If you’re even a bit interested in car culture, chances are high that you heard about manga (in simple words – Japanese comic books/graphic novels) or anime (in simple words – Japanese cartoons) called Initial D (頭文字D). Manga series was written and illustrated by Shuichi Shigeno while pioneer drifter Keiichi Tsuchiya helped with editorial supervision. First issue was released in 1995 and in 2013, after writing 48 volumes, story was complete. Main character is Takumi Fujiwara, young 18 year old, who’s father asks him to deliver tofu every morning before dawn. Takumi doesn’t enjoy it particularly, so he drives as fast as he can, to finish this job fast and get some more sleep before school. He was doing these tofu runs for few years and without understanding it, learned some serious car control on Akina mountain pass.
Story is easy to follow even if you’re not that much into cars and did I mention that it’s magnificent? Thing is, story involves you more and more with every chapter, you learn more about cars and car control on the same pace as Takumi, fall deeper in love with his father’s Toyota ‘Hachi-Roku’ AE86 and worry while competition becomes harder and harder.
Fact is, that a huge percentage of car geeks know nothing except Initial D and this is where they lose. I researched deeper into car-related manga and sharing my findings wit you:
Wangan Midnight (湾岸ミッドナイト)
Another famous Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Michiharu Kusunoki. Story is very similar and at the same time different to Initial D. Both novels feature a young passionate driver – in Wangan Midnight it’s Akio Asakura, both books lay their story around an old car with big soul – here it’s a tuned Datsun “Devil Z” S30 Z and both stories are about racing, but if Initial D was about downhill touge and drifting, Wangan Midnight focuses on top speed racing on a motorway (Shuto Expressway Bayshore Route).
Shakotan Boogie (シャコタン★ブギ)
Shakotan Boogie is the manga that Kusunoki Michiharu created before the infamous Wangan Midnight that I just reviewed. 32 volumes were illustrated between 80s and 90s. Story goes around two friends – Hajime Yamamoto and Hiroshii Watanabe who cruise around in a Toyota Soarer MZ11 while street racing, picking up girls and search for adventures.
Manga is deeply rooted to Shakotan/Zokusha/Bosozoku car culture, but also features American muscle cars, European supercars and bike racing. If I would try to describe this novel in few words, I would say it’s about stance car culture in Japan in 80s.
Jigoro Jigorou (痞子次五郎)
Manga about Jigorou Ishikawa is a favourite choice for many car lovers. Started in 2002 by Atsushi Kase and still active, telling a story of wannabe cool guy. Manga is not really about racing, but more about picking up girls with cars, fighting, showing off, just like Fast & Furious.
Wide variety of of car cultures is presented in this book: street racers, lowriders, VIP cars, Hashiriya, Yanki. Common story is presented here as well: main character finds his car at a junkyard and it’s a Nissan S13 with a wide bodykit and lambo doors.
Over Rev! (オーバーレブ!)
Over Rev! manga was created by Katsumi Yamaguchi and Team 39 in year 1997. After seven years and 31 volumes story was complete. While it’s less known than the manga above, it’s still one of the more widely read and long running comics in Japan. It focuses on drifting and feminism – most of the characters are female.
Story follows Ryoko Shino, high school girl, who saw a street race one night: S13 and R32 drifting just in front of her. Driver of S13 was a female and that caught her eye. She is hooked at this very moment and starts to search for her own car. Since she doesn’t have a lot of money, she finds a MR2 at a junkyard, where she pays only ¥10,000 ( around $100) because she’s cute. Also Ryoko doesn’t have a driving licence at this point and acquiring those is an adventure in itself. Through her journey she doesn’t only learn car control, but mechanics, independence, graduation, finding work and other life lessons.
There is one important storyline that I missed in Initial D and Wangan Midnight – official car events. Over Rev! has a lot of car meets, track days and drift cups later in the story.
Capeta is the manga and anime for those who are interested in motorsport, circuit racing and karting in particular. Manga ran for ten years, from 2003 to 2013. Story starts with a 10 year old Taira Kappeita, young independent boy. His hard working father tries to look up for the kid and he knows that young Capeta is interested in cars. One day he brings some parts home and builds him a grassroots kart.
Story goes through three parts: Capeta learns to race, Capeta deals with financial difficulties for supporting his team and Capeta moving towards the goal of beating his rival in Formula Stella. Novel is full of karting and racing references that add flesh to the story and are also factual: comments about racing lines, tire usage, slip streaming and general commentary on the world of four-wheel racing.
F is a classic manga series written and illustrated by Noboru Rokuda about a country boy named Gunma Akagi who fulfils his dream by racing in Formula 1. Gunma’s mother dies and he must live with his father, who didn’t take care of him before. He’s determined to have a racing career and one day he joins a racing team. Ahead of him there are years and years of hard work and practice towards his dream.
As you probably understood from the name, this manga is all about rallying. Gather here Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evo fans. Manga was illustrated by Shohei Harumoto who spent three years (2000-2003) on it.
The story is set around Daibutsu, a former rally driver who lives with his wife Kumiko and their son. He’s rebuilding his Mitsubishi Starion 4WD, named Jackie, a Group B rally car which was banned at the end of the 1986 season. When the car is ready, he returns to racing by challenging people on the street with his car.
