They’re the best Anime that 1998 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Seupideuwang Beongae, Bakusou Kyoudai Let’s & Go MAX, Battle Athletess Daiundoukai (TV), and more!
6: Seupideuwang Beongae
English: Wings of Dragon
MAL Score: 6.11
Lightning Khan and a group of elementary school students compete against another team in a game of rollerblades and RC car racing as they plan to attend the National convention.
5: Bakusou Kyoudai Let’s & Go MAX
Japanese: 爆走兄弟レッツ＆ゴー!! ＭＡＸ
MAL Score: 6.59
The story follows the life of Retsuya and Gouki, two brothers with the same objective as Go and Retsu, to race and win championships!
The two new brothers are faced with various traps set by an evil organization…together, along with other friends, they try to enjoy their races as much as possible, showing off their competitive spirit and taking down any kind of evil that might put the sport they love so much at risk!
I might be exaggerating, but although the season is fun overall, there’s only a handfull of episodes with some actual cool racing scenes, out of 51.
This season takes place in a time mid/post WGP, where all the kids, besides de protagonists, are running with cars copied from the “pros”. You can actually tell which specific cars they are copying and even their names are adaptations of their idols. (For example “Victory Champ” is a copy of “Victory Magnum”.)
The last 2 episodes feature some nice moments, but still nothing compared to that S1 and S2 brought.
Did I mention the protagonists names? Gouki and Retsuya? Gou? Retsu? Really? And yeah, Gouki also has a straight-focused blue car, just like Gou’s Magnum. Although Retsuya starts with a car like Tridagger, he will also end up with a car like Sonic. Zero originality.
Overall, the whole season seems like a 51-episode filler, with some cool moments here and there.
4: Battle Athletess Daiundoukai (TV)
English: Battle Athletes Victory
MAL Score: 6.87
Akari Kanzaki has just joined an all-girls academy in hopes of entering the University Satellite, an elite sports training facility. She wants to win the title of Cosmo Beauty – a title held years ago by her mother. It’s not an easy task for her as fear, doubt and peer pressure get in her way, but friends, rivals and fans slowly encourage her to overcome her obstacles and become the best of the Battle Athletes.
Our story opens in a training ground in Antarctica where a bunch of young female athletes are racing across an obstacle course while dragging giant steamrollers. It urns out that after an event that wiped out most of humanity, humans rebuilt and set up training schools to try and get the top athletes. The best students go to a satellite University to compete for the coveted “Cosmo Beauty” title. What I like about this series is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It uses all the regular elements of a sport anime, but it uses them in a tongue in cheek way, mixes in sci-fi elements and just plays up their absurdity in general. So, while it is predictable, the comedic elements keep the viewer invested and keep the action interesting. That being said, the series has its problems too. The biggest being that it’s pretty racist. For most of the athletes, the series will give some specific country or place of origin: China, Osaka, Russia, the United States, a specific encampment on the moon and so on. There’s one character, however, whose area of origin is a continent. Her name is Tanya and her area of origin is “Africa.” Not like that’s a huge continent or anything. To make it worse, she’s a very… “primitive,” is unfortunately the most apt term, character. She’s superstitious, she runs on all fours, she’s simple minded to an absurd degree, she even howls at one point. Who knows, maybe the nations of Africa were too busy making artistic and scientific advancements, but they didn’t want to offend the rest of the world so they found the dumbest, but most athletic girl they could, made up a bunch of superstitions to teach her and sent her on her way. They bet on the rest of the world being too clueless to notice that Africa has multiple countries. Another issue is that the het romance, although there’s very little of it, is really creepy and involves major age and power imbalances. On the positive side, the yuri romance, which there’s a lot more of, is pretty cute and well handled. Was Hideyuki trying to actively encourage lesbianism or did he just figure people would accept the het regardless of how screwed up it was and, consequently, he didn’t bother trying to make it good? The world may never know but this is the writer behind Read or Die, so the former seems likely.
The major characters are, for the most part, decently fleshed out and developed. The major exception being the aforementioned racist stereotype. One nice little touch is that Akari’s development arc is pretty realistic. She goes through both good and difficult times with certain elements becoming prominent based on which end of the spectrum she’s on. Each cycle she goes through becomes demonstrative of her growth. She becomes better at handling both extremes with maturity and grace as things progress. I also really liked Akari’s love interest, Kris. She’s just amazing.
The art is nothing special. It’s pretty standard late 90s fare. About the most visually interesting it gets is towards the end when certain elements are introduced that I can’t really go into without giving spoilers. That being said, it is competent artwork.
The voice acting in this is really good. You have some really great actresses like Hisakawa Aya, Kawakami Tomoko and Itou Miki being among the biggest names. The music is pretty nice as well.
The ho-yay factor is a 6/10. Primarily because of Akari and Kris. Although Akari and Ichino have their moments as well. There’s also the dynamic between Lahrii and Mylandah.
And that’s Battle Athletes. To be honest, I rather liked it, in spite of its racism. It’s a fun series with some good characters, and one really bad one. The jokes are usually very effective, Akari and Kris have a lot of cute moments and it is an entertaining watch, if you can ignore or forgive its issues. Final rating: 7/10. Next week I’ll look at Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge.
What is this anime about?
Anime turns from light comedy into quite serious spokon with drama about girls who try to overdo their own abilities, with blood, jealousy, broken bones and rivalry until the end. Sometimes serious scenes are mixed with slice of lifecomedy parts.
Anime pays particular attention to such kinds of sport as running and swimming, and also pole vaulting, tennis, air hockey and so on.
