Look Both Ways: The Tragic History of Truck-kun From Astro Boy to Zombieland Saga

truck kun about to hit a young boy

Motor vehicles have been one of the leading factors in anime character deaths within the last while. Just hear me out on this because there’s a reason the infamous Truck-kun has gained notoriety as of late. He, along with his friends Car-chan and Train-senpai have been mowing down innocent people since day one. Along with becoming a meme and regular occurrence in plots, it seems Truck-kun is most often used to move the story along. 

This trope, however, may as well happen to anyone in real life and can be overused to the point of trying to make something dramatic happen. If it’s not progressing the narrative, a motor vehicle death will often be used as part of the protagonist’s tragic backstory and help motivate them to action. It can also spark the fires of other characters to either exert revenge or develop their radical ideals. 

Let’s unpack some of Truck-kun’s past and reevaluate his deadly legacy. Everyone has to start out somewhere, so we’ll be analyzing both retro and current anime to see Truck-kun’s eternal torment. First, we’ll begin with a classic. 

Astro Boy — The Unfortunate Origin Story

astro boy on operating table

Let’s take it back to the unfortunate origin story of Tobio Tenma, aka Astro Boy. Often seen as an iconic character and one of the first anime hits overseas, Astro Boy is a good starting point to analyze the role of Truck-kun in anime history. In the original 1963, 1980, and 2003 animated series, Tobio’s death occurs when he takes his father’s toy car out for a spin, only to crash into an oncoming truck that kills him. This devastates Tobio’s father, Dr. Tenma, spurning him to recreate his deceased son as Astro Boy.  

doctor tenma grieves tobio after getting hit by Truck-kun

In a way, his death could’ve been prevented had Dr. Tenma gave him more attention and time instead of focusing on his work. As a result, he felt neglected and borrowed his father’s car to try and get his attention. Different iterations of the series depict them slightly differently, but the events that lead to his death are still the same. Although it’s a tragedy, his transformation into Astro Boy did give him a second chance of life. 

Magical Princess Minky Momo — The Death That Shocked the World

Minky momo about to get run over by Truck-kun

If you thought Mami’s death in Puella Magi Madoka Magica was shocking, wait until you get a load of what Minky Momo had to go through. The character was very popular during her time in the early 80s and was an influential magical girl that popularized the genre. Much like the My Little Pony series, she was originally created to sell toys aimed at younger girls and build an audience from that demographic. However, it also caught the attention of older male fans who were charmed by her cuteness. This development is often cited as one of the originators of lolicon otaku subculture. 

minky momo truck-kun collateral damage

So you’d think the best thing to do after captivating such an audience is to keep Momo alive right? Well, Truck-kun may have had some other ideas. Enter episode 46, where Momo is killed by an incoming truck carrying children’s toys after losing her magical powers. It’s a real gut punch indeed if you’re a hardcore fan, but thankfully her death was temporary as she was revived later on. Nonetheless, this notorious moment shocked just about everyone who watched it and grew more infamous many years later.  

Needless to say, Momo’s death opened up opportunities for the magical genre to dabble in darker themes and storylines involving key characters. Her death was even the subject of an urban legend that linked the broadcasting of episodes to earthquakes and other natural disasters. Additionally, cast members of the anime have also developed various ailments after the show aired. Who knew a truck death of a beloved anime character could be so impactful? 

Yu Yu Hakusho — Yusuke’s Redemption

yusuke saves boy from car-chan

Yu Yu Hakusho reminds me of Jujutsu Kaisen in that both protagonists deal with bad circumstances and work hard to change their fate. This time around, Car-chan gets the spotlight as she strikes down Yusuke and kills him in the first episode of his anime. He died trying to save a young boy playing with a ball in the street and is mourned greatly by family and friends afterwards. Despite that, he finds himself turned into a spirit. 

This selfless act caught the denizens of the Underworld by surprise because had he not interfered, he and the boy would’ve been safe. For his heroism, however, Yusuke is given the chance to his body after passing a series of tests. While he initially refuses, he ultimately accepts the deal after seeing how sad his closest friend and relatives were at his funeral. 

yu yu hakusho yusuke finding out he's a ghost

It’s interesting to see how a motor vehicle death kickstarts one of the best Shonen Jump series at its time. Had he not done anything and stuck to his delinquent ways, you could argue the story would’ve been different and Car-chan wouldn’t have struck him down. 

