Itasha in the Wild: Anime Cars and Bonus JDM Scandal

Itasha as we know them now have been around in Japan for well over a decade. In a nutshell, they are vehicles lovingly adorned with characters from games, anime, manga and whatnot. While itasha are sometimes decorated quite permanently, they are typically wrapped.

As a fiscally responsible adult, I love the concept of wraps, those temporary tattoos of the automotive world. They’re all about risk mitigation, because, you know, actually chroming your Audi won’t exactly improve its resale value. On the other hand, wraps are also about pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in exterior graphics. You want a huge, glorious Hatsune Miku across the side of your van? Capitalism will provide.

Exhibit A: Hatsune Miku Nissan Serena (Third Generation)

Itasha Nissan Serena Featuring Hatsune Miku
Miku-chan gives us a kind, knowing glance as she ritualistically dances around a floating, circular space-keyboard.

The Serena isn’t a particularly fascinating vehicle, but it does make a good rolling Vocaloid billboard.

inevitably the cloning process introduces genetic mutations
On the dash, some blocky chibi Miku-chans sit in a row, enjoying synthetic beats in dazzling stereo.
or is she throwing those space-piano keys?
On the rear, with arms outstretched, she reaches for our hearts. Or she is motioning toward the sponsor stickers?


Here’s something I’d like to point out: This is not a Nissan Dayz.

Not a Dayz
I don’t understand why a Dayz badge would end up in an aftermarket grille on a Serena. Am I missing something here?

That is not a Dayz grille. And yet the owner decided to include a Dayz badge as a part of their customization. I don’t understand why, because the Dayz is nothing more than an unremarkable kei car, although it did have a monumental effect on Mitsubishi Motors Corporation’s history.

Irrelevant automotive scandal story time!

You see, Nissan doesn’t actually make kei cars (micro cars) anymore – Mitsubishi does it for them – and the Dayz is one example. Everything was fine with that arrangement until early 2016, when Mitsubishi’s micro car development department got caught giving themselves a little breathing room under the pressure of increasing fuel efficiency targets. They weren’t counting on Nissan second guessing their fuel efficiency data, which had been gathered using suspiciously outdated testing methods. Mitsubishi admitted wrongdoing with President Aikawa’s announcement that they “think the manipulation was done intentionally.” Although top management denied involvement in the scandal, the damage was done. Aikawa resigned, Mitsubishi Motorcars’ share price plummeted, and Nissan acquired a controlling interest in the company.

So I guess the badge could be some sort of weird, ironic symbolism? Let’s go with that.


Next up! We have the unfairly maligned Porsche 996 with a big, aftermarket butt growth. This one is emblazoned with Super Sonico, the busty, headphone wearing, Gibson SG rocking babe who has shown up in games, manga and anime for a number of years.

Exhibit B: Super Sonico Porsche 911

Super Sonico Porsche 911


On the side, catgirl Sonico implores you to pet her pink mane.
Gibson SG is always a good decision
On the hood, rockstar Sonico strikes a chord with passersby.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if these Hatsune Miku and Super Sonico wraps were a good idea or not, but surely it’s impossible to say whether the owners were drinking responsibly when they made the decision to advertise their 2D obsessions.


Every week on Gaijindom, we feature an automobile sighting. Usually the automobile is Japanese; sometimes it’s not. But it’s always an automobile in Japan.