Initial D (2005)

Initial D (2005) DVD Cover


3 stars out of 5 stars

Directed by:

Andrew LAU Wai Keung
Alan MAK Siu Fai


Anne SUZUKI An MOGI Natsuki
Edison CHEN Kwoon Hei TAKAHASHI Ryousuke
Anthony WONG Chau-Sang FUJIWARA Bunta
Shawn YUE Man-lok NAKAZATO Takeshi
Chapman TO Man Chat TACHIBANA Itsuki
Jordan CHAN Siu-Chun SUDOU Kyouichi


Felix CHONG Man Keung

Based on comic book and characters by:


Hong Kong Car Stunt Coordinator:

Joseph CHI

Japan Car Stunt Coordinator:




Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Cantonese (DTS), Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)



Video Signal:


Andrew Lau has directed everything from award winning thrillers (Infernal Affairs) to C-grade science fiction (Wesley's Mysterious File). Where does Initial D fall in this spectrum?

It's your standard sports story of the newbie with godlike talents. This time the sport is downhill automobile racing. Jay Chou is 18 year old mouthbreather, Fujiwara Takumi's whose mastery comes from daily 4AM deliveries of tofu on Mt. Akina in his Dad's distinctive panda colored 1985 Trueno (a Corolla to Americans) over the last five years. Eager, like any teenager, to get his chore over with and return to bed, and subtly trained by his Dad, Bunta (Anthony Wong, The Untold Story, Infernal Affairs), a former king of the mountain, he has slowly become faster and faster in his deliveries. However, to him, driving is just a chore. Initially in his races, Takumi's posture screams boredom but gradually he becomes more involved. Chou does a fine job of appearing sleepy and disinterested.

Chapman To (Infernal Affairs) steals the movie as Takumi's blowhard buddy, Itsuki. Itsuki is the self-proclaimed racing god of Mt. Akina until a challenger from a neighboring mountain, Nakazato Takeshi (Shawn Yue, young Chan in Infernal Affairs), easily defeats him. However, later that night, Takumi, going about his deliveries, passes Takeshi and Takeshi becomes consumed by the desire to challenge the mystery driver. Soon everyone wants a piece of Takumi and Itsuki becomes his biggest fan.

Edison Chen (young Lau in Infernal Affairs, The Twins Effect) plays rival racer Takahashi Ryousuke. He doesn't have much to do except smirk prettily while Yue also looks incredulous. Jordan Chan (Downtown Torpedoes, Bio-Zombie) hams it up as professional racer Sudou Kyouichi.

The Trueno has a rival for Takumi's affections in sweet faced Natsuki (Anne Suzuki, Steamboy), a girl of negotiable affection, though only to support her mother and herself. Takumi, of course, is unaware of her "uncles."

This movie is an adaptation of a Japanese manga by Shigeno Shuichi. As with any literary adaptation there have been characters combined and details altered especially since the movie includes events from the first fourteen volumes of the manga, all in under two hours. My familiarity extends to three volumes of the Americanized manga and Hong Kong subs of the anime. Of course, fine points can get lost in translation. Here are some of the changes I noticed. Itsuki seems to be the most affected. He is a combination of the canon Itsuki and Iketani; the son of the gas station owner, Tachibana; and far brattier than canon Itsuki. Natsuki has the excuse of supporting herself and her mother; before she just liked the easy money. Takahashi Keisuke is entirely omitted.

There are some technical points the manga/anime does a better job of explaining, which may be due to subtitle failure but is probably due to trying to compress so much story into so little time. When the Trueno gets a new engine, at first Takumi has a lot of trouble with it which is cured by a new tachometer. In addition, tire deterioration during a race is alluded to but not the reason the Trueno doesn't suffer from it. On the other hand, the movie does a better job of conveying the fragility of the tofu and why Takumi must drive smoothly as well as quickly on his rounds.

In any sports movie, a crucial aspect is how the sport is filmed. Can a viewer unfamiliar to the sport follow what is going on and get excited? Races are easy; first one over the finish wins. Somehow, the races seem lacking. There isn't the exhilaration that the cars and drivers are pushed to their limits. The nose to bumper races in the anime seem more electric. However, there is one astonishing moment in the final race that a cartoon probably could not do justice to.

Initial D isn't the worst movie Andrew Lau has made but it's far from his best; it's middling. The characters, aside from Chapman To's Itsuki and Anthony Wong's Bunta, lack dimension, though perhaps the source material is partly to blame. The race sequences are not boring but they could have been better. If you are not already a fan, this movie probably won't hook you on the manga or anime.


Thumbnail of Takumi (Jay Chou)

Takumi (Jay Chou) is bored. (~12K)

Thumbnail of Itsuki (Chapman TO Man Chat)  and  Bunta (Anthony WONG Chau-Sang)

Itsuki (Chapman TO Man Chat) wonders what the heck Bunta (Anthony WONG Chau-Sang) is looking at. (~26)

Thumbnail of Nakazato (Shawn YUE Man-lok) and Takahashi (Edison CHEN Kwoon Hei)

Nakazato (Shawn YUE Man-lok) and Takahashi (Edison CHEN Kwoon Hei) (~24K)

Thumbnail of Takumi vs Nakazato

Takumi vs Nakazato (~24K)

Thumbnail of Nakazato (Shawn YUE Man-lok)

Nakazato (Shawn YUE Man-lok) is Passed. (~13K)

Thumbnail of Takumi (Jay Chou) and Natsuki (Anne SUZUKI An)

Takumi (Jay Chou) and Natsuki (Anne SUZUKI An) at the beach. (~19K)

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