Toyota Mirai manga: hydrogen fuel cell beats electric cars, plug-in hybrids


Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Manga are comics created in Japan, conforming to a style set more than 100 years ago and still very much a part of popular culture.

While they may look like no more than light entertainment, they're widely read by people of all ages—and sometimes used to market commercial products.

A year ago, one was even used to explain the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car before it was launched in its home market of Japan.

DON'T MISS: 2016 Toyota Mirai: First Drive Of Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Sedan (Dec 2014)

The excerpts you see here come from Japanese auto aficionado magazine Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502, which carries a publication date of January 4th, 27.

Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502, covering Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle

Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502, covering Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle

That's not a misprint. In a throwback the West hasn't seen since ancient Rome, Japanese companies often use dates based on the year of the current emperor's reign.

This doesn't just apply to publications; this dating system may be used on high-tech components, too.

Motorfan NMSE devotes each issue to an upcoming vehicle; issue 502 happens to be about the Mirai.

Tucked into 80 pages of introductory photos, renderings, specifications, and text is—what else?—a short manga that chronicles the story of a fictionalized Mirai early adopter.

CHECK OUT: Toyota Mirai Spawning Entire Family Of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Models?

We're pleased to translate for its readers' merriment, thanks to the heroic patience of Mrs. Klippenstein.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: We have reproduced only two sections of the first page of this four-page comic, under the U.S. doctrine of fair use. Click on the Motorfan NMSE link to view the entire manga.]

The characters in the Mirai comic are adapted from Doraemon, a popular kids’ comic book, television show, and merchandising empire.

In the comics, Doraemon—a robot cat from the 22nd century—befriends Nobita, a hapless young boy who’s occasionally teased by rich kid Suneo.

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

In this comic, Mizuemon—a robotic, um, thermos bottle?—helps Sobita, a hapless middle-aged man who’s teased by next-door neighbor Soneo.

Reminder: Japanese comics are read right-to-left, then top-to-bottom: basically, the mirror image of the way you'd read an English comic book.

Note that a clearly recognizable Mirai triumphs over what is clearly a battery-electric Nissan Leaf, as well as a range-extended BMW i3 REx and, surprisingly, Toyota's own Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

Here's our best effort at a translation of the entire manga.

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Page 1

Row 1:            Title:                The Mirai [future] has arrived.

                        Badge:             Mirai Special Manga

                        Subtitle:          A simulation of how one family purchased the Toyota Mirai

ALSO SEE: First 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel-Cell Car Delivered in California (Nov 2015)

Row 2-1:                                 CHAPTER 1: Are fuel cell cars really worth buying?

                                                 Thinking about the purchase, part 1.

Row 2-2:         Sobita:             Mizuemon! Mizuemon! We've got a big problem...

Row 2-3:         Mizuemon:      What's wrong, Sobita? You're 45 years old, why're you crying?

                        Sobita:             Soneo said “your car is an environmental wreck”.

                        Sound FX:      It's frustrating, darn it!

Row 2-4:         Mizuemon:      You mean that thing?

                        Sound FX:      V6 24-valve turbo ox-drawn cart!!

Row 2-5:         Sobita:             Yeah, that! I want to ditch that clunker and get an eco-car!

Row 3-1:         Mizuemon:      Then how about this?

                        Sobita:             Yeah! Let’s give it a test drive!

Row 3-2:         Sobita:             Wow, nice torque! It’s quiet – and feels like a superior ride.

Row 3-3:                                 One point: EV Pros and Cons

                                                Pro: no emissions, good acceleration, cheap to recharge

                                                Con: limited range, not many charging stations [wait, what? - editor]

Row 3-4:         Sobita:             Uh-oh – I drained the battery fast!

Row 3-5:         Sobita:             Phew, we arrived at the charging station.

Row 4-1:         Mizuemon:      It’ll take 8 hours to recharge to 100% (on a 200-volt circuit) but to fast-charge is 30 minutes.

Row 4-2:         Sobita:             Whaaa?  It'll take too long!

                        Sound FX:      Time is money!

                        Sound FX:      Aren't you unemployed?

Row 4-3:         Mizuemon:      Well, how about this?  A Plug-in Hybrid.

                        Sound FX:      Cool!

Row 4-4:         Mizuemon:      There’s lots of choice. This one is a “Range-Extended EV”.

                        Sound FX:      Nice! Yeah!

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Page 2

Row 1-1:                                 One point: PHV and EREV Pros and Cons

                                                Pros: can go further (PHV), can use the engine to recharge the battery (EREV)

                                                Cons: creates emissions in gasoline mode

Row 1-2:         Mizuemon:      With this you don’t have to worry about finding charging stations.

                         Sobita:             Yeah, but pure EV’s are quiet, and they’re ultra-eco cars.

