Car-Toons Vol.1 e Vol.2 we had fun finding the most interesting cameos of Western cars inside the most famous Japanese anime. A sort of tribute by Japanese artists to the European car culture and the most iconic models, from small cars to supercars.
Today instead, we are looking for JDM cars in the manga universe. JDM means Japanese Domestic Market, it’s a widespread acronym among car enthusiasts when it comes to the sports cars of the Rising Sun, but it includes all Japanese models sold on the domestic market. Many, of course, distributed also in Europe, but not all, just as the opposite is also true: just think that the Nissan Qashqai, produced in the UK and no longer sold in Japan (where it was called Dualis) cannot be considered a JDM.
To go back to the first time someone talked about the JDM phenomenon outside Japan we have to rewind the tape to 1995. And guess who, Jeremy Clarkson named the “Mid Night Club” during an episode of “Motorworld” in which he tells the different sub-cultures of the period such as Drifting, a niche phenomenon completely obscure to most people. This was the fuse that made the JDM trend explode outside the borders.
However, if we want to talk about the origins of the “Mid Night Club” we have to go back even further, let’s say in the mid 80s, when in Japan the “street racing” trend came up along with the mania of pimping cars to increase performances.
So in 1987 the Mid Night Club was formed, a clique formed by a small group of street racers who had as their point of reference the “Wangan-sen”, 70 km of highway that border the metropolitan area of Tokyo.
The stretch of road on which these racers used to fight was State Road 357, a rollercoaster of tunnels and elevated roads with long straight stretches where you can easily reach 300 km per hour.
No one knew anything about who, how and when they ran, except those directly involved and a small gang of close friends. In short, a sort of car fight club, where secrecy and rigour were minimum requirements to be admitted.
The original Mid Night Club gave the inspiration for the first Fast and Furious, as well as for the homonymous video game for PS1, or Need For Speed Underground and the diffusion in Europe of the JDM phenomenon, followed by the first gatherings in parking lots and the boom of anime like Wangan Midnight, Initial D and You’re Under Arrest!.
Today we are talking about the first of the three, Wangan Midnight, whose protagonist is one of the most representative cars of the JDM panorama. Which one? A little bit of patience.
The manga is dated 1991, but it was turned into a TV anime only 16 years later, in 2007 thanks to Keiichi Tsuchiya, who made a series of 26 episodes.
The anime tells the adventures of the young Akio Asakura, a guy like many others, with head in the coulds and a great passion for motor racing and a thing for Nissan Z.
At the beginning of the series we see him behind the wheel of a Nissan Fairlady Z31, which will however have a short life. Akio in fact decides to put it aside after suffering a defeat at the hands of Akio’s main rival, an unsuspected surgeon from Tokyo that everyone calls “the emperor of Wangan”, driving a RUF CTR ‘Yellowbird’ (964) 3600 cc turbo nicknamed Blackbird because black.
The young man then learns that a local wrecker has just received his dream car, a Datsun Fairlady Z (S30).
He doesn’t think twice about it and deviates the usual home-school route to go and have a look at it in the workshop: copped!
The Devil Z, which mounts an L-series 3100 cc bi-turbo engine, is so called because it has been the cause of countless accidents. In the last one, a guy named as the protagonist, Akio Asakura, lost his life. Just note that the real car which ispired the one in the manga, differs in several details, first of all in the color. In fact, the original was in a nice bright red instead of blue, and the model was a 280ZX and not a 240Z, but c’mon, we are not here to be fussy.
No doubts that this car is one of the most iconic of the Japanese market, first of all for the historicity of the brand. The car manufacturer Datsun was founded in 1931 was bought by Nissan Motor just three years later.
In 1986, Nissan put the production of Datsun branded vehicles on stand-by until 2013, the year of the relaunch on the market.
If you notice the logo, you will immediately feel familiar with it. In fact, the bold writing “DATSUN” on a blue background, with the Rising Sun behind it, symbol of Japan, was the graphic base of the Nissan brand from 1984 to 2002.
Why Datsun? Originally it was DAT, acronym that brought together the initials of the surnames of the three founders, who produced cars with this brand since 1914, to which was added the desinence -son, then changed into -sun because “son” in Japanese means “loser”. Also because this car was not a loser, considering the discreet satisfactions in the rally field with the successes in six editions of the Safari Rally in Africa.
Now you are wondering why we made such a headache with this Datsun. Well, start thinking about it, we will tell you more soon.