I hope you like cars, because in the new show Wangan Midnight (湾岸Midnight), more than half the footage is made up of slick computer generated car models racing around with noisy roars. Ring any bells?
It’s based on a long-running manga by Kusunoki Michiharu that started back in 1992 and has piled up to be 37 volumes. The production team behind the anime boasts director Tominaga Tsuneo, script writer Kishima Nobuaki and 3D CG animation company Pastel, all of whom were involved in a certain show called, of course, Initial D. The difference this time is that Wangan Midnight focuses more on the mechanical side of racing, where Initial D was more about driving skills, and whether this is enough to set the two shows apart is a bit early to tell.
The plot revolves around a male high schooler protagonist who likes to drive around on the Tokyo highway stretch called the Wangan, because it runs by the bay coast. After a disappointing evening where he’s left in the dust by the infamous Porsche 964 “Blackbird”, a friendly mechanic tells him about a used car at the junkyard that may be of interest. He rushes off, skipping school, to set eyes on the beautiful blue Nissan Fairlady S30Z, nicknamed the “Devil Z”. Bewitched he instantly buys it, despite warnings that the car had initially been ordered destroyed by the previous owner, due to strange accidents that hint on a curse. Even weirder, the license plate used to be registered to a man with the same name as him: “Asakura Akio”.
Unfazed by this, and with a memory of having seen this particular car before, our hero still ends up rushing the car down the Wangan, where his ultimate rival “Blackbird” soon shows up to give him a fierce race. Simultaneously, his friend receives a phone call telling him that a previous owner died three years earlier, having crashed the “Devil Z” at high speed.
So far so good, I guess. While the racing part feels a bit dull so far (woohoo, let’s drive straight ahead and the guy with the fattest wallet to buy the biggest engine wins!), the ghost story background in combination with an interesting choice of music gives it a nicely creepy feel. Artwise, this is pretty much as ugly as it gets, I’m afraid, with the original manga pretty much being Initial D‘s ugly duckling sister, and that’s sad considering just how hideous Initial D is to begin with. Luckily the team took pity on its viewers and smoothened the character design a bit, while the cars do look very fancy indeed. The two main characters’ voices are handled, unusually, by Oguri Shun and Suhou Reiko, both of whom are actually j-drama actors, with the former being familiar from shows like Hana yori Dango. As a result it sounds a bit flat, and I’d have preferred proper voice actors, but we get a fair share of that with veterans Miki Shinichirou and Kobayashi Sanae, so perhaps it will be alright. Mind you, Oguri and Suhou have had previous anime experience as well.
The show was previewed on Animax yesterday, but will only really start airing next Saturday on pay-per-view, where the plan is to show two episodes per month. I’ll give it a few more episodes at least.
Reminds me of: Initial D