Row 1-3:         Mizuemon:      Then how about this! The hydrogen fuel cell vehicle!

                        Sobita:             Wow!

Row 1-4:                                 One point: FCV pros and cons

                                                Pros: no emissions, long range

                                                Cons: very few stations

Row 1-5:         Sobita:             That's the one! I'll choose this one!

                         Sound FX:      heh heh heh

Row 2-1:                                 CHAPTER 2 – What to consider when buying a Mirai

                                                Thinking about the purchase, part 2.

Row 2-2:         Sobita:             Honey! Kids! Family meeting! I've chosen our next family car - the Toyota Mirai!

                         Wife:               How much is it?

Row 2-3:         Sobita:             Uh, um... Mizuemon!

                        Mizuemon:      7.236 million yen  (US $57,500)

Row 2-4:         Wife:               [censored]

                        Sound FX:      slap!

Row 2-5:         Mizuemon:      Ma'am! Calm down. There's an incentive program.

Row 3-1:                                 One point: Mirai pricing

                                                The vehicle price is 7.236 million yen, but the expected government incentive is 2 million yen, making the net cost about 5.2 million yen.

Row 3-2:         Sobita:             Let’s ask for more details at the dealership.

                        Background:   Toyota Dealer

Row 3-3:         Robot:             The Mirai comes in one trim level.

                        Sobita:             Tsk! There's no GRMN version? (GRMN = fancy trim level on some Toyota vehicles, at least in Japan)

                        Mizuemon:      Ha! You’re dreaming!

Row 3-4:         Sobita:             Since it’s expensive even after the incentive, can I finance it?

                        Robot:             Um, er, yes, that is, I think so...

                        Mizuemon:      Why are you using katakana script…? [Katakana is generally reserved for foreign words, but the Robot is speaking regular Japanese]

Row 3-5:         Sobita:             If we buy it today, when will it arrive?

                        Robot:             Um, perhaps, er, maybe ... in 2015.

Row 4-1:         Sobita:             Will the car be available at all the dealers?

                        Caption:          [robot explodes because it can’t answer this question]

                        Mizuemon:      Gulp!

Row 4-2:                                 One point: it will take more time for details to be released publicly.

                                                The FCV will first be provided to Toyota’s affiliate companies so the timeline for regular buyers is not yet decided. It’s thought that Toyota dealers and Toyopet dealers with hydrogen stations [in their regions?] will distribute it.

Row 4-3:         Sobita:             Okay, so maybe I have to wait for it. Now, my garage has a low ceiling - will it fit in our parking space at home?

                        Robot:             Yes! Nothing to worry about, sir! The Mirai is 1535 mm high so it'll definitely fit, even in the “vertical” parking lots.

Row 4-4:         Sobita:             [sarcastic] That Robot looks sharp now, because these are questions he can actually answer.

                        Sobita:             OK, we'll buy it.

Row 4-5:         Sobita:             Awright! Now, I can keep up with Soneo!

                        Sound FX:      There he goes again...

                        Mizuemon:      Yeah, but you won’t take possession of the car for a long time…

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Page 3

Row 1-1:         Panel:              CHAPTER 3 – things to keep in mind before driving off in a Mirai

Row 1-2:                                 …in 2015…

                        Sobita:             Today’s the day!

Row 1-3:         Mizuemon:      Ooh…

                        Wife:               It’s futuristic!

Row 1-4:         Wife:               The cabin is spacious.

                        Robot:             Because it seats four, even though there’s space for five, there’s a lot of room for everyone.

                        Sound FX:      Spaaaaacious

Row 2-1:         Sobita:             The trunk is pretty big, too – hold on, can the rear seats fold down?

                        Robot:             Unfortunately not, on account of the hydrogen tanks being behind the back seats.

Row 2-2:         Sobita:             Then I guess I’ll have to use the roof…

                        Sound FX:      splat

                        Robot:             Sir! Please take the giant squid off the Mirai!  [Japanese readers would’ve found this hilarious - contributor]

Row 2-3:                                 There are two fuel tanks, located behind the rear seat rest. The designers tried to avoid constraining the cabin space.

Row 2-4:         Sobita:             Is there any special maintenance for this fuel cell car?

Row 2-5:         Robot:             I’ll be frank: there is.

Row 2-6:         Robot:             You need to switch out the ion [exchange] filter.

                        Sobita:             Oh.

Row 3-1:         Robot:             And you need to top up the cooling water if it gets low.

                        Sobita:             Okay, I’ll pay a bit more to get this premium “south Alps spring water” for the car.

                        Robot:             Stop! The Mirai uses [distilled?] water.

Row 3-2:         Robot:             There’s no need for maintenance for the motor.

                        Sobita:             Yeah?

Row 3-3:         Sobita:             Since it’s my first time with a fuel cell car, I’m a bit worried about having system trouble...

