F article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 2, No. 9, August 1999
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
Over the last twenty-two years, Noboru Rokuda has produced more than a dozen titles covering a remarkable variety of subjects. His most famous story, F is a 28-volume, award winning series aimed at adults. The second of his titles to make it to TV, F explores the difficulties facing Gunma Akagi, an irreverent young man driven to the racing circuit to escape the demons in his life.
A trio of Tokyoites on a joy ride through the country get stuck behind a tractor. The young farmer, Tamotsu, gets out of their way, but not before Gunma wakes up from his nap in the tractor's rig. Gunma suggests that it would be unwise to pass, but the driver of the Camaro laughs at the idea of a kid in a tractor being able to keep up. They pass. Gunma takes control of the tractor and is soon hot on the Camaro's tail. When the driver recovers from his shock and begins to pull away, Gunma demands, "Tamotsu, where is it!" Ignoring Tamotsu's warning that the tractor's tires have poor grip, Gunma pulls the lever on his dash and out pops a super charger! Shouting his battle cry, "No one shall drive before me!"* Gunma runs the Camaro off the road then promptly loses control, landing in a newly fertilized field.
Gunma deals with most of his problems this way, with an obsession for speed and smart-mouthed arrogance. Both get him into a lot of trouble. When out for a spin in a compact sports car borrowed from Tamotsu's work shed, he takes on a BMW. By the time it's all over, the compact is totaled and Gunma is naked, having used his clothes as a distraction. The driver lectures him that cars are not toys for brats. When Gunma insists he's the fastest guy in Japan, Mr. BMW leaves, saying there are a lot of drivers faster than him on the circuit.
This challenge isn't the only catalyst which drives Gunma to racing. Shortly after his brothers' return from school abroad, Gunma finds himself thrown out of the house. His father is running for office and doesn't need his bastard son's antics getting in his way. Since he's always been treated like a second class person, Gunma's not too upset, but he's also completely clueless about surviving on his own. Penniless and friendless, Gunma has poor luck in Tokyo until he persuades Tamotsu to join him. Tamotsu is not only a loyal friend but a genius mechanic with faith in Gunma's natural driving skill. He also has a friend with an old Formula 1 car. Together, they struggle to turn Gunma into a certified racer. Mr. BMW, it turns out, is a top F-1 driver who becomes the standard which Gunma tries to best. To complicate his life further, Yuki, his intimate friend and maid in the Akagi household, is raped by his brother Shoma and forced to become a mistress, echoing the life of Gunma's dead mother. As the series progresses, more layers of the story's depth are revealed as the adversity in Gunma's life continues to compound itself.
Although the violence and sexual aspects of the story are toned down for prime time, the series still maintains the harshness and grit of the comic. With many famous voice actors, wonderful direction, and top notch studios involved, it's no surprise that F is a high quality show. A complex, compelling story, F uses the theme of racing to explore the inner demons that can drive people to extremes.
*You know the old quote. Although I don't like this translation, it's what's on the current release of the F manga. (Yes, I bought one for reference ^^) If you would prefer another translation, please, use it.