Manga Review: Initial D Volume One

Initial D Volume 1 is a manga with the story and art by Shuichi Shigeno. Tokyopop had the North American rights to distribute the manga in the United States, and this manga volume was released in 2003. Unfortunately, since Tokyopop has gone out of business, this series is currently unlicensed in North America. This English adaptation, which is presented as an “unflipped” release, was translated by Dan Papia. Initial D is rated “T” for teens ages 13 and up.

Initial D Volume 1
Written by: Shuichi Shigeno
Publisher: Kodansha
English Publisher: Tokyopop
Release Date: May 21, 2002

Takumi Fujiwara (who goes by Tak for short) is the main character of Initial D. He’s a high school student who works as both a gas station attendant and as a delivery driver for his father’s tofu shop. Tak has good driving skills, which he uses when he drives his father’s modified Trueno Eight Six. While Tak really doesn’t show any interest in the race car driving scene that takes place at Mount Akina, his best friend Iggy, does. Tak’s more interested in Natalie, a girl in his class that he used to be in a club with before he quit. Cole, a co-worker of Tak and Iggy’s at the gas station, is involved with the racing at Mount Akina. One night, Cole takes Tak and Iggy up to the mountain to see the races, and Cole’s team (the Speed Stars) are approached by another racing team called the Red Suns. The Red Suns issue a challenge to race the Speed Stars the following week; the Speed Stars accept. Before the race, Cole is injured in an accident. Can the Speed Stars find someone who can take on the Red Suns and possibly win?

I have to say that I personally didn’t care much for the art style in Initial D. To me, the character designs look rather amateur. I also didn’t like how the character of Natalie looks almost out of focus in most of the panels that she appears in. The rest of the art also has a rather fuzzy look to it; I don’t know if this is how Shuichi Shigeno actually drew the manga, or if Tokyopop did a poor job when the company published this volume of the manga.

I have to admit that I’m not much into cars and racing, so when I finished the manga, I found that I really had no interest in continuing to read this series. I also found myself turned off by the portrayal of Natalie, the main female character in Initial D. I understand that the target audience for this manga is young men, so more emphasis is going to be put on the males and the racing, rather than on portraying strong female leads. However, readers who enjoy cars and racing may have a better appreciation for this manga series than I do. While the story in this first volume was decent, it just didn’t grab me personally.

I wrote this review after checking out a copy of this manga volume through the King County Library System.

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