The link between manga and supercars

A road of curves from which a Toyota Sprinter Trueno emerges like thunder, followed by the headlights of a Mazda Savanna RX-7. The two cars chase each other while drawn sounds recreate the whistle of the wheels on the asphalt. The chase becomes compelling but to understand how it will end you have to turn the page, from left to right. The one framed is one of the many action scenes drawn by Shuichi Shigeno in Initial D, probably the most famous motoring-themed manga in the world, which prompted Toyota in 2016 to rebuild the model driven by protagonist Takumi Fujiwara.From American muscle cars to the great design of Italian automakers, the automotive world represents one of the most specific strands of manga culture, and by extension anime culture. The stories are part of a sub-genre with a well codified storytelling, which almost always involves crazy races between teenagers to gain control of a neighborhood, respect in the area or contending girls among the drivers. Even in the representation of the hyper-technological future, very present in the manga world, there is no lack of space cars suitable to survive in dystopian worlds where aggressiveness and speed go hand in hand. A fortunate example of this imagery, also in the West, is Akira by Katsuhiro Ōtomo, in which engines – a motorcycle in this case – are not the central theme of the story, but help to define the setting.
Among the most representative manga stories of the strand related to cars and their design there are titles such as Wangan Midnight, in which the protagonist Akio moves from a Nissan Fairlady Z to a Datsun S30, with which he races on the streets of Wangan, a Tokyo highway famous for being driven at high speeds. A similar story is that of Shakotan Boogie, in which again Japanese brands such as Nissan and Mazda accompany the story of two fans of Lowrider, a culture that spread massively in Japan at the beginning of the 2000s together with the Kustom Kulture.
Tied more to the sports sphere (spokon) and therefore to the world of track racing, there are two manga beloved by fans, the first is Capeta, the story of a young boy who starts with karts to reach his dream of racing in Formula 1. The red car and the sponsors on the suit are a clear tribute to Ferrari. A Mitsubishi Starion 4WD is the rally car driven through the streets of Japan by Daibutsu in SS by Shohei Harumoto, in what is a sports story in which family dynamics and stories of revenge are inserted, just like in Capeta, a boy whose mother was orphaned and whose father was forced to make sacrifices to allow his son to race.
Without revenge but betting everything on the charm of supercars is Countach, which inevitably takes its name from a model that is a symbol of automotive super luxury such as the Lamborghini LP400 Countach, the protagonist of a challenge (for love, of course) against a Ferrari 360. Not only the male point of view in car manga, in Over Rev! the young Ryoko does not know what to do with her life, before discovering car racing by learning the secrets of the track but also technical details of mechanics and engineering.
They are almost all manga that can be classified in the category of Seinen, that is those works destined to a male audience that is no longer a child, for whom cars, especially if they are treated as objects to be owned and driven at crazy speeds, represent a really perceptible element of fascination. The Japanese love for racing cars has been consolidated since the 80s when clandestine races and drifting began to intensify, a phenomenon well described in some films such as Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Characters well known also in Europe, unrelated to the automotive genre, have driven incredible cars, from the historic FIAT 500 of Lupin and Arale to the clear reference to the Panda owned by Bulma in the Dragon Ball saga. The talent of the cartoonists is the same that led over forty years ago to imagine a future of meganoids and cyborgs, visionary images of a technology still believable in his imagination, in which the Mach Patrol of Daitarn III (inspired by the 1970 Dodge Charger) is the fulcrum of one of the most famous stories in the world of animation, at least in Italy.
Whether it’s Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Chevrolet, Mini Cooper, Subaru or BMW, the fascination of sports cars and the epic of racing is perfectly matched with a culturally decisive product like manga. The authors’ black strokes make it possible to create models that were never made or dreamed of by grown children, waiting to see the headlight of a “Hachi-Roku” pop up from around the bend.
Credits:EDITOR: Tommaso Berra
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