For generations, automobile marketers have relied a tried and true method. Whether it’s an elegantly dressed woman stepping out of a luxury sedan in a TV commercial or a mini-skirted model draped over the hood of a sports coupe at an auto show, a quick way to make a car look appealing is by showing it next to an appealing-looking woman.
The company Autoc One is taking that concept one step further, though. What if, instead of showing a cute girl next to the car, you made the car itself a cute girl? You’d end up with something like Shanago Collection, Autoc One’s smartphone game starring anthropomorphized cars from Mazda, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, and more.
Taking its title from sha (one of the readings for the Japanese kanji meaning “car”) and onago (a somewhat esoteric way of saying “girl”), Shanago Collection was released for iOS and Android devices on December 5. According to the official website, the game is set in the year 20XX, when it’s become an everyday occurrence to see girls called shanago speeding all over the country.
▼ Older gamers, try not to feel jaded as you recall the fact that the games of your youth promised you such technological marvels would have become commonplace by, at the latest, 199X.
With the announcement of a shanago race across Japan, it’s up to the player to assemble a team of cute and fast women in order to take the checkered flag.
While the game’s girl/car hybrids are imaginary, the cars they’re based on are very much real. Along with Japanese manufacturers Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Daihatsu, the current version of the game also features models from Italy’s Fiat and Alfa Romeo, plus American Chrysler and Jeep. Some of the currently available characters are:
▼ Mazda Axela, a skilled dancer that’s likely a nod to Mazda’s reputation for excellence in handling and suspension tuning.
▼ Toyota Passo, who’s as girlish as the target market of the compact’s pink-taillight-equipped + Hana trim level.
▼ Honda Fit, with a skirt modeled after the car’s air dam, is listed as an “idol,” which matches the five-door’s status as one of the company’s best-selling models.
▼ Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV may or may not wear her heart on her sleeve, but she does sport the SUV’s side mirrors on her head (and a sheep on her arm).
▼ Nissan Leaf, with fashion as high-tech as the car’s all-electric powerplant
Autoc One promises over 50 shanago are included in the initial release version, which means multiple characters per manufacturer. The developer showed off its Mazda Roadster character at a recent track day for the popular two-seater.
Surprisingly, though, Shanago Collection isn’t a driving game. Instead, it’s based on the simple Japanese board game Sugoroku, in which players roll dice to move forward and try to be the first across the finish line.
There are plenty of tweaks made to the formula to make it fit the racing theme, though. For starters, each shanago can be tuned with parts such as upgraded exhausts and tires, which alter your die to give you better rolls. You can also pick up items like nitro boosts to help you zip past your rivals, and all of the game’s backgrounds are based on roads frequented by auto enthusiasts in Japan. Picking up local delicacies, such as Okinawa’s soki soba, will also give your character an edge in races.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a cute anime girl game without scenes where you sit around and chat with your harem/garage, too.