Also near to the end you will be surprised by some entertaining plot twist.
Mankind was nearly destroyed 3000 years ago, but then Earth was recovered and humanity colonized Solar system. Sport became important part of people`s everyday life. Sport academies were founded on each planet to find the best athletes to attend the University Satellite.
There the best sport girls can take part in The Big Competition to become a Cosmo Beauty – the best athlet in the universe. Why only girls can attend this university you will find out when that plot twist happen.
Main heroine is cute and gentle Akari Kanzaki. Her mother was the legendary Cosmo Beauty who set lots of records. Akari will have to go through the hard way and turn from a weak girl, who hides from the troubles in the cardboard box with inscription “Akari house” to strong athlet to keep her promise given to her mother. I liked Akari so much actually.
All other characters have their own peculiarities too. Ayla and Jessie compete so hard that fall unconscious while swimming, Ichino starts envy to Akari when she becomes better that her, but fate punishes Ichino for this wrongdoing.
Anna does a terrible thing to her sister to attend the university. Chris torments between her religion and sport, and also she is a lesbian and loves Akari. Tanya is mischievous african girl who worships to totems.
Average for those years, but I liked it.
Nice OP song “Tsubasa” by Yukari Asakura. Also I liked voice of Akari`s seiyuu Rio Natsuki.
Sometimes sport competitions in this anime finish a little bit naive, nevertheless it was so pleasant to watch. I definately recommend it for people who like sport, drama, girls and the relationships between them.
One of these young hopefuls is Akari Kanzaki, who… Let’s just face it, is completely hopeless. She’s slow, fragile, and is just as clueless as to what she’s doing at the Antarctic training site as we are. Being the daughter of Tomoe Midoh, the greatest Cosmo Beauty in the history of the Great competition, she has the genetic make-up that any other competitor would kill for, but her athletic abilities, and her attitude towards training, make her long-lasting lock on last place feel even more painful to watch. While some of her fellow students may have a soft spot for the doe-eyed lump, others see her as an insult to everything they’ve dedicated their lives towards, and aren’t shy about letting her know it. But could the apathetic Akari be more than meets the eye? Could her exterior, which is about as threatening as a rag doll, be hiding an untapped well of talent that’s just begging to be discovered? And even going beyond that, is there some darker truth hiding behind the Great competition itself? As the competition heats up, and the champs rise above the chumps, the 1003’rd Cosmo Beauty may turn out to be the most important one of all.
For Battle Athletes victory, we return to AIC, or Anime International company, only this time we’re looking at one of their earliest works, which came out in the late nineties. The series will be 20 years old this October, and as such, it looks extremely dated. This was a time when the moe style was nowhere to be seen, anime had to work harder to look good regardless of budget, and character designs ranged from cartoony to realistic, while rarely ever straying away from believable human anatomy. Artwork was a lot less polished, and physiques were exaggerated a lot more than they are today. For the time it came out in, Battle Athletes victory looks really good… When it wants to. The animation in this title is heavily inconsistent, and it works for the most part. For athletic competitions that can’t be written off with cheap budget saving tricks(And a few of them definitely are), the animation can be straight up gorgeous. I’ve heard it said that one of the most difficult things to animate is character’s legs when they’re walking and running, and yeah, I’ve seen enough failed attempts to understand this.
A lot of work goes into the simple visual of feet hitting and pressing back off of the ground, which is why a lot of animation tends to focus on above the feet, if they’re not just resorting to bouncing the image of the character’s face. In spite of this, I’m not exaggerating when I say that Battle Athletes Victory makes running animation look easy. They can pull it off at any speed, from fast running that doesn’t give you time to analyze it, to slow-motion running that perfectly captures every single movement of the body to the point that I have to wonder just how much live action research they must have done beforehand. A lot of money clearly got poured into these scenes, because most of the other sports featured in this show aren’t really as impressive. That’s not to say they look bad, but there’s a lot of close-ups, a lot of short bursts of action, and occasionally even repeated animation cycles that are meant to give the illusion of physical activity, and thanks to some smart editing, it almost always works. About half of the action in this series is running, of course, so it’s still an impressive looking series.
Well, for the most part, at least. The budget gets spread too thin at times, and when they run into trouble with it, the quality just abruptly tanks. There are sequences, and a couple of entire episodes, that look less like a high budget show from the late nineties and more like a low budget show from the early nineties. A lot of the material between competitions is just characters talking, interacting and having the camera freeze on them during internal monologues, and this does worlds of good for the budget, but at it’s worst, even scenes like those wind up looking like ass. The character designs, while imaginative, don’t follow the most attractive color palette, making the artwork look kinda grungy at times, and since the characters are mostly designed to carry realistic human anatomy, there are only a few of them that can get away with deformed anime expressions… Some of the more serious characters, such as Akari’s rival Jessie, just look terrifying when attempting to do the same. The color saturation and use of lighting are beautiful, but there are too many instances where the artwork looks rough, and over-all unfinished.
The music, while pretty repetitive, is unbelievable. As with any good sports-related media, the story has a deeply emotional feel to it, and the music composed by Yoshikazu Suo was clearly designed to augment these emotions. Some of the happier moments between competitions will be played alongside the upbeat “There’s no Point Unless You Goal,” actual competition will be accompanied by the intense pounding beat of Battle Program, and for those more devastating and heart-breaking moments… Of which there is a surprising amount… We’ll get the violin track Adagio of Despair. Character themes were very thoughtfully put together and instantly reminiscent of the characters they’re attached to… Even when that’s primarily because they’re based on the races of extremely stereotypical characters, which i’m going to get to in a minute… But the highlight is Wings, the opening to the series, and easily on of my favorite of all time. Joyful and inspirational, and full of imagery that gives each character a fair dose of screen time while throwing in subtle hints about the series. Too bad you only get to see it once per disk… No, I’m not kidding. The same can be said for the sweet Honeybee, the closing theme.
