As the final showdown between the breakout racing phenomenon Takumi Fujiwara and Ryosuke Takahashi, the undefeated leader of the famed Akagi RedSuns, draws near, both the drivers and their teams go into overdrive. Takumi’s 86 and Takahashi’s RX-7 are broken down, retooled and suped up to prepare for their confrontation, and honing their already razor-sharp skills. Not only is Takumi faced with the race, but he also has to juggle his romantic life too, as he gets closer to Natsuki. It’s all to play for as the masters of drift face off against each other in a winner-take-all competition that will change the racing scene forever.
After a woefully disappointing second film in the form of Initial D Legend 2: Racer, a lot was riding on the third entry, Initial D Legend 3: Dream, to save the trilogy from mediocrity, and hopefully stick the landing set up by the competent but still somewhat lacking first entry. Any hopes I had for such an outcome were, sadly enough, totally in vain, as this third film provides a lacklustre ending to what has been a second-rate attempt to pump new life into the Initial D franchise.
The most blatant flaw that becomes quickly apparent as you begin to watch Dream is just how front loaded with filler it is. The second movie set up the rivalry between Takumi and Takahashi right at the very end, but you soon realise the race between the two is the only card the series is left holding, and you can’t make a single race last for the entirety of the runtime. Being the final entry into the trilogy, it’s too late to set up anything new to pay off later, and nothing in the prior films needs any pay off, so what you’re left with is a bunch of meandering scenes that serve no other purpose than to kill time until the finale. We get scenes where we see Takumi practise – which is pointless given everything we’ve seen from him before seems to suggest he’s a naturally perfect driver – as well as a couple of dating scenes with love interest Natsuki.
The romance on display is, as before, utterly dreadful, with neither of the two having a drop of chemistry between them, and both being thoroughly dull characters to boot. The majority of the conversations they have seem to be about cars, which may be relevant to the subject of the anime, but never seems to go beyond this. Natsuki doesn’t even have an interest in cars, which makes it all the more bewildering. These scenes just serves as giant missed opportunities to develop either the characters or their relationship together, as opposed to the car talk. Takumi and Natsuki do finally get together, as you’d probably expect, given it’s the end, but it can’t help but feel unearned. There has been no decent build-up whatsoever, with Natsuki barely appearing in the second film. This culmination of their relationship also leads to some really odd attempts at comedy, as multiple people seem to think Takumi is now sex-obsessed because he suddenly has a girlfriend. I say attempts at comedy, it’s actually pretty hard to tell, given how hard the gag misses, I’m not sure you can call it comedy.
After an astonishing 40 minutes of filler, two thirds of the runtime, Dream finally gets to the big matchup between Takumi and Takahashi, and I honestly feel it isn’t worth wading through the lengthy slog to get there. There isn’t exactly anything wrong with it, per se, and the animation and directions remains as technically impressive as in prior entries, but the novelty of the races has long worn off at this point. They’re so similar, that once you’ve seen one, you’ve kind-of seen them all, and without any sort of investment set up in the story or cast, it’s entirely reliant on spectacle, so when even that is failing, I was left feeling bored. There’s only a couple of minutes after the race finishes to wrap everything up, so the ending feels rather abrupt and inconclusive, despite the fact I’m not entirely sure what else it could have done. It just doesn’t feel satisfying.
As I previously alluded to, the characters here also fail to rise above the earlier films, featuring nothing much in the way of development or basic traits that you could consider memorable at all. The entire cast, protagonist included, are utterly disposable, to the point where even writing this review, I had to look up what any of their names were, despite having watched the movie less than an hour ago.
As with both previous entries, the technical aspects of Initial D Legend 3 are consistently great, from the animation, presentation, sound effects and dub cast, all of whom return to reprise their roles here. The soundtrack also remains great, with the original tracks and insert songs really enhancing the mood and atmosphere, it’s just sad everything else doesn’t live up to the music.
A middling conclusion to a mediocre trilogy of films, Initial D Legend 3: Dream does little to course correct the floundering franchise.