It seems stupid, but it took Japanese manufacturers until 2022 to embrace anime as an advertising tool. It’s only been the most influential Japanese medium for about, oh, the last 30 years. Ironically it’s Acura, the first brand created for the US so that its parent company could cosplay as a luxury marque.But now that they’ve opened that door, they’ve gone all-in, with a whole merchandise line and everything, for the new Integra Type S.
The Acura Integra Type S debuted over the weekend at the Long Beach Grand Prix. It shares all its mechanicals with the Civic Type R, but has completely different sheetmetal and interior. Essentially, it’s a CTR in a business suit.
Acura also managed to squeeze five more horsepower out of the turbo K20C, giving it an even 320. Torque stays the same at 310 lb.-ft. A 6-speed is the only available transmission and a helical LSD comes standard. It comes with bigger brakes and 19-inch wheels, but are two pounds lighter than the 18-inch rims that come standard on the Integra A-Spec.
In addition to the a production ITS in classic white with red interior, Acura also presented its upcoming Pikes Peak Hill Climb race car. It’s decked out in an eye-catching manga-style wrap that makes it look like a comic book illustration come to life.
This is all a tie-in with an ad campaign called Chiaki’s Journey, the aforementioned anime promo. The series of shorts debuted last year with the NSX Type S and is chock full of easter eggs for those who came of age in the tuner era. Season two is all about the Integra Type S and finishes the saga (though of course leaves room for a follow-up).
Even if the story’s a bit melodramatic, the art style is quite good. We even noticed some references to other iconic automotive works like Takeshi Koike’s genre-defining Redline. Like in the anime, Acura plans to run this actual car on Pikes Peak later this year.
Perhaps even more curious than the ads themselves is the fact that Acura has developed a whole merch line around the red-haired Chiaki character. At the LBGP display they had keychains, shirts (including the “DC2” tee that she wears in the anime), diecast cars, and dolls.
The display was a mockup of Chiaki’s race mechanic uncle’s garage which was apparently a time capsule from the 90s. There were period correct posters, a Toshiba combination cathode-ray TV and VHS player with original NSX ads on repeat, some kind of ancient laptop the size of a sheet cake, a horribly mis-proportioned diecast car, and a set of gleaming white DC2 wheels. It was cleverly done, and the non-car people we were with thought it was super cool.
Having seen both in person, we’d have to say that the Integra Type S interior is far superior to the Civic Type R’s. The CTR’s has the misfortune of being based on the regular Civic’s, which is busier than a Richard Scarry book. The Integra’s hews closer to a traditional cockpit, with clear center stack and instruments. The titanium-look start/stop button and shift knob are also neat throwbacks to the ITRs of the golden age.
However, we do like the Civic Type R’s exterior better, now that they’ve discarded all the fake vents and other BS that had marred an otherwise excellent car. The Integra Type S, with its widened fenders, looks much better than its non-Type S siblings, but the otherwise sharp Acura design language that works on bigger cars like the TLX and MDX seems a bit cramped on the compact body. The Civic Type R looks cleaner overall.
While we pooh-poohed the new Integra when it debuted, the addition of the Type S has tempered our rage. It’s a true performance machine and unlike Toyota, Honda didn’t have to share the platform with another automaker to bring it to market. Interestingly, the Integra Type S will be built in Ohio, engine and all, while the new Civic Type R’s are made in Japan.
Anecdotally, we heard a lot of “I thought they stopped making the Integra” comments from casual enthusiasts at Acura’s display. If the cartoon ads help hammer home the nameplate’s return, then good job, Acura. It’s just kind of funny that this anime car, complete with peekaboo sticker, will be racing at one of the most iconic American motorsports events.