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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"note , 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 cringeful 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. As per Sturgeon's Law, these run the gamut from beautiful works of Thememobiles as Advertising Campaigns to incredibly tacky rustbuckets with cartoony anime stickers cartoonishly 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 cars like the Impreza or Skyline tend to be more popular.

Speaking of racing cars turned into itashas (for Advertising Campaigns), this is what happens when an Infinite Stratos itasha is entered into Japan's Super GT series. And they were later joined by a Squid Girl itasha.

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.

A Sub-Trope of Pimped-Out Car (otaku-style). Compare Nose Art, which involves similar (but much less geeky) paintjobs on planes and other vehicles.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.

    Film 
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift: Twinkie's "Hulk car", a green 2005 Volkswagen Touran with custom bodywork that makes it look like The Incredible Hulk is trying to smash his way from within and a huge Hulk-face decal on the front. Twinkie loves it, but Sean Boswell (our heroic outlaw car racer of the film) takes one look at it (and then at Twinkie) with a notable "dear Lord, this is your daily ride, is it?" look on his face.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.

    Web Comics 

    Video Games 

    Real Life 
  • 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 Pok√©mon 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).

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