Initial D is a Japanese street racing manga series written and illustrated by Shuichi Shigeno. It was serialized in Weekly Young Magazine from 1995 to 2013, with the chapters collected into 48 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha. The story focuses on the world of illegal Japanese street racing, where all the action is concentrated in the mountain passes and rarely in cities or urban areas, and with the drifting racing style emphasized in particular. Professional race car driver and pioneer of drifting Keiichi Tsuchiya helped with editorial supervision. The story is centered on the prefecture of Gunma, more specifically on several mountains in the Kantō region and in their surrounding cities and towns. Although some of the names of the locations the characters race in have been fictionalized, all of the locations in the series are based on actual locations in Japan.
Initial D has been adapted into several anime television and original video animations series by OB Studio Comet, Studio Gallop, Pastel, A.C.G.T and SynergySP. A live action film by Avex and Media Asia was released in 2005. Both the manga and anime series were initially licensed for English-language distribution in North America by Tokyopop (2002–2009), however, the anime license has since been picked up by Funimation, while the manga was relicensed by Kodansha USA in 2019.
The first Initial D volume was released in Japan on November 6, 1995 and concluded on July 29, 2013. The manga has been translated officially into Chinese, French and English over its publication run. As of 2013, 48 volumes have been published.
The manga and anime were originally licensed for English releases in North America by Tokyopop. The company changed the names of the characters in the anime edition, and subsequently changed them in the manga to match. These name changes were to reflect the name changes that Sega implemented into the western releases of the Initial D A Stage video games due to name length limits. Tokyopop also cut out a character’s enjo kōsai relationship with another and edited sex scenes, appearing in volumes 1 and 9 in the original manga. In addition, “street slang” was interlaced in translations (a drift was described as “slammin'”, for example).
The manga also had some translation errors. One example was the technical term “Wastegate” (which is a mechanism used to regulate the boost pressure generated by a turbocharger) that was translated as “West Gate”. Another was an inaccurate explanation of how an engine’s displacement is calculated (the explanation given is how a ship’s displacement is calculated, which is totally different). Many of the explanations of automotive design and function, as well as the specification sheets of the various cars, were incorrect.
In August 2009, Kodansha announced that they would not be renewing their licensing agreements with Tokyopop, citing “tense relations” between the two companies. This meant that Tokyopop could no longer release new volumes of Kodansha manga properties, nor re-release Kodansha titles that were already printed. Tokyopop ceased the release of Initial D after volume 33, which was released on December 30, 2008. Volume 34 had a scheduled street date of April 7, 2009, but never released. In April 2019, ComiXology and Kodansha Comics announced that they have released volumes 1 to 38 digitally, while volumes 39 to 48 were released in July.
As of July 2013, collected tankōbon volumes of the Initial D manga series sold 48 million copies. At an average price of ¥691, the manga has grossed approximately ¥33.2 billion ($416.09 million) in tankōbon volume sales. In addition, the total circulation of its manga chapters in Weekly Young Magazine issues between 6 November 1995 and 29 July 2013 amounted to approximately 1,037,447,413 copies, with those issues grossing approximately ¥228,994,579,120 ($2.856 billion) in sales revenue.
The Initial D anime series sold over 1 million DVD units in Japan up until 2008. At an average price of ¥5,184, video sales grossed approximately ¥5.2 billion up until 2008. Initial D Fifth Stage (2012) sold 157,598 home video units, grossing ¥408.3 million. In Japan, the live-action Hong Kong film sold 250,000 DVD units, grossing approximately ¥998 million ($13 million). In total, the franchise has sold approximately 1.41 million video units in Japan, grossing approximately ¥6.61 million ($83 million) in video sales revenue.
The Initial D Third Stage anime film grossed ¥520 million ($6.52 million) at the Japanese box office. The anime New Initial D the Movie trilogy grossed $2,660,288 at the East Asian box office. The live-action Initial D Hong Kong film grossed US$11 million at the worldwide box office. Combined, the Initial D films have grossed approximately $20.02 million at the worldwide box office.
Initial D received praise. The Anime Review rated it A-, with the reviewer calling it “simply the best show I’ve seen in a long time.” Bamboo Dong of Anime News Network rated it B-, stating it “is the first time in a long while since I’ve been so fired up about a series, so I recommend to everyone to at least check this out.”
Some fans of Initial D reacted negatively to the Tokyopop’s extensive editing and changes made in the English-language version of the manga. Similar reactions were made towards their English dub’s script and voice acting, and the removal of the original music from the anime series. Tokyopop said that it was trying to Americanize the series so it could be aired on television, while at the same time keeping the Japanese spirit of the series.
According to Funimation officials, the re-release of the anime has “done well”. Reviews of the series note a marked improvement from the Tokyopop iteration, with most complaints leveled against the lack of anamorphic widescreen on the DVDs.
Initial D has drawn comparisons to the later Fast & Furious film franchise (debuted 2001), particularly Tokyo Drift (2006), for which Initial D‘s consultant Keiichi Tsuchiya served as a stunt coordinator and stuntman and also made a cameo appearance in the film as a fisherman.
The story is about 18 year old Takumi Fujiwara who is an average high school kid. His father, Bunta Fujiwara, owns a tofu shop and Takumi is the delivery boy. He uses his father’s Panda 1983 Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT Apex AE86 to do the deliveries. Takumi hated driving because he was forced to drive since he was in middle school. The deliveries train his extraordinary driving skills. His friends learn about his skills, and introduce Takumi into the world of Touge racing. Takumi eventually loves street racing, and driving altogether, and then he has only one priority: To become the best driver in the Gunma Prefecture.