Initial D and Takumi Fujiwara: The Virtual Star of Generation Drift

Cars People Culture

When manga turned to look at Hashiriya it created a legend

Japanese culture is all about exaggeration and amplification. Manga character Takumi Fujiwara from Initial D is the perfect example of this.

The manga scene turned its gaze onto the Hashiriya street racing scene in the mid-nineties. Its founding hero was Takumi Fujiwara – a young, pretty, hard-driving, delicately drifting archetype. His adventures soon echoed around the world.

The Drift scene is of course communicated around the world digitally. But squint just a little. You could be forgiven for thinking that Takumi is a living breathing reality. The Japanese manga tradition has always taken reality and jacked it up, blown energy into it and remapped it.

The whole point is identification by exaggeration, it is especially relevant when you look at the way the cars in the animations handle those mountain passes.

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Initial D reflected and amplified what was by the mid-nineties a thriving street racing scene. By the time it was over the whole world knew Takumi’s name.

The series was written and illustrated by Shuichi Shigeno. It was launched in print in 1995 and published until 2013. If you’re into such things and can hunt them down, the whole series is available in 48 bound volumes by Japanese publishing house Kodansha.

There were, of course, many adaptations of the original strip into various TV anime and video animations. In addition, a successful live action feature took Asia by storm in 2005. For the last decade, the world has been waiting for a sequel.

King of Drift Keiichi Tsuchiya consulted with the creators of Initial D on editorial and aesthetic factors, lending his unmatched chops to the art direction. You can see a whole bunch of drift-offs all over the web – but this clip shows a little bit of the reverence in which Tsuchiya is held.

With a nod to authenticity and, perhaps, to divert attention away from any moral panic the Hashiriya would drag up, pretty much all the action in the series takes place in the mountain passes around Japanese cities. Front and centre are the mountains in the Kantō region, smack dab in the Gunma prefecture.

This is bang in the centre of the most populous region of Japan – between Tokyo and Nagano, therefore drawing on millions of potential Drift fans. The populist aesthetic employed by the anime versions of Initial D shows how the strip managed to polarise Drift culture way outside of its mountain pass roots.

Here’s the first episode.

The narrative is compelling in Initial D, therefore anyone interested, like us, in cars sliding sideways and the intriguing specifics of Japanese culture will dig it.

Our hero buys and tweaks his AE86 with money saved hard from his various jobs. He hones his driving skills delivering Tofu. The authors thread the whole series together with killer action. It’s the same whether in print, in an animation or in the live action. Cars going fast dominate. Usually sideways. More often than not Takumi goes head to head with a series of foes. He usually fails, then triumphs. And there are often internal battles with himself as well as his adversaries.

Oh – and there are often cute girls in school skirts and leg-warmers looking on.

No other animated series has helped spark a real time auto-revolution. In conclusion, we owe Shigeno-San a huge debt.

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