Guest Post: The Awesome Art of Itasha

Edward Stern is a popular Seattle-based blogger with a broad range of interests. One of his favorite topics is popular culture, and he enjoys reading about Anime because of its originality and its influence of our current society.

They are flashy, gaudy, and immediately eye-grabbing. Sexy for some, a curiosity for all, the awesome art of Itasha allows Anime fans the opportunity to emblazon their cars with their favorite Anime characters and series. Itasha is a fairly recent trend that has grown in popularity thanks to exposure from the internet.

Comiket Itasha

Itasha originated in Japan and is still mostly a Japanese phenomenon. Devotees decorate their cars, generally of the racing variety, with decals and painted designs. Its fans are called obsessives, or “otaku,” and apply painstaking detail to their designs to achieve the best, most artistic and eye-popping designs possible.

The word Itasha derives from the 1980s when flashy import cars were all the rage, particularly Italian sports cars, which were called itariasha. In the early 21st century emerged a new play on the term, Itasha, a combination of sha, for car, and itai, meaning “painfully embarrassing” or “painful for the wallet.” Tricking out a car does cost a fair amount of money, but nothing on an imported Italian sports car. Still, Itasha devotees can spend a pretty penny trying to outdo each other with more boisterous and unique design schemes. First and foremost, they are Anime and manga fans who want to show their love for the Japanese characters on their vehicles. However, the vast majority of these characters are female “cuties,” physically endowed and attractive cartoon renditions of women that appeal to male fans. As such, Itasha are also a symbol of masculinity — literally having hot girls riding on the hood of the car.

The internet can be thanked for helping Itasha art explode in Japan and especially overseas. Anime and manga scour the internet for new content because for many fans outside of Asia that is the only way they can find new material. Along the way, they found Itasha and other examples of otaku culture and spread the word in forums and on blogs. Car enthusiasts and Anime fans alike were fascinated by Itasha art and created their own versions around the world.

Itasha’s popularity is only growing, and the medium is becoming more and more recognized. The art appears in internationally sold video games like Forza 2 and in 2007 the first Itasha-oriented convention was held in Ariake. As the art continues to spread and become more and more extravagant, accept more auto enthusiast/manga fans to feel partake in an endeavor “painful for the wallet.”

Edward Stern is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on online colleges for Guide to Online Schools. Original photo from Steve Nagata on Flickr.