For years, Acura waited for the right opportunity to enter the world of anime.
As an American company with Japanese roots, it wanted to create something both U.S. and Japanese car enthusiasts could get excited about but could never find quite the right moment. That all changed when it was announced that the Type S, the high-performance division of cars produced by Acura, would be returning. Suddenly, they had their anime’s lead character.
And so they went to work producing not just an homage to classic Japanese anime, but a beautiful original series that could stand on its own. To do so, they worked with 85 creators, from storyboard artists to audio engineers to character designers, over a six-month period. The mission was clear from the start: introduce a new generation of drivers to Acura while being as authentic as possible to the anime artform.
The result is Type S: Chaiki’s Journey, an exhilarating four-part adventure series which you can watch right here on Kotaku.
Type S follows Chiaki, a young driving protégé, and her wise uncle Noboru. When emotions heat up between Chiaki and her nemesis, Erich, at the local racetrack, Noboru steps in to mentor Chiaki as she prepares to put her family legacy on the line in the biggest race of her life.
Acura wanted the story’s characters to reflect the Type S’ challenger spirit, so Chiaki exemplifies characteristics of being headstrong, bold and unrelenting. Meanwhile, Noboru represents the other side of the company’s history and is pragmatic, wise and rooted in heritage. Each character needs the other to succeed, and you can watch that play out throughout the exciting series.
Anime, of course, has a long history with cars going back to the 1970s. (This makes sense, as Japan itself has a rich car culture, and anime often reflects the trends and inner workings of Japanese society). Acura instilled a number of techniques to make sure Type S is authentic as possible to the genre, including hiring Hiromi Dames (Chiaki), Daisuke Tsuji (Noboru) and Steve Blum (Erich) to voice the characters, who all have extensive experience voicing Japanese anime and video games.
What’s more, Type S includes a number of nods to classic car anime, like in volume three of the series, when Noboru reveals a private driving road inspired by “touge driving,” a type of mountain-pass driving that’s a staple in Japanese car culture. Elsewhere, in the racing scenes within volumes one and four, the animators looked to the classics and the hand-drawn illustration style of the ‘80s and ‘90s for inspiration.
One thing that’s noticeably different about Type S from classic anime of the past, however, is its setting, which takes place in Long Beach, California. Acura wanted the setting of the story to be someplace real and tangible that viewers could connect to. Acura was born in Southern California, and sponsors the Grand Prix of Long Beach, so it seemed like a natural fit.
In fact, when planning the racing sequences, the illustrators used the actual turns from the Grand Prix racetrack to dictate the action. Those in the know will be able to pick out different landmarks from the episodes, like the statue in front of the Aquarium of the Pacific, the turnout along Angeles Crest Highway and the skyline views of downtown Long Beach.
All together, the series could stand as a metaphor for Acura’s story, blending together elements of its American and Japanese heritage while celebrating the return of its highest-performing vehicles. Binge all the one-minute episodes to learn the full story.