There is an unfortunate amount of truth in the slogan "Anime: Crack is Cheaper". Despite this, there are some otaku who end up with money left over after sinking everything they possibly can into their obsession. For a small and truly devoted subset of these, there is only one option left: Their car.
The term itasha refers to any car which has been modified with vinyls, stickers, or other decorations relating to anime or games - most often featuring female characters and a heavily Moe aesthetic. Literally translated as "Painful car", this is a pun based on the fact that "ita" can also stand for "Italian", a reference to the rather flamboyant/extravagant exterior styling of Italian supercars. The pain in question is referring to either the car being a self-acknowledging eyesore, or the painful embarrassment which the owner is expected to undergo when explaining to his (it's almost always "his") family and friends exactly what the hell he was thinking.
There is an unknown number of these cars currently at large, mostly in Japan; probably the most famous is the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha fan-car pictured above, nicknamed Opanchu-go. As per Sturgeon's Law, these run the gamut from beautiful works of Thememobiles as Advertising Campaigns to incredibly tacky rustbuckets with anime stickers slapped on willy-nilly. Surprisingly, even expensive cars such as the Mercedes-Benz SLK and even proper racing cars (explained below) have been known to receive the itasha treatment, although (this being Japan) Japanese sports cars like the Impreza or Skyline tend to be more popular.
An itasha magazine, Itasha Graphics, began publication in May 2008, documenting itasha from all over Japan and providing coverage of itasha meets and interviews with owners. Its much less conspicuous cousin is the itabag, a backpack or bag decked out in smaller merchandise like keychains and buttons.
- The WOTA from AKB0048 pilot mechs with 00-themed paintjobs.
- In the first chapter of GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Onizuka paints a portrait of Haruhi Suzumiya on Vice-Principal Uchiyamada's Precious, Precious Car.
- Episode 10 of Pui Pui Molcar has Abbey turned into one after his beginner sign removal, getting a glittery pink paint job with a Magical Girl decal. Abbey is rather upset about this at first since he would have preferred to get a superhero-themed makeover, but he later channels the power of the magical girl to save a cat from falling out of a tree, which everyone congratulates him for.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Trio set up a stake-out van to monitor Buffy's activities and coordinate their attacks. There is a brief dispute over whether the very conspicuous Death Star decal added by Andrew is appropriate on a vehicle that's supposed to be low-key.
- The Transforming Mecha of the team in Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, named Machine Itasshar, is an itasha car that transforms into a robot called Itasshar Robo.
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Ace Combat Infinity take this trope to extreme (and literal — they're on airplanes) heights with The Idolmaster-themed paintjobs. Of course, when you're flying a fighter jet that can blow anything else out of the sky, no one will question your manliness.
- Assetto Corsa Competizione, SWDC: Sega World Driver's Championship: as being a licensed race game of certain reallife motorsport series that has itasha racing in it, featured the respective series' itashas.
- Carmageddon: TDR 2000 has The Mecha, a tuned up Ford Ka driven by an Animesque girl, making it quite the oddball in the series. Apart from the distinctive anime girl vinyl, it's also decked out with wheel blades and a pumping bumper blade designed to cut up pedestrians.
- Euro Truck Simulator has a fairly generous assortment of third party anime-themed truck liveries available on the Steam Workshop.
- The Forza series from Forza Motorsport 2 onwards has won some popularity among itasha fans due to its robust car-painting system; it is quite possible that more Forza itasha exist than real-life itasha.
- Grand Theft Auto Online introduced the Sultan RS in the January 2016 update. One of the optional liveries is themed after Princess Robot Bubblegum, a fictional anime within the GTA universe.
- Further updates added more such liveries for other vehicles, and now there are a total of 16 vehicles with optional itasha-style paint jobs, all of which are themed after Princess Robot Bubblegum, her rival Shiny Wasabi Kitty, or her ally Sword Boy.
- As with Forza, the Gran Turismo series from Gran Turismo Sport onwards is laden with itasha due to having a livery editor with the ability to upload custom decals and liveries.
