Monday, February 22, 2010

Ryuhei Kitamura and Shunji Iwai to bring us "Fast and Furious" meets otaku culture?

by Chris MaGee

When I was about 12 a couple of friends and I had this elaborate plan that when we all turned 16 and got our driver's licenses we'd buy a van and totally pimp it out - a booming sound system, fancy detailing, and my responsibility was to use my artistic talents on airbrushing a huge Dungeons and Dragons-inspired scene on the side of it. Ah, the cheesy dreams of male adolescence! We never got the van, in fact I never even got my driver's license, but those heady days of youth came back to me this week as I read about another collaboration between Shunji Iwai and Ryuhei Kitamura. The creative partnership between the "All About Lily Chou-Chou" director and the man behind "Versus" has been well chronicled, from the aborted teaming up to bring the rock star tale "Bandage" to the screen to their eventual collaboration on the animated sci-fi film "Baton". Now it seems that Iwai and Kitanura are getting together for another proposed project about itasha car culture.

Haven't heard of itasha? Well, if you can imagine a hybrid of MTV's "Pimp My Ride" and super otaku geekdom then you'd start to get a good idea of what this subculture is about. Itasha, translated as "Pain Mobile" because of the financial pain its practitioners go through, is a sub-set of otaku culture that has people elaborately detailing their cars and motorcycles with manga and anime characters, mostly of the cute and buxom variety. You can check out a gallery of images of itasha cars at Pink Tentacle.

Well, this past weekend Kitamura and Iwai were in attendance at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts for the "Contemporary Japanese Cinema: Outside, Elsewhere, In the World..." mini-film festival (read our original report here) and according to Anime News Network Kitamura revealed that he and Iwai may very well be working on a screenplay about itasha culture. "So, the other day, Shunji was watching, you know, 'Fast & Furious'," Kitamura told the audience at USC, "and he just told me, 'Can we come up something that's 'Fast & Furious' meets itasha?' What? 'Fast & Furious' meets itasha?" That's my sentiment exactly... what?!

What's that old saying? "I used to be disgusted and now I'm just amused"? After seeing that Iwai had directed a music video for pre-fab idol group AKB48 I was disgusted, but with this news of an otaku version of "Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift"... well, I can't say I'm amused, but I'm certainly not surprised anymore. There's no time frame yet for this project, which is fine with me. You'll excuse me while I go pop my DVD of "All About Lily Chou-Chou" in and try and forget about this news item.

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