The renaissance of the Toyota AE86, Eurobeat, endless memes: there’s a weird amount of modern car culture we owe to Initial D, the hugely popular Japanese manga and anime about street racing. Now creator Shuichi Shigeno is back with a new comic project, and I’m excited about it because this time he tackles the future.
The manga is called MF Ghost, and it debuted in last week’s Kodansha’s Young Magazine in Japan. And it takes on what I’ve taken to calling The Big Question: what does the autonomous car future mean for the people who love to drive?
(I won’t link to the scanned versions of the book because I don’t know how legal that is, but it’s not hard to find, and no official or unofficial English editions seem to exist yet. Admittedly I haven’t read it myself yet because I can’t read Japanese. Sorry.)
MF Ghost is set in the 2020s in Japan where, as this video explains, autonomous cars have replaced human-driven ones and the result has been 87 percent fewer traffic accidents. That’s pretty much the goal everyone is after in real life too.
But in this world, there’s the MFG, a huge race on public roads in Japan (presumably a legal and sanctioned one, unlike Initial D’s mountain street racing) where drivers still compete in gasoline-powered cars that they pilot themselves.
So the outcome here, as many have predicted, is that human-driven cars have largely moved to a hobby or a form of sport rather than being key to how we get around. Most people don’t drive, but the enthusiasts do, and they do it competitively.
The story centers around Aiba Jun, who seems to drive that white Nissan GT-R Nismo in the first issue and is in it to win the heart of the girl who does the countdowns for the races, and Kanata Livington, a Japanese driver who trained in England and returns to race in the MFG.
When Kanata goes to get a car for the race—which seems to be a Toyota 86—they mention it’s run by an organizer named Ryou Takahashi, leading fans to speculate whether or not he’s the FC3S-slinging mastermind from Initial D but in the future. This race seems like something he would get into, but it’s not clear yet.
I always enjoyed Initial D, even with all of its extreme cheese and—let’s face it—glorification of street racing. I’m excited Shigeno has turned his eyes to the future of driving; he knows his cars, he’s clearly an enthusiast, and I’m eager to see what his vision of human driving is for the decades to come.
Granted, Initial D was never known for its compelling storytelling, but rather for its racing action and outlandish characters. But I hope Shigeno won’t shy away from asking questions about the future of cars with this new work.
This isn’t the first time anime and manga have taken on the topic of autonomous cars. Opponaut Urambo Tauro wrote a good summary of the early 2000s work ex-Driver, where human drivers in the future are tasked with hunting down rogue autonomous cars with vintage Lotuses and Subarus. That show was kind of obscure in its day, but it’s become weirdly relevant again with the advent of autonomous vehicles.
We’ll see what’s in store for us with MF Ghost. Also, I hope its inevitable anime adaptation has Eurobeat. Everything is made better with Eurobeat.