Review for Initial D Legend 3: Dream
The first two Initial D Legend movies turned out to be slight disappointments for me. Certainly you can’t fault the creators for revisiting the start of the story, this time giving the aesthetically challenged manga (the character designs are something else) a 21st Century upgrade. Certainly the driving sequences and the overall animation is a world away from that original TV series. But compressing the opening story arcs into three, hour-long movies meant that a lot of narrative and character development hit the floor to allow for the emphasis on the action. With this final Dream movie, Initial D’s feature film remake has one final shot at impressing me.
Takumi Fujiwara is a high school student who lives with his dad near Mount Akina, and helps him run his tofu shop. His other part time job is with his best friend Itsuki at the local petrol station, and while Itsuki talks endlessly and fantasises about finally owning a car, Takumi remains hopelessly ill informed on the subject, setting himself up as the target of his friends' teasing. His friends don't know that while he may not know the terminology or the finer points of auto-mechanics, he's been driving for years for his dad, delivering tofu to the other side of Mount Akina in the early hours of the morning when the roads are empty. They're rarely empty on Akina though, as late night the mountain becomes the haven of street racers looking to test themselves against its hazardous hairpins and thrilling straights. Takumi has been driving so long that he's utterly bored with it, and can do Mount Akina in his sleep. Little does he know that the mountain road leads to his destiny.
Now that Takumi has beaten Keisuke Takahashi and Takeshi Nakazato, his one remaining challenger is Keisuke’s more technically skilled older brother, Ryousuke Takahashi. But before Takumi can race, he needs to discover what racing really means...
The third Initial D Legend movie gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC transfer on this single layer disc (the film is only 64 minutes long). It’s a nice, progressive transfer as well, smooth and fluid, which makes the race sequences look even stronger when you play the disc on compatible equipment. What a difference fifteen years makes. No longer the clumsy amalgam of plasticky CG cars with 2D cel-animated characters, Initial D really looks the part in this feature film, with the vehicles brilliantly detailed and blending into their environment. Initial D was never the prettiest of manga when it came to the characters, and that downright ugly look carried through to the anime. This feature film retains that awkward design style, but tones it down a bit, softening the character designs to a more modern aesthetic. Where the film really shines is the character animation, which is rich and detailed, no longer the static budget saving animation of the series. There are a couple of problems apparent here, digital banding for one, and some aliasing and shimmer on fine line art detail, that might make the Blu-ray release the preferable option.
You have the choice of DD 5.1 English and Japanese with translated subtitles and signs, locked to the appropriate track. You only get the original music on this anime, although I have to admit that it lacked the ‘Beasty Shout’ to really appeal to me. While the music may be nondescript, the surround really does come alive to bring across the action of the race sequences. You’ll be hearing tyre squeal and engine roar from all of your speakers. One thing that I did miss was the rev limiter warning chime on the 8-6, which was memorable from the original series. The subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos.
The disc presents its content with static menus, a jacket picture, and a translated English credit reel after the film.
On the disc, you’ll find a recap of the second movie, Racer running to 5:42, and a short preview of this film running to 1:32. You’ll also find trailers for Beyond the Boundary – I’ll Be Here –, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, The Life of Budori Gusuko, and The Garden of Words.
This is the best of the Initial D movies, but it really is a case of too little, too late. It doesn’t do enough to redeem the first two films, and indeed by rectifying the issues to a certain degree, it merely highlights what went wrong with Awakening and Racer. Dream continues what began with those films, both in terms of story quite obviously, but also the emphasis on action, cars, and racing. More than half the film feels as if it’s spent behind the wheel, racing up and down Mt. Akina at night. But what Dream manages as well is that this time we get some character development, and some plot too. It’s not all about the race.
That little comedic side plot that saw Takumi take Iketani’s car for a drive, terrifying the leader of the Akina Speed Stars into the bargain, was something I missed in the previous film, but gets a little play here, although this time it’s mirrored by Takumi’s father Bunta taking the Trueno for a spin and giving the same treatment to the manager of the petrol station, Yuichi. We also get Itsuki’s Levin given the drift treatment by Takumi, putting some naysayers in their place, and showing Itsuki the potential of his admittedly inferior car.
You get the sense that plot happened in between the two films, and this final film also develops the romance between Takumi and Natsuki. Takumi has something of an existential crisis, as he tries to figure out just why he likes to race. On top of all that, Dream leads up to the big showdown between Takumi and Ryousuke, probably the most exciting and best animated race in all three films.
Initial D Legend 3 - Dream has all the top-notch animated racing action, and it manages to squeeze in plot, character development and humour into its hour-long runtime. That should make me want to mark it accordingly, but all it does is make me lament the first two films, neither of which achieved this much. The trilogy of films has to be taken as just that, a trilogy, and it means having to sit through two hours of mediocrity before you get to the real entertainment.