The English dub is a bit hit or miss, but I still prefer it over the Japanese by a great deal, even if the writers made a few embarrassing mistakes in it, such as mistakenly writing a flashback scene as a current scene, or having Akari say another character’s name before actually learning it. I can kind of imagine mistakes like those happening in the old days, but it would be unheard of today. Hey, at least they didn’t try to crowbar in any pointless references to obscure current events, am I right? Anyway, the cast is full of Geneon actors from the late nineties, including the legendary Lia Sargent as the main character Akari, whom she plays very straightforward, innocent and full of heart, even as she grows from a spoiled and co-dependent slacker into a stronger, more confidant idealist, constantly changing while still sounding like the same person at heart. Wendee Lee plays the gruff Osakan native Itchino, in what’s probably one of my favorite roles of hers, as she balances the characters softer and tougher sides fluidly. Steve Blum also gets a small role as the University Satellite headmaster, Grant Oldman, although it’s not a very demanding role, his presence is still appreciated.
Bridget Hoffman pulls double duty as both the Chinese stereotype character Ling Pha, which she performs in a comedically exaggerated accent, and then in a much more dignified role as Anna, who… Like one of her more recent characters… Is a sweet, diminutive girl with a dark, potentially dangerous side that’s hiding beneath the surface. As a treat to any Trigun fans that happen to be reading this, Dorothy Elias-Fahn plays Kris Christopher, a strange but strong-willed girl who has a deep, unrequited crush on Akari. So it’s basically the Milly and Meryl pairing you thought would never happen. Also, as an interesting for Ghost in the Shell fans, two different Motoko Kusanagi actors… Mary Elizabeth McGlynn from the anime and Mimi Woods from the video game, play characters that never actually meet or speak to each other. They’re both good, but McGlynn is phenomenal at how she plays an emotionless character who finds emotion through competition. Julie Maddalena probably had the only bad performance, but I don’t really blame her, because she was playing an annoying and entirely problematic character, so she was probably doing the best she could with what she was given. Finally, we get Jamieson Price, and as much as I’d like to go into detail about why he’s so amazing in this, his character is unfortunately mired in spoilers.
So if you haven’t realized by now, this show is really freaking weird. It’s possibly even one of the weirdest anime I’ve ever seen. There are a ton of strange anime out there that just shove weirdness into your face until it hits diminishing returns and becomes passé, such as Hare + Guu and Excel Saga, but with victory, the weirdness is paced in a way that it can keep consistently shocking you, as each strange detail that gets added to the story makes it’s impact and then settles neatly into the reality of the series’ universe, becoming commonplace for both the viewer and the characters… Until the next kooky detail comes along. So what if one of the main characters has a pet cow that’s allowed to live in her dorm with her? That’s just Gyuube, don’t mind her. So what if an alien turns a girl into a car? those aliens are just like that. So what if one of the show’s only male characters needs a constant supply of chocolate to survive? So what if some characters have unexplained jewels embedded in the foreheads, while other girls don’t? This series takes place in a strange world, with a strange premise, and it seems to revel in the idea of completely ignoring your expectations.
To it’s credit, though, it’s not like it tries to trick you into letting your guard down for it. Victory lets you know right off the bat how weird it’s going to be right from the first shot of episode 1, where the athletes at the Antarctica Training Center are in the middle of an important assessment test, racing while pulling gigantic rolling weights behind them. They’re not just pulling these multi-ton items behind them unhindered, however… They’re moving over rough terrain, avoiding booby traps, and even using their weights as weapons against each other. The results are of course catastrophic, as them main character(Whose been in dead last nearly the entire race) accidentally launches into the air and takes out a media reporter’s hot air balloon. And if that’s not enough, right in the second episode, there’s a biking competition where the contestants are riding on a roller-coaster track, which is designed not only to go up and down, around curves and loop-de-loop like a real roller coaster, but which can even be moved and rearranged DURING THE RACE from a control room overlooking the action.
If you can get through episode 2 without picking up on the fact that this series will leave no shark unjumped, you must have been fiddling with your phone the entire time. Not everything got the sci-fi treatment, of course… We get more normal sports like racing, soccer, tennis and the like. But when it came to making up weird sports, this series goes balls to the wall with it’s level of creativity and imagination. Like a game of pool where the balls are huge, and you have to break them by bowling. Or zero-gravity lacrosse that adds several new dimensions to the game. Then there’s my personal favorite, when they play air hockey, but the puck is as big as a dinner plate, and it’s literally hovering in mid-air. There are others, of course, but in most of these events, the human limit is constantly being pushed and broken, even before we see runners that can accelerate fast enough to create shock waves, and there’s seemingly no rule against injuring your opponent in the middle of battle, as people being taken out with grueling injuries is seen as little other than an elimination.
I’d normally be tearing apart a show like this over how ridiculous it is, how little sense it makes, and how almost none of it could feasibly happen in the real world, even in a dystopian future. Hell, there ARE some plot details I can’t get over, but that’s just the thing… They’re plot details, not connected to the weird pieces of sports logic throughout the series. What ultimately saves this show from being too stupid to excuse is just how sincere it all is. Yeah, the featured sporting events may be ridiculously beyond human capabilities,
but to it’s credit, the athletes performing them are constantly TRAINING themselves beyond human capabilities, and the final story arc gives us an actual solid reason(albeit still just as ridiculous) for why they need to train to surpass conceivable human limits. It never feels like their abilities are undeserved, either… The characters train their asses off, and even when you don’t get to see them do so, you can easily tell from their attitudes what their approach is to training as well as just how serious they are about it. Those that don’t are considered ‘naturals,’ and are treated as anomalies.