Fuuka — A Difference in Approach

fuuka about to be hit by Truck-kun

The manga and 2017 anime adaptation of Kouji Seo’s Fuuka manga alter the fate of its main heroine, Fuuka Akitsuki, very differently. In the manga, she’s killed by a speeding truck on her way to her band’s performance. She just started to date Yuu Haruna and the success of her band had her thinking things were going her way. Her death is made more tragic by this fact and her presence is eventually supplanted by a second heroine named Fuuka Aoi. 

fuuka and yuu embrace

The anime spared Fuuka’s disastrous fate by avoiding the truck collision at the last minute. She and Yuu’s relationship gradually builds from there as the anime’s ending strongly implies they get together. It changes the story’s dynamic a lot and I suspect this was done because the anime staff knew it wasn’t getting a second season, so they decided to create either own closure for the story. It looks like Truck-kun won’t get his way here as he had hoped. 

Konosuba (And Other Isekai) — Getting Reincarnated the Hard Way

konosuba kazuma death
This is going to be my face at my funeral.

Konosuba plays on the motor vehicle death trope in a not-so-subtle way. Our unlucky protagonist Kazuma tried to save a girl from an oncoming Truck-kun. He was successful in saving her life, but unlike Yusuke, however, his death was far from honorable. Kazuma died as a result of shock from the impact, peeing his pants soon afterwards. Making matters worse, he’d find out later that the truck was not actually going at a speed that would kill the girl. In a sense, Kazuma’s efforts were meaningless, and had he done something else, he would’ve lived. It’s kind of a cynical outlook, but he can at least enjoy his days adventuring with an unsavory harem of girls. 

As isekai media goes, one of the easiest ways to reincarnate a main character into another world is getting Truck-kun or Train-senpai to run them over. Various isekai anime like Mushoku Tensei, Saga of Tanya the Evil, and Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! have killed their leads this way to start their adventure. This is where Truck-kun and friends have been getting the most work done because with an influx of isekai anime and manga, you need plenty of motor vehicles to run down potential protagonists. 

girl saving little girl from Truck-kun

These deaths have been spoofed in series like Isekai Transporter where a Thai man purposely runs down people to send them to other worlds for a living. Another manga series titled Goodbye! Isekai Tensei finds a princess from the other world reincarnating the hero by force in his modern setting. She even literally drove the truck herself to mow him down. 

Zombieland Saga — Flipping the Standard

zombieland saga sakura killed by truck-kun

The funny thing about Zombieland Saga is that its lead heroine, Sakura Minamoto, gets hit by a truck almost immediately in the first episode. At this point, Truck-kun has cemented his place as a common killer of anime characters and an Internet meme. I feel that the anime did this as a tongue-in-cheek joke to throw us off of what we expected to happen to Sakura when she got on the road. While she does get hit very gruesomely, it’s also a weirdly funny sequence because of the intrusive screamo metal music inserted in. It’s so memorable that you can even pose the Sakura Nendoroid in this position with Truck-kun fully displayed. 

sakura minamoto truck-kun death

We’ve gone through many decades of anime to show Truck-kun’s destructive history. He and his vehicle friends are truly a force to be reckoned with and anime characters should beware. You can get killed by an enemy or a natural disaster. But, it really sucks when something you use as transportation suddenly kills you instead. All in all, please look both ways when you’re crossing the street because Truck-kun may just be around the corner. 

© Astro Boy / Osamu Tezuka / Mushi Production 1963 © Magical Princess Minky Momo / PRODUCTION REED 1982 © Yoshihiro Togashi 1990-1994, "Yu Yu Hakusho," Pierrot/ Shueisha © “Fuuka"" by Kouji Seo / Weekly SHONEN MAGAZINE / KODANSHA Ltd. © FUNA / Itsuki Akata / Earth Star Entertainment / Noukin Production Committee © 2019 Natsume Akatsuki / Kurone Mishima / KADOKAWA / KonoSuba Production Committee © ZOMBIE LAND SAGA PARTNERS
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