Preview - Initial D: Driftracer
Date: 2006 May 9th Tuesday [20:19] | Posted By: Spike
The slopes and turns of Mount Akina have long been the haunts of local illegal racing teams, using a technique called 'drifting' to slide round corners at top speed and jousting with opposing teams for the honour of being the top team. The teams enjoy a status of being the envy of young wannabe drivers everywhere until one day during a race an unknown driver storms the course leaving the pros in his wake, just who is this 'Akina Racing God' and where did he come from? The driver is in fact local boy Takumi 'Tak' Fujiwara making a tofu delivery run for his father who would rather spend time with his love interest Natsuki than worry over cars or races, but how will he react when his new secret identity is revealed...
In reality Tak only acquired his ability to get home a bit faster after his deliveries and had precious little interest in racing, spending most of his time studying and working at the local fuel station, however when his ex-racing driver father learns of Tak's new reputation he convinces him to race in one of the deadly downhill battles and soon becomes embroiled in the racing culture, only to become involved in a three-way event involving the best racers that the mountain has to offer.
Many people when they think of Initial D as a racing film will either look to the limited release of Honk Kong cinema that has been released in the UK, or to western racing films such as ‘The Fast and the Furious’ or ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ will likely leap to the conclusion that this will be another voyage into the realms of high-octane and low-plot pulp that both genres are known for pumping out. This however is a slightly different kettle of fish, based on the insanely popular manga of Shuichi Shigeno and the anime produced by Avex (who coincidentally had a hand in the film) and directed by both Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, this outing has a little more class than most, caring more about not only driving style and history, but the characters relationships, from the drunken father (Anthony Wong) and the girl Natsuki (Anne Suzuki) to the relationship that Tak himself (ably played by Jay Chou) has with the car and the racing experience. That said, the racing sequences are amazing as real downhill racers were employed to do the racing and coupled with some great camera shots and a spattering of special effects leaves a real feeling of exhilaration as the cars speed downhill.
Unfortunately with that said Initial D does have a few severe downfalls, not only does the film attempt to cram the first 6 DVDs from the animated series into a single 109 minute film to the loss of many races and ploy points that had inevitably to be cut, but also that Tak’s friend and son of the fuel station owner Itsuki has had his character changed from previous incarnations, leaving him annoying to the point of being infinitely distracting.
All in all, Initial D is definitely one for the petrol heads amongst us and those not interested in such things could find their attention waning during the long and heavily detailed racing sequences, but that said, Initial D fans will love it and I’m sure that many anime fans will be refreshed to see a transfer to live action that hasn’t had another’s stamp well and truly placed on it so that it becomes almost unrecognisable from the original.
Films originating in Hong Kong have been known to come and go in the west with little fanfare and only a few cinemas bothering to run them. Initial D is set to be slightly different having grossed more in their homeland than both ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Batman Returns’ together, and with general release in the UK already looking to be better than hoped for, everyone who wants to see it should get their chance.
Initial D: Driftracer opens on May 12th nationwide with a 12 certificate, so check your local press and cinema listings for details.