So, ultimately, what saves this series from being laughable is it’s mastery over character writing. Every single character who gets even a mild level of importance is given a distinct arc, full of development and memorable moments. Akari easily gets the most of it, because in a way that’s almost reminiscent of Goku, every time she breaks into a new level of ability, there’s another major lesson she has to learn, and another serious challenge for her to overcome, and they all seem to make sense, despite rarely being predictable and once or twice relying on some shaky logic. I went into some detail about this in my review of Gunbuster last year, but throughout the course of the story, Akari is forced to evolve and grow as a character, from a whiny, spoiled little doll to a fierce competitor who can shave significant time off of her running speed just by reading a tip in a book. She has to overcome limits and challenges that are really more psychological than physical, and she’s not the only one. Everyone in this show has demons they have to deal with in order to grow and develop.
There’s a lot of ways to bring depth to your writing, and one of those ways is to have your story be about something. It can be a theme, it can be an idea, but it has to be consistent. Battle Athletes victory is a story about Truth. I don’t mean abstractly, like learning how not to lie, I mean deep, complex truth. The truths we hide from others, the truths we hide from ourselves, and even the truths that get buried throughout history. I said before that there’s a lot of character development in this series, but more specifically, every character has a hidden truth… Sometimes multiple… They they need to uncover within themselves in order to grow. An emotionless girl who’s been trained to be an athletic machine will be forced to realize that the only thing she truly cares about is beating her rival. A prideful overachiever will be devastated to realize there’s another plane of greatness she’ll never be able to reach. The goofball will realize just how much winning the competition meant to her, when she no longer has food or friends around to comfort her. You may train your best friend, only to be forced to acknowledge how much being better than them means to you when she starts to close in on you. Hell, the most dishonest character in the cast, Ling Pha, is arguably the only one who never really develops.
But the most important truth in the series, to me, is the one that rang true to me a few years ago. I’ve seen this series multiple times, and one of those rewatches happened when I was having trouble at work. I was slowing down, not really giving it my all, and after a while of it, I got called into the office. They asked me what was wrong, why I wasn’t producing results, and I said I didn’t know, claiming that I was busting my ass… Words I almost choked on, because even I knew they were bullshit. This all changed when I realized that I was doing the same thing Akari was doing. Whenever I was faced with a task that looked too difficult, I’d automatically accept that it was impossible, and I’d use that excuse to not try. I didn’t have a friend like Itchan to wake me up to this fact, but it was true, I was sabotaging myself, making excuses for failures that hadn’t happened yet. As soon as I realized this, I put a stop to it. I decided that no job was impossible, no matter how unreasonable. Ever since that day, I’ve never given up, I’ve never made excuses for myself, and I’ve continued to be employed as a result. It’s easy for a story to teach life lessons to kids, but when you can change the life and outlook of an adult viewer, there’s something special there.
Having said that, this series isn’t perfect. It has some flaws, and they go deep. There are constant logical derps… The true nature of the character Eric might have you pulling your hair out… But it’s biggest problem is it’s over-use of harmful and insulting stereotypes. The Russian girl is an emotionless machine, the Chinese girl is a dishonest cheater who’s always trying to sell stuff to people, the lesbian is a predatory lech who pays no regard to consent or mutual attraction(think the black girl from Pitch Perfect but not quite as bad), and the black girl… Holy shit, the black girl. Yeah, there’s a character here who’s from Africa, and her character is so racist that even Paula Dean would be insulted. She’s likeable, don’t get me wrong, but if this were an American cartoon, it would be one of the Censored 11. She runs around on all fours, uses her nose like a blood hound, is a “Natural runner,” and there’s an entire episode dedicated to her running around school in a tribal uniform, worshipping a totem god and painting everyone’s faces. There’s also a lot of lame jokes, such as the gimmick of a trio of hijackers, and… Okay, honestly, the whole episode that began the University Satellite arc kinda sucked.
It’s second biggest problem, right behind the racism issue, is the availability of the series. I mean, the lack thereof. Battle Athletes victory was available from Pioneer, which would eventually become Geneon, which would eventually go out of business. It’s been out of print for almost 20 years, and I can’t find any information about anybody trying to rescue it. If that’s not bad enough, the DVDs that it’s actually available on are pieces of shit, dated in all the worst ways. First of all, as I mentioned before, you only get the opening once per disk. That’s because it uses Dragonball Z’s marathon feature, only it’s not a feature, you don’t have a choice. Opening, three to four back-to-back episodes, closing. And the dubbers plastered white text over the opening instead of trying to avoid blocking the visuals. You can find these DVDs for fairly cheap online, and if you’re trying to get all 8 of them, you may even get lucky with a fifty dollar bundle on Ebay. The original OVA is also available stateside, but the manga is not. but seriously, if you’re reading this and actually have the right connections, PLEASE get this series rereleased. Discotek’s been into that kind of thing lately.
