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So Low You Can’t Find It: Shakotan Boogie

Shakotan Boogie

Shakotan Boogie is a manga about fast cars, hot girls and two guys who are in love with both of them.

The “Shakotan” in the title refers to a type of Japanese lowrider, typically modified to have an extremely low chassis. Tall exhaust pipes are another common feature. 

It’s exactly this sort of fast, cool car that our two teenage heroes manage to get their hands on at the start of the series.  Now, they just need to find the cute girls to go with it …

History of Shakotan Boogie

Shakotan Boogie started out with a manga by Michiharu Kusunoki.  Kusunoki would later go on to create Wangan Midnight, another street racing series that Shakotan Boogie has been compared to.   (Indeed, Shakotan Boogie doesn’t even have its own TV Tropes page, but is a footnote for Wangan Midnight.)

Shakotan Boogie tells the story of Hajime Yamamoto and Koji Watanabe, two second-year high school students.  Hajime was apparently held back a year, so he’s actually 18. Koji refers to him as “sempai.”

These two drive a low-riding Toyota Soarer 2800GT.  They use this vehicle to try to pick up girls, race against tough guys and generally have a good time.  They also get in trouble and have to run from the police sometimes. The manga ran from 1986 to 1996.

Shakotan Boogie Manga

The manga was adapted into a live-action movie by Toei in 1987. In 2017, one reviewer noted that the film was  “virtually unknown in the West, and hardly easy to find in Japan.”  

There doesn’t appear to have been a huge surge in interest in the three years since then.

The film was followed by a series of four OVAs, which were released in 1991-1992.  The OVA episodes are titled “The Scandal Girls,” “A Letter from Komazaki,” “Challenge! Mayumi the 7th” and “Koji-My-Love.”

How Shakotan Boogie Began

With all of the fast cars and the series’ focus on Japan’s street racing subculture, it might seem like a low-rent version of Initial D at first glance. Don’t worry, it’s not.

For one thing, Shakotan Boogie came out a few years before Initial D.  But, more importantly, it’s not really about the cars or even the racing so much as it is about the guys and their funny antics.

In the beginning of the first OVA episode, Hajime introduces Koji to their new ride — a suped-up Toyota. They had previously shared a scooter, so this is a huge upgrade for them.  

Feeling confident with their cool new car, they head out in search of girls.  But they get chased out of an arcade by a group of angry, tough girls who don’t like their style or their attitude. 

They then get shot down multiple times by various different girls who apparently think that they are jerks, idiots, losers or worse.  Their only taker is a suspiciously deep-voiced “woman.”

Their luck changes though, and they finally find a couple of really cute girls, Mariko and Yumi. The girls were looking for a taxi rather than boyfriends, but nevermind. They can talk while they drive them home.

These would-be couples soon run across Akira Shimizu, a rival driver. Mariko and Yumi think that Akira is awesome, although they don’t think much of the girl that he is with.  

There is some trash talk between the two cars, and soon they are racing against him and his Nissan Fairlady Z, nicknamed “Yanky Mate!”  Akira crashes into a building, and the others flee.

Of course, Akira will return later in the series to get his revenge.  

The first episode also features a school festival that includes a gathering of cool car guys and their magnificent machines.   

Later in the series, there is a story about gangs stealing cars and using them for street races.

In the third episode of the OVA, we are introduced to Mayumi the 7th, a mysterious female street racer who drives a Mazda RX-7.

Both the manga and the OVA episodes have a lot of humor to them.  Because the manga lasted ten years, there are a lot of street races, including some downhill mountain runs. There are also a lot of crashes.

Car fans will enjoy identifying all of the different makes and models of cars shown.  It’s the sort of series which likes to throw around the names of specific cars, and even specific engine types and other modifications.

So, Akira Shimizu’s car isn’t just any Fairlady, but a S30Z with G-nose package. (The Fairlady S30Z was known in the United States as a Datsun 240Z.)  Another character has a Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R (KPGC10 or C10 Skyline) with a tuned L28 engine. 

All of the action takes place in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, where manga artist Kusunoki is from.  

The Japanese-language version of Wikipedia states that the original chapter of the manga was based on “Namida no Request,” a 1984 song by The Checkers, a Japanese doo-wop band. The song was the second-best selling single in Japan.

Other Information

In the OVAs, Koji is voiced by Nobuo Tobita (Clovis from Code Geass), while Hajime is Bin Shimada (Broly from Dragon Ball Z).   Their rival Akira is voiced by Ken Yamaguchi (Ashuraman from Kinnikuman).   

Naoko Watanabe (Chi-Chi from Dragon Ball), Masako Katsuki (Tsunade from Naruto), and Ikue Ootani (Pikachu from Pokemon, Chopper from One Piece) have supporting roles. 

No American anime or manga import company has ever picked up Shakotan Boogie and brought it to the United States officially. 

There are unofficial and untranslated versions of the OVA available online. At least one version contains really bad subtitles.

The manga (untranslated in Japanese) is available on Amazon.

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