I was wondering about how, for lack of a better word, “pointless” it all seems that these guys are street racing just to prove they’re better than the other top racer. Spending so much time and effort on something with no monetary returns or growth. This train of thought came to crashing halt immediately as I realised that these guys, at least Takumi & friends, do have normal day jobs which is used to finance this hobby of theirs. In life, there are few things more fulfilling than exceeding at what you love. Fame is just a natural by-product of this, so it’s a win-win situation in the end.
Anyways, Second Stage picks up pretty soon after the First season of Initial D, seeing Takumi daydreaming about Mogi and their first kiss at lake Akina. And then pretty soon he finds out that Mogi is cheating on him with some old guy in a Benz. Ah, to be in love.
Getting back to his love life later, the second season can be broken down into two parts; with 7 episodes dedicated to the Lan-Evo team from Irohazaka, and the last 6 episodes to the AE86 Turbo challenge.
Once again, we see Takumi winning one challenge after the other even though the odds are stacked against him. To be fair to the series, they do show other races, but this is simply to show how Takumi’s challenger is pwning the rest of the top drivers and what a tough battle awaits him. This buildup is necessary not only to show the difficult position he will be in, but also a break from ‘Takumi vs the World’ routine.
And while Takumi is certainly the undefeated champ on the streets, in love, he gets a serious blow when he finds out about Mogi dating some old guy. His anger at finding this out is what costs him his first race, and the AE86. Well, technically it wasn’t a race, but he still experiences severe loss. From finding out his girlfriend is cheating on him to losing a race by blowing his beloved AE86’s engine, this was probably the lowest point in his life.
Soon after that event, the AE86 gets a new engine that Takumi finds trouble adjusting to. This was the most interesting part of the series for me, seeing Takumi mature somewhat from a nonchalant boy racer to an understanding driver who wants to learn more, as he realises that not all things can be won in life.
Third Stage was released as a movie in Jan 2001 to provide the ending for Second Stage. And while the second season certainly felt like it dragged sometimes, the movie wraps everything up very nicely. We see now that Takumi races against two prominent people not to win, but to learn from them. His growth is expressed not only in him understanding that racing is not just about winning but being a better driver, but also of his acceptance of Mogi back into his life. Well, that patch up was quick thanks to an old friend enemy of theirs who tried to rape Mogi, but went limp once he saw Takumi’s superior driving skills.
The film closed with Takumi deciding to take on Ryouske’s offer to join him and a team of extraordinary street racers who will spend one year defeating all the champs in the surrounding area, and quit after that to pursue their own goals & careers in life. In Takumi’s case, the goal is to become a professional racing driver. Meanwhile Mogi is going to Tokyo Uni to do something, Takumi’s dad continues with the tofu shop and his friends continue working at the petrol station.
I can’t guess, but I hope the Fourth Stage has even more character development than Second and Third. I love that having proper focus on driving is as integral to the series as what’s going in the lives of it’s characters. A rare combination indeed.
And with that…