- One of these is in Akihabara in Persona 5. Morgana thinks the car has been vandalized.
- The Playstation Vita release of Ridge Racer had palette swaps of the available cars based on the characters of The Idolmaster, just like Ace Combat 6. Unfortunately, they were only released in Japan.
- Alternatively, the purchasable 'Neneko' paint scheme of the Soldat Raggio in Ridge Racer 7 features a monotone version of the character.
- The vanning subculture provides plenty of examples of itasha. It also provides some of the most badass promotional/advertising graphics for bands and musicians, as the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal scene and Visual Kei have a fairly large representation among the people also drawn to vanning and its related mechanical work, owing to the presence of a lot of active or retired bosozoku and yankii. At pretty much any vanning meet, there will be at least one van that's either tricked out as a fan tribute, or that's used by a band itself.
- The Pikachu Volkswagen Beetle and Lugia Chrysler PT Cruiser promoting Pokémon Gold and Silver, circa 1999-2000.
- Two of the premier series in Japanese motorsport, Super GT and Super Formula, have a regular team that featured itashas for 5+ years (Goodsmile Racing for the former, Cerumo/Inging for the latter). Despite the looks, both teams are multiple season champion holders in their respective discipline. These were only the two most successful examples, but there are more teams using itasha as motorsport in Japan.
- The success GSR & Team Ukyo (using Hatsune Miku-themed car) raised them to a de facto Mercedes-AMG Japan works team status as they are the first GT300 champion team using Mercedes-AMG. Even the Belgian Mercedes-AMG works team Black Falcon is also the fan of it: Not only they became GSR's stablemate during their second visit of 24 Hours of Spa in 2019, they also gave GSR the opportunity to design for their special coloring for that race.
- Anime conventions such as Anime Expo in Los Angeles and Anime Central in Chicago have a small but dedicated group of attendees who show off their itashas at photoshoots.
- One car owner painted the overworld map to the original The Legend of Zelda on their car.◊
- Of course, some model kits are available in Japan for Itasha...
- Beginning with 1/24 scale cars...
- Continuing with Hasegawa's 1/48 and 1/72 ranges of The iDOLM@STER modern fighters, similar to (maybe related to) the Ace Combat example above...
- Add Bandai's 1/100 Macross Frontier valkyrie series done up in such a style, in both a simpler fighter-mode kit and a transformable version...
- And there was once even a modern aircraft carrier in 1/700 scale available.
- Examples that aren't fan made or nerd related come from the Honda Civic Tour, where Honda Civics◊ with paint schemes made by the headliners are given away in contests. The car designs can range from somewhat subtle, like for the Demi Lovato Honda Civic or more overtly themed ones like Panic! at the Disco's Civic◊ matching up with their second album, Pretty. Odd., and Fall Out Boy's Civic matching up with their third album, Infinity on High. The most "itasha" like one so far is blink-182's for the 2011 Honda Civic Tour, featuring their bunny mascot hanging onto the car. Later years of the tour also featured motorcycles, which only had color scheme changes and the headliner's name. Reactions to the designs each year are unsurprisingly divisive and are often ragged on by car enthusiast blogs. For 2019's tour, even though a custom Charlie Puth Civic Type R and Rebel 300 motorcycle were made, the giveaway only featured the Rebel 300. The other Honda vehicle option in the giveaway? The choice between three stock Civic models.
- American versions of these are common entries on certain cringe subreddits, namely r/justneckbeardthings and r/trashy (the latter if they are sexually explicit or have the genital areas airbrushed over the gas cap).
- When the above-mentioned Goodsmile Racing took part in the 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa in cooperation with Team Black Falcon (under the Goodsmile & TYPE-MOON Racing banner), they opted to run itashas for not just the GSR entry, but also the two Black Falcon entries with special liveries for the Fate Series to honor the franchise's 15th anniversary (GSR #00), the recently-released Promare film (Black Falcon #4), and GSR's primary sponsor Hatsune Miku (Black Falcon #6).