Visual Arts: Anime
Street Racer's Worth in Initial D
At first glance, Initial D is an anime based on cars and girls. People who are so shallow as to not look into the finer details of the anime, and actually try to analyze it, will stick with this opinion throughout the series and eventually lose interest. However, upon closer examination, one can make arguments for several aspects of the anime and derive a number of themes. After watching the entire series and reading a chunk of the manga I noticed several things others did not. The most interesting being that the Japanese, who pride themselves on technological advancement, use cars and machines as status symbols. In Initial D though, importance is truly placed on proving one's worth through skill and a connection to one's car rather than technology alone.
Takumi Fujiwara, the protagonist of the series, was quick to catch on to this. From the beginning of the series, up to the very end, he is constantly put down and laughed at for his use of a Toyota Corolla AE-86. Commonly referred to as simply “the 86”, this model corolla was produced in between 1983 and 1987. It was a huge hit with import racers and the JDM alike due to it's very small size and rear wheel drive. However, most of Takumi's opponents use newer model cars, none dating earlier production than 1992, including the EG-6 Honda Civic and the F3DS Mazda RX-7.
Regardless of how well Takumi did in each race, however, even his own friends would doubt his abilities and even more so his car. On numerous occasions, Iketani and Itsuki both suggested adding a turbo to Takumi's 86. What they failed to realize is that part of Takumi's awesome abilities as a driver was his connection to his 86. Driving the winding passes of Akina for five years straight with the same vehicle helped him develop a driving style that most racers can only dream of having. It was this technique that helped him to win against opponents who had seemingly unfair advantages.Shuichi Shigeno, the writer of Initial D makes the importance of human skill even more important with the introduction of auras. Not seen in the first season, but commonly mentioned, auras were given off by Takumi's more powerful opponents such as Keisuke Takahashi and his brother Ryosuke. These auras are a sign of ones greatness in the racing scene and indicate how tough Takumi's battle will be.
Drivers of great skill and power are the only one's to produce such an effect. While not physically existent, they play into the developing skills of a street racer. The perfect example of this is Takumi himself. While he did have excellent skill for someone who didn't even have an interest in racing, as he began to develop a sense of street racers pride and began to partake in more races, he began to more easily detect such auras. Once again, these auras aren't something a machine can detect, but can only be detected by those with great mastery of his machines. This concept was also fueled by input from Keiichi Tsuchiya, the drift king. Tsuchiya was and still is the premier circuit drift racer today and is commonly known as the "Drift King." It is he, more than anyone, who understands this and it shows in an interview with the Anime New Service. When asked about his competition and their top tier machines, Tsuchiya responds, "If even a machine is good, I would think that it is the driver which must win. He is a driver with such high possibility." Even though he is known as the est he respects the racer even more so than the machine.
While importance is placed on cars in the anime Initial D, there is a more subtle importance on a racer's worth. However, one has to be willing to look for such things while watching and not just sum it up to an anime about cars and girls. While a subtle theme in the first season, it becomes more apparent as Takumi's skill and interest in street racing grows and manifests into that of a semi-pro racer. All of his accomplishments were through self-determination and skill, not through the power of his car or the amount of money he pumped into it.
"DriftworksWhat Is Drifting?" Driftworks - #1 for Drifting on the Web. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <http://www.driftworks.com/drifting/>.
"ANS Exclusive Interview: The Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya." Anime News Service - Celebrating 10 Years As The World's Source For Anime News. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <http://www.animenewsservice.com/archives/driftking.htm>.