GT Roman series (GTロマン)
This manga is a bit more series, more grown-up, often features imported classic cars, and when I say imported – I mean European and US cars, like BMW 2002, Alfa Romeo 1300 GTA, Mini Cooper, Chevrolet Camaro, etc. Art style is also unique. Illustrated by Nishikaze (real name Katsutaro Nishibori), manga is all about the pleasure of having a car.
Series spreads to few original titles: GT Roman, Garage, Speedster, Sex Machine, Pit Start, Deadend Street, Last Moment, Cross Roads, GT Roman Stradale.
This manga is all about exotic supercars. Illustrated by Haruto Umezawa and published from 2004. This story is one of those rare cases, when the main character doesn’t find his dream car in a junk yard. Actually this Lamborghini Countach LP400 was gifted to him by a mysterious millionaire.
Hero’s girlfriends leaves him for a man who drives a Ferrari 360. Guess who will be the main rival in this novel.
This manga is quite rare. It was created by Keichiro Shinmura in 2002. Main character is a school teacher that drives a Honda CRX with mid-mounted Impreza boxer engine. How cool is that?!
Full Spec (フルスペック)
Manga for Mazda MX-5 fans created by Taro Sekiguchi. 4 kids find an old Eunos Roadster at a junk yard and now they have ten years to fix it, until they are able to drive it. Chinta is a designer, Bunyan- a mechanic and Arata – driver. Also there is Maki-chan who always hangs out with them.
Car Graffiti JK (カーグラフィティJK)
This is a fresh manga from Enoki Sakishima. Story reflects on modern youth, youth that is not very interested in cars. Government lowered the age when one can apply for a licence to 16 years old. While listening to this news on TV a girl names Miki was preparing for her first day in high school.
She was riding her bike to school when suddenly a classic Toyota “Yota-Hachi” Sports 800 passed by. While looking at car Miki didn’t notice an open manhole and crashed. She spent her first month of school in hospital and missed all opportunities to apply for social clubs, except one.. a car club!
Restore Garage 251 (レストアガレージ251)
Comic from Ryuji Tsugihara is one of my favourites. It doesn’t concentrate on racing, rather on restoring classic Japanese cars and with that, passion of their owners. In very first volume Satomi Yumejiro & his grand son restore a Toyota 2000GT, a Hakosuka, a Datsun 510 Wagon, an RX-3 and a Skyline Kenmeri.
From this manga you also learn a lot of stuff, for example, how carburettors work. Throughout the manga you find out so many things about Japanese car history, visit classic car meets and many more. In more recent chapters they also start to express their love for European sportcars.
Zero Angel (対象商品:ゼロ エンジェル)
In 2016 manga creator Kia Asamiya launched a new car racing manga titled Zero Angel. Manga is set in Yokohama, and tells a story on high school student and undefeated driver Aika Misaki. While she works as an idol in kart racing, at nights she’s a street racer in her Subaru WRX STi Type S.
She’s 19m her hometown is Takasaki Gunma, her height is 160cm, bust 85cm, waist 58cm and hips 84cm. Before she was featured as a character in another manga – My Favourite Carrera.
Kirin to motorcycle fans is the same as Initial D is to car and drift fans. Legendary manga – “motorcycle rider’s bible” written by Shohei Harumoto and tells a story of 38-year-old Kirin who compares bikes to wild animals. Manga became popular because of precise bike and car drawings, moody backgrounds and the whole “battle” atmosphere. Novel starts with the main character racing a Porsche 911 on his Suzuki GSX1100S “Katana”.
Spin off version called Kirin: The Happy Ridder Speedway was started in 2010, while the original was created in 1987. Both novels are about adults who “burn” their life while racing on public roads. They race each other and also they race high performance cars.
Toppu GP (トップウGP)
Kosuke Fujishima brings us the story of Toppu Uno, a Japanese boy who is aiming for MotoGP, Wworld’s top motorcycle race. This manga can remind the story of Capeta a lot. It also features obsessively accurate descriptions of mechanical equipment, motorcycles, and cars, since story was cooperated with motorcycle racers from Japan.
My Favourite Carrera (彼女のカレラ)
This story by Kia Asamiya is a dream scenario for many people. 22 year old Reina inherits a 1992 type 964 Porsche 911 Carrera RS. Manga is about living a “car life” – if you don’t work hard, you can’t maintain them properly. Reina’s life with Porsche just started and there will be many rough spots – insurance, maintenance, customising. Life with this classic sports car will take her to a lot of places – club meets and track days are only few of them.
Donten Prism Solar Car (曇天・プリズム・ソーラーカー)
His name is Kaneda Shouta. His father died in a car accident when he was 10. He works at an ironworks run by his uncle. Shouta-kun has to cycle 30km every day on his bicycle, because he hated cars ever since losing his father in the accident.
One day a group of college students arrives to the workshop and bring a beaten up solar car project that was stored away for 8 years. This club is building a solar car to enter in a race, and they’re hoping to get Shota to lend them his mechanical expertise. Will they be able to handle Shota’s anger and bitterness, and draw him out of his self-imposed isolation?
The New Car Racing Manga by Initial D author Shuichi Shigeno
In april 2017 it was revealed that Shigeno will start a new car related series this summer. The series will take place in the 2020s, when self-driving cars are an everyday sight in Japan. The series will feature a genius driver who goes back to Japan after graduating top of his or her class at a racing school in England.
Can’t wait to get more info about it, what about you guys?