Based on a seinen manga by Kusunoki Michiharu serialised in Young Magazine.
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. Of course, there's also lots of 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 extreme-high power engines.
One day, Akio Asakura, a third year high school student, is driving his Fairlady Z (Z31) and is challenged by Tatsuya Shima, a doctor, in his black Porsche 964 Turbo (nicknamed the "BlackBird"). With a friend in the passenger seat and two girls in the back, Akio pitifully tries to win, but is defeated. Determined to become faster, he goes to the junkyard to buy parts for his car, when he sees a pristine, unscratched midnight blue Fairlady Z (S30) in the junkyard. Intrigued as to why such a machine is about to be junked, he buys it. He soon finds that the car is unnaturally fast due to a tuned L28 engine, bored and stroked to 3.1 liters combined with twin turbos, which produces 620bhp. He also finds that all of the car's previous owners had unfortunate accidents in it, starting with the first owner's death. The manga follows Akio's various encounters, though the central plot revolves around his constant battle with the BlackBird for superiority.
Obviously, your 1st reaction so far will be you’re thinking Initial D. I don’t blame anybody for doing so, but if you’re going to watch this with expectations based on Initial D, then you’re going to watch it for all the wrong reasons. The 1st portion of this series will be repetitive and slow, but it’s done for the purpose to build suspense, motivate development, and establish the story. I felt that things got exciting way too much at the end and it leaves you wanting for more, but I guess there’s the manga to make you satisfied which I’m now getting into. Depending on
how you get into it, it will be either hard or easy to accept, but I feel this presentation was done for the right reasons even though it will take awhile to get into this anime. Yes, consequences of that kind of story telling makes the pace slow, but it gives chances to focus and introduce other characters and their relationships which the anime is truly about.
The anime has great character exploration. I really like how the racing lifestyle and car obsession results in consequences to the normal lives of the characters and in relation to those around them. In the case of Akio, he has to repeat a year of high school because he ditches to make money for his car.
However, I felt there were some characters that had no use or contribution to the progression or establishment of the story, though they had an interesting origin and develop individually. But in the end, they seemed more like filler or side story characters, and felt the anime could have focused on other things instead. But regardless, these characters were likeable and engaging. As for the main characters, I felt their personalities were too strong and established to make any significant development throughout the course of this anime, but I think it was mostly about the relationships and interactions that were more of the central focus.
There is heavy duty tech speak, but I felt it was really easy to understand because it demonstrates the explanations hand in hand very effectively. But because the series is seriously technical, chances are you may be turned off by it because it gets really deep and I know a lot of people were turned off by this in Initial D because it was used as a riddle for foreshadowing thus made it very confusing to those not familiar with cars, but with Wangan Midnight, I felt it’s presentation made it like an auto class. But the drama thanks to the back-story of the Devil Z, is odd but engagingly driven in its own right. It does create a sense of curiosity of whether or not there is something possessing the Z, but its history and its tuning has a certain aura to it that attracts the characters, thus moves the story.
Well, the character designs share an obvious resemblance of Initial D’s, but simpler looking. The art design will of course look more dated since the original manga came out in 1992 and is sticking true to the original designs. Yeah, it’s really nothing cutting edge, nor is it really over the top. So the awkward designs will probably turn off people, but I don’t think it should really overall negate the anime as a whole. I like how Akio tends to be a white shirt and jeans kind of guy, and the way he’s drawn, it’s like he’s an anime version of James Dean himself. Hell, he’ll even wear the red jacket like he does on the cover of Rebel Without a Cause.
The races are also in CG, though it doesn’t really look as cel shaded as 4th Stage, but the style accurately portrays the features of the cars, and the corresponding engine sounds. The buildings and the Wangan are also rendered in CG as if it were the PS3 or arcade game. The cars presented are also a nice flavor (I get the notion that the original manga-ka is a Nissan fan and loves the GT-R), and the racing brings a different kind of suspense such as a danger risk and the portrayal of the consequences of reckless driving. Such consequences are wrecks and even engine blowouts, which gives it a sense of limitation to the cars. Initial D has that risk factor, but I don’t feel it, but I do feel it with Wangan Midnight, which makes the races more edge at your seat. Plus, I felt Initial D’s world despite praising it for it’s realism, in comparison to Wangan Midnight, it way too idealistic. But the races are more one-dimensional because it mostly takes place on the Wangan, and the style of racing itself to some people doesn’t feel as exciting as drifts or as innovating as gutter gripping on hairpins. But outside of the risk factor of driving at 300km/h on a public highway, the only other contributing factor to excitement is that races can be at 4 cars at once while it’s not exclusive to two cars. But the fact they push it to the limit should be exciting enough for some people. Now that I think about it, why aren’t their cops out there after them? I wonder if it’s true according to Tokyo Drift that cops in Japan can’t catch you if you’re exceeding 180 km/h.
