REVIEW: Initial D (2005)

An apathetic delivery boy discovers that he has the ability to drive fast. Really fast.


By Raymond Arcega
Last updated on

Initial D

Original title: 頭文字D
Year: 2005
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Genre: Action
Directors: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak

Introducing Takumi (Jay Chou), a bored teen stuck at a dead-end job as a gas station attendant. He discovers that, after years of delivering tofu for his father Bunta’s (Anthony Wong) shop, he is pretty damn good at driving fast. Together they lead a cast misfits in not only one of the hottest car porn flicks in history, but also one of the biggest cases of yellow-facing within Asia.

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Because, if you’re going to set your story in Japan, it’s only logical to pick your cast from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and have them speak Cantonese while portraying Japanese characters.

At least 47 Ronin cast Japanese actors.

Fans of the hit anime, manga, and video games will rejoice in unison as they see their beloved characters portrayed by real humans, many of whom are drastically changed from their original counterpart. Or, fused with one or more others because there were too many names to begin with. Or, just removed from the film completely.

After all, who wouldn’t want to see Takumi’s pops Bunta, rather than be portrayed as a wise veteran racer of little words, be rewritten as an abusive and womanizing drunk. We also didn’t need to see Team Emperor as mere professional racers. No, we needed to see them as bōsōzoku professional racers, who transport their vehicles with their own dekotora.

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That was one of the results of the film trying to appease to fans by squeezing in as much of the source material in as possible. Elements of the anime’s Stage 1 to 4 (three TV series and a movie) were crammed into these two hours.

Because hey, we don’t need the time to see the development of Takumi evolving from an apathetic bore to someone who discovers his love for not only driving, but also his car. Just press the fast forward button, please.

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But wait, at least the film kept the romance between Takumi and Natsuki (Suzuki Anne, the only Japanese cast member in the spotlight) intact. It served as the same thing that it did in the source material, which was only to distract the audience with teenage angst and drama. Because when a man has to choose between his girlfriend and his car, he chooses his car.

Yeah, forget your pre-teen level romantic plot points. I’m going to go drift now.

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Above all the changes, this Hong Kong adaptation cuts the one thing that fans all over the world knew they didn’t need – the super eurobeat soundtrack. But it’s okay; the producers have our back. They replaced all the unneeded adrenaline pumping super eurobeat with pop songs sung by the film’s star, Jay Chou. He flies higher than any spaceboy, after all.

Okay okay; jokes aside, the driving was really damn good. Apparently there is a sequel in the works, but considering it has been about 10 years since the first film’s release, we’ll just have to wait and see how it will go.


Watch this film if…

…you like racing films that are like porn; the story doesn’t really matter, but is there for those who get off by knowing why everyone is …racing.


About the Author

Raymond Arcega

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