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.
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 earliest known report of the decoration vehicle in convention began in 2005-08, in Comic Market 68.
Involvement in motorsports 
In recent years, the involvement of itasha in real motorsport events has grown. Though most of them are amateur events, participation of itasha in races are increasing, and they usually receive much media coverage. Some of the entries also having impressive result in their participation, including individual race wins or even overall champion titles.
Participation of itasha in Japan's professional motorsport event can be seen as early as 2007, when a Lancer Evolution VII featuring themes of Lucky Star and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in Japan Dirt Trial. One year later, Studie GLAD Racing (a BMW tuning shop in Japan)'s Hatsune Miku–themed Z4 in the Super GT GT300 class marked itasha's debut in international event directly under FIA. Since then different itasha which belongs to various teams has entered various kind of motorsport event in Japan, like Super GT, Super Taikyu, Japan Rally Championship, and D1 Grand Prix. In some of the recent year's events, competitions between different itasha teams in a single race can also being seen as well.
International movement 
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.
Vehicles from automotive manufacturers 
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 itasha on the car models. Fujimi, Kyosho, HPI and Tamiya also sold models with itasha models.
Recently, combination between model and actual itasha are increasing. Where model based on the original itasha were made afterwards.
Derivative uses 
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. On 20 June 2009, 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 at the 48th Shizuoka Hobby Show 2009.
See also 
- Itai culture: A closer look at otaku vehicles
- Itasha: Pimped rides, otaku style
- Itasha and Intansha - Tricking your car out is the latest otaku craze in Japan
- コミックマーケット68 2日目＆痛車
- MOLA in 2008 Super GT season, Studie in 2011 Super GT season, and Melonbooks in 2008 Japan Rally Championship has been awarded series Champion in their class participated. Where the latter two are using itasha throughout the whole season.
- 痛車 in 台北! 世界は痛車に毒されはじめた…… (Itasha in Taipei! The world started to poisoned by itasha...), Ascii.jp report, Feb 2008
- Philippine Itasha Cars
- Lowyat.Net forum, Itasha Car Thread
- America Itasha
- Hentai Fans Airbrush a Mangallardo
- Ridelust Daily Fail: Japanese Itasha Fad Makes Me Sad
- Humor from Japan: BMW M5, Lamborghini Gallardo and Lancia Stratos Itasha decorated in style!
- Age Soft Chairman shows off Manga Lambo, M5 and Stratos
- Macross Ero-Itasha
- Macross Ero-Itasha Gets Yaoi Facelift
- 痛車天国？ ナゴヤ オートトレンド！【出展企業＆メーカー公認車編】
- (Japanese) 青島文化教材が痛車のプラモを発売、車種とキャラは (Aoshima Bunka Kyozai sells a model car of itasha, the car and the character is...), carview.co.jp report, retrieved on June 7, 2008.
- ANA's Pokémon Jet Home Page
- ２月再販 超時空要塞妖精痛機
- MIKU-29 米哭式制空戰"痛"機XD
- NOSE ART WORKS
- 3/3 痛機殼...
- TandE page
- 痛車乗りに朗報！ 痛いエンジンオイルが登場！
- Lucky Star Engine Oil
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Itasha|
- "'Anime'-decorated cars latest 'otaku' fad"—Article describing itasha, May 2008 (English)
- "Japanese 'itasha' gain in popularity in Taiwan"—Article describing itasha in Taiwan, July 2008 (English)
- Itasha Graphics, the itasha oriented magazine by Geibunsha (Japanese)
- Autosalone, the itasha oriented convention, from 2007 (Japanese)
- 富士スピードウェイに痛車がっ！ 世界一痛いカーイベント！ Fuji Speedway hosts itasha! The most painful car event in the world!), Ascii.jp report, May 2008 (Japanese)