The voice cast is excellent though there is one big name that stands out to me that took some adjusting, and that was Miki Shin’ichiro the voice of Takumi in Initial D, as the voice of Shima. I’m so used to hearing him as Takumi to a point that I really couldn’t imagine him in this role. By the time I got to the end, I finally accepted him as Shima and started to appreciate his performance And I felt it was unique that they casted J-Drama actor, Oguri Shun, who was in the live action versions of GTO, Gokusen, and Hana Yori Dango as Akio. I thought he captured Akio’s characteristics in a typical fashion where you’re convinced he’s a unique kind of teenager and shows great variety to Oguri’s acting abilities in this approach. I also liked Suhou Reiko as Reina. I thought she did great as a seiyuu by being a down to earth idol. And I was most impressed with Miyake Kenta’s performance as Kitami Jun, the tuner from hell. You probably know him as Tsume from Wolf’s Rain, Vetor in Sonic, and is also casted as Zangief in SFIV. Anyway, I think he brings a unique charisma and intimidation to the character where he can freak you out to a point that yeah, he tunes crazy cars, but hey it’s probably worth the risk. So he swept me off my feet.
Unfortunately, there is no Eurobeat. Music isn’t really that emphasized in this anime. The track you’ll tend to hear is a more techno driven Eastern Indian song that sounds similar to what you hear in Ghost in the Shell. It suits that risk factor that this anime has, but gets overused and we also have extreme techno rock every now and then. The opening and the ending themes do sound like MOVE’s songs, but they are more upbeat and up lifting, and not as emphatically hip hop driven, nor do they comes across as extreme as MOVE, but likable.
Like Initial D and some other anime I review, Wangan Midnight is for people who want to try something different, but it’s still an anime that isn’t for everyone whether you’re new to anime or hardcore. Granted you can say that about DBZ, Lucky Star, and EVA, but Wangan Midnight is just a different tune to truly apply that because its racing, people will jump to conclusions that it’s stupid just because of what it’s about. In some aspects, I think Wangan Midnight has distinguishing qualities that keeps me interested, such as the character exploration and the realism, and I love the arcade game. But hey, growing up with a father who loves cars and going to school with people who love to drag race, I could get into this anime and I had familiarity with the arcade game, Maximum Tune which should be at your local arcade. Give it a try, it’s a lot of fun.
I doubt this anime is getting licensed, so you can go to your usual torrent sources to get it. And remember: this review is a review of a work of fiction and I encourage you to please drive safely and obey traffic laws at all times, and stick to racing at your local arcade, gaming console or public circuit track.
Intro: Wangan Midnight is about a group of people that you wish were dead so they would stop putting innocent lives at risk.
To make an objective comparison, even though I shouldn't, Initial D is better than Wangan Midnight in every aspect except animation.
While both series are about cars and racing, Wangan Midnight is about speed/power and Initial D is about drifting/driving skills.
The story revolves around the young "racer" Akio who becomes the owner of a great car named Devil's Z. This car due to its tragic history is considered cursed and a "living machine" that chooses it's driver.
The story is boring and childish,
with one dimensional races that mostly take place between noob drivers on the Wangan.
The story is more about tuning cars rather than driving skills and driving techniques. These "racers" have no skills other than very deep pockets to buy diffrent "special" parts to upgrade their cars thus the series becomes about who has the more powerful car rather than who is the more skilled driver.
The plot has multiple holes and flaws such as the pacing, which is pretty bad.
Some of the plot holes and flaws I found:
1. Why are there no cops on the highway that is known for being the spot where illigal races take place?
2. If the "Devil Z" is cursed and only accepts Akio as it's driver, how come 5 other people drove it just fine?
3. Why would Akio let an inexperienced tunner work on his Z?
4. Why are those trucks going so fast?
5. The pacing is just bad.
6. How come a car that burned down and got in multiple high speed crashes can be repaired?
7. Apparently no one is bothered by dumb ass noobs going at more that 300km/h on populated public roads.
8. The anime keeps showing Reina's feelings about Akio but never delivers the ending.
9. In Initial D the goals of the street racers were to become professional racers, but what is the goal in this anime?
The characters seem to be taken out of cartoons, they get almost no characterization or background story and no development whatsoever.
These "racers" are random people with very little driving experience an no real skill that somehow got their hands on fast cars and decided it is best to race on public populated roads.
