Sunday, October 30, 2011

Initial D: Extra Stage

Initial D: Extra Stage; animated sports/ romance/ action, Japan, 2001; D: Shishi Yamaguchi, S: Michiko Neya, Yumi Kakazu, Keii Fujiwara

Mako and Sayuki are two girls who enjoy car races and their Nissan Sil80, the so called "Impact Blue" is the fastest car in their suburb. Sayuki often hangs around with her pal Shingo, whereas his friend Nakazato has a secret crush on her. The two girls surprise them when they audaciously accept a car race against a champion from the Emperor gang and win. At a ski resort, Sayuki wants to match Mako with a guy, but she declines since she still has feelings for someone else.

This anime OVA from the "Initial D" series surprised with its feminist take on car races, providing only one racing duel in the middle - and on top of that a one that gives the main heroine who drives inspiration and strength when her male opponent gives her a sexist remark, namely that women can't drive - yet the story is evenly spaced out thanks to a good mood that juggles with gentle romance and drama, which is why it does not look like an empty vehicle. The two main heroines in this story, fan favorites among the "Initial D" series, Mako and Sayuki, are both attractive (truth be told, Sayuki has a mannish face with "Cow and Chicken" like lips, but is otherwise quite feminine) and thus sometimes give the authors a "pretext" for some standard fan service - Mako in the short scene while having a shower, Sayuki slightly less in the spa scene - which is just there to sustain the attention of the audience. "Extra Stage" is a neat, good, but not great achievement. More could have been made out of the potential romantic subplot where Mako wanted to give her virginity to a guy she fancies, but he showed no interest in her, whereas the story lacks intensity and spark, yet flows in a solid manner.


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