In 1996 Japan released a 39-episode anime series entitled Initial D. Creators of the show were uncertain how it would resonate in the Japanese audience and car community. Uncertainty would have been put to rest if only the producers could have imagined the popularity and cult following that ensued after its debut. Over a span of two seasons, from 1998-2000, Initial D entertained the youth of Japan as well as young adults with the fascination of import racing and a unique storyline. Initial D has established itself as one of the most popular cartoons in present anime history. With the success of Initial D (stage one and two), dual OVA episodes and a theatrical movie were created with high anticipation for a possible fourth season in the near future.
Tokyo Pop, Inc., the driving force behind many of the anime programs and movies you see on your TV screens, is bringing the highly anticipated Initial D series to the U.S. in September of 2003. Initial D, the anime series, is solely based upon import cars and the increasingly popular drift scene now taking the U.S. by storm. This fast-paced, action-filled series revolves around the main character, Tak (Takumi) Fujiwara, who drives a Panda scheme Trueno (AE86 Corolla). Although Tak is only 18 years old, he began driving at the early age of 13, helping his father Bunta Fujiwara deliver tofu (soy bean curd) from their home to a hotel at the top of the Akina Mountain every morning. Continually driving through the same mountain pass on a daily basis, Tak learns to improve his driving skills. With the specific goal of minimizing his travel time to deliver the tofu, he unknowingly uses drifting techniques in the process. Throughout the movie, Tak is challenged by rival racers in cars such as Skyline GTRs, Lancer Evolutions, and other high-horsepower cars. The other racers soon realized this young kid out of high school is not to be taken lightly. Initial D will put you at the edge of your seat with plenty of tire screeching, turbo spooling and touge (mountain) drifting that will keep you wanting more.
An enormous hit in Japan, Initial D has already sold more than 30 million graphic novels, boasted an incredible 47 percent market share in its television time slot and earned more than $300 million in revenue from the Asian market alone. Each soon-to-be-released Tokyo Pop DVD volumes (composed of three separate episodes) contains both the original authentic Japanese version (with English subtitles options) and the U.S. version, with English dialogue and enhanced video options that intensify the race sequences. Viewers can "custom tune" these two different versions, mixing and matching the English and Japanese audio and video, and modifying the way they watch each heart-pounding episode. There is something for everyone, including those who have already seen the original version from Japan. Tokyo Pop, with strong support from the original creators of Initial D, have revamped the original 2D-and-3D CG (computer graphic) race scenes. With a simple click of the button, consumers have interchangeable viewing capabilities and are able to choose from the authentic version or the newly-developed, enhanced version.
Import Tuner had an opportunity to visit the production studios of Initial D at Studio E Productions, located in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles. Crispin Freeman, the voice of Cole/ Iketani, worked alongside the production staff to complete episode four of the first season. Freeman is no stranger to the anime world and has contributed his voice to a number of films including, Grave Of The Fireflies, Hellsing, Chobits and Slayers. The amount of work that went into the voiceover was amazing. Freeman had to repeatedly recite script lines in order to match the mouthing of Cole's character. As I watched the whole process, I thought about how much I take for granted the amount of work that goes into re-editing an anime movie that was originally in another language. Jamie Simone, studio director and coordinator for the Initial D project, says that "it takes approximately a week to complete around three episodes, not including any final touches."
"With its cutting-edge blend of digital animation and visual effects, its unique on-screen customization properties, and its exciting, relevant storylines, Initial D is Tokyo Pop's premier property of 2003," says Stuart Levy, Tokyo Pop Founder and CEO. "We look forward to answering the call of the series' core fans while exposing Initial D to a whole new audience." So remember boys and girls, lets keep drifting on sanctioned tracks and off the streets and please don't try to race a Skyline in your Hachiroku-remember, it's only an anime.