It’s not often that you hear about an anime changing someone’s life. They can turn you off from violence, help you to overcome prejudices, change your attitude towards your own life, make you appreciate your loved ones in new ways… Battle Athletes victory is a series that literally, tangibly changed my life, and I’m pretty sure I’d have lost my job and a significant portion of my livelihood without it. I won’t BS you by calling it a masterpiece, that’s not true… The visual quality is inconsistent, the logic isn’t always sound, it’s only black character is too much like Rob Schneider from The Animal, but if you’re able to get past all of that, this series is beautiful. It’s full of heart, has an undeniable passion for athletics and competition, and it’s always finding new ways to make you cry, without having to rely on any cliché modern day tragedy porn. There’s nothing manipulative about it, just genuine emotion and sincere sportsmanship. The sci-fi elements are also a blast, and while the final stretch may have jumped the shark a little too far… Even I’ll admit that… It’s very rarely unenjoyable, even then. It’s an obscure title, but it’s well worth the effort it’ll take to find it. I give Battle Athletes Victory an 8/10.
3: Grander Musashi RV
MAL Score: 6.99
Sequel to Grander Musashi. A young but experienced fisherman named Musashi Kazama and his two friends travel around the world in search of seven mysterious objects of fantastic power called “Legenders”, each one in the form of a fish. Legenders are said to grant anyone who catches them the power to change the world. Unfortunately, Musashi ends up competing with several other fishermen who share his ambition of capturing a Legender.
2: Princess Nine: Kisaragi Joshikou Yakyuubu
English: Princess Nine
Japanese: プリンセスナイン 如月女子高野球部
MAL Score: 7.15
Keiko Himuro, Chairman of the Kisuragi School, puts together an all-girl baseball team led by Ryo Hayakawa, daughter of a legendary pitcher, in hopes of proving that girls can compete just as well as boys. Their goal: Koshien Stadium, where only the best teams get the opportunity to play.
Art: I’d have to say the art isnt something to fancy and isnt something to plain. its just nice and fits nicely with the show.
Sound: The voice actors and the characters i personally think matched perfectly with each other.
Character: You see quite a bit of character development through out the minor characters each with an episode or more introducing them and showing their own problems that they receive help from their friends. There is one character how ever, the main character of the show you really see her and her emotions come into play expecially when one event occurs to her and her attitude takes a complete turn of course you would have to watch the show to have a look at what event im talking about. The romance between the boy and the girl isnt as in depth as some anime’s are but you can see their relationship grow and change through the show but as i said before its mainly focused more on the development between team members.
Enjoyment: I really liked this show expecially the idea of what boys can do girls can to and shows the true power of girls when we work together true we may be weak when we’re alone but thats why this one is amazing as even when their alone they still have the determination and attitude.
Overall: This was a good show story was amazing as far as i can tell i would recommend every girl to atleast try this show even if its the first few episodes.
I had my reservations when looking at the cover, but figuring it was probably just made in the late 80’s, I picked it up. My estimation was roughly a decade off. The great character designs attempt to hide this fact, but unfortunately my sympathy vanished when the story began to circle the drain.
The series begins promisingly enough, the first 8 or so episodes are decent, and in fact the last few are too. The fact that i don’t remember the middle of the series is indicative of its poor quality.
I personally am not a fan of anime that cut every possible corner and have repetitive filler episodes, though most people seem to like them. If you are one of them I recommend you buy this series right away, surely there is no shortage of people trying to get rid of their copy.
If you insist on watching the anime, I would suggest that you watch the first disc and the last disc, then seal it away so it can wait in anticipation for its next victim.
While having a likeable cast though, Princess Nine does have some pretty significant issues. The series apparently dug into shoujo anime cliches in setting up its plot, the biggest hurting the series being its melodrama and romantic predicaments for its second half. Princess Nine has a big habit of greatly exaggerating on a number of the dilemmas faced by the characters throughout the title’s run, which tend to get rather overbearing at points. The romantic developments on the love triangle that are focused on in the second half prove to be the biggest setback to the use of melodrama in this series as it has no major relevance to the main plot on the girl’s baseball team and is rather bland due to the exaggerated dramatics that the series pulls with the whole thing, which even lead them to affect the girls at points during their baseball games and take away from that aspect to the plot. Also, the Koshien tournament’s depiction in the anime is rather underwhelming with only one or two episodes devoted per game on ir and much of the romantic melodrama dominating the storyline by that point.
In terms of presentation, Princess Nine sports standard quality visuals with reasonable detail and subdued color tones on character designs and scenery. The animation has its rough moments with character designs usually getting off-model and reused animated frames coming from a number of baseball scenes. The soundtrack consists of dramatic and upbeat tracks that do their part at trying to enhance the melodrama of the series, but are rather forgettable and don’t match up to the epic scale they attempt to portray.
While the girls among the team are a likeable bunch and get some solid developments, Princess Nine’s melodrama and romantic developments get way too much emphasis as the series presses on, eventually getting to a point where they are more prominent than the struggles of the girls being recognized as well as the boys’ teams. While having its solid moments, I don’t think I’m hopping back to this series anytime soon.
1: Initial D First Stage
English: Initial D First Stage
MAL Score: 8.29
Unlike his friends, Takumi Fujiwara is not particularly interested in cars, with little to no knowledge about the world of car enthusiasts and street racers. The son of a tofu shop owner, he is tasked to deliver tofu every morning without fail, driving along the mountain of Akina. Thus, conversations regarding cars or driving in general would only remind Takumi of the tiring daily routine forced upon him.
One night, the Akagi Red Suns, an infamous team of street racers, visit the town of Akina to challenge the local mountain pass. Led by their two aces, Ryousuke and Keisuke Takahashi, the Red Suns plan to conquer every racing course in Kanto, establishing themselves as the fastest crew in the region. However, much to their disbelief, one of their aces is overtaken by an old Toyota AE86 during a drive back home from Akina. After the incident, the Takahashi brothers are cautious of a mysterious driver geared with remarkable technique and experience in the local roads—the AE86 of Mount Akina.
