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Goin’ Japanesque!

Manga “Wangan Midnight”: Legendary Car That Runs As If It Has Its Own Will

When we think about products that are associated with the country of Japan other than animation and manga, vehicles probably come to our mind. In the early 1980’s, there was a great foreign supercar boom among children in Japan. Children were excited about supercars in futuristic styles that drive through the road at high speed. A child with such dreams and hopes has grown up and wrote this story, “Wangan Midnight” (author: Michiharu Kusunoki). Photo: game.watch.impress.co.jp

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Synopsis

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There was a legend about Shuto Expressway that crisscrosses the center of Tokyo.

It was about a Nissan FairladyZ S30 with a midnight blue body like darkness of the night.

It was an old car, and you can even call it a classic car, sold during the 1970’s. But people saw it run as if it had had its own intention, and it ran faster than 300km/h, as if it were twisting in agony.

It was said that the car chose its driver, and men not chosen were to die in accidents.

Its name was “Devil Z”.

This story is filled with car actions in which people challenge the legendary Devil Z with various feelings and reasons of their own.

 

Characters

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1. Akio Asakura

The main character is a senior high school student. He finds Devil Z rotting away in a wrecker yard, learns about its history, and becomes its owner.

He pours everything of his life into Devil Z, and starts skipping school.

The story initially progresses focusing on him and Devil Z, but once Devil Z gets nearly totaled and reconstructed, the story’s theme starts to shift to other people around them.

2. Jun Kitami

This is the person who tuned up a S30 type Fairlady Z and produced “Devil Z”.

His occupation back then was remodeling of cars, but his remodeled cars were hard to drive and resulted in many accidents. People eventually called him the tuner from hell.

He pursued vehicles’ mobility too single-mindedly at the cost of profitability, and his business was bankrupted.

He currently makes his living by operating a bicycle shop.

3. Tatsuya Shima

Riding through the Shuto Expressway in a black Porsche 911, he is nicknamed as “Black Bird” of Shuto Expressway Wangan Line.

During the day, he is a medical doctor working in a large hospital.

He personally knew the previous owner of Devil Z, now driven by Akio, and he considered Devil Z as his mortal enemy.

But later as he starts to associate with Akio and people around him, he slowly changes the way he thinks.

 

Analysis

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Movies with dramatic car actions involving remodeled vehicles such as “Fast & Furious” tend to enjoy solid popularity in the world, but this manga is a little different in taste. The early part of the story is certainly about a special vehicle called Devil Z that drives through the streets in the night, just like another car action story.

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But as the story progresses, its focus shifts towards the adults that created Devil Z. Most of these adults rarely drive through the city expressway during the night at high speed, as they know it is illegal. But as they meet Devil Z, which has turned into a legend, and the main character Akio, they start to entrust their desire to this duo; their unfulfilled desire to speed through the city expressway at night.

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Those who challenge Devil Z also have some anxiety or frustration in their lives, and they become enchanted by Devil Z, as if it has the answer they are looking for.

There is a car dealer who buys and sells vehicles, tormented by a schism between his present life and his dream from the past.
A car shop owner has turned to dislike cars, though he started his store because he liked cars.

These people challenge Devil Z, trying to solve their own problems. The way they challenge is interesting; unlike an ordinary race, there is neither a starting point nor goal. They drive on the Shuto Expressway, and once they meet, a race would start, and the last one still driving will be the winner. The story is about car actions, but with its lyrical, somewhat dream-like world view, it was called a “grown men’s poem”, or “adult fairy-tale”.   

 

Postscript

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game.watch.impress.co.jp

This work stirs up a mood that allures you strongly to go for a night drive when you finish reading it. Even if you are not very knowledgeable about cars, this story would probably strongly appeal to you. Since this work focuses on drivers’ emotions, it’s a car action story told from an unusual point of view, which you will not find in other stories.

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Berial the Demon

About the author

It has been over 40 years of reading manga in the deep world of manga. Japan’s manga has an endlessly wide variety of genres. I will be recommending special manga for you to read from such infinite amount of works.

View all articles by Berial the Demon
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