While the crowds were flocking to see the latest innovations in the Japanese automotive industry for the Tokyo Motor Show, there was another big car event in Odaiba last week.
As Nissan and Toyota et al showed off their concept cars that might just indicate the future of mobility (or the labors of an generously funded R&D department), November 24th also saw a one-day-only Itasha exhibition out in the bay.
Itasha are heavily — well, let’s be honest, overly — decorated cars that reflect the owner’s tastes in moe. A typical Itasha will feature shojo girls and other anime characters, and of course is driven by a self-professed otaku.
On Sunday, over 80 cars were driven down to Odaiba to be shown off to the world.
This “three-dimensional” Madoka car was spotted earlier this year and caused a storm on Twitter. Nice to see it back.
[All images via MyNavi.]
Showcased at last week’s Tokyo Toy Show 2013 was the Camatte57s, a concept car by Znug Design for Toyota.
The brainchild of Kenji Tsuji and Kota Nezu, the minimal Camatte57s is not only designed for kids to drive (obviously not on the road!), but also for them to be able to have fun personalizing and playing around with the car aesthetic.
The car has outlandish tires that poke out, plus the whole thing has this funky retro vibe that both hipsters and kids will love. The three-seater is very cozy — deliberately so, since the idea is to make driving in the car fun for kids again.
A previous version was introduced at last year’s Toy Show but this year there was an improved model which can be customized with fifty-seven lightweight panels. You don’t need complicated tools to attach and switch the panels — it’s so simple, even a child can do it.
The idea is the driver’s parents sit in the back, supervising their child while being taken for a ride. Just in case, there is an extra brake in the back so if the little one has trouble, daddy or mummy can stop the vehicle. Naturally you cannot have your kid drive on the real road so it is intended for large gardens or other special sites — not ideal for Japan, but surely tenable in America, Australia, Europe and other markets.
This is one of the first generation models.
To demonstrate, they also showcased a “sports” version of the Camatte57s with stripes and snazzy colors. It’s based on a Tamiya toy released last year.
Here are Toyota’s other suggestions for how to customize the colors. “Infinite possibilities”, as they say…
Why so much effort being put into inspiring the next generation to love cars? Surely they would automatically taken an interest, no? Not so in Japan, which for years has been suffering from a downward trend in new car sales among younger consumers known as kuruma-banare. Car rental services are very convenient and reasonably priced in Japan, and with most of population living in cities, people feel like they don’t need to own a vehicle. (Car-share programs are more limited, due to legal issues that tie a car officially to a specific parking space.) There is some irony in Toyota being the biggest car manufacturer in the world but its cars are bought less and less by drivers in its own country. Projects like the Camatte57s are an attempt to reverse the trend and get new drivers interested in having their own car again.
While the world goes mad for Christmas, anime fans are gathering in Akihabara for the Fuyu no Rajikan Matsuri 2012 (Winter Radio Kaikan Festival 2012), where so-called “itasha” (cars decorated with characters) will be parading on December 23rd and 24th.
The underground car park of the Akihabara UDX building is playing host to the Christmas Itasha Festa, with Hatsune Miku-themed and other customized vehicles strutting their wares to camera-totting crowds. Not quite The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but still pretty cool.
Owners pay ¥6,000 (around $70) per day to exhibit their vehicles in the car park. There will also be regular cosplay in the venue.
Such decoration trends have been becoming popular of late, spreading to trucks, bikes and more — and have been gaining recognition in mainstream culture as well. Previous Itasha festivals have been held in Odaiba, Maebashi and elsewhere.
“Ita” is a word commonly found in the otaku lexicon, literally meaning “painful” (itai) but here referring to the amount of money (and effort) involved in expressing your moe in this way.
Whatever you think of otaku anime — and we know that many people have issues with its attitudes towards women and young girls — undoubtedly it is a subculture that truly celebrates individual playfulness in a fun way.
Forget Hayao Miyazaki, apparently the next force in Japanese anime is a German carmaker.
Mercedes-Benz has produced NEXT A-Class, a short anime film celebrating the Japanese launch of the A-Class hatchback. It features the new eponymous car chasing a 1955 Blue Wonder legendary ramen truck, neatly tapping into the Japanese obsession about food. Trust us, it looks better than it sounds and there are even English subtitles.
Automotive companies seem to like making anime these days. Toyota also recently co-produced PES, an environmentally themed anime about “a curious alien who explores the joy of driving and the importance of safety”.
In case you didn’t work it out, PES stands for “Peace Eco Smile”. No, this kind of Jinglish you just can’t make up!
Toyota have been promoting the PES campaign at anime events in Europe and Asia, plus at the Tokyo International Film Festival, of which they are the main sponsors.
The films and associated campaigns are clearly intended for different purposes and audiences, so perhaps it’s unfair to make comparisons — but we reckon Mercedes-Benz are the hats down winners here. Their anime is much better quality (at least to eyes that are both foreign and relatively uninitiated) and exciting. The retro vibe off set with futuristic Tokyo cityscapes and fast racing scenes crush the rather naff eco message being plugged by the Toyota movie, which is a bit hard to stomach from a car company, even one that gave the world hybrid vehicles.