Story: On the surface, it’s about a pretty bland high school guy who’s got a bunch of car-crazy friends… and turns out to be the 2nd fastest driver in Akina. (Who’s first? Ooooh, don’t you wanna know?) Below the surface…? Okay, pretty much the same thing. 😉 Most of the "story" is just a bunch of kids in cars racing through dark mountain passes …or talking about racing through dark mountain passes. I know it doesn’t sound interesting if you’re not into car races, but it was. There’s something about the speed and the pressure and the tension that sucks you into the show. And of course, there’s also your normal sports anime type general plot of competition and desire, rising to the challenge, overcoming obstacles, etc.
Art: I have to say, this is the biggest downside of the show. Especially in the first season. Thankfully, by the fourth season, there’s a remarkable improvement overall in animation quality. One of the most jarring things is the awkward usage of computer graphics for the racing scenes in the first season. There’s kind of an old-school feel to the way the people look and the brightness of the show… and then all of sudden out of no where, there’s a cgi car that looks like it’s from a different decade than the guy driving it. I don’t think I ever got used to that.
Sound: Personally, I always prefer subs to dubs. Here, I would really suggest the subs… the voices for English dub didn’t feel anywhere near as "right" as the Japanese actors. Whenever I heard the dub, I felt like the voices made me like the characters less. The downside of watching the sub, however, is the Japanese soundtrack. Maybe it’s my close-minded American taste, but I would have preferred hearing the hip-hop on the dub to whatever that was used originally.
Character: The main character, Takumi, was somewhat atypical for this genre, I think, and I liked it. Unlike the normal archetypes like the loser who tries really hard or the cocky natural-born genius, Takumi is sort of actually unique: he doesn’t know anything about cars and doesn’t even really like driving. It was a nice way for the series to start because I didn’t care about street racing when I started the show either. So, even though they toss around a little bit of racing lingo, I was never more behind than the main character was… and, as a viewer, I got a chance to become interested in street racing while Takumi got interested in it. I really liked that his development on the show kind of went down the same road that mine did as a viewer. So I thought they did a great job on his character design and development because his attitude and experience is what hooks you and reels you in to what I assume would be an otherwise complicated and technical world of street racing.
Enjoyment: I think you can tell I enjoyed it, right? I had to make mental notes to slow down while driving for a bit after watching the show. Thankfully, I’m too cowardly to try drifting for real! …And let me tell you, my Corolla never drove like the 86. 😉 I think it was also really appealling because Takumi starts off the show as what seems like a normal, typical driver — it made me feel like there was an inner Takumi just waiting to be woken up buried somewhere in me. (There’s not, unfortunately, but I like to delude myself sometimes.)
Takumi is supported by his best friend and racing fanatic Itsuki, as well as upperclassman and lead racer of the Akina Speed Stars, Iketani. Also important are the opponents Takumi races against, most notably the Takahashi brothers, elite racers whose region-ruling elder brother Takahashi analytically plots to defeat the new unstoppable racer. Initial D’s cast is generally realistic and likeable, with mild yet distinct personality archetypes. Characters are passionate about their hobby and take it seriously, but winning or losing at the sport is hardly considered the end of the world. Takumi’s interest in cars and racing grows at an appropriately slow pace and noticing the nuances of his changed perspective on the subject is rewarding and feels natural, but beyond that little of the cast evolves as people. Takumi’s hobby brings out a competitive spirit in him, but he remains unassertive and distant throughout the season. It’s endearing at first when Takumi is the underdog, his lack of charisma going full circle and becoming genuine charisma when contrasted with his confident opponents, but the small range of his personality gets old. His incompetent relationship with Natsuki is cute and does evolve throughout the show, but is otherwise uninteresting to follow. Natsuki has no involvement with the part of the show having to do with racing, and their chemistry is only supported by the childhood friend angle. I have no idea why Natsuki would be interested in a guy who only gives one word responses, doesn’t start conversations, and has no interests or hobbies, but she’s all over him. The supporting cast is weak because everyone plays diffident comic cheerleader to Takumi. The screeching and melodramatic Itsuki straddles the fine line between endearing and unbelievably annoying, just barely landing on the former because of the few subplots in which his incompetency with racing and people despite his passion garners genuine sympathy from the viewer. Iketani ends up listless outside of a short romantic subplot. He’s supposed to be Akina’s number one racer until Takumi shows up, but what little we see of his driving ability is completely unimpressive and far from knowledgeable about racing compared to the rest of the cast. Takumi is also observed in the shadows by his father Bunta, a former street racer who was legendary in his time, and his boss Yuuichi, an experienced driver and friend of Bunta.
The main attraction of Initial D are the races, but there can be a lot of time between them spent on developing the next opponent, preparation, or comedy/daily life between the main characters. Probably more so than most sports anime. This can occasionally be a drag as the races themselves are never in more than three episodes, with even the final race being a meager two. The anime does assume a fair bit of prior knowledge regarding racing and car terminology on the viewer, and it’s arbitrary which parts are explained and to what detail. I had a particularly problem following the physical logic of the races, where characters would explain how a technique was pulled off but without any kind of visual aid. With little racing knowledge such as myself, hearing about how one of the cars moved by shifting gravity and whatnot seems sensible, but it’s difficult to envision and perfectly understand just through dialogue and the simple racing animations which also makes it harder to appreciate the creativity behind the races and the technique itself.
