Initial D Blu-ray Review
PictureThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 aspect 1080p transfer encoded with the AVC mpeg4 codec. What could have been a reference score misses the mark because of a few niggling problems, though it's fair to say I doubt most people will be worried.
First up, the detail; there are areas of the film that are just pristine clarity, take Bunta's apartment, with the strewn about rubbish, bottles and girly mags; all are knife edge sharp or the times when Takumi and Natsuki walk along the wooden pathway overlooking the sea with the beautiful background mountains, the relief shown, the glint off the water, the definition of the reeds, it's truly remarkable. However such areas of absolute clarity are often lost in a generally softer tone to most of the picture; don't get me wrong it is way above anything SD can deliver, but there is a definite softness to most of the image, which is a real shame.
Colours are bight and vivid and shine off the screen, the above mentioned scenes are prime examples as are the head and tail lights of the cars racing down the mountain; there is no wash or bleed with every colour being bold and strong, of particular delight is the red hot breaks gleaming though the black of the wheels during the final race.
Brightness and contrast however do fluctuate a little; the blacks are a little grey for my liking, but it's not by much and tends to be limited to the internal scenes as the mountain landscapes at night during the races are particularly deep. There isn't that real sense of depth though, no pop. Whites too, for the most part are well defined, however, I did spot on (rare) occasion a little blooming.
Digitally there were no compression problems, though there was a little posterization in some of the night skies and a little edge enhancement in places. It's slight but it is there. The original print is in excellent condition with only the rarest of specks and grain is never a problem. In all then an excellent picture, I just wish it could have been more consistent.
SoundThere are four sound tracks to choose from: Cantonese LPCM 5.1, Cantonese, Mandarin and English Dolby Digital 5.1; I chose to review the PCM track. There is just no getting away from the centre of the action with this track, oh my, no, each speaker gets a thorough work out and your ears get flung around the room.
Lets take the score first, made up of 'techno rock' it thumps and rattles its way around the room, but its not unpleasant; there is a full range and makes full use of the bass; if you want to crank it up you can imagine being in a club. The cars to get a satisfying growl from the speakers, with plenty of directionality and steering around the room; tyre squeals and engine revs place you in the car. At one stage I actually jumped out of my seat when a car screeched to a halt from behind me.
Surprisingly there are very few LF effects, being mostly reserved for the occasional engine rev and the rumble of a train going past. Which brings me to the bass level which, while terrific for the score was a slightly lacking for the rest; as the cars roared around the mountain I expected a deafening rumble, sadly there was not; oh it is by no means bad and most will probably think it fine, just I'm a bass hound and I wanted more.
Dialogue was clear and precise and given plenty of directionality when called for. Surround effects were plentiful from ambiance to effects. Overall I was extremely impressed with this track and it's down to personal taste with the bass. Good marks.
ExtrasFirst up is a sixteen minute Behind the scenes featurette, which includes a huge amount of camcorder behind the scenes filming and plenty of interviews with cast and crew alike. Cars engines and make up are detailed as well as watching the them actually doing their racing; those three cars really did race down the mountain inches away from each other. There is loads to see and listen to and all conveniently subtitled.
Next up is a series of character featurettes, seven in total, playable individually or all together, once again with English subtitles. They concentrating on the individual actor with plenty of back ground info and informal discussion with the best bit being at the very beginning of each name, you see a representation of the original manga next to the actor, remarkable how similar they look!
Next up is a making of documentary, it runs for about twenty minutes and contains a significant amount of material already seen in the above featurettes, very little to recommend in this one.
There are ten deleted scenes, all add very little to the film; most are scene extensions presumably cut for pacing reasons, interesting to see, but little to get excited about, runs for eight minutes.
Next up is four minutes of outtakes, contains the usual amount of gaffs and fluffed lines, people laughing etc. didn't have me laughing, mind, I couldn't understand what was being said ....
There are three TV spots for the film, fifteen, thirty and sixty second ads, blink and you'll miss them, or just bypass the menu.
Promotion in Shanghai is a ten minute piece of the cars of the film doing the most incredible spins on a race track somewhere in Shanghai (presumably). At first this is very engaging, but soon wears a bit then, the final minute sees the actors driven onto the track to wave at the crowd.
Promotion in Japan starts off in a conference room with a load of elder Japanese gentlemen addressing the crowd, I have no idea who they are, then the cast and crew all file out to answer questions from the crowd. The whole thing is over dubbed with some thumpy song and lasts for two minutes, weird.
Finally there are three theatrical trailers, all in correct ratio all in HD, very nice indeed.
VerdictI shouldn't have liked Initial D. It has everything I despise about modern Hollywood, fast cutting, fast pacing, thumpy music, little characterisation and aimed squarely at the teen market. Perhaps because it isn't Hollywood makes it watchable; it has that Asian quality to set it apart from the other mindless drivel out there. All I know is that it somehow it won me over, I just enjoyed the rush. If you've got two hours and agreeable neighbours then this is one fun afternoon, turn it up and enjoy, it'll be over before you know it.
As a Blu-ray package it's very good, excellent picture and sound are backed up by a decent enough extras package, ok there is little insight into them, but then the film is like that - a lot of surface; but don't let that put you off, it's a hugely enjoyable romp.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.57
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