names, so a lot of names will be different than the original. I don’t know why, but that is the case with the version I am reading.
With all that said, let’s get started!
We begin the manga in the summer of 1996 on Mt. Akina in the Gunma Prefecture of Japan where we a mysterious car drifting.
Then we cut to two high school boys talking about buying cars. Well, we see one boy, English name Iggy, talking about buying a car while his friend, nicknamed Tak, is trying to stay awake listening to his friend.
While they are talking, a girl named here Natalie, interrupts the conversation. There is some clear history between her and Tak, as he had punched her previous boyfriend in the face for saying some pretty bad stuff, as we see in a flashback later.
The boys then go to their job working at a gas station where Iggy begs their coworker, here named Cole, to explain why the Eight Six is a great car.
This flies over Tak’s head, as he isn’t too interested in cars, but Iggy manages to convince Cole, who is the leader of a mountain racing team called the Akina Speed Stars, to take them up the mountain for some driving.
Before Cole leaves work in the evening, his boss tells him that all the young racers these days can’t compare to the fastest driver, who speeds down the mountain every morning to do tofu delivery runs using an Eight Six.
At the mountain, the Speed Stars are confronted by another team of racers called The Red Suns come over to check out the competition.
They don’t want to race quite yet, but they make the offer for an official race down the mountain on Saturday, with them coming today to have a friendly exhibition.
The exhibition turns out to be the Red Suns showing off their skills, and the Speed Stars are absolutely bricking it.
When the Speed Stars pack it in and go home, a few hours later one of the racers of the Red Suns, here named Ry, is going down the mountain when he sees headlights behind him.
It’s an Eight Six, an old one at that, and it’s keeping up with his beefed up set of wheels. As they make a tight turn, Ry thinks that the driver of the Eight Six is going to flip over, only to witness the Eight Six pull off a perfect drift.
The next day Natalie calls Tak and asks for the two of them to hang out during the summer, which Tak is ok with even though the only form of transportation he has is an old hatchback that he uses for deliveries for his father’s tofu business.
Cole finds the Eight Six that his boss was talking about, and it turns out to be the car that Tak uses to make deliveries.
Cole has his suspicions, but he puts them in the back of his mind for now. He instead starts getting ready for the race on Saturday, but he is too nervous and doesn’t perform as well as he wanted.
Ry comes to the gas station to learn more about the rumored Eight Six that his brother saw. Cole plays dumb, and Ry relays that if Cole ever sees the Eight Six driver that the only reason that he beat him was because he wasn’t ready.
It comes another delivery for Tak, and it is officially shown that he has been the one making the sick drifts in the Eight Six, it had only been hinted and implied in earlier chapters.
After Tak and Natalie have a talk setting up for their date on Sunday, Cole visits Tak’s father, Bunta, and asks if he is the one who is the legendary driver.
Bunta says that he was a great driver back in the day, but he is too old now and that they should be looking for young blood to drive, while giving some driving advice to Cole as some form of consolation.
As Cole is practicing, he gets into a pretty bad wreck. He is injured, but thankfully still able to move to a certain extent. What can’t move is his car, and it definitely will not be ready for the race on Saturday.
Cole becomes despondent and desperate, and he starts going to Bunta more and more often to ask him to race with them on Saturday.
Bunta feels bad about Cole, and offers Tak an ultimatum when he asks if he can borrow the car. Tak can use the car on Sunday, with a full tank of gas, if he races on Saturday.
Tak is unsure about it and asks for some time to think on it.
Meanwhile with the Red Suns, Ry and his brother K.T. strategize and plan on how they are going to beat the Eight Six if it decides to show up.
Bunta then tells Cole that there is a fifty-fifty shot that he will see the eight Six on the mountain, all the while being vague on who will be driving the car.
The day of the race comes, and the Speed Stars are getting nervous. The meet starts at eight to warm up, with the actual timed runs starting at ten, and the Eight Six has yet to show up.
Tak then takes the car from his father, and he heads off to the mountain just as the race is about to start.
The Red Suns put a hold on starting the timed trials when they hear that an Eight Six is coming up the mountain, and we end the volume with the Eight Six approaching the starting line.
The best thing that this manga has going for it is the art of the driving scenes and the cars. They are all drawn, at least from my limited knowledge of older cars, to be quite accurate and impressive.
The scenes to the cars going down the mountain and drifting are gorgeously drawn and dynamic.
You can almost hear the screeching of the cars in your head and the sound of the engines with how well these vehicles are drawn.
I do like that Tak, as a protagonist, is fairly uninterested in the whole deal with cars.
While his friends and peers all gush about this car and that car and racing down the mountain, he is more concerned with maybe possibly impressing Natalie who has come back into the picture.
The falling out that they had was when he had overheard her previous boyfriend talk about how “promiscuous” she is, and he decked him in the face. Now that she has started showing interest in Tak, he is developing some feelings for her.
Meanwhile the tension of the two teams wanting to become the best driving team in the area is very much borrowing on a classic plot point from manga during these first few chapters.
The rumor of the Phantom Eight Six is also a fun plot point because the audience is fully aware that Tak is the one that was driving, but everyone seems to have their own theories on who the mysterious driver is.
It’ll hopefully make the payoff worth it in the future.
Crash and Burn
While the art for the cars is beautiful, I cannot say the same for the rest of the art.
The characters are oddly proportioned and I got confused on who was who multiple times while I was reading this and summarizing this.
It is entirely possible that I messed up on which member of the Red Suns raced with Tak and who talked with Cole about the gas station, the art is that indistinct.
I will also say that there is a whole side plot line involving Natalie that was weird that I didn’t mention. Like she either has a rich boyfriend or some sort of sugar daddy situation going on and is still wanting to get with Tak made the whole thing weird to me.
It felt superfluous, and just broke things up in a weird way.
There is also the fact that while this story is about going fast, there is a lot of slow parts to the manga. There is a ton of repeated dialogue, which I get for when this was going through it’s original run, but it felt slow and plodding here.
What didn’t help was the particular translation I was using. I wanted to see what it would be like looking through some digital manga, with Initial D being the first test, and the translation that was done was weird.
The dialogue felt off and trying to cater to an English audience, which is weird because the manga was relicensed by Kodansha, and I am sure that they have a better translation team then the one we got. Either that or they used the original Tokyopop translations without any adjustments, which is also possible.
I would recommend this if you want to read a story that has some great car scenes, a neat protagonist, and a classic 90s feel.
I don’t think that I will be continuing on with this series. There are a lot of factors keeping me from enjoying this series, the art and translations being the primary factors. Maybe if I find a better legal release I will check it out again, but not in its current state.
I think that I will be doing a Saturday Special every other Saturday from now on, so no Saturday Special tomorrow.
On Wednesday, we will be taking a look at a manga that some people are hoping will become a modern classic. Get ready to slay some giant monsters as we take a look at the first volume of Attack on Titan!
So until then,
Heiwa to sayonara!