Midnight Years

Wangan Midnight is a typically epic Japanese comicbook streetracing story that ran from 1990 to 2015. Older gamers grew up with it like a sibling. To younger gamers it’s more like a parent – present since before your world existed. Just a fact of life, presumably eternal.

The Wangan is the longest, straightest road in Japan, in Tokyo bay. Sounds like there couldn’t be too much drama driving in a straight line, but the manga did a quarter-century and there have been 10 arcade game versions since the original Namco release in 2004. This one – Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 6 – is the latest, from summer 2018.

Wangan Midnight’s character-driven car-modding teen-em-up is an alternative reality. And if it’s lived longer than you then maybe its reality is more real than yours.

So you have this parallel dimension where things are OK. Life is simple and you just race cars on open roads, weaving slick through the traffic of life. The police are there but what you’re doing isn’t really illegal. In fact it’s what you’re supposed to do: race, upgrade your car, and race some more.

You load your car from last time, saved on a smart card – your school-pocket totem from your higher life.

The seatback cradles your head and shields you from the world, just your friends’ wheels in the corners of your eyes.

Peddles, wheel, gearstick, screen; feet, hands, face. Plugging the world into you like electrodes on your brain.

Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people