                        Mizuemon:      Good point, we don’t know what to expect.

Row 3-4:         Robot:             Don’t worry. The Mirai special “T-Connect” navigation system has a sensor to identify problems and let the user know if anything’s amiss. There’s a Mirai-specific remote monitoring system to notify customers of issues, and also relays the information to their dealer.

[The footnote says the system also lists the three nearest hydrogen stations.]

                        Sobita:             Hmm

                        Mizuemon:      Wow, there was a lot of dialogue in this panel…

Row 3-5:                                 One point: FC System

                                                Toyota’s remote monitoring system connects dealers with the Mirai user, who also enjoy a special navigation system.

Row 4-1:         Sobita:             Okay, then! Let’s go!

                        Wife:               Hold your horses, buddy! We have to ask about the most important thing! Where can we fill up with hydrogen?

                        Sobita:             Eek!

Row 4-2:         Robot:             At hydrogen stations. As of November 2014, there were 10.

                        Wife:               That’s not that many, is it?

Row 4-3:         Robot:             No, that’s the difference between shorter-ranged BEV’s and FCV’s – unlike their cousins, FCV’s can travel more than 300 km, so even if you just have one station in your town, you can refuel before you run out.

                        Sobita:             Hmm

Row 4-4:         Robot:             Of course, there are plans to build more. By the end of 2015 there’ll be more than 100 stations.

                        Wife:               But if I suddenly need a station, how can I find it?

Row 4-5:         Robot:             You can check Toyota’s website. Also, the Mirai’s navigation system lists hydrogen stations and hours of operation.

Row 4-6:         Sobita:             I see! Let’s go, now that we’ve answered all the questions!

                        Mizuemon:      You didn’t even know what questions to ask…!

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Japanese manga comic about Toyota Mirai [from Motorfan: New Model Special Edition issue 502]

Page 4

Row 1-1:                                 CHAPTER 4 - Let’s drive! The actual driving experience

Row 1-2:         Sobita:             Okay, let’s take our first drive with the Mirai! Where shall we go?

                        Wife:               Kyoto! I want to see the Kyomizu temple!

                        Mizuemon:      But… where do I sit?

                        Sobita:             This is a four-person car, so someone has to get kicked off the island...

Row 1-3:                                 On the first day they decided to drive 500 km from Tokyo to Kyoto.

                        Sobita:             Here’s the start button.

Row 1-4:         Mizuemon:      Wow, that 113 kW motor has lots of torque!

Row 1-5:         Sobita:             Wow, what smooth acceleration! This is great!

Row 2-1:         Wife:               If you floor the pedal, the motor will overheat, so go easy on it!

                        Sobita:             Aww…

                        Wife:               What are you, a kid??

Row 2-2:         Sobita:             Even uphill is no problem!

                        Sobita:             We’d be worried about taking this trip in an EV, but in an FCV we don’t.

Row 2-3:         Sobita:             Woohoo! What handling!

                        Mizuemon:      That’s because the heavier components are mounted low in the car.

Row 2-4:         Sobita:             Yes! I’m the Lewis Hamilton of the Adachi ward!

                        Wife:               It doesn’t sound so impressive if you’re the one saying it …

Row 2-5:                                 One point: Great Handling. The battery and tanks (the heavy components) are at the bottom of the Mirai – lowering its center of gravity – so it’s easy to drive.

Row 3-1:         Sobita:             Oh, we’ll have to refuel pretty soon.

                        Wife:               I’ll check for the nearest station on the navigation system.

Row 3-2:         Wife:               Oh, it looks like there’s one nearby. Let’s go.

Row 3-3:         Sobita:             Here we are!

Row 3-4:         Sobita:             Okay, let’s fill this up.

                        Attendant:       Stop!

Row 3-5:         Sobita:       It’s not self-serve?

                        Attendant:       Hydrogen refueling requires a license.

Row 4-1:         Attendant:       So I’ll do it for you. First we have to open the Mirai’s gas panel. Now we insert the pump..

                                                Okay we’re done.

                                                All in three minutes.

Row 4-2:         Sobita:             That’s faaast!

                        Attendant:       Right now is 4:30 p.m. but most stations close at night, so keep that in mind!

                        Sobita:             Okay! Let’s go!

Row 4-3:         Sobita:             It really is a comfortable ride. Luxurious, quiet, no range anxiety…

                        Mizuemon:      You can actually go pretty fast with this car.  [Footnote: 175 km/h]

Row 4-4:         Sobita:             Hey, we’re almost at the Kyomizu temple! One kilometer to go!

                        Wife:               Okay, just a bit longer…

Row 4-5:         Sign:                We are currently closed for the evening.

                        Sound FX:      Pratfall

                        Mizuemon:      Kyomizu usually closes at 6 p.m. …

_______________________________________

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