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Initial D Legend 2: Racer Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

More challengers step up as Takumi becomes more comfortable with racing.

What They Say:
In Initial D Legend 2: Racer, sometimes the only thing that beating a champion accomplishes is making you the next target for a long line of challengers, which is why Takumi Fujiwara’s defeat of the RedSuns’ Keisuke hasn’t ended anything. In fact, it’s only served to draw the reluctant delivery driver even further into the dangerous world of drift racing. Takumi’s fate is sealed when his friend Itsuki accidentally accepts a challenge from Takeshi Nakazato, leader of the Myogi NightKids. Now it’s a matter of honor, and Takumi will have to pit his gutter technique against the 4WD skills of a much more experienced driver! The race is on as the legendary street racing series returns in a second explosive new motion picture!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this film brings us the original Japanese language track in 5.1 as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The mix here is one that works really well for the show in that the focus on the racing and the machines is top-notch. The dialogue is well-handled as needed but that’s fairly pedestrian. The racing side, however, really needs it to step up in capturing the sound of both the engines and the road and it does that very well with great placement and sense of depth and accuracy to it. Where it’s not quite up to speed, however, is with the music. Part of it is that I don’t think it could recreate the lightning in a bottle that the first TV series was so it’s going to seem underserved in contrast to it. What they do here with the music is solid and it works well enough but I know I’m just too connected to the past mix for it to match or exceed it.

Originally released in 2015, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Sanzigen and Liden Films, I really like the look of the work here as it feels like it captures the tone and designs of the manga from Shuichi Shigeno while giving it a slick and more modern feeling – all while still being fully of the time period in which it takes place since it’s not reworked into the present day. The cars get the most attention with some great looking curves and motion when in action going through the streets and I love the detail to the interiors of it as well. The character designs are where things get a bit trickier as they were always “ugly” but they found a good way to keep them true to the original designs while smoothing out the flaws a bit so they feel more like reality in a way. The encoding captures all of this very well with a great look to the colors that are rich and solid throughout and hold up perfectly during the high motion sequences.

The packaging for this DVD/BD combo release is kept simple with the black strip along the top listing the two formats while the rest of it is given over to the artwork. It uses a good layered approach with the logo through the middle so that the bottom has the three main cars from this one while the top gives us the headshot block of the cast. It’s something that may feel a little off but it seems to work for me in a way that I can’t pin down as there’s almost a nostalgia of sorts to it all. The back cover does a split with the top half using a black background as we get a look at the design of the 8-6 along with a few shots from the film and a good summary of the premise. The bottom half goes for a red background and breaks out the technical information for both formats clearly and accurately as well as having a section for the production information. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release goes with a static image that replicates the cover artwork reworked a bit in terms of layout. The background of Akina is definitely a good piece to use here with the sunrise coming through it and just the layered look as it works well in contrast to the character artwork in front of it. The designs are going to be off-putting to some but there’s a charm to them that I like and getting it affirmed here at the start sets the tone well. The navigation strip along the left is using some elements of car design that while I do think works it also looks funky and wonky as hell to the point where I question whether it works. There’s little to the release beyond the film itself but the navigation is a breeze and everything is easy to set up and move around in.

The extras for this release aren’t so much extras but we get the preview trailer for the third and final installment as well as a recap piece for the first one if you don’t remember what happened there.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Getting back into the world of Initial D after being away for so long was definitely a lot of fun with the Awakening movie. The team behind it put together a great looking film with the right rhythm and feeling to it and the design was spot on in capturing the drifting and racing in general on Mount Akina. The problem was that as good as it was, it was trying to capture lightning in a bottle a second time and that’s notoriously hard to do. I enjoyed it and I really liked the technical growth in what was presented compared to the original for obvious reasons, but with it focusing and barreling through the races without the character weight behind it that the TV series could offer – as well as far more pulse-pounding music than we get here, it mainly gets viewed because of its technical improvements.

This middle act is one that works some decent things as Takumi is becoming more comfortable with the concept of being a racer, though it takes a bit for him to realize he is one. After spending so much time thinking of what he did as work and following his dad’s weird rules, the shift to seeing how useful it can be is a difficult one. But with the challenges starting to come in and those from the SpeedStars seeing him as a hope to bring them some respect, he’s grudgingly being drawn into it. And part of that is just a resistance to something that in the back of his mind he must realize that his father was a part of as well. The relationship with his father is certainly an awkward one and the more he realizes the kind of subtle training that he’s been given without realizing it, the more it’ll cause mixed reactions toward his father over it. But, beyond all of that, Takumi is starting to realize that he can truly enjoy all of this as well and he’s starting to embrace the challenge.

While there’s a little additional character material mixed in, and a touch on a potential date in the offing for Takumi, we get two races in this installment. The arrival of the NightKids is definitely fun as its leader, Nakazato, is a confident customer and he intends to put Takumi to shame because it’ll help him shame the Red Suns since Keisuke lost to Takumi. That’s a challenge that even Ryousuke knows will end badly for Nakazato when the two talk because he understands the differences not just in the cars but also the drivers. The 8-6 is easily mocked but it’s the kind of event that has to be seen to be understood and no words will cover it. The race is definitely fun for what we get between Takumi and Nakazato but it works better, I think, because it gives some focus to Keisuke and Ryousuke driving behind them to understand what it is from a different position, particularly for Keisuke, as to why he lost.

The other race is a fallout from Nakazato’s race as Shingo, a NightKids member who is eyeing the prize of heading the group, decides to challenge Takumi directly. This race has a different feeling about it because of how Shingo presents himself, more interested in ambition than the racing itself, and that’s radically different from the others – even Nakazato. They all have this deep love of the racing itself but Shingo sees it as a means to dominate and become more important through it. There’s some good stuff with how this race plays out, coming as it does after Shingo tries to make his point prior to the race in bumping Iketani’s car, and all of it just gives Takumi more reason to win. With some strong racers being faced off against already, he’s taking what he’s learned there and applying it here, which makes for a more engaging race because Shingo comes across as more unpredictable. And that goes a long way with the uncertainty of what he’ll do and how Takumi will react to it.

In Summary:
Initial D is a property that I continue to love and I’m thoroughly enjoying this film series with what it’s able to do. The races are what drew me in initially to the previous TV series, and seeing how well it was handled in manga form only more so. The film gives them a look that couldn’t be done before and the payoff is strong. It’s just weaker on the character side and really building Takumi’s story, which was a given when it was revealed that these would be hourlong theatrical features that would focus more on the racing itself. They’re very well done technically and Sentai’s releases are strong in that department as well, making them a great experience and one that I hope they can pull off a three-feature showing of in the theater someday.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Initial D Legend 1: Awakening Recap and Initial D Legend 3: Dream Preview

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 13th, 2018
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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