MF Ghost and the Passage of Time

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One of the Fall 2023 anime I had been anticipating was MF Ghost, a sequel of sorts to the famous downhill street racing series Initial D. While I’ve never been a car person, I could never deny the excitement the series brought me, nor the clear influence Initial D has had on car culture in Japan and abroad. But MF Ghost takes place in a speculative(ish) future, and the differences between it and its predecessor remind me of just how much technology has changed in that time.

MF Ghost is set in a time when environmental concerns (including volcanic eruptions in Japan) have made it so that most motor vehicles are electric and self-driven, and the only traditional cars are used purely for sport—particularly a legalized version of street racing known as MFG. It has fans worldwide, who can watch thanks to drones streaming live feeds, and it features cars from around the world rather than just Japan.

The drones following the cars, and the fact that everyone watches remotely, highlights the fact that a very visible aspect of Initial D is not present in MF Ghost: the crowds of onlookers watching the races in person. While there might be technical reasons for this (perhaps the author just didn’t want to draw them), I think it also draws a huge contrast with Initial D because of the latter’s time frame. In other words, when Initial D debuted in 1995, cell phones were still a pretty rare sight, let alone phones that could display video (that wouldn’t come for another four of five years). Sure, one other big factor is that the racing in Initial D was technically illegal and would never have big broadcasts regardless of technology levels, but the in-universe gallery for these mountain races wouldn’t even have the opportunity to be a live audience in any reasonable way.

Plot-wise, Initial D starts in the 1990s and ends only a year or two after the start, so all the tech remains of that era despite the fact that the manga ended in 2013. As a result, the jump to MF Ghost represents over 20 years of change at the very least. It’s wild to think about.

I referred to MF Ghost as “speculative,” and I meant it in a fairly tongue-in-cheek way. “What if the future had cool races using known car brands like Toyota and Ferrari” isn’t exactly the height of creative imagination or science fiction. However, there is one aspect of MF Ghost as a story set in the future that warms my heart. In Initial D, the character Takahashi Ryosuke (adversary turned mentor to the protagonist, Fujiwara Takumi) loves street racing more than circuit racing because of how unpredictable it can be and how there are elements beyond the drivers’ control. Now, the same mountain racing that was relegated to a select few enthusiasts has become a household name. Isn’t that grand?

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