While the framerate of Initial D can be choppy and there might not be a lot of movement, the art itself is solid and pleasant to look at – for the most part. Many criticize the “fish-like” eyes and lips of the character designs, but they’re meant to resemble original manga artist Shigeno Shuuichi’s art style and it’s distinct otherwise, so I like it. By far the most controversial aspect of Initial D’s animation is its use of computer-generated 3D renders for the cars. CG animation was starting to catch on around this time with many studios believing it was the natural evolution of animation. Initial D’s studios jumped the gun on what was still a niche form of animation and haphazardly shoved it into their series in an attempt to look hip and progressive. The irony, as we know now, is that the CG is immediately the aspect of Initial D that dates it the most. Even though CG was a newer animation form than the cel animation used otherwise, the older form is professionally done by experienced animators and has hit around a universal standard of quality in anime, while the CG is technologically primitive and employed by people who have less experience using it. Initial D’s CG cars are basic models that lack texture to give them a realistic surface and have bold, flat colors that contrast heavily with the surrounding environment of 2D animation. So the animation styles clash, look ugly, and break the series cohesion, but what else?
Initial D’s studios also use the CG as an excuse to cut corners (as is often the case with CG ever since). One of the most noticeable things about scenes with CG in the frames is that the 2D cels they’re on will be completely unanimated. Not only is this awkward if you take the time to notice how everyone and everything in the background is as still as a tree as a car pulls up, but any attempts to mask this lack of moving frames is hilariously embarrassing. A constant technique used is to have a CG car pass in front of a group of people in the background, such as driving across a road horizontally, and then have that still frame of spectators swapped another single frame of them looking in the other direction. Cheap animation has been a part of anime since its inception, but not often will you find a 90s anime that reminds you of Astro Boy of all things. And It really is laziness – I can count on one hand the amount of times the series has 2D animation in the same frame as CG animation, but they can clearly do it. There are also occasional instances of disproportional scales and perspective, where a person standing by a car is way bigger than they should be given their distance. Use of CG also discourages use of traditional animation techniques to emphasize a sense of speed. There’s no motion lines, blur, or anything of that sort to drive that sense of whiplash in your face.
This makes the way the races are directed and portrayed far duller than they have to be, or should be. Without such things as those traditional techniques noted earlier there are no ways to distinguish how fast the cars are going in the animation other than speeding up the rate at which the CG model is dragged across the screen, which could look ridiculous. The visual dynamic of the races is extremely hindered in this way, as the cars going across the screen looks the same no matter how many times they do it throughout the series. This means the drama and intensity of the races is primarily conveyed to the viewer literally, by characters commenting on what’s happening during the race or the sense of speed. But the audience should feel like a front row spectator, not needing to have it explained to them in a visual medium about racing what the stakes are or what the rhythm of the race is. The visuals should shift throughout the races to mimic the adrenaline rush and conflicts of the drivers themselves and recreate the dramatic perspective of what the characters are experiencing, rather than have it delivered in such a plain, flavorless manner that it doesn’t sell the intensity of the race but instead dilutes it by having it conflict with the excitement of the literal narrative as delivered through the dialogue. This is, without a doubt, the weakest part of Initial D. The CG cars are not cute or endearing, nor do they simply look aesthetically unappealing as they clash with the primary animation style. The real issue is that they’re an active detriment to the very core purpose of the series, that are used to circumvent positive direction and animation techniques that would make the series more exciting. The studios didn’t have the ambition to take Initial D to the level it should have been and the most important part of the show, the races, suffer greatly for it. Basically, watch Redline and note the masterful ways it manipulates the motion of its animation to emphasize fluidity and speed and notice how none of them are used in Initial D. Even noting the fact that Redline is a blatant fantasy while Initial D is more grounded, that’s no excuse why a series in that vein can’t attempt more tactful use of such techniques to push the action without crossing the line into absurdity. If it’s not even going to try any of that, then what’s the point of animating?
I’m definitely interested in the future of Initial D. While storytelling progress in this first season has been leisurely at best, it hasn’t paused for long enough to give me the impression that Initial D has reached its full potential. Shuuichi Shigeno seems to realize the basics of having to introduce twists to keep the races interesting, and as he should predictably become more desperate he’ll hopefully bring more dramatic and significant deviations to the formula. This is all presumption though, as it still depends on Shigeno’s intelligence and ambition to take Initial D to the next level. Improvements in directing and animation could also be a major help. Though Initial D is a lukewarm thriller so far, there are enough hints of promise to keep me curious in where it could go so I’ll probably watch to its completion. A street racing anime is a fine concept, but it hasn’t come close to full throttle.
I just finished this series and I KNEW I had to review it right away! Holy shit this series was a trip! Initial D is a series that everyone has heard of, but not as many people have actually watched it. It’s not in the top 600 most viewed series on MAL, yet it’s somehow so famous that non-anime fans know about it. We all know it’s that racing anime with the CHEESIEST OST in existence that spawned all those memes. It’s also one of the only pre-2000 series in the MAL top 250. The others are all series like Rose of Versailles, Galactic Heroes, Ashita no Joe, Evangelion. All of them are very serious, artsy kind of shows considered the crème de la crème of elitist anime…and then there’s Initial D for some reason. Let me tell you straight up that this show does NOT fit in with those others. Initial D is dumb, DUMB anime and never tries to hide that for a second!
