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Book Review < Back

Initial D vol. 1

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Shuichi Shigeno
Publisher: TokyoPop


In the first volume of INITIAL D, Tak Fujiwara delivers tofu down the dangerously curvy roads of Mount Akina for his father's local food stand. Reliving his secret past as the legendary downhill racing champ of the area, Tak's father Bunta has been quietly pushing Tak to hone his racing skills by forcing him to make his delivery runs faster and faster, until Tak has unknowingly become the best downhill racer of the entire region. His best friend Iggy dreams of joining the local racing team, the Akina Speed Stars, dragging Tak along in the process. Of course, nobody realizes Tak's insane skills, least of all Tak himself, until he is forced to replace one of the Speed Stars when the infamous Red Suns team comes to town with plans to conquer Mount Akina and declare their dominance over the region.

What makes Initial D so goddamned exciting is the fact that even though it's a comic about a racer in a Trueno AE86 [otherwise known in the US as the humble Toyota Corolla] defeating faster and newer customized street racers, it's drawn and composed in such a way that literally makes you end up twisting the book as you're reading the thing. With each curve the cars take in the story, visually your brain is overwhelmed by visceral eyecandy of the massive splash pages and sheer energy of the action flying off the page.

It's also an utterly ludicrous story that's basically an inverted spin on the Western sports myth. Rather than having an underdog champion fighting his way to hone his talent and skill to win, you have a reluctant prodigy who has to find his love of what he had previously thought was a tedious skill, a skill which his friends would kill for.

A skill which manifests itself in driving techniques, such as understeering, drift turning, ABS drifiting, parallel drifting, and all sorts of other ninja-like maneuvers which, if you're dumb like me [in my very humble 1989 Toyota Celica], will likely kill yourself trying to ape the next time you see a deserted downhill road with a sharp bank thinking, "yeah, I could totally take that Porsche. On a downhill race, horsepower means nothing."

-- Charlie Chu


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