Why Initial D is Truly, Deeply Problematic

Don't be fooled, he's crying
Don’t be fooled by Takumi’s cheerful demeanor, he’s crying on the inside.

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll be blunt: Initial D promotes child abuse. Yes, everyone’s favorite racing TV show with charmingly awkward CGI cars has a dark side that has gone unremarked for far too long, and it’s time for us to all realize just how truly disturbing it is.

I can hear you now: “But Initial D? That heartwarming little show about outdated 80s cars outperforming slightly less outdated 90s cars on twisty roads in rural Japan, where no one has anything better to do?” Yes, that show. I know it may be hard to process at first, but when one considers the plight of the main character, it becomes clear that Initial D contains deeply troubling ideas that need to be unpacked.

Consider Takumi: forced by his father from the age of 12 to make tofu deliveries to a hotel on the other side of a steep mountain at four in the morning, this young boy faced an ordeal every night for years on end. Years before being legally allowed to drive his father’s car, Takumi had to face a dangerous journey, filled with treacherous hairpin curves and sheer drops with only an inadequate guard rail for protection. And what a terrifying choice he had to make: take it slow and stay safe, or try to drive fast to get it over with and grab a few more precious minutes of sorely-needed sleep. One wrong turn at high speed, and his young life would be at an end.

Can you imagine being trapped in that nightmare, with grades plummeting due to sleep deprivation, yet not being able to tell anyone about your dangerous and illegal nightly task due to the desire to protect your father? Sure, we know this is child abuse, but Takumi innocently trusted his parent, as abused children generally do.

Do your own deliveries, you shameless bastard.

It would be one thing if Takumi’s father, Bunta, was punished for his behavior, but if anything it’s the opposite; Bunta is rewarded for abusing his child when Takumi’s driving experience leads to him become a respected street racer. Bunta is also some kind of tofu-making, chain-smoking gearmonkey superpimp, but that’s neither here nor there. Also, since Takumi clearly benefits so much from the abuse, the message is as simple as it is sickening: just put up with child abuse for a few years, and you too can become an awesome racer who gets all the babes! Just awful.

And don’t be fooled by Takumi’s chill attitude about the whole thing; can’t you tell he’s shut down emotionally to protect himself? It doesn’t matter if his comments on delivering the tofu are “yeah it’s kinda annoying, but whatevs,” what he’s really saying is “Father, please stop hurting me!” If you lower the volume of the incessant JPOP for a moment, you can almost hear Takumi crying.

I can already hear you protesting: but it’s just a wish-fulfillment show about becoming a street racer, you say. It’s just a fictional situation invented to create drama, you say. Well, I’m so glad for you. I’m so glad this show doesn’t take place in a global context of child abuse, child labor, child soldiers, dropping test scores, grisly car wrecks, and people thinking that what car they drive actually matters for shit. I’m so GLAD these aren’t real problems that we all have to deal with, so you can so easily write off something so problematic as purely fictional. How nice for you. Because wow, if it were the opposite, wouldn’t you be a fucking tool.

You may see a tuned-up 1986 Panda Trueno; Takumi sees death. A solitary death in a ravine, with only lukewarm tofu for company.

If you check your grownup privilege at the door, you’ll realize that this is a horrible situation in which to depict a child, and we shouldn’t stand for it. Now I’m not saying that Initial D should be banned; of course not. We want it to stay available, so we can repeatedly point to it and accuse it of being terrible among a small group of people who already agree with us. Because that’s how society improves.

I suppose it’s possible you don’t agree; sadly, many people are ignorant, and don’t know how to think or analyze to a sufficient degree. However, if you choose to sit out this teachable moment, then I pity you, because obviously, you really need it. Continue thinking that we allow for more morally questionable situations in fiction because we know it’s meant for entertainment purposes, and who knows what real young men might be forced to wake up in the wee hours of the morning, because “this tofu don’t got no legs, boy.”

