Sunday, 7 December 2008
Wangan Midnight (湾岸ミッドナイト Wangan Middonaito) is an ongoing Japanese seinen racing manga series created by Michiharu Kusunoki that has been serialized in Kodansha's Young Magazine since 1992. In 1999, it won the Kodansha Manga Award for general manga.
The series has been adapted into several live action feature films, video games, and an anime television series. The anime began airing in Japan on June 8, 2007 on the anime satellite television network Animax, produced by OB Planning.
The story gets its roots from the actual street racing that occurs on Tokyo's Shuto Expressway, one stretch of which is known as the "Wangan" — literally meaning "bay side" although it is generally used to refer to the freeway — the longest, straightest road in the entire country. There is also road traffic to contend with, including a fair number of heavy trucks. Because of this, the action is inherently hazardous, and wrecks are common. Blown engines are also a frequent hazard, especially with the extremely high power engines.
One day, Akio Asakura, a high school student who is in his last year of study, is driving his friend's Fairlady Z (Z31) when he is challenged by Tatsuya Shima, a doctor, in his black Porsche 911 (964), nicknamed the "BlackBird". With his friend in the passenger seat and two girls in the back, Akio attempts to win, but is defeated. Determined to become faster, he goes to the junkyard because his mechanic friend tells him he saw a wrecked Fairlady S30 just like Akio wanted. When he sees the damaged midnight blue Fairlady Z (S30) in the junkyard, he remembers seeing this car a few years ago with a nice girl in the passenger seat. Intrigued as to why such a classic Japanese performance vehicle is about to be junked, he convinces the junkyard owner to sell it to him. The junkyard owner was told by the previous owner's sister to scrap the car because it is cursed. He soon finds that the car is unnaturally fast due to a tuned L28 engine, bored and stroked to 3.1 L and fitted with twin turbos. He also finds that the car's previous owner shares his first AND last name, and had died in a horrible crash on the Wangan. Every person who takes possession of the Z ends up spinning out of control and crashing, as if the car is rebelling against its driver. This gives the blue Z the nickname "The Devil Z". The manga follows Akio's various encounters with people on the Wangan, though the central plot revolves around his constant battle with the BlackBird for Wangan superiority.
•Akio Asakura (朝倉アキオ Asakura Akio?) is the main protagonist of Wangan Midnight.
An ambitious racer who started when he was very young, Akio is in his final year of high school as the story begins. Drove his friend's red Nissan 300ZX (Z31) until, after a humiliating loss to Tatsuya Shima, he discovered "the Devil Z", a Nissan Fairlady Z S30Z (known as the Datsun 240Z in certain markets) which is supernaturally fast and extremely hard to drive. Regarded as a legend on the Wangan, though he is actually a humble young man. Still, despite his gentle demeanor, he's dead serious about racing. In fact, he is so serious that he skips school (to the point of repeating a grade) to drive the Devil Z. Like virtually everyone else in the manga, he has trouble forming intimate relationships, although he has made some slight inroads with Reina Akikawa. His day job is a waiter for a fancy restaurant, but then got fired for showing up late too often due to late night racing. He's regularly exposed to the active social scene at the heart of Tokyo. He was already a pretty accomplished racer with his old car, but behind the Devil Z, he's nearly invincible. He also has tremendous adaptive ability and can learn to drive virtually anything.
•Reina Akikawa (秋川零奈 Akikawa Reina?) is the primary love interest of Akio Asakura besides the Devil Z
Reina is a very attractive model who also co-hosts a driving television show named "Drive Go Go!" where the latests automotive trends are discussed. She finds Akio on the Wangan and becomes obsessed with him and the Devil Z, driving her to tune her car and even steal the Devil Z one night. After getting her Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 modified, she discovers a previously unknown aptitude for street battling, something that does not sit very well with her manager. She's very sociable, and has lots of acquaintances, but has no real boyfriend. While she is an idol, she is quite modestly dressed. Like most of the women in the series, she's very sensitive and bursts into tears easily, although she calms down considerably in later volumes.
•Tatsuya Shima (島達也 Shima Tatsuya?).
He is the main rival of Akio Asakura, as Akio is the only one who regularly gives him a challenge. He drives an almost stock 1987 Porsche 911 Yellowbird (painted black, thus the name Blackbird. The car has 470 hp (350 kW) stock. Tatsuya becomes annoyed with Akio beating him all the time so he hires Kitami Jun to tune the Porsche. Kitami tunes the suspension and adds a second turbo to make it a Twin Turbo Porsche (depicted as a Nissan 350Z in the English version of the arcade racing games) and boosts the car to 500 hp (370 kW) and beyond to try and keep up with the Devil Z. He's an extraordinarily skilled driver and has only been in one wreck during the course of the manga. He knows the limits of his vehicle and will never risk disaster by pushing it beyond its safe limits. This actually cost him a couple of battles, but he always learns from his failures and comes back even tougher. He's a very skilled surgeon and uses his large salary to fund his Blackbird racing efforts.