For fans of racing anime, Initial D has been a hard series to beat in terms of love, hype, and cultural footprint. It’s simply put, the most iconic racing anime of all time, and has had a ton of sequel series and even live-action adaptations. So when news of Shuichi Shigeno’s MF Ghost manga hit the shelves 4 years after his Initial D series concluded, people wondered if it would successfully carry the torch as a hit anime. In our review of MF Ghost Episode 1, “The Challenger from England” from a screener generously provided by Crunchyroll, we dive into whether it meets our expectations.
A New, Sleek Future for Racing
In a near-future Japan, sometime in the 2020s or 2030s, fossil fuel is scarce, and internal combustion engines are more of a luxury. With the rise of electric and self-driving cars, sports or muscle cars are less common. A void being felt with the absence of thrilling racing entertainment, the Japanese company MFG created a massively popular street racing platform with tens of millions of subscribers.
This projects a new, sleek future for racing which we can all get behind. Drones closely follow to capture the best footage possible as Japanese cars race against premium European vehicles, and this is where we see Kanata Rivington take center stage. The Japanese-English 19-year-old is a newcomer to the scene, ready to turn heads on the racetrack as he comes from Cambridge to track down his father.
Some Things Stay the Same, for Better and for Worse
There are reservations I have about previous Initial D adaptations, namely the use of CGI. People remember the show with rose-tinted glasses but the early days had some pretty terrible-looking cars, which is frustrating as they’re many people’s focal point when watching. MF Ghost manages to make them look properly integrated into the anime world using careful shading and not pulling focus from the backdrops.
It’s in these similarities that we see some things stay the same, for better and for worse. The cars look fine and it could also be considered compelling to watch, if only there was a substantial amount of racing between the subplots.
This Racing Anime Ironically Has Some Pacing Issues
In the first episode, we’re briefly introduced to the eye-grabbing racing visuals but then snap back as we see most of the content is focused on people passively watching it. This is part of establishing the appeal of MFG, but it doesn’t feel evenly balanced, with not much in the way of major events. This racing anime ironically has some pacing issues when it comes to getting to the content we’re here to see.
Instead, we see some admittedly interesting segments about Kanata fitting in among the Japanese locals, using what his mother taught him yet still being out of place. He’s enamored with Japanese food and culture, as well as its racing stars, and had a hell of a teacher. But it feels like more weight is placed on the fellow protagonist of the series, Ren Saionji, who works with MFG as one of their Angels, essentially models who work on the racetrack.
Forgoing a more compelling taste of the racing to come in this episode, we see an uncomfortable subplot where Ren begins attracting a stalker who races with the company. The racer, Shun Aiba, is met with the cold shoulder, with Ren concealing her identity because A) these racers are often adults in their 20s and B) she’s in high school.
Ren’s instant attraction to Kanata (who moves in with her family!) along with her surprise discovery of him racing on the track she’s working near the end of the episode, might end up giving her away. You can probably see where this is going with Shun always watching. It’s clear they’re establishing multiple plot threads for Ren and Kanata, but it might be a bit much for the first episode.
MF Ghost Episode 1 is fine for review purposes; it’ll serve as a tease for the hardcore fans while having more competent CGI than before. The catchy music found elsewhere in the franchise doesn’t truly kick in until later, but it does appear to be pretty faithful to its source material, down to entire cover images gracing the ending credits. For people wanting more excitement in this successor to Initial D, they might find this premiere stricken with sequelitis, so things better start moving quickly in Episode 2.
- This article was updated on October 6th, 2023