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  • Hero's Journey - Chris Barry
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          Every hero, of every story, inevitably goes through what is called a hero's journey. In a basic hero's journey, a (seemingly) normal person is presented with a situation which he or she must overcome; this is usually the first step in the process. After being presented with this problem, the main hero will usually deny the request, or be skeptical of the situation. After he or she accepts what must be done, he sets out on a quest to complete it to it's fullest extent. At one point or another, his motives are (usually) changed, or at least altered slightly, by the appearance of a "goddess." This is, most usually, a female companion whom the hero comes to feel deeply for and will do anything for. This "goddess" becomes the hero's goal, sometimes surpassing the importance of the original goal that had been set.

          In the anime, Initial D, the hero is represented by Takumi Fujiwara, a seemingly normal high school student who helps out with his father's tofu shop by delivering tofu to a hotel on the summit of Mt. Akina. Takumi also holds a part time job at a gas station in his home town, along with his two friends Iketani and Itsuki. In the first episode of the anime, it is revealed that Itsuki is trying to save up money for a car. He is looking through a car magazine and rattles off the names of a few cars and their prices; all of which are way out of his range. He notices an AE86 for sale for 300,000 yen, or roughly $3600 USD (in today's economy) and begins to discuss with Takumi how they can come up with enough money to buy it. They eventually come to the conclusion that there's no way they can make enough money to buy the car in just the summer, and by then the car will have probably sold. One of their friends, Mogi, also makes an appearance in the first episode, asking about how much you can make in a summer, and how much the car they are looking to buy costs. Later, she is picked up from school by her father and she begins to discuss Takumi and Itsuki's position with a part time job, questioning if that's really all they can make in a summer's worth of work. The father agrees, telling her that sounds about right. Mogi is disturbed by this, seeing as how her father seemingly spends more than that every month on her; the father reassures her, telling her that she is worth it.

          Now that there is some sort of foundation for the characters, we can begin to discuss the hero's journey in length. The hero's journey begins with two racing gangs, the local "Speed Stars" and the out of area "Red Suns". One night while Iketani is introducing Takumi and Itsuki to the rest of the Speed Stars, the Red Suns roll up into their territory, asking for a downhill race on Mt. Akina. The race will of course be one on one, and Iketani will represent the Speed Stars, being their leader. Keisuke of the Takahashi brothers will be racing for the Red Suns. Unfortunately Iketani is injured in a practice run down Mt. Akina when he almost collides with an oncoming car. Eager to find a replacement, he seeks out the help of Takumi's father, Bunta, who is rumored to be the best downhill racer on Mt. Akina. Bunta refuses at first, but after telling Takumi that if he races in his stead, and wins, that he'll let him use the car without any conditions, and even give him a full tank of gas (Mogi had asked him to accompany her to the beach that Sunday, and Takumi requested to use the car). Takumi is very reluctant to accept at first, since he does not enjoy racing; however he accepts because a full tank of gas isn't something he can give up so easily (this is the call to adventure and refusal of the call steps, however he ends up accepting the call, as usually happens).

          That Saturday, the day of the race, Takumi shows up at 10pm to Mt. Akina just as the race is about to start. When Takumi steps out from the AE86, everyone is very surprised, especially Iketani and Itsuki, since at their part time job at the gas station, Takumi once asked what an AE86 was; this brought Iketani and Itsuki to assume that Takumi had no idea about anything involving cars. Keisuke is very interested in Takumi, since Takumi had previously beaten him on a race down the mountain before; although this was not a real race, Keisuke had been practicing on Mt. Akina, and Takumi had been heading home from his tofu delivery, and happened to pass him after doing an inertia drift. Eventually Iketani lets Takumi race, since he believes he can beat him after Takumi reveals that he had been delivering tofu for 5 years (since he was 13) and had previously beaten Keisuke in an unofficial race.

          After a tight race, Takumi eventually passes Keisuke, which is very unexpected, as the AE86 is a very old car, and Keisuke was driving an RX-7, a very fast car used for mountain racing. Takumi defeats Keisuke, consequently handing him his second loss at Takumi's hands. It is later discovered that Takumi had made a very sharp turn using a sewage drain pipe, allowing him to turn sharper than would normally be allowed. Afterward people began to think of him as the "Ghost of Akina", seeing as how his very own car had won many races in the past on the same mountain (his father had been driving.) This can be considered the supernatural aid step of the hero's journey, since there is really no supernatural aid.

          The next day, Sunday, Takumi takes Mogi to the beach and they enjoy a nice day together, indirectly mentioning that they had feelings for each other. The rest of the anime continues much like this; a situation in which Takumi must defeat a tough opponent with a much better car, but Takumi uses his superior drifting skills to beat them. Takumi beats many foes in difficult driving conditions as well, since he had been making the trip up and down Mt. Akina for five years, he had been through rain and snow as well as clear weather. The other races are not really worth mentioning in relation to the hero's journey, since he repeats the process, excluding the denial of the call step. After the first race, Takumi no longer sees driving as a troublesome thing only used to help his father's work, but as a fun sport which he can be serious about. Unfortunately, there is little to discuss about the gift of the goddess step, since most of Takumi's relationship with Mogi falls into the second season and further of the anime; our group only chose to do the first season, since doing seasons one, two, three, and four would be a little ridiculous.

          In conclusion, I believe that Takumi's journey throughout the first season of Initial D can be described as a perfect example of a classic hero's journey, don't you? He displays many steps of the hero's journey in repeated situations, and there is no way it could be mistaken for anything else but a genuine hero's journey.

Works Cited:

"Monomyth." Wikipedia. N.p., 9 Nov. 2010. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.
     <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth>. Provided information on the
     hero's journey, also referred to as a Monomyth.

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