I just caught the Initial D live action movie a little while ago ( thanks to DiGi ). The movie is based on the manga ( author: Shuuichi Shigeno ) by the same name. I'm not all that familiar with the series only having picked it up recently by watching what they term the 4th Stage which if I'm not mistaken is the third series in the anime.
Well the movie stars very well known Hong Kong movie stars being Anthony Wong, Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Chapman To, Jay Chou and Kenny Bee. Rounding up the cast is Japanese Anne Suzuki ( I remember watching her in The Returner... she was wayyyy younger then ) and Taiwanese R&B prince; Jay Chou.
Comics to live action movie transitions are fairly common these days. Hollywood is delivering in droves. Batman Begins was just released, Fantastic Four follows soon after and next year we will see the rebirth of the Superman franchise. Japanese comics ( let's call them manga from now on ) are also a rich source of material to plunder and it is no surprise that in the past few years we have seen quite a few anime to live action movies. Those that come to mind are Casshern ( not recommended ), Devilman ( stay far far away from this crap ) and Cutey Honey ( watch this now! ).
Now the directors who brought you the Infernal Affairs series brings you the live action adaptation of the Initial D manga which is a very faithful rendition of the manga except for the fact that everyone in the movie speaks Cantonese. Well maybe they adapted the translated to Chinese Hong Kong version of the manga :) I don't profess to be an expert in the series but I do know some details are ignored in the movie ( the biggest being the merging of 2 major characters into one ) but nitpicking the movie is a stupid thing to do.
Initial D can be credited to bringing awareness to the motorsport called drifting where people perform controlled slides with their cars to get them through corners quicker and this is what most people going in to the cinemas will expect to see. You want drifting? You get loads of it and they are a sight to behold. The drifts were executed by stuntmen from Hong Kong and Japan.
I read somewhere that the movie claims not to have used to CGI for the racing scenes. That statement is not true but it is not an outright lie. As far as I can tell all the drifting scenes are real. CGI was used sparingly in some overtaking scenes and in certain scenes when cars were seen crashing. I'm one of those people who can spot CGI pretty easily so I guess most people would not notice it. Anyways the racing scenes are much better than the muscleheaded driving you see in the Fast and the Furious movies.
Car fans will be delighted to see their favourite Japanese cars in action. The main star being the Toyota AE86 and supported by a cast consisting of a Nissan Skyline R32 ( one of my favourite cars ), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III and Evo IV and the lesser known Mazda FC3S. If they had put in a Subaru Impreza in the movie then they would have catered to 90% of every Malaysian's idea of a dream car.
The story to the movie isn't really all that important but since it's sourced from a manga the story was pretty good. Basically it tells the story of Takumi Fujiwara ( Jay Chou ) and the challenges he faces to become the best street racer in town. Takumi's father Bunta Fujiwara ( Anthony Wong ) was himself a talented street racer who gave up the sport after getting married. Bunta then chooses to make a living through selling tau-fu. Takumi develops his driving skills by delivering tau-fu in his father's old junk AE86. Every good story must have love involved thus Takumi's love interest is Natsuki Mogi ( Anne Suzuki ).
Reading some forums leading up to the release of the movie I gathered that most people hated the fact that Jay Chou was cast in the movie. Well Jay Chou certainly is not a good actor but he's believable as Takumi. His command of Cantonese was quite bad though... at times it was mangled so badly I could not understand what he was saying. However Jay Chou is much less irritating than Hayden Christensen in the Star Wars prequels.
Jay Chou aside, Chapman To did a great job in the movie despite playing what amounts to the same characters that he's played in countless Hong Kong movies. His character Itsuki Tachibana is the jester of the movie. I neglected to mention this earlier but this movie is a hell of a funny movie and Chapman To provides most of the laughs.
It would be a sin for me not to mention Anthony Wong's acting in the movie. He is a God amongst actors. Sometimes you wonder why the world is so unfair because if it was fair he would be an international movie star by now. Anthony is known to be very serious with his craft. So much so he got himself perpetually drunk while acting because that's the state his character is in for the whole movie. Lastly if anyone can sell cigarettes, Anthony Wong is the man... the way he smokes in the movie... coolness personified :)
Please do yourself a favour and watch this in the cinemas.