Itasha (痛車?), literally "painmobile", is a Japanese term for an otaku fad of individuals decorating the bodies of their cars with fictional characters of anime, manga, or video games (especially bishōjo game or eroge). These characters are predominately "cute" female. The decorations usually involve paint schemes and stickers. Automobiles are called Itasha, while similar motorcycles and bicycles are called itansha (痛単車?) and itachari (痛チャリ?), respectively.
The cars are seen prominently in places such as Akihibara (Tokyo), Nipponbashi (Osaka), or Ōsu (Nagoya). Itasha also appears in customizable video games, such as Forza Motorsport 2. Itasha have also participated in various real motorsport events.
In 1980s, when Japan was at the zenith of its economic might, Tokyo's streets were a parade of luxury import cars. Among them, the 'itasha' - originally Japanese slang meaning an imported Italian car - was the most desired. However, in 1990s, the term 'itai' was adopted to describe intense, cultish otaku associated with serial killer Miyazaki Tsutomu. Since then, Itasha (as the decorated vehicle) was derived from combining the Japanese words for itai (痛い?, painful) and sha (車?, vehicle). Itai here means "painful", which can be interpreted as "painfully embarrassing" or "painful for the wallet" due to the high costs involved. The name is also a pun for Italian cars (イタリア車, Itaria-sha?), truncated in Japanese slang as Itasha (イタ車?).
The decoration was started in 1980s with character plushies and stickers, but only became a phenomenon in the 21st century, when otaku culture became relatively well known via the Internet. The earlist known report of the decoration vehicle in convention began in 2005-08, in Comic Market 68.
In 2007, the first Autosalone (あうとさろーね, Autosarōne?), an Itasha oriented convention, was held in Ariake, near the site of Comiket.
Involvement in motorsports
An itasha with a Hatsune Miku decal competed in the 2008 Super GT season.In recent years, the involvement of Itashas in real motorsport events has grown. Though most of them are amateur events, participation of Itashas in races are increasing, and they usually receive much media coverage.
In 2007, a Lancer Evolution VII featureing themes of Lucky Star and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in Japan Dirt Trial marked the first itasha participation of professional events in Japan's motorsport, it clinched a win in SA2 class (mostly Lancer Evolution and Subaru Imprezas) in the JAF Cup in 2007, marked the first individual victory of itashas. The car served in 2007 and 2008 season, which they changed to the Melonbooks(a dōjin shop based in Kansai district)-theme due to the partnership of Melonbooks in 2009.
In 2008's Japan Rally Championship, Melonbooks put a Honda City Itasha into the JN1(cars below 1400cc) class. They started well with 3 wins in a row, and eventually finished as class Champion that year, claiming the first overall Champion title in Japan's motorsport event for Itashas. They switched their car to Lancer Evolution VII in 2009 season and raced in both JRC and Japan Dirt Trial, where they clinched a Dirt Trial SA2 Champion in JAF Cup again.
It is known that Melonbooks will enter the 2010 JRC with a Honda Integra (DC2).
In the Suzuka 1000km race in 2008 Super GT season, Studie GLAD Racing (a BMW tuning shop in Japan) team entered a Hatsune Miku-themed Z4 in the GT300 class, making Itasha's debut in international events under FIA. Three months later, MOLA introduced a Kagamine Rin and Len-themed Nissan 350Z in the same series' final race, which they finished sixth and claimed their driver and team's title in GT300 class. Studie continues their participation the 2009 season in all races inside Japan.
Although Studie discontinued their participation in 2010, Team COX (Porsche's official dealer in Japan) becomes another team using itashas in the 2010 season, they will be using a Porsche 996 RSR, as well as a 2010 FIA GT3 specification Porsche 997 GT3-R in season's midpoint (Although both Studie and COX are sponsored by Goodsmile company, which is in charge of Vocaloid's merchandising).
Apart from Super GT, itashas also appeared in the a lesser Super Taikyu series in 2008 and 2010.
Both Bee*Racing team's car (B324R and Toyota Crown) have a small sticker that features parody of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya since the 2008 D1 Grand Prix season, even though both drivers (Tsuyoshi Tezuka and Masayoshi Tokita) claimed that it was the team owner's idea and they have zero knowledge to the parody used.
Similarly decorated vehicles have been found in Taiwan, Philippines, United States.
Vehicles owned by character rights owner
ACID Co., Ltd. (âge games developer)'s executive director Hirohiko Yoshida was reported to own Muv-Luv-themed Lamborghini Gallardo, Lancia Stratos, BMW M5. The cars were unveiled in 2008 âge×Nitro+ in Akibahara UDX Gallery.
An official Macross Frontier-themed Suzuki Wagon R was unveiled in Macross Galaxy Tour Final. It was later redesigned for the Macross Super-Dimensional Space Launch Ceremony.
Vehicles from automotive manufacturers
In 2009 Nagoya Auto Trend, Phantom of Inferno-themed Chevrolet Corvette, Melonbooks-themed MINI Cooper, Chaos;Head Noah-themed Toyota Estima were unveiled.
Licensed model vehicles
Officially licensed itasha can be found both in static car models and movable car models.
In June 2008, Aoshima Bunka Kyozai launched "ITASHA" as one of their model cars product line, Since then many of the model producers produced various Itashas on the car models. Fujimi, Kyosho, HPI and Tamiya also sold models with Itasha models.
Recently, combination between model and real itasha are increasing. In November 2009, Aoshima released an itasha model based on the real Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS-themed itasha built by RE Amemiya. Tamiya also released the Hatsune Miku Studie GL@D BMW Z4 featuring the livary in 2009 Okayama race.
The itasha decorative style has also been found on aircraft, computer cases, and other products.
In-vehicle electronics, such as navigation systems, were also reported to be customized with character voices. In 2008-03-28, Maplus began to offer character voices for its Maplus Portable Navi 2 GPS, beginning with Shuuichi Ikeda (Char Aznable).
Automotive consumables such as motor oil has also been customized. In 2009-6-20, T&E tuning shop began to sell scented semi-synthetic motor oil under Itayu brand, with the first product being a Lucky*Star-themed motor oil, unveiled in 48th Shizuoka Hobby Show 2009.
Here's is a current Itasha website at:
Itasha Graphics: [link]
Auto Salone Itasha: [link]
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