This is my 20th trading card box review! That’s a nice milestone so I wanted to pick something special to celebrate it. I bought this box of Initial D trading cards a few months ago, it took me a while to finally buy it. They are expensive, and there aren’t many packs, but it is literally the only racing-adjacent product I can find in this niche of the hobby so I had to buy it.
Ah there it is! If you know anything about Initial-D, you probably know that meme. While that meme is from a parody fan comic, it captures the spirit of the real thing perfectly. Initial-D is an over-the-top yet mostly dramatic series of manga, anime, films and albums. No joke the music side of this property is almost bigger than the video offerings.
The series started back in 1995 and has been running ever since. There have been countless anime and films released, including a live action film for the Hong Kong market from 2005. That film coincided with the release of the 24th album called “Sound Tune“, that seems to be what this trading card series is based on.
The series follows a young driver as they work their way up the team ranks in a mostly serious depiction of professional level racing in Japan. The series branches out into drifting focused cards, highly tuned street racers, motorcycles and yes even trains in fan parody versions. This highly influential series is one of the best selling manga ever. It surprises me that I could only find this one trading card set, and that it is so old. Still we have it, might as well take a closer look.
The front of the tiny box has a simple green and white background, printed on think coated cardboard – but with no foil treatment. The artwork is a nice drawing of the racing team with a high detailed card. That’s one of the best parts of this series, the cards are drawn in such vivid detail, the line art rivals the most complex Gundam designs you’ll see. When you see a highly modified Civic racing down the highway – it was inspired by this property.
For how expensive this is, the box is pretty plain. The sides only have this foil gradient logo, and only on the two longer sides. The whole box is only slightly bigger than a pack of trading cards, there are only 9 packs in the box and it is only just tall enough to fit them. This cost me $32.24 and I bought it from someone I’d never ordered from before, Kayou Anime Store. I branched out specifically for this box of cards, they were the only vendor selling it below like 60$.
The back of this box was a bit damaged, but none of the labeling was hurt at least. Weirdly it was damaged like that inside the shrink wrap, this is either a factory defect before wrapping – or a re-wrap and somebody tore the box removing the original security sticker. I don’t know either way so I can’t accuse anyone of anything, given almost nobody sells these I’m guessing there isn’t much motivation to search packs – what would you even do with what you find?
This is set ZD-20-D01, the first of I guess 2 – although I can’t find anyone selling the second one anywhere. It has a decent rarity distribution, but keep in mind you’re only getting 27 cards in a box at around $3.50 a pack these are by the the most expensive packs I’ve opened so far, beating even those Duel Gundam set 2 packs. Each card is $1.18, which is 10-yuan prices so I’m calling this a 10-yuan box.
In the set you’ll find 9 QR cards, that’s a chibi style subset. Then 9 TMR which I guess is like t-shirt designs in a subset. 18 USR cards, these will be high action panels from the manga. There are 18 KPC level cards, these feature magazine cover drawings of the characters. BCR is 12 more character magazine covers, this time with a edgier, metal style to it. 9 TST, just character cards I think, and 9! ZD rarity cards with are hidden even in the marketting. Finally there are 9 EX. The entire set are these special subsets – there are no “common” level cards at all.
Unicorn “Initial D” Card Card Location Distribution Map
Ranking 1: Hidden Exclusive Card (15 boxes / 1 sheet)
Ranking 2: Rare Treasure Bag (2 boxes / 1 pack)
Ranking 3: ZD Exclusive Number Card (1 box / 0-3 sheets)
Ranking 4: BCR Exclusive Lottery Gold Number Card (1 box / 0-3 sheets)
Ranking 5: EX Bicycle Style Number Card (1 box / 0-3 sheets)
Ranking 6: TST designer name card (1 box / 3-6 sheets)
Ranking 7: QR cute style card (1 box / 2-6 sheets)
Ranking 8: TMR special style card (1 box / 1-3 sheets)
Ranking 9: USR/KPC/ZR album card (1 pack / 0-3 sheets)
This image from the marketing gives us a perfect look at the rarity distribution for this set, something we rarely find and I’m always looking pretty hard for it. From that you can see that um… well.. like most of this you won’t be getting a complete set by buying boxes. That hidden card would cost you nearly 500$ on it’s own assuming you found it in the first 15 boxes. That “Rare Treasure Bag” is interesting, I’ve never seen anything like that other than the typical per-box promos. It’s like a random box promo, my box didn’t have one – or, maybe that is why the box look searched?
Since each of these cards cost me $1.18 we are going to sit here and look at each one. As we saw from the depressing rarity chart above there are 9 tiers of cards with lower and lower distributions at each level. In my first pack, the first card I pulled is a rank 9 USR, card 10. This subset, USR, is described as having a new shiny surface effect. I guess these are manga panels with fancy framing and then this new type of foil coating. It looks cool, almost like the chameleon paint you’ll see on cars once in a while. So this is an example of the lowest rank card in the set, it’s pretty cool!
Next up is another rank 9 (this is going to be a really difficult set to collect lol), this time it’s a KPC, card #03. This subset is described as being album covers featuring 18 different characters. I can read a bit of this cover, and use a translator for the rest, it’s in Japanese not Chinese. I think the person depicted is an artist from the manga, Shuichi Shigeno maybe? Then the main headline is about one of the major races in the 9th series: Takahashi vs Sudo. The backs of both this KPC and the USR above seem identical, maybe this coloring is specific to rank 9?
WOO-HOO I moved up a rank, only… 7 more ranks to go!? Well at least this card isn’t rank 9, it’s rank 8 lol. This is a TMR, card number 3. It’s hard to see from the scan but this card has a lot more foil on it then the other two did. All the lettering is foil embossed, and the character is separately foiled from the background. It’s a pretty card… but it’s bent, like a solid cuve.
These cards are generally thick like the Gundam ones, I’ve learned that these are 100pt cards if you ever want to buy top loaders for them. And the first two came out of the pack flat. But this TMR came out curved. I’m hoping spending a few weeks in a screw down will fix that, but I suspect the warping is permanent in the image now. This is a problem with buying old cards like this, these were sitting in a warehouse for maybe 15 years before I bought them. Not in archival conditions either, they will be from now on.
That’s box 20. It seems like a cool set, but I’m suspecting that this cannot possibly live up to the price tag. These packs are a full 60 cents more than the Gundam cards I love so much. The fact the first foiled one came out so curved is also not the best sign. Still, if this is the only Initial-D product available, I can’t really be picky can I. Now to go put these into the database, and update the top 10 list!