Miscellanea and Ephemeron
11/27/2006 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Project X Datsun Fairlady Z"
Review by Tom Good
In postwar Japan, corporate public relations did not yet exist in its present form, and "the automobile was still widely considered to be nothing but a motorized delivery cart." The idea of an affordable, mass-produced sports car was still "an unrealistic dream within a dream." But in this environment, a few visionaries at Nissan Motors designed and created the car that would eventually become America's best-selling sports car of all time: the Datsun 240Z (known as the Fairlady Z in Japan). This nonfiction manga explains the history of that car, from the origin of the name "Datsun," all the way through design, testing and production.
Two of the heroes in this story are Yutaka Katayama, Nissan Motors head of advertising, and Yoshihiko Matsuo, the young chief designer for the number 4 design studio. Katayama developed his new ideas about public relations. In 1954, he organized the first Tokyo motor show in Hibiya park, which attracted 550,000 people in 10 days. He also saw the potential to promote his cars by entering them in foreign motor sports events and winning recognition by winning races. Matsuo, whose bluntness got him labeled as a "problem worker" early in his career, gave the 240Z its distinctive look, and fulfilled his dream of making a car that would make America take notice.
Though the plot incorporates trivia about design constraints and production materials, the manga's artwork brings it to life as an engaging story, and not just a history lesson or specification sheet. This volume was a page-turner of a read, as well as being educational. I am becoming a real fan of this Project X series. Both this book and Project X Cup Noodle were stories that would never have attracted my curiosity if they weren't in manga form. But after reading them, I discovered that the topics were interesting and well worth my time. Kudos to DMP for bringing this series to an international audience.
See also: Project X Cup Noodle review by Tom Good
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