In Japan, an itasha (痛車, literally "painful car") is a car decorated with images of fictional characters of anime, manga, or video games (especially bishōjo games or eroge). These characters are predominantly "cute" female characters. 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 the 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 "pain(ful)", which can be interpreted as "painfully embarrassing", "painful for the wallet" due to the high costs involved, or "painful to look at" (an eyesore). 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 subculture started in Japan in the 1980s with character plushies and stickers, but only became a phenomenon in the 21st century, when anime culture became relatively well known via the Internet. The earliest known report of an itasha-decorated vehicle in convention was in August 2005, 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 Comiket. Since then the subculture 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 a unique feature in Japan's motorsport industry. Race cars in itasha decals can be seen from regional club events to international races (including events under the FIA). Participants are also not bounded by privateers amateurs. Many professional teams, or even manufacturer-backed teams, would not mind to turn their race cars into itasha cars; not only does it act 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 are participating in.
In the Autobacs Super GT series, Goodsmile Racing has run a series of Hatsune Miku-themed racecars since 2008, while Pacific Racing has had collaborations with Squid Girl, Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Love Live! and Girls und Panzer in their involvement with the Super GT and D1 Grand Prix series. Goodsmile Racing notably is a three-time champion in the GT300 class, the second most successful team in the history of Super GT's GT300 class (only Team Taisan, with seven titles, had a better record). They are also the current defending champion of the GT300 class. Similar involvement of itasha vehicles can be seen in motorcycle or even open-wheeler events.
Vehicles owned by character rights owner
The executive director of ACID Co., Ltd. (parent company of game developer Âge), Hirohiko Yoshida, was reported to own a Muv-Luv-themed Lamborghini Gallardo, Lancia Stratos, and BMW M5. The cars were unveiled in 2008 âge×Nitro+ in Akibahara UDX Gallery.
Vehicles from automotive manufacturers
Licensed model vehicles
Officially licensed itasha cars can be found both in display and R/C car models.
In June 2008, Aoshima Bunka Kyozai launched "ITASHA" as one of their model car product lines. Since then, many model companies have produced various itasha versions of their car models. Fujimi, Kyosho, HPI and Tamiya also sell models with itasha decorations.
Recently, combinations between models and actual itasha are increasing, wherein models based on the original itasha were made afterwards.
The itasha decorative style has also been found on aircraft, computer cases, and other products. The itasha's equivalent in apparel is the "ita-bag", a bag covered in fandom-related badges, buttons, etc.
In-vehicle electronics, such as navigation systems, were also reported to be customized with character voices. On 28 March 2008, Maplus began to offer character voices for its Maplus Portable Navi 2 GPS system, beginning with Shūichi Ikeda (Char Aznable from the Gundam franchise).
Automotive consumables such as motor oil have also been customized. On 20 June 2009, T&E, a tuning shop, began to sell scented semi-synthetic motor oil under the Itayu brand, with the first product being a Lucky*Star-themed motor oil, unveiled at the 48th Shizuoka Hobby Show 2009.
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- 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 Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
- Lowyat.Net forum, Itasha Car Thread
- America Itasha
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-07-29.
- Mirai Millennium Itasha
- "Album - Google+". plus.google.com. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
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- Ridelust Daily Fail: Japanese Itasha Fad Makes Me Sad
- Humor from Japan: BMW M5, Lamborghini Gallardo and Lancia Stratos Itasha decorated in style!
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- Macross Ero-Itasha
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- 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】
- (in 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
- 3/3 痛機殼... Archived 2011-07-10 at the Wayback Machine.
- TandE page Archived 2009-08-22 at the Wayback Machine.
- 痛車乗りに朗報！ 痛いエンジンオイルが登場！
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Itasha.|
- "what is itasha" - Japan Realm article describing subculture of itasha, June 2014 (in English)
- "'Anime'-decorated cars latest 'otaku' fad" -article describing itasha, May 2008 (in English)
- "Japanese 'itasha' gain in popularity in Taiwan" - article describing itasha in Taiwan, July 2008 (in English)
- Itasha Graphics, the itasha-oriented magazine by Geibunsha (in Japanese)
- Autosalone, the itasha oriented convention, from 2007 (in 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 (in Japanese)
- "Mirai Millennium Itasha" - article picturing the decoration process of one car in Indonesia becoming itasha, August 2012 (in English)