Initial D: Race to the finish with Matteo Guidicelli
() - October 9, 2005 - 12:00am
Star power and precision driving skills make up a never-before-seen (and attempted) version of Initial D: Fourth Stage set to premiere on Animax tonight 9. The series features the voices of Angel Locsin as female racer Kyoko Iwase. It introduces last year’s Karter of the Year Matteo Guidicelli as racing champion Takumi Fujiwara.

Fifteen-year-old Fil-Italian racer Matteo Guidicelli is perhaps the biggest up and coming star of the current generation: the real life racer with a blinding smile, the confident young man whose charisma, declared one writer, flashes "like a true star should be." Whether leading kart races here and abroad, endorsing some of the country’s top labels or dubbing his lead character in Animax’s Initial D: Fourth Stage, Matteo built his rep similar to his anime version trained by a dedicated father who helped him rise to heroic heights of glory. Like Takumi, the formula made the focused Matteo, an international star. Animax Asia, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Company, recently signed the young lad to a 15-month exclusive contract, signed no less than Hollywood bigwig, Andrew Kaplan.

The story of Initial D started with Takumi Fujiwara (Guidicelli) as a high school student in Japan who works part time at a gas station and as tofu delivery boy everyday before dawn. Unknown to him, his father secretly trained him to be a highly skilled racer.

Takumi learned his driving skills making tofu deliveries down the treacherous slopes of Mt. Akina for his father, who insisted that Takumi carry a glass of water in the car and not spill a drop, to let him know his driving has not damaged the tofu. In a quest to get the tedious trip over as quickly as possible, Takumi became such a proficient driver that he can throw the "Hachi-Roku" (it means "86" in Japanese, and refers to Takummi’s Toyota Trueno AE86) sideways without spilling any water.

Viewers may see Takumi as a quiet, unassuming young man. However, when he climbs behind the wheel of his father’s black and white Toyota Trueno AE86, he drives with such precision and speed, that he can defeat veteran street racers in more powerful cars and leave them behind in terror and awe.

After making his mark as an undefeated champion, Takumi joins the Project D team (together with the Takahashi brothers, Ryousuke and Keisuke) in the Fourth Stage, as they go out and challenge street racing teams in other provinces and cities. His aim is to hone his racing technique, to beat other teams on their home grounds, and become The Legend with No Limits. Takumi is on his way to fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional racer.

"Local fans and the media would be interested to know that Animax’s version of Initial D: Fourth Stage features the use of Taglish as primary language. It should be noted that this style of production has never been attempted by any other network in the country, terrestrial or cable. It is a feat only Animax was able to pull off," said Betty Tsui, VP of Programming, SPE Networks Asia.

"Matteo, as everyone agrees, was the one perfect choice to play Takumi."

Below is an interview with him:

As this is your very first acting experience, tell us some of the challenges you faced in doing this project.

Getting rid of my Cebuano accent and learning instant Tagalog faster than Takumi’s AE86 (laughs). Fortunately, the script was created in Taglish and I was also provided a super great voice director! Studio executives were also great to work with!

What characteristics do you share with your character?

The focus and discipline to win each race. Takumi and I were trained by our fathers so when I read through the script, it became a breeze acting the part as I felt that I need not act too much as most of the scenes I felt was similar to my life.

How did you get the role?

The local agent told me she discovered me through my website (, contacted my business manager (Jojie Dingcong) to set an audition and the rest is history.

Does this signal a possible entry to show business?

It all depends on the decision of my parents and managers. Right now, my concentration is school and racing, so if ever there are more up ahead, maybe Hollywood, here I come (laughs).

How was it working with Angel?

She’s been really nice and supportive. Unfortunately, we don’t get to do a lot of scenes together as she has another love interest in the series.

Tell us some of your plans.

Aside from the excitement of being Animax’s first local spokesperson, I look forward to another season as I’m expecting to tackle bigger and tougher challenges this year including accomplishing my dream of being the first Filipino Formula 1 World Championship racer by 2010.

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