Initial D Changed the Way I Drive

In case you’ve never heard of it, Initial D is a Japanese manga/anime about street racing. More specifically, the protagonist is a downhill racer who learned his skills by being forced to help his dad’s business out by delivering tofu to a hotel on the other side of a mountain pass.

I can guess what you’re thinking. I read a comic book and now I think I’m qualified to race in NASCAR.

Reading the story did not give me delusions of street racing grandeur. I don’t floor it the second the light turns green because I entered into some imaginary race with the cars that are adjacent to me.

Actually, what has happened is the manga has made me think about why Takumi is such a good driver, how he continues to grow throughout the story, and how I might be able to apply the same principles to my own driving.

For starters, Takumi once told his friends that his dad makes him deliver tofu with a paper cup of water placed in his cup holder. His dad said that if you drive too crazy, you’ll damage the tofu. You’ll know that you’re damaging the tofu if the water spills from the cup. So Takumi learned how to drive without spilling the water. Then he learned how to drive fast without spilling the water.

I did not attempt to replicate his training. There are speed bumps on my street and I’m pretty sure no matter how much I baby my car over those bumps, I’m going to splash water everywhere. Probably on to my crotch.

But what I did take away from it was that Takumi said it was really difficult to drive without spilling. If accelerating or braking was even a little rough, the water would fly out of the cup. Thinking about that idea, I tried to drive smoother by feathering the brake and being gentle with the accelerator. Something else that stuck out was that Natsuki (his girlfriend of sorts) said that she usually gets carsick, but doesn’t when Takumi drives. I wondered if that principle could be applied to my own girlfriend. The jury is still out on that, but I do now notice that when I ride in other peoples cars, their driving tends to be a lot rougher than my own. I’ve shared this with some people and they said that this style of driving is how limo drivers are supposed to drive.

And now because I’m paying attention to being more gentle with the pedals, I’ve also found that my brain is more focused on driving and made me more attentive. Trips to places aren’t as boring. Also because I’m actively trying not to have the people or objects in my car be affected by sudden changes in inertia, I’m more attentive to the speed and location of the cars around me. In general, I’m paying attention more and I think that’s a welcome thing in this world of distractions.

Another thing in the manga that the other characters discuss is why Takumi can beat newer, more powerful cars using an old 86. Part of the reason is that he only slows down when necessary to make turns and he places a minimum amount of stress on his tires and brakes. How am I applying this to everyday driving? By going more with the flow of traffic. Ever see those douchebags that weave in and out of traffic, changing lanes suddenly and powering down their new lane only to step on the brakes like five seconds later? Sometimes I pace my progress compared to those people and more often than not, when I stay in one lane I’ll still see that car several minutes later. It’s made me realize that in the grand scheme of things, driving like an idiot might save you a minute if you can somehow always make lane changes into the lane that has the fastest moving traffic. But what are the odds anyone can do that? So maybe you should chill out and just listen to some music? It’s safer to just go at whatever speed everyone else is going and there will likely be less accidents.

The manga and anime are among my favorites. I love the eurobeat soundtrack for all five seasons and sometimes when I’m working, I’ll have the anime playing in the background. Check out the series if you haven’t already! Don’t crash your car though.

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