Wangan Midnight 1 - Automotive Affairs

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New show time! Wangan Midnight, a somewhat long-running manga (34+ volumes) in Japan and also a popular arcade game, gets the anime makeover treatment at last.

It's a racing anime, and if you know racing anime that's about all you need to know about it. Like most racing anime (read: Initial D) it features ugly characters, high-tech racing scenes, and improbably fast cars.

After seeing the first episode, it's an obvious conclusion that it's no epic series, but it'll be a good sporadic watch as it's released, somewhat like how Tokimeki Memorial is turning out to be with the pace of the subs. And that's OK.

I don't remember much from Wangan Midnight, given that the arcade game is amusingly translated (and quite hard) and I haven't searched for any manga scanlations. All I know is that some guy named Akio Asakura, who looks suspiciously like a well-known tofu shop delivery guy, kicks a bunch of people's butts in a first generation Nissan 240Z. His two most important rivals - I say this only because they're in the intro - are Tatsuya Shima, who drives the "Black Bird", a Porsche something-or-other (it's a 350Z in the game, that's why I'm clueless), and Reina Akikawa (omfg a girl), who drives a R32 GT-R.

Continuing with more pictures and witty comments after the jump...

See? Blackbird, Reina's GT-R, and the ominously named Devil Z, in order. The fourth car is a black GT-R; I don't know whose it is, but it just might be important. Even if the anime characters are a bit on the shoddy side, as tends to happen in some shonen series, the cars look very ace, and I give major props to whoever does the 3D work. Also notice some of the details on the Devil Z.

It's turn signal is on for crying out loud. XD Such a politically correct anime! The drivers use turn signals when flying along at 200 km/h. How nice.

In addition, we are reminded that cigarettes are bad. Alright, this one's a bit more touchy, as there's some discussion that goes with it, but still, I'm waiting for Smokey the Bear to show up in a race-modded Jeep and challenge Akio to a race. (that's harsh too, but it sounded funny)

More pretty bridges and corners from the beginning of the show. They like to make the lights streak and leave trails, which gives an odd, drug-induced effect when combined with the slow-motion effects used when the Devil Z is driving in the opening sequence.

Speaking of opening, the OP nor the ED aren't standout songs, but I'd listen to them if necessary.

The episode begins with the Devil Z pwning a Miata, or something similar that doesn't stand a chance on highways. The Devil Z driver is unknown, but I'm assuming it's a pre-Akio person, since he's the fourth to own the Devil Z.

You ever know why there's fast-paced music playing during race scenes? It's because the other guy's playing it on his stereo. No wonder they always lose, with that distraction.

The Devil Z goes through a cool time-lapse scene, where it becomes daytime, or sunrise in any case. And it turns out, that it is Akio driving it after all, on a suspiciously empty highway.

Which really makes no sense.

Because Akio is driving a red, later-model Z, and he gets smoked by the Black Bird in the process.

Hint: that's the Black Bird in the distance. Hint 2: when picking up ladies, don't go street racing. Especially if you lose.

So, anyway, that's about all we get of Akio's old Z, because the next day, him, his afro friend Kochan, and some other guy go to a junkyard to take a look at a new old Z.

That's right, the protagonists are such rebels, cutting school to go look at cars. It's quickly explained that he has good grades, he just never shows up because of his "work". Good thing, otherwise we would have a Bad Role Model on our hands, eh? And there's always that mysterious teacher in the 4th shot, who seems to care about Akio sucking in school, funny that. It still remains to be seen if Wangan Midnight has anything to do with characters, or everything to do with cars.

By the way, check it out. Go Speed Racer, go!

Also, here's a very creepy love-at-first-sight shot for Akio. Except, he's staring at, yup, you guessed it, the Devil Z.

Which is in surprising (and cryptically) good shape, UISSAN (someone's not licensed) engine and all. It's twin turbo, something or other, L28 something something engine, Kei car, whatever, it goes fast, I get it.

Apparently this car is important to Akio not because it's going to become an uber-fast winning machine, but because there was some girl in the car. Onoes, girls? In my racing? But there's also some additionally mystery to the car.

The car is invincible - although the drivers may be less than so - and the last person to own the car was Akio Asakura. That is, him. How the hell does that work? We don't know.