Just for the record, it is also impossible for you to disagree with me here and be correct; this is an empirical fact. I have read texts about the subject, and if you haven’t read all the same texts, you are ignorant by definition and cannot have a conversation on the same level with me. No I can’t tell you what texts, there is a whole BODY of literature about this and if you can’t be bothered to seek it out, that’s your problem. I hope you put the effort into this desperately needed self-improvement.

What’s that? You think I sound condescending? Well, the hell with you; I know that any criticism of my attitude is really a translation for “Shut up, you diseased fucking bitch,” in man-language. How dare you. How DARE you. Here I am, giving unsolicited advice to help you become a better person, and that’s the kind of language you resort to? I hope you die in a fire. In fact, if you were on fire, I wouldn’t even pee on you to put it out, you rude, ignorant, creepy, child-abuse-condoning fuckwit.

So there: now you know why Initial D is truly, deeply problematic and we should all be very concerned. And I can feel confident I’ve done my part to help achieve greater social justice today. CAN YOU?

11 thoughts on “Why Initial D is Truly, Deeply Problematic”

  1. I must say, I love the parts of your argument where you say it is impossible to disagree and be correct. I also love how you immediately cut everyone down who would even think to disagree with you. To be honest, I think that is rather immature for someone trying to make a serious statement. It kind of tarnishes your voice in my opinion. I just think it’s sad that we take the time to over analyze a cartoon to imply child abuse. Sure I’ll agree the father in the show is by no means a role model father, but this is a cartoon. I’m sure the purpose behind the early driving lessons was to help create a back story as to why the character was such a racing prodigy. It made more sense than just having Takumi jump in a car for the first time and become something amazing.

    Initial D isn’t even something to top the lists as awful. There are far worse things coming from Hollywood. Movies and shows alike. However, the point is, it is fictional. Doesn’t mean it has to be all happy wonderful no pain in the world just because you don’t care for it. Sure it may depict child abuse, or it may just be the backstory the mangaka had came up with when he first thought to create this series. Doesn’t even mean the mangaka had any intention of it being child abuse, could have just ended up being perceived as such. Now I know you will probably feel obligated to criticize me and call me every dirty name in the book because I don’t agree with your point of view, but that’s life. We all don’t have the same view. And in the regards to a cartoon, I think there are far more important things to concern yourself with. If you are so against this show because you believe it represents child abuse, why not focus your attention in a more appropriate place? If it seriously bothers you, then why not actually volunteer or something to help stop child abuse. Stop trash talking a cartoon like you’re making a difference. Also, don’t claim to have facts and then say you can’t say what they are. That’s like going to court and telling a judge “I have plenty of proof, I just can’t say. You really want to know, go investigate it yourself.” Mhm…. Good luck with that.

    And please, grow up. I think this is one worst attempts I’ve seen at someone trying to be serious. Respected individuals who debate do not call people ignorant every couple lines, make sexist comments like “man-language”, tell everyone who “dares” oppose your view to go die in a fire. Tsk tsk.

    1. Dude, actually this was meant as a parody of over-the-top, judgmental feminist criticism. I posted this during a period where feminist critiques were suddenly all over anime blogs, so I figured people would get what I was making fun of.

      The problem is, this kind of criticism is so over the top in reality, the parody aspect is kind of hard to detect. In retrospect, I would have made it more obvious.

      Sorry for upsetting an Initial D fan, that wasn’t the intention:). Initial D is the only show about cars I am willing to watch.

      1. Could’ve stated that in advance, also wangan midnight, it’s like initial d but the tone is a little less serious (racing for fun vs racing for status) and takes place on the Tokyo expressways

  2. I don’t know how I stumbled here, but I was angry until I couldn’t stop laughing.

    You have all this disdain for Bunta but nothing for the rich man using Natsuki and lavishing her with gifts for ‘favors’? She was still in high school!

    1. Didn’t you know that events depicted on fictional television shows are EXACTLY THE SAME as reality?

      Be informed, my son!

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