The animation is decent and mostly fluid with decent CG. The overall quality of the animation is nothing special or memorable.
The opening theme is decent but the ending theme is pretty bad. The show dosen't have much background music and what music it has is not very good or engaging.
This was not an entertaining series, with poor characters and bad plot as well as races that are boring and don't show anything interesting or exciteing, I found it difficult to finish this series.
Wangan Midnight is a mediocre series, it excels at nothing and it is not intriguing. Even if you really want a cars/racing anime this series is barely worth watching, I would not recommend it.
In the beginning I wondered if the star car was going to be possessed ala Stephen King's Christine, and although that question was never exactly answered, that is not the direction the story took. Wangan is a heartfelt look at street, rather freeway, racing, the people caught in the lifestyle and the cars that obsess them. At times it is almost a tutorial on how to rebuild an engine.
For one reason and another, I've not finished Initial D so I'm not going to make any kind of cross comparison other than saying Initial D didn't capture me the way Wangan Midnight did.
I dated car guys, handed them tools and torqued down timing chain covers . . . .until I broke a bolt or two . . . I drove fast cars and owned them myself. Occasionally, I pretend my sedate Subaru Forester is really a WRX. Consequently, Wangan Midnight spoke to me in a way that may not reach the typical anime fan.
Some folk feel the series is a little slow to reach take off. I didn't notice. I found plenty character development and white knuckle racing action. I also liked the characters who came into the story for an episode or two and, as with the actual racing community, for one reason or another, went a different direction. Some satisfied a need, others chose not to let the obsession rule their life, others devoted their life to the obsession, some with a positive out come, some not so much.
Interestingly, the primary protagonist, is given a James Dean style look, complete with a Rebel Without a Cause white t-shirt and red jacket. The bad luck 240Z is also a reference to the Porsche 1950's actor Dean died in. It is said that his Porsche is cursed. Anyone trying to rebuild it our use its parts got into accidents of their own. And so it is with the Devil Z in Wangan Midnight.
I loved everything about the art except the facial designs of the characters, the females in particular. Apparently, the choice was in deference to the manga it is based on, a manga that goes back to '92, hence the dated look. Soundtrack wise, the music is o.k. but the car sounds are great.
Ultimately, Wangan is about relationships; relationships between people and specific cars, between people who love cars, and between people who love the people who love the cars. If you are even just a little bit of a car geek, make time for Wangan Midnight.
The "other" racing anime, following the enormously popular Initial D.
There is a MASSIVE contingent of the anime-watching car community that has seen this anime up to episode eight. At that point, it pretty much seems to be a cycle of Akio crashing the Z and spending long hours fixing it up again, and it's very easy to quit. I did it myself once, but going back I found that the series comes into its own after that point, producing a truly excellent series about the lives of car enthusiasts. It doesn't hurt that the racing and tuning picks up substantially then, too.
Half the point of
Wangan Midnight seems to be the way the characters are willing to sacrifice their lives, families, and careers for the sake of an ultimately pointless hobby; the series opens with Akio about to drop out of school because of his weak Z31. The emphasis on characters in this series also means that you care quite a bit more about them throwing everything away than you do when, say, a minor character in Initial D begs his girlfriend for money.
But if that's half the point, the other half is what they're willing to sacrifice all that for. This show portrays a whole string of passionate tuners with elaborate backstories about turning wrenches on classic Japanese iron, and even more drivers with an all-consuming thirst for speed. The question of whether the Devil Z has a soul or will of its own hangs in the air clean through the series, but watching Akio develop a relationship with it may be one of the finest depictions of what a sports car means to its driver. Every shot of every racing sequence is pure car porn, which just drives the point home even more.
The racing action is more subtle than Initial D, and is much more concerned with the mechanical aspects of the cars rather than purely with the driving. The soundtrack follows suit, switching from Initial D's manic eurobeat to some kind of orchestral thing, which I think has its own charms.
The art didn't generate any complaints out of me, since I spent my formative years watching Speed Racer dubs and Initial D's horrifyingly-animated First Stage. Someone with a more discerning eye- and more familiar with current animation- may take slight issue. I don't really know.
Sound was excellent. Period. The cars sound great, the soundtrack is moody and awesome, and you don't watch a car show for the voices, but these were pretty good.
Overall, this is a truly great anime for the serious-minded car enthusiast, and I regard it as being on par with such classic car films as "Le Mans" or "Vanishing Point". It takes its technical background seriously and then puts a bunch of great people around a bunch of really fast cars.
PS- No, no one's making 600rwhp on 3,100cc without fuel injection or cross-flow heads. I don't care how many scars your tuner has on his face.