Is it a time loop? Akio does reference about how he saw the Devil Z three - of all numbers, three - years ago. Perhaps Akio's a time-traveler, and the Devil Z is the God in this world, eh? Although it wouldn't look half as good in a ponytail.

So, is Akio then the one who returned the car to the scrapyard? Or was it someone else - for get this -

The last person to drive the Z died, as the paper obviously said (actually, it's the context which helped). Now, when did he die?

What time did we see Akio driving? In the Devil Z? On the Wangan, 5 minutes ago, but at an unspecified point on the timeline, and when we get a flashback or something similar in a few minutes, whose name is shouted?

Yeah, what the hell? So Akio's either crashed or is going to crash the Devil Z, and it's likely the latter, considering, otherwise, he'd be dead right now. Or is he?

Intermission: eyecatch, with the Three Important People and a lot of text scrolling around.

Anyway, with Kochan's help the Devil Z is repaired in improbably short amounts of time (screentime anyway), and so Akio is on the road in the Devil Z, just like before, or maybe, after. Maybe if that thing hits 88 miles per hour that's how this time loop starts...

By the way, is it just me or is Akio getting a little bit too excited about the Devil Z, if you know what I mean? It's a car, not a girl. And maybe it's not like any other car because you never owned a car that could do 200 before (~120 MPH), Akio. XD

This is touched on again at school, as Other Guy talks about girls, and Akio talks about cars. He sounds quite obsessed with the Devil Z and all, which leads Other Guy to make an amusing crack at Akio's heterosexuality.

By the way, Japanese high schools (in anime, at least) are freaking huge. 4 stories? We're lucky if we get 2, I think.

Anyway, Tatsuya With No Face also talks about the Z a lot, although in more of an ominous, villainous type manner. As such, we flash forward to night, where the Black Bird awaits the Devil Z's return.

There he is. Funny that Akio refers to the Black Bird (God Hand...what is this, Initial D?) as the challenger, even though it was technically the one waiting for the Devil Z. Also note that the Black Bird's got some serious power to catch up to the Devil Z so quick and issue a challenge. Highway racing has no definite start and end, and if Tokyo Xtreme Racer is anything to go off of, it's initiated by a flash of the high-beams.

The car intros remind me of TXR also as well (same company that makes Wangan Midnight The Game), with a bunch of cool pans and split panel.

Anyway, so they race. There's not much to say, other than one car goes fast and the other goes faster, as the Black Bird seems to be pulling punches, just tailing the Z and waiting for an opportunity to go flying ahead.

They go through a orange-lighted tunnel, which gives Akio a chance to crank up his RPM level to OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAND - seriously, the picture reminds me of that. There's a neat bit where a truck splits them and they swerve in opposite directions around it (Tatsuya signals, of course). Very similar to a TXR intro as well, but that's just me.

They get out of the tunnel and the race turns a bit into a NASCAR-fest as they pull close to each other, and Akio almost seems poised to cut Tatsuya off - which might lead to dangerous consequences if he chops the bumper of the Black Bird (see: Marco Andretti's crash at the Indy 500. Poor Marco).

Additionally, Akio seems to get a bit loose and wiggly as he accelerates away (temporarily) from the Black Bird. And what's that in the corner there? That's right. A closed lane. Akio realizes this predictably too late, and thus is forced to take Evasive Action instead of running over the signs (which are probably fragile but probably also hiding something more sinister).

Unfortunately a sharp swerve is not the best idea, and the episode ends with Akio losing control of his car - come on, there's no drifting in the series? Initial D this ain't - and going into a slide. We don't actually see the car slide but we hear it as Akio's eyes grow huge as he looks like he's left a mess in his pants. It's most likely he'll save it, or at least spin out and avoid, y'know, dying, since this series is just getting started. I'd put money on him losing his first race, personally. We'll see in, uh, 2 weeks, as this slowly released show is...slowly released.

Until next time, let's get back to the harem shows, eh? Although I don't think too badly of Wangan Midnight; this could be good watching, with the mystery of the time-looped Devil Z.


P.S. Check it. Real people in the ED sequence. Woah.


just an FYI.

the original owner was names Akio Asakura as well which is why they are all creeped out when they see the reg papers. he dies in an accident with the "devil z". 2-3 other owners later, who all crash the car, the present day akio asakua gets hold of it.