In this article, we'll look at the reasons that led former Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna (アイルトンセナ) to be so popular in Japan and to have won both the hearts of Brazilians and Japanese.
Senna (1960-1994) is considered by many to be the best racing driver of all time and, in Japan, in addition to great victories, beautiful tributes (including in pop culture) and sympathy.
The unforgettable pilot (unforgettable even for me, who was born years after his death and could only get to know him through videos on youtube and through reports from my parents and grandparents) is still remembered by the Japanese as a courageous and victorious figure.
Senna in Japanese POP Culture
Senna's success in Japan between 1988 and 1994 was so overwhelming that several manga about the pilot were published in the most famous weekly magazines (Shonen Jump, for example) and countless drawings in his honor were made in that period.
In addition, one of Ayrton Senna's big fans was the famous mangaka Akira Toriyama (鳥山明), author of Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump. On one of his trips to Japan, Senna met Toriyama and the two took several photos, exchanged ideas and shared tributes.
Some manga like F1 No Senkou - Ayrton Senna no Chousen and GP Boy were published by Shueisha in the early 90s (1991 and 1992), with good sales and great acceptance.
Of course, in addition to the manga universe, Senna also featured and was the subject of many video game games in Japan. Games like Ayrton Senna Super Monaco GP II is considered a great success within the racing game niche.
This game was released at about the same time as Nigel Mansell's game (in the mid-1990s and 1992) for Super Nintendo, which also pleased the public.
A curious fact is that Senna, according to some sources (such as Journalist and Writer Ernesto Rodrigues), was a fan of the Speed Racer anime. After all, Senna was a great admirer of Japan and the Japanese people and, during all the times he went to the country, he was extremely well received by the Japanese authorities and the population.
Returning to talk about manga it is worth to list some of the manga that paid tribute to Ayrton Senna through commemorative drawings and illustrations. In addition to Akira Toriyama, the mangaka Tsukasa Hojo (北条司) creator of City Hunter, and Noboru Rokuda, creator of F (エフ) also contributed illustrations of the pilot.
Reasons why Senna's popularity is so high in Japan
In addition to putting a small flag of Japan on his helmet (in honor of the Honda team that would bid farewell to MClaren in 1993), Senna gave many interviews to Japanese TV, was the cover of famous magazines and was the subject of numerous special reports .
His way of being and behaving was very pleasing to the Japanese. He was brave, discreet in the hours he should be, he had a fighting spirit, willpower, solidarity and he valued hard work (all of these values very much appreciated within Japanese culture and society).
After his death in 1994, Japanese television reported his last race in prime time. Fuji TV, since 1987, broadcast Formula 1 GPs with great frequency. Japan's Grand Prix (GP) broke television audience records and Senna always put on a show.
Below, we can see the Japanese reaction when they found the idol:
In this other video, we see the reporters' emotion when they have to give the sad news after the 1994 accident:
Senna at the Japanese GP
It was in Japan that Ayrton gave more shows (besides Monaco, of course). It was in the land of the Rising Sun that he won the third F1 world championship (in 1991). Below you can see the end of the race:
Formula 1 vocabulary
- アイルトンセナ = Ayrton Senna;
- レーサー = Race driver;
- レーシングカー = Race car;
- ドライバー = Pilot, Driver;
- ワールドチャンピオン = World Champion;
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