Movie Review: Initial D Legend 1: Awakening (2014)

Initial D Legend 1 Awakening 2014 movie still AE86 Trueno

New Initial D the Movie Legend 1: Awakening offers hastened retelling of the anime, with race sequences in 2D absent Eurobeat

Initial D – perhaps one of the most iconic manga/anime titles of all time, the one that’s responsible for gaining mainstream interest on street car drifting, is rebooted into this full-featured animated film… well, sort of. This supposed “movie” is split into three parts, with this one, Legend 1: Awakening, to be the first third of it. That explains why its running time is only 60 minutes long (it’s actually lesser than an hour) but it doesn’t quite justify it being released to big screens with regular pricing for the tickets. But if you’re an old fan like myself, seeking for a nostalgic retelling of the story, action and mild “ecchi”, I guess you wouldn’t mind it that much.

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I’ve never read the manga but I was a very huge fan of its anime series, so I’m pretty familiar with the story. Initial D Legend 1: the Awakening wastes no time, opens right away with the aging car Trueno AE86 casually “defeating” RedSuns’ Keisuke Takahashi (a popular racing team member) and his RX7 FD (a way more powerful car) in an unintentional brief race on Mount Akina. Unsatisfied with his unexpected loss, Keisuke wants a rematch to avenge his defeat, and thus goes around searching for the driver of this Trueno AE86 for a more official friendly race along with the rest of the RedSuns team. The driver of that is revealed to be a passionless high school sleepyhead named Takumi Fujiwara, who’s been delivering tofu for his father with the car every morning for a long time, hence his skillful techniques in drifting at corners at high speed, but he has zero interest in cars or racing. I shall spoil no further.

As you can see from the graphic comparison below, the illustration of the characters in this 2014 reboot is way more contemporary, sharper, cleaner, more visually appealing and consistent, whereas for the race sequences, the cars in the 1998 anime series were in 3D (which was one of the key cool factors of the anime) but in this film, it sticks with its 2D visual style seemingly with a bit of popup effect, which got me confused if it’s 3D or 2D in some sequences. The problem with the new race sequences here is that it does not seem very smooth in motion (basically the movement of cars seem a bit laggy). Simply put, I liked the whole new visual style for this reboot but I strongly feel that the race sequences of the 1998 anime was way cooler and more fun to watch.

Intial D First Stage 1998 vs. Legend 1 2014

Also, unlike in the series, the background music of the race sequences here are not Eurobeat, replaced with scores that can’t provide at least the same kind of impact. Say whatever you want about Eurobeat, but those mix of uptempo beat, riff and emotional tune was one of the key elements that made the race action more exciting and engaging to watch. Without the cars in 3D and the music, it feels like a lot was missing. But it’s understandable that the film has to be different to a certain extend otherwise it would’ve been a completely pointless reboot.

Due to the unnecessarily short film length, the characters are not well developed enough and there’s no real emphasis on the car models, the technicalities or even the drifts, which I can imagine that it might be difficult for the general audiences to relate or comprehend all that if they’re not as familiar with the anime. However, despite having the same kind of humour, the re-adaptation of those scenes managed to crack me up even though I already knew what was coming. The father and son moments between Takumi and Bunta Fujiwara are somewhat funnier and warmer here. Some other small details are improved as well, like it actually shows the watchers for oncoming vehicles here, and the characters actually use car indicators and hesitate before making turns when driving normally.

Although some events and scenes are rearranged, and the portrayal of the characters may feel a little different, no further changes have been made. Takumi’s still an introvert who doesn’t tell his best friend Itsuki Takeuchi anything while his love interest Natsuki Mogi is still a cock-teasing horny little slut. If anything, I felt that it’s utterly unnecessary to shorten and rush the story this much ’cause cinema releases aren’t supposed to be this short, regardless of what the excuse may be. “Movie” split into three parts my foot, why not split the ticket price into three as well? However, in overall, it’s still quite a decent retelling of the classic. It’s pretty much the same, and yet it feels different.

Initial D Legend 1 Awakening 2014 Natsuki Mogi meme

Post-credit scene: Basically just a tease on who and what car Takumi and 86 are up against in the next episode. Fans like myself would already know, but let’s not spoil it for the general audience.

What I would’ve named the film: “Initial D First Stage: Episode 1 to 5 in 60 mins”

Censorship in Malaysia: Nothing was cut at the media screening held at GSC Mid Valley Megamall. Yes, that upskirt scene in the school is still there but not sure if anything was skipped in the beach scene ’cause it’s way shorter here compared than the series. For the Malay subtitles, street racers are called “pelumba haram”, which literally means illegal racers. Not saying that it’s not illegal but it’s just funny to read lines like, “I will try my best to improve myself as a street racer,” in Malay subtitles here.

Second opinion: My girlfriend said, “I’ve never seen the anime series but surprisingly I kinda liked this one, especially the car scenes and the humour.”

Verdict: Decent revisit for the longtime fans, and entertaining enough for the general audience… but it’s probably not worth paying the regular price for 1/3 of a “movie”.

Rating: 3 / 5

Initial D Legend 1 Awakening 2014 new movie poster gsc malaysia
Full Title
: “New Initial D the Movie – Legend 1: the Awakening”
Japanese Title: “新劇場版「頭文字D」: Legend 1 -覚醒-“

Based on: Shuichi Shigeno’s manga series “Initial D”
Genre: Anime, street racing
Running Time: 62 minutes
Language: Japanese with subtitles
Director: Masamitsu Hidaka
Screenwriter: Mayori Sekijima
Cast: Mamoru Miyano, Daisuke Ono, Hiroaki Hirata, Maaya Uchida

Malaysia Release Date: 11 September 2014 (exclusively at GSC for JFF ’14)
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: (no info)

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