In my attempt at finding the next form of narrative media to fill the pit in my chest, I have finally decided to give F1 and the Netflix series Drive to Survive a go. I don’t know much about F1 besides that sometimes the drivers are guests on podcasts that I like to listen to and that there is a lot of money involved in the sport. I also happen to have friends who are incredibly invested in F1, which is weird because in Canada it’s not like it’s the type of entertainment that gets top billing or even has much of a media presence. But as a sports fan and as a lover of sports documentaries like Hard Knocks and Last Chance U, I decided to give Drive to Survive a chance. And let me tell you something, Drive to Survive is good. Formula 1 Racing, also a lot of fun. I enjoy it a lot, in fact I enjoy it the exact same way I enjoy shounen anime, let me explain why.
So the premise of Drive to Survive is that we get a backstage look into the world of F1. There are ten teams, with two drivers each, and behind those drivers – hundreds of staff who support the drivers and their cars. What sets teams apart from one another is their history. Some teams are newer like Aston Martin or Haas and are looking to shake things up. Some teams are trying to reclaim their old glory like Ferrari and Williams. And some teams are just dominant like Mercedes and Red Bull, as of the past decade. Although all teams seem equal they are not, funds are allocated differently from team to team, cars for certain teams are just faster, and brand names are not all equal on every car. There are teams that are great, there are teams that are good, and then there is everything else. And from a quick scan of the standings of the past decade, you could guess how good a team is.
Now let me explain a major part of the widely popular shounen manga/anime series Bleach. In Bleach, the soul society is run by the 13 divisions among the Soul Reapers. Each division is represented by two seniors – the captain and the vice-captain. Those two seniors are backed up a whole team of supporters to help complete missions. Every captain has a unique personality and fighting style that much of the team adapts to. Although all 13 divisions play a role, not every division is as prominent as others due to a myriad of factors. These factors are what ultimately plays a role in how much those characters are loved by the fanbase. OK now apply that principle to popular shounen series like: Black Clover, and Fire Force, and Naruto, and Jujutsu Kaisen, and One Piece, and Haikyuu, and Tokyo Revengers, and Kuroko no Basket. Do you get the point that I’m trying to make?
If you enjoy F1 and the narrative but have never read or watched shounen manga or anime, congratulations – you just learned that you love shounen manga/anime as well. A big reason why Drive to Survive caught the interest of so many new fans was because it allowed for viewers to peak behind the curtains of these teams and their personalities, giving us as viewers the ability to differentiate between which teams we personally align with. For instance, you like winning and looking cool – then maybe you’re a Mercedes fan and you support Lewis Hamilton. In the world of anime and manga, you would probably be fans of characters like Itachi from Naruto or Byakuya from Bleach. If you like the grizzled vet who has was once at the top of the podium, someone like a Fernando Alonso, you might fancy characters like Kakashi from Naruto or Jimbei from One Piece. Or you like new teams bought with what daddy can get for you, so you cheer for Aston Martin and Lance Stroll, meaning that you like Boruto – OK that’s not quite the same but you get my drift. (I kid about Lance Stroll, I think that he actually does have talent and his personality is super funny for me).
If you like anime but have never given F1 a shot, it might be for you. The stuff that they do on a track is similar in spirit to your favourite battle series. On any given race, you will see rivals deck it out to reach first place. You will see heartbreak, betrayal, the limits of humans being pushed, and spectacle. The sport is fast and dangerous and at all times straight up crazy. Doesn’t that sound exactly like Jujutsu Kaisen? Doesn’t that sound just like Naruto? Watching the behind the scenes action on Drive To Survive will make you feel like you’re getting to know all these different personalities like your favourite anime characters. Daniel Ricciardo – hilarious. Kimi Räikkönen – also hilarious, but scary. Lando Norris – charming young man. Charles Leclarc – the chosen one. Carlos Sainz – incredibly handsome.
If you are reading this and you’re thinking, Baron you’re not making any points, let me reiterate to you that F1 is a sport about going super fast and beating other people. Mix in some bullshit about believing in your friends and teammates and having your rivals push you – that is as generic as they come for a shounen story. Becoming the F1 champion is the same shit as becoming the Pirate King. If you like F1 try watching shounen anime, if you like shounen anime try watching Drive to Survive – it’s the same shit. One is 2D, the other is 3D. You’re going to tell me that Daniel Ricciardo and Monkey D. Luffy don’t have the same goal?