The Nisei Week Showoff produced by Ken Miyoshi is one of the shows I never have to think twice about. If it's happening, I'm doing my damndest to show up. Period.
Why is the Nisei Showoff a must attend for me? Over the years the Nisei Week Showoff became one of the most highly respected shows of the season since it tends to bring out the best builds and many figureheads from the early days of the culture. Recently though, the Nisek Week Showoff has evolved into something new. Last year, the "Nisei Showoff" became the "Dekocar Showoff," the first car show to have a focus primarily on "Itasha" style cars.
If you have no idea what "Dekocar" or "Itasha" mean, these are cars that prominently feature custom graphics that are based on anime (Japanese animation), manga (Japanese comic books), or even Japanese video game characters. Chances are you've seen a car like this before if you've been to any import car show within the last five years or so.
As far as the word "dekocar" specifically, Ken Miyoshi himself explains it best: "'Dekocar' is coined from a new term by shortening 'decoration car' —the closest genre would be 'Itasha' from Japan, but [as] with anything that hits America, this country adds their own flair. It's sort of similar to what happened to sushi. The pure form of sushi came from Japan to the States, but then we add something new, as new types of sushi were born like the California roll , Volcano roll, etc."
Dekocars have been around for a long time, but recently they have really grown in popularity and the presentations have gotten more detailed and elaborate. As for the reason of the Dekocar rise, Ken attributes it to being a popular alternative to expensive and hard-to-find exterior modifications.
"Upgrades like body kits are visual but mostly made in many quantities and model specific. With Dekocar, the owners can design, print, and install these on various models but still create a full on 'one-off' design upgrade."
I can also add that Dekocars don't only have to be about the exterior either. There were more than a few Dekocars at the show that had their interiors full of resin statues, toys, plushies, even "waifu" body pillows featuring the same character that adorned the exterior.
One Dekocar truck owner even turned their truck bed into a ball pit for a collection of manga plushies.
Creating a Dekocar is also a great way to create a drivable shrine to someone's favorite anime, manga, or a video game character. In fact, there was a Toyota Celica GT-Four at the show completely themed around the Asuka character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series.
However, I think the Dekocar that caught the most attention was a genuine RWB Porsche completely themed out to the Gundam Thunderbolt manga series. The execution of the exterior graphics had the level of quality you'd expect from an RWB build.
Though, a Dekocar doesn't need to be based on an existing character. There was a white Mitsubishi Lancer at the event completely themed to the "Boosette" and "Bowsette" meme characters that made the Internet rounds not long ago.
This actually is a perfect segue to my next point: another popular trend with Dekocars is to include several JDM-style one-off bumper stickers that are often times based on sexual humor, or are just plain sexual.
Believe me when I tell you that despite some of the things you see in the gallery, there was a lot of stuff I just couldn't show you here. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it can be a little surprising if you're not expecting it. What is "art" if not to push boundaries?
In addition to the Dekocars on display, there was an entire section of the show serving as an "artist alley." This was a great way for local, independent artists to show off their manga- and anime-inspired work or even do on-the-spot commissioned work.
At its core, the Dekocar Showoff embodies the marriage of Japanese and American cultures, which is essentially part of what Downtown LA's annual Nisei Festival is all about. If you're in the area next August and you're a fan of cars and/or Japanese culture, then you should definitely check out the next Dekocar showoff and Nisei Festival.