Anxiety and grief have the power to consume you. The two main characters in Overtake!, a delightful surprise from the autumn of 2023, are attempting to deal with that. When he was imprisoned in Fukushima in 2011, Kouya Madoka was a prominent photographer. The events he witnessed and captured on camera profoundly altered his life. Meanwhile, high school student Haruka Asahina was a small boy when he witnessed his father perish on the racetrack when his car caught fire. The show never loses sight of how tragedy has affected them, even as they both try to find a way out of the fogs they’re in, skillfully employing their emotions as triggers and metaphors for the action-packed scenes.
The narrative centers on the F4 class of motor racing, an open-wheel style meant for novice drivers that serves as a feeder circuit for the more well-known F1 racing circuit. (The specifics of car specs aren’t addressed in detail in the program, although there are rules about the chassis and engine, along with a list of authorized manufacturers and models; the only physical aspect that is discussed in the storyline is the tires.) Haruka Asahina took up driving as a way to honor his father, who passed away during a race when he was a young boy. It seems true that he is using racing as a way to process his loss and remember his father. His little squad, Komaki Motors, a mom-and-pop racing team led by an old mechanic buddy of Haruka’s father Toru and his son, is severely underfunded. To be able to completely compete on the same level as the well-funded teams, they are in dire need of sponsors, so they are overjoyed when Kouya volunteers to be one after witnessing a race and taking an unexpected photo of Haruka crying after a loss.
Because one of the show’s protagonists is likewise in the dark, it is appropriate for viewers who are unfamiliar with motor racing, like me. Kouya is ashamed to learn that he won’t be able to provide for them financially because he has no idea how much tires for Formula 4 racing cost. However, the shot he took of Haruka following the race turns out to be worth much more than he thinks in a number of ways. It’s the first photograph he’s taken of a person since 2011, in addition to being a great and well-received image. At