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Funimation NAILED IT!!
on April 21, 2013
NOTE: The DVDs are encoded in 4:3 widescreen. Meaning? The video is Letterboxed AND Pillarboxed (black borders around the screen) This is the ONLY problem amid this 5-star review
Back in the mid-2000s, Initial D was already an established property that many anime fans and car enthusiasts loved (including myself). With that much popularity circulating, it was only a matter of time before the US localized it and presented it to America.
So... US anime/manga distributor Tokyopop licensed the distribution rights to the Initial D anime as well as the manga it was based on.
In their attempt at creating an experience that could appeal to a wider audience, Toykopop did things that are totally unacceptable in today's US anime market.
* Names were changed/altered
* The original true-to-life car sounds were replaced with generic sound effects
* The Super Eurobeat soundtrack (a trait the series had become known for) was removed in favor of generic rap/rock music
* The computer-generated race sequences were given added "special effects" (this was the most questionable edit they made and still baffles me)
* A simplified translation that lost almost ALL the racing technicality in the process
Tokyopop tried to justify these edits by including the original Japanese versions of the episodes in the discs they had. But... the fans had spoken. The localization treatment Tokyopop gave to Initial D was horrible.
As time passed... it seemed like the US would never see Initial D in proper English. That is until Tokyopop lost the rights in 2008 and Funimation picked it up.
Now that the history lesson is over, it's onto the actual review :)
The first thing you'll notice about the Funimation version is that the original audio and soundtrack of the show has been kept in tact. They did what was originally expected the FIRST time it was being brought to America: ACCURATELY translate Initial D into English.
Initial D's dialog is one of those animes that uses a relaxed, everyday way of speaking. Tokyopop's did their best to honor this by forcefully adding in slang phrases like "DUDE!! TAK'S EIGHT-SIX IS GETTING PUNKED!!"
Funimation also recognized the "relaxed" speak in their translation. But, they have scripted it in such a way that it doesn't feel forced at all. While they do use words like 'frikkin' and 'dude', the Funimation voice cast does its best to make it sound like talking and not script reading.
Also... props to the head of voice casting for finding suitable voice actors for each character (something the Tokyopop version missed by a LONGshot). Takumi, for one, sounds his age for once! But the real shining factor of the Funimation dub is that almost every character has an american voice that is pretty much an English version of their Japanese counterpart. Ryosuke Takahashi sounds pretty spot on :P
It's unfortunate that it's taken THIS long for America to get Initial D in an acceptable form. But, in the end, it was definitely worth the wait! The only thing I'm asking for now... is for a blu-ray release of this material.
And... I cannot wait until Initial D Fifth Stage is brought to US shores. Keep up the good work, Funimation :)