Why is this anime so glorious stupid? Oh my God, where do we even start? How about our main character, Takumi Fujiwara. He’s an average high school kid who works a part-time job at the local gas station and doesn’t have much ambition in life. He gets poor grades, has no real plans besides inheriting his dad’s tofu shop and is a very spacey, sleepy looking guy. Oh and for some reason he’s the best rally driver to ever live! His dad was a great street racer and he’s been forcing Takumi to deliver groceries early in the morning since he was 14. That’s all the explanation we get. He’s the best driver in the world and instinctively knows how to pull off physics defying drifts and drive 140 MPH around corners because he’s been delivering groceries in the morning for 2 years. It’s like Saitama’s explanation of his powers from One Punch Man, only Initial D isn’t a comedy! Well, not intentionally anyways.
If you thought Kirito from SAO was OP, you haven’t seen NOTHIN! In the first couple episodes, we find out that Takumi’s buddies at the gas station have a local street racing team and they’re horrible. They drag Takumi into racing for them and he instantly beats one of the best drivers in Japan. Takumi doesn’t even know what model car he drives! He doesn’t give a shit about racing. He just assumed he’s an average driver and everyone in the world drove around corners at 140 MPH because he drives in the early morning and somehow has never seen anyone else drive. Yes…that’s really the dumbass explanation the show goes with! This feels like an average shonen so far. Now Takumi will meet his first rival and lose for the first time right? NOPE! Takumi doesn’t lose in all of season 1. He just smokes everyone for 26 episodes! It gets even better! He’s driving a worse car than every one of his opponents! Takumi wins using a fucking Toyota Corolla! If Takumi was using a good car, he would have won every race in season 1 like Secretariat at the Belmont! This shit goes on for 7 seasons and he’s already the best driver in Japan at the end of season 1! When I was watching the last episode I was in complete disbelief. SURELY this is where he loses. There’s no way this show would be stupid enough to…OH MY GOD! I laughed so fucking hard. I LOVE this show!
You might think that Initial D is just another sports shonen, but you quickly learn there is something a little “off” about this series. Here’s a fun example. Takumi’s girlfriend is a whore. I mean she’s literally an underaged whore, but Takumi is so spacey and thickheaded that he never figures out he’s getting cucked by half the town. Eventually Takumi finds out and confronts the issue, but that’s not until about 30 volumes deep into the manga and after readers kept incessantly sending letters to the mangaka to address it. Why is that a part of this story if the mangaka never intended to write drama and wanted to focus on fast cars like he’s said in interviews? Did he just think it was funny? Why?! Here’s another example. There’s this racer chick who tells one of Takumi’s stupid friends that she’ll sleep with him if he can convince Takumi to race her. After Takumi races her and utterly destroys her, she tells the buddy to meet her at 8 for sex. He gets stuck in traffic and she becomes frustrated and drives off. This sub-plot never resolves. The racing chick never gets back together with Takumi’s buddy and the buddy as far as we know remains a virgin for the rest of the 48 volumes! Who in the FUCK writes like this?! Another time, Takumi finds a date for this other super obnoxious friend and she leaves him the next episode. That sub-plot also is never resolved. Why does this series keep taunting us with these romances and then jerking back at the last minute?
Initial D is a seinen series. The Western equivalent would be like a Vertigo graphic novel. Something like Watchmen or Sandman. This is intended primarily for college students. You would expect that a sports drama for college students and older would take itself at least kind of seriously if it’s not trying to be a raunchy comedy. Initial D is not here to play by the rules of your pathetic human logic! This is a series where an evil racer wins by forcing his opponents to crash at high speeds. Yet nobody ever gets seriously injured or dies in this series. He forces Takumi to race him by minorly injuring several of his friends in quick succession, because this show isn’t even written at shonen level. It’s written like bad professional wrestling! Takumi accepts the challenge and starts winning. Even though they’re playing in a “Super Gum Gum Death Match” where you have to tie your left hand to the wheel. This is straight up some Yugioh Season Zero bullshit! What does the bad guy do? He attempts to kamikaze ram Takumi and kill them both rather than lose! Takumi dodges with a physics defying drift and the bad guy rams into the guard rail on a mountain pass at over 90 MPH. The bad guy gets some minor scrapes, but is perfectly fine. This series actually operates on “George of the Jungle” logic! “Nobody is allowed to die in this story, just get really big boo boos!”
The OST is most famous aspect of Initial D and it lives up to its reputation. High energy, disco Eurotrash all the way. You know how everyone on Rateyourmusic says they only enjoy Radiohead, Bob Dylan and Richard Wagner? This music is so tasteless I think those guys would react to it like the Nazis when Indiana Jones opens the Arc of Covenant. I have an offline buddy whose favorite band is Eiffel 65 and even he might be embarrassed to blast this shit in the car! I loved every second of it!
The cars are CGI and this is 1998, so gird your expectations. For the time though, it actually looked REALLY good! What doesn’t look so great is the character art. Not only does it often feature those huge lips that I hate in anime, but half the male cast looks way too similar. Well it’s a 90s anime, who cares if a few background characters look similar? No, I mean the main character looks similar enough to 2 other rivals that I had to do a double take a couple times. Wait was that Takumi?! Ok, yeah it was.
I know I spent this entire review just kicking the shit out of it, but I actually did love Initial D. This is the perfect guilty pleasure anime! It’s gloriously dumb, but ceaselessly entertaining for 26 episodes! I can’t count how many times I cheered when Takumi drifted into the lead accompanied by cheesy Eurobeat. It’s wonderful! Simply wonderful! I highly recommend you watch this shit!
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Initial D First Stage
2. Princess Nine: Kisaragi Joshikou Yakyuubu
3. Grander Musashi RV
4. Battle Athletess Daiundoukai (TV)
5. Bakusou Kyoudai Let’s & Go MAX
6. Seupideuwang Beongae