[From August Issue 2013]
Over the past few years, various “itai” items, ranging from inkan (stamps), to cars, have gone on sale. “Itai,” which literally means pain, refers to designs that boldly incorporate manga or anime characters; because these appear rather itaitashii (pitiful), they’ve been dubbed “itai” for short.
“Itataku” (pitiful taxis) emblazoned with anime (cartoon) character designs began to appear in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, a year ago. The idea was dreamed up by TAKEUCHI Norihito, the head of marketing strategy for Choei Kotsu Corporation. When he was thinking of ways to make his taxi company stand out from the competition, a photograph of an “itasha” (pitiful car) caught his eye.
The first model incorporated the official mascot of the TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa. “It doesn’t matter if the character isn’t famous. It is more important that people see the taxis driving through the city and say, ‘What on earth was that?’ to each other, thus creating a sensation,” says Takeuchi. The existence of the itataku spread steadily by word of mouth.
To keep costs down, the body design and printed sticker attachments were done manually by Takeuchi and friends who were supportive of his scheme. In order that the cars didn’t become an over familiar sight, just three to five taxis from a fleet of 85 are run as itataku with designs that are updated about every three months. A total of 15 taxi designs were created in one year.
The itataku also had a positive effect within the company. More and more customers want to ride in an itataku, and the Choei Taxi name has become well known, so that radio calls increased by about 20%. In addition, Takeuchi feels that since these taxis attract attention, it helps drivers develop as they are conscious of being in the spotlight.
Most importantly, “complaints are down,” Takeuchi laughs. “Also, customers probably don’t feel like complaining when they are in these kind of taxis.” Next time around, by involving customers in the process of selecting characters and so forth, he is planning to transform the itataku into a taxi made by everyone.
“Itai” business suits have also gone on the market. YOSHIDA Ryuichi started up this Osaka-based business suit project. Yoshida is a third generation tailor, but has also been interested in anime since he was a high school student. Bringing the two together resulted in the “ita-suits.” He received a better reaction than he expected, after exhibiting suits with cartoon characters printed into their lining at the Tokyo International Anime Fair last March, and decided to begin producing them commercially.
The business really began to take off last May. Unexpectedly, besides the original target market of young men in their 20s to 30s, women are also driving growth. Recently the suits were exhibited at the 14th Japan Expo held in France, and Yoshida recognizes that demand exists both domestically and overseas.
These ita-suits demonstrate that it’s possible to create products that combine clothing with printing techniques in a way that is not possible with normal suits. However, Yoshida has set his sights on expanding beyond his current business activities into a different field. “Currently, there is no place that provides information on other ‘ita-items.’ I would like use my ita-suits business to launch a platform which will bring together other ita-items under one roof,” he says, looking to the future.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo