Itasha (痛車?, literally "painful car") 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" females. 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. 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.
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. Since then the subculture phenomenon has grown and allows people to express themselves and show off their customization to fellow friends and competitors.
Involvement in motorsports
Nowadays, the involvement of itasha in real motorsport events has been one of the unique features in Japan's motorsport industry. Race cars in itasha decals can be seen from regional club event to international-level races (including events under FIA). Participant are also not bounded by privateers amateurs. Many professional teams, or even manufacturer-backed teams would not mind to turn their race cars into itashas; this not only acts as an alternative for sponsorship decals (if the character or design is provided by the sponsor), it is widely considered as one of the many ways of expanding their team's fanbase or promoting the event they participating.
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.
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 Shūichi Ikeda (Char Aznable from the Gundam franchise).
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.
- 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
- 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
- Mirai Millenium 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.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Itasha.|
- Japan Realm 'what is itasha'-Article describing subculture of itasha, June 2014 (English)
- "'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)
- Mirai Millenium Itasha—Article picturing the decoration process of one car in Indonesia became itasha, August 2012 (English)