Creating an Itasha

What is Itasha? Simply put, Itasha is a Japanese term for the art of decorating your vehicle with anime, manga or video game characters.

Itasha is so popular in Japan that it has its own events (like the Itasha carshow at Comiket) and a huge following. Fans of anime, manga and video game characters express themselves though Itasha with the most amazing designs you can see on any car. You do not need to be a car enthusiast to enjoy Itasha. ANYONE can do it to ANY vehicle. And the results are almost always astonishing.

I’m sure most of you have seen Deneice’s (our Convention Chairman’s) Lucky Star Nissan Cube around or at various events. Yes, she drives it to work everyday. A few weeks ago, we decided to make another one with a Vacaloid theme.

As with any art, we started with a simple design. I had created a graphic with Miku, Luka, Len and Rin in Photoshop on our friend, Bryan’s car. We loved it.

The next step was to get permission from our friends at Crypton Future Media for the use of the artwork, and have them send us high resolution images. We quickly got all the needed paperwork and digital art files. Now we were ready to make digital art into reality.

I sent the final artwork to our friends at Display Graphics. The owner’s son, Dak who is also an anime fan, worked on it.

After printing on 3M premium film, the vinyl was carefully weeded. This means removing the white ‘space’ of the vinyl between the artwork, which is not needed.

It is very exciting to see your favorite characters come to life with vibrant colors. “Hatsune Miku desu!”

This is our friend Bryan’s 2011 Honda CR-Z. The car needed to be prepped. This usually  means, clean it very well and remove any wax, which prevents the vinyl from sticking properly. Then measuring is done so we know exactly where the graphic goes.

Now for a test fit. Yes! It fits perfectly. You can see Miku’s hair wraps nicely around the wheel well.

We realize one big issue will be trying to get Miku’s hair wrap around the door handle.

Now that we know how it fits and the car is prepped, we ‘mask’ the the vinyl. This simply means put a sticky paper over it so it stays in place when we apply it on the car. Kind of like putting on a giant sticker, but in this case, since it’s so big, you can only do parts of it at a time.

Here the mask is applied over the entire vinyl. Pretty cool stuff.

We place the big sticker in place and tape it on the car, so it wont move when we start applying it on the body.

The back of the sticker is carefully removed, a portion at a time, and Dak uses a squeegee to apply the vinyl to the car. This is were a lot of skill comes into play.

Since vinyl is more flexible when headed, Dak used a heatgun (like an industrial  blow dryer) on Miku’s hair, so it can wrap around the complex curves of the car.

The masking is now pulled off to reveal the sticker. Hello Rin and Len. Hi Luka!

Dak works on applying the vinyl around the various curvy surfaces of the car. You can see part of Miku’s hair wrapped around the door handle of the car. All the characters look stunning! Very cool job!

Hi Miku!!!

The full length Miku went on the hood, and positioned so her hair flows with the curve on the hood. The left side is left white because that’s where the Anime Matsuri and Import Reactor logos go.

The next day, we placed the car at the Edwards MarqE Theater to a warm reception from many people.

While many people knew what Anime Matsuri was, many of them did not know what Vocaloid was. Nothing like educating the public on the amazing world of Japanese Pop Culture.

We were very excited to see the smiles on people’s faces after seeing the car. They took pictures, asked questions, and made friends with us. We also made more fans out of people who did not know who Hatsune Miku was.

This vehicle is now on many people’s cellphones, and many people went home to Google the word ‘Vocaloid’.

We started Anime Matsuri six years ago to promote Japanese culture here in Houston, Texas and the United States and to show people what an amazing world this is. Itasha is for everyone, anywhere. Do not be afraid to express yourself. Whatever your vehicle is, make it more colorful with anime characters!

We will have a contest and will give out an Itasha package to some of our attendees. Stay tuned!