James’ 2017 Ford Mustang GT
Character- IOWA BB-61 Kancolle
Design- Alex Stoops StrayVanity
Print/Installer- Offset SHWA
Everyone has their own unique story. In these spotlights, I want to share their story of becoming a fan of anime and eventually an itasha owner. Please enjoy learning about the Itasha Owners of StrayVanity.
I’ve known James since Summer 2016, and while that isn't a terribly long amount of time, he has become one of the closest friends I have. His kindness and care for others outweighs the stupid jokes he likes to tell, sorry James hahah. Having him trust me with his car means so much to me. Not only did he trust me to design it, but he trusts me to take it to the track and not bust it up. Thank you for believing in all of us James. Your excitement and passion for what you do fuels us all.
So, what originally sparked your interest in Anime?
James- “My interest in Anime started later than most people. In fact it started during my Sophomore Year of High School. I had broken my arm while skateboarding back home from school one day. When I was recovering I started playing “War Thunder” the WW2 themed MMO. I was often on the forums and noticed people referencing an Anime by the name “Girls Und Panzer”. At first, I dismissed the references but I started seeing more pictures of the Anime and fell in love with the fact that it focused so much on World War 2 tanks. I remember watching the first episode and binging the whole season in one night. I loved it and soon I started watching other military themed anime such as “Strike Witches” and “Upotte”.
Alex- “You have always been into those War themed Anime, I remember you let me borrow “Strike Witches” when we first met in hopes that I would draw some of that characters from the show. But what about Kancolle? When did that pop up on your radar?”
James- “As a child I also built models of Battleships and talked with my Grandfather about them for hours on end. So when Kancolle made its premier, I was instantly hooked in as I had always loved Warships. And when they added the USS IOWA to the line-up, I knew she was the one for me.”
Alex- “I imagine also living so close to the ocean really struck home when Kancolle premiered.”
James- “Definitely, I still get to see the USS Iowa when I drive to my College.”
Obviously your favorite anime is the one on your car, what other shows do you enjoy and recommend?
James- “Other shows that I enjoy immensely are “Girls Und Panzer”, “GATE”, “High School Fleet Girls”, and “Initial D”. Though some of these shows are not very popular like High School Fleet Girls and Girls Und Panzer, I still enjoy them and hoard merchandises from the franchise.”
Alex- “I think that is part of what makes anime so interesting. While we generally all enjoy the hits of the season, there are many that never make it big that hit home the most. I honestly was a bit surprised you didn’t want Anchovy from “Girls Und Panzer” on your car considering how many figures and merchandise you have of her!”
When did you first get the Ford Mustang GT?
James- “The Mustang I have now was originally purchased in November of 2016. The car prior to that was a 2016 Ford Mustang Ecoboost but my interest in track cars grew and I wanted the power and torque that the coyote motor had to offer. I looked into other cars like the Camaro but I wanted to modify the car a lot so I could call it my own and the Ford Mustang aftermarket is huge! I have done most of the work to my Mustang on my own and have modified everything suspension wise. The next modification I am looking into is getting some proper bucket seats and a proper SCCA approved cage installed.”
Alex- “You honestly have done most of the work on this car. I remember you took the subframe out in your garage and both your parents and neighbors were so upset haha! It’s so impressive to see what you did to the car without going to a shop.”
Do you remember when we first met at Anime Expo 2016?
James- “Yeah! The day before Anime Expo I saw a post on Anime Sticker Central about a sticker with Shimakaze and the AX logo was being handed out. I immediately wanted one because of my love of Kancolle and my desire meet others interested in cars and Anime. I saw this as a opportunity to make friends that were just as passionate as I am. The first day of Anime Expo I walked around for hours trying to find you so I could get that exclusive sticker. It wasn't till the end of the day that I saw you from the hallway outside. I instantly messaged you to stay where you were and I made my way over.”
Alex- “As I recall you were running over haha. I didn't have many left so that was pretty lucky.”
James- “Yeah, but I got it. I kept thinking, “man what a champ this guy is for doing something like this.” Then you invited me to come to Otaku Thursdays, an Anime based car meet that was in Irvine. Since then our friendship has only grown, I am proud to say that you are one of my closest friends.”
Alex- “Likewise, it’s crazy to see how far we have come and the things we have accomplished over these two years.”
What did you enjoy about the Itasha process?
James- “There are so many moments I remember in the process of designing and wrapping my car. You have not just been a designer on this project but also great friend for helping me fine tune what I wanted and making my dream come true. I think the best moment for me was installing the banner. It was the last piece of the Itasha we installed and finally seeing the car finished was definitely weird, but exciting.”
Alex- “I understand what you mean. Whenever I finish a project, it is a little bittersweet as I know I won’t be working on it anymore. But at the same time I am relieved to see what we created rolling on the streets.”
Since owning the Itasha, what do you enjoy most about it?
James- “I think the one thing about Itasha that has made my life so amazing is making people happy through my car, especially while driving down Sawtelle. Seeing others smiling and shouting compliments is always a treat. Sharing my passion for anime with the world and seeing that people enjoy my way of expression makes me happy. Though the car is primarily a track car and not a show car, it always brings a smile to myself and those around me.”
Alex- “It really is something special when you can instantly connect with someone else while just driving down the street. And now, while everyone may not like Itasha, it is fun to see those who originally hated the idea learn to enjoy it. Just like your Dad’s reaction to your car. I remember you telling me when he first saw it he said, “You did it. I told you not to do it but you did it anyways. It actually looks pretty good though”. That's what makes me happiest. Even though not everyone enjoys anime, they can still appreciate the design and the car.”
Alex- “Thank you James for taking the time to talk about this and share your experiences with everyone. Besides my questions, is there anything else you want to share?”
James- “My last words in this interview is that no matter what gets in your way, always have a goal to keep working towards. Owning an Itasha was something I always strived for and having that goal was something that always kept me working hard at school and work. Keep your goals and dreams close to you, it’s what keeps me excited and looking forward to the future.”