Ah Japan; is there no end to your bizarre strangeness? Is there no repose from the mountains of bizarre commercials, strange vending machines and weird Anime about people gaining the power to see into the future and then killing each other for the position of God? I hope not, I have way too much fun with it, and that’s before we get into their car customization.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still one of those guys that would like every car to remain the same as the day it came from the factory. In my life the most extensive mod I’ve done to my car’s style was installing an Apple sticker on the back window. Changing rims is only something you do if the ones that came with the car have been well and truly FUBAR. I get considerably more excited about a 1993 Civic DX that still has its original rims, stereo and some shine on its paint than I ever could about (yet) a(nother) 1970 Challenger restomod, no matter how much power that tuned Hellcat powertrain sends to those 22″s. But to see how far the Japanese have taken the art of customizing is amazing in and of itself.
The style you may be the most familiar with is VIP style, where luxury cars (as tragically displayed here with the best car Toyota makes) get lowered and acquire handling-killing camber in addition to the usual lights and pearlescent paint. It’s sort of Stance on Steroids really. But to get to the good ones you have to dig a little deeper. And there’s Dekotora, where trucks are modified with giant spoilers and so many lights that they make the Griswold’s household at Christmastime look like a black hole.
There’s their strange fixation with Chevrolet Astro vans, as covered by Paul.
And then there’s the cause for this article, Itasha, where fans of Anime and Manga bestow their chariots with as many representations of their favorite anime character as they can manage to find. The results are either strange or disturbing depending on how you look at it. Although considering that the accepted translation for itasha is “Painful Car” you can probably imagine the reaction of painful embarrassment is the normal one even among the Japanese. Which is remarkable when we take into account their seemingly endless appetite for the weird
For reference purposes, this Spongebob Squarepants-themed Donk is pretty much the same concept, just Americanized. And, even though Itasha cars are still on that border between strange and ridiculous, it’s always good to remember that watching middle-aged, sober-minded, respectable business man reading the latest edition of their favorite manga on the way to the office is perfectly normal in Japan. Whereas watching a businessman reading a Marvel or DC comic on his way to work here usually means that he works at Marvel or DC.
But Itasha itself is actually an accepted car modifying culture. The best example of this is the car you see above, the Good Smile Racing BMW Z4 Super GT racing car. That very car won the 2011 Super GT GT300 championship while sporting a Hatsune Miku livery. Miku is the most popular mascot of the Vocaloid voice synthesizer program and star of the strangest Toyota Corolla commecial on this side of the pond.
Yes. Seriously. I actually had to double check on Youtube if that ad really existed and I hadn’t just imagined it on a 3:00 AM fever dream brought on by a late-night anime binge and a double dose of cough syrup. Alas.
And, because there’s nothing really scared in the world of cars if you have enough money, here’s an Itasha Lancia Stratos. With a Bonus Lamborghini Gallardo in the background.
And here’s an F-Body Camaro in case that the content of Americana on this article is too low for the ISO CC standards.
And now that you have sat through sevaral hundred words about the subject as I tried to explain what has to be one of the strangest things to come out of Japan, I’d like you, our best and brightest, to tell me what you think about it. Weird? Desperate? Innocent? All in good fun? I’m genuinely curious about it. In the meantime, I’ll find something to watch on Crunchyroll. After watching the one I talked about in the beginning of the article, I think something more relaxing is in order. Like the one about the teenage girl who actually is god, but she doesn’t know it. If she gets bored and finds out, it’s Armageddon.