Something I never made up my mind about with Initial D

February 10, 2013

When I was watching Initial D, one of the things I was never able to make up my mind about was whether Takumi's story was fundamentally egalitarian or fundamentally conservative. Explaining this is going to require both some words and some minor spoilers (nothing more than you'd get by reading the Wikipedia page, though).

Initial D is certainly very egalitarian on the surface. Takumi is a (street racing) outsider in an unimpressive car and he beats a whole series of established street racers driving much better cars. Takumi does this by being an excellent driver (and in the initial races by being utterly familiar with his home mountain), but he got his driving skills and local knowledge through literally years of incessant daily practice. Takumi is better because he has worked harder, whether his opponents realize this or not, and a better driver in a good enough car will smoke a not as good driver in a hot car.

(A number of Takumi's early opponents get fairly emotional about what they feel is a total upset to the natural order. How can this nobody in a dinky car be beating them? They're renowned street racers, they have the right car, how come they're not winning?)

But as the series goes on we discover that Bunta (Takumi's father) was himself an infamous street racer when he was Takumi's age. As this comes up in the story, we also have any number of people saying that of course Takumi is good, he's 'Crazy' Bunta's son. Blood will tell, after all. If you've been watching anime for long you've seen this theme before; 'blood will tell' is a fairly major trope (mostly in shonen fighting shows, I think). If we believe 'blood will tell' then Takumi was destined for greatness from the start and someone who practiced as much as Takumi but did not have his blood would always be his inferior. This is fundamentally conservative, not egalitarian; it says that Takumi is innately one of the nobility of street racing, forever beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Depending on where you look at it and what you pay attention to, the anime story goes both ways. As I mentioned, I never was able to make up my mind about what it really was at its heart.

(Of course I am thinking too much about this.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2013-02-11 00:48:46:

My absolute favourite episode of Naruto is 22, which deals with this dichotomy among other things.

Written on 10 February 2013.
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