SS: The Comic Book For Rally Fans

By now I’m guessing most of you know that one of my hobbies is collecting comic books, or more specifically Japanese comic books about cars. I’ve profiled a few of my favorite titles here in the past, and now that we have our rally roots theme going on I thought I’d talk a little about Special Stage or SS as it’s more commonly known.

S-S copy

Written by Shohei Harumoto, SS was published between 2000 and 2003 and spans nine volumes. Compared to Initial D or Wangan Midnight it’s a relatively minor title, but it still had a decent following when it was originally published.

S-S-5 copy

Of course at that time, Japanese automakers were heavily involved in the global rally scene with Mitsubshi and Subaru battling fiercely in WRC and also in dealerships across the planet. When looking through SS you can certainly sense the enthusiasm for rally that existed in Japan at that time.

S-S-15 copy

But SS is not about a glamorous professional driver attacking the WRC circuit. That would actually make for pretty boring reading. Instead, the story follows the adventures of a man known as Daibutsu, a middle-aged retired rally driver now living uneventfully with his wife and two kids.

S-S-10 copy

After leaving his career as a driver, he now works as a mechanic at a small workshop called Nishiyama Motors – and it’s this part of the story that’s exactly what I like about this and other Japanese automotive comics.

S-S-16 copy

Rather than a young powerful hero, Daibutsu is a bit of an underdog who looks back fondly at his days as a driver in the All Japan Rally Championship.

S-S-12 copy

The comic features a number of flashback scenes which go back to Daibutsu’s young rally days, featuring cars like a TE27 Corolla…

S-S-11 copy

… and later TE71 and AE86 Corollas.

Mechanical stars

S-S-2 copy

The real star of the show though is a Group B Starion 4WD that was crashed and then abandoned for decades inside the garage at Nishiyama Motors.

S-S-3 copy

The story really begins when Daibutsu gets hold of the exiled Group B car and then takes it out for a series of adventures, engaging in street racing and trying to relive his glory days.

S-S-17 copy

Along the way Daibutsu meets all sorts of characters, some of whom are old friends and rivals from his past, while others are from the younger generation of street racers.

S-S-8 copy

Quite a variety of cars are featured during the course of the story, including several Porsche 911s, Nissan GT-Rs, Supras…

S-S-13 copy

…and of course Japan’s iconic rally machines, the Evolution and Impreza, get plenty of ink.

S-S-9 copy

Now the idea of a resurrected Group B Starion blasting down the Tokyo Expressway or racing through Hakone mountains might be a little unrealistic, but that’s what makes SS so fun.

S-S-14 copy

And while the premise might take a little stretch to believe ,the technical details and accuracy of the actual automotive material is top notch.

S-S-6 copy

Time and time again, it’s one of the things I love most about these comics. You can tell they are made by car geeks, for car geeks. There are detailed descriptions of both the history of the cars and their technical features, all while keeping the human side of the story engaging.

SpecialStage

SS was actually popular enough that in 2008 a full length live action film was released based on the comic, and it remains surprisingly true to the manga storyline and characters.

SpecialStage1

If you’d like to watch the film, you can find a link to the entire thing right here. As far as racing action movies go, the movie actually looks rather well done, and it shares much of the comic’s accuracy.

S-S-18 copy

Aside from being a great piece of entertainment for both rally enthusiasts and gearheads in general, SS is yet another example of just how obsessive the car hobby in Japan is.

S-S-19 copy

To me, just the simple idea that there exists a highly accurate comic book based around an obscure rally machine from the ’80s is completely awesome. Then there’s the fact that SS is just one of many car comics released in Japan over the years.

S-S-7 copy

As I’ve said before, who needs fantasy stories about supernatural warriors and space aliens when you can have one about a Group B Mitsubishi Starion blowing away everything on the road?


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24 comments
Jordan_Burgess
Jordan_Burgess

I wish I could read Japanese, that way I could appreciate these comics much more. I guess I'll just stick to looking at the pretty pictures you post :) 

Han_theman
Han_theman

reading Capeta now ~ again a great comic with technicality truth all along !

apex_DNA
apex_DNA

"...who needs fantasy stories about supernatural warriors and space aliens when you can have one about a Group B Mitsubishi Starion blowing away everything on the road?"

Exactly.

mbretschneider
mbretschneider

ooook, now someone just puts up the link with subtitles, please


Amin_nfs
Amin_nfs

I really need to read Japanese comics about cars, I've read the entire Initial D series, and can't wait for the release of the future chapters. But I need more, I can't get enough of that kind of work!

MattClarke
MattClarke

Good movie, there should be one around with English subs. just cant remember where.

PaulDYuen
PaulDYuen

Thank you so much for this post! Your last post on over rev! had me blazing through all 90 something chapters in a few days. 

Look forward to this and I hope you've got a lot more !

Max_Ryde
Max_Ryde

We then have to talk about some Michel Vaillant comics, like "L'inconnu des 1000 pistes"

NFS918
NFS918

anybody know any sites online you can read comics like this but in english? lol

DrnkJawa
DrnkJawa

Wonder if Mike ever read the manga called Countach

TomRich
TomRich

I have to admit I was totally unaware of this too - Certain times I'd heard it mentioned suddenly make more sense now that I know what it is though haha :D Many thanks for the eduction.

tbtstt
tbtstt

I had no idea there was a rally-inspired manga (should have guessed really as there is a manga for everything else!). My job for lunchtime is now to try and track down some copies!

oldguy
oldguy

I love these articles Mike. My wife not so much. I'm always trawling Japanese ebay afterwards to try and find a copy of the manga. Keep the stories coming!

nikhiggz
nikhiggz

@MattClarke if you our anyone can find one with English sub please post here. Thanks

BenD
BenD

@Max_Ryde Oh good one Michel Vaillant ! I would really like to know if this comics is famous outside France or Belgium.

ToyotaSupraMan
ToyotaSupraMan

@Max_Ryde And the movie it "inspired", 24 Hours (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0307156/)

 It has a simple plot (good guy in blue cars, very bad guys in red cars), ridiculous scenes (protagonist driving blindfolded and scaring the shit out of the passanger, LeMans prototypes driving on the highway racing against the clock to enter qualifying) and a typical movie-style race finish where the good guys make a comeback and win by inches.

tbtstt
tbtstt

@NFS918 I'd be happy to find this online in Japanese! Tried to find the comics to buy last night, but couldn't find them anywhere.

apex_DNA
apex_DNA

@DrnkJawa Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it was mentioned on here before.

Max_Ryde
Max_Ryde

@ToyotaSupraMan @Max_Ryde The movie is a piece of shit compared to the comics. Haha, it was so bad... I was at le Mans the year that they raced the "Leader" Panoz and the Vaillante for the movie.

DrnkJawa
DrnkJawa

@apex_DNA @DrnkJawa Did you mean by Mike or on the Comments? Ive seen only the Initial D article as a starter for all of this

apex_DNA
apex_DNA

Yeah I believe Mike has mentioned Countach before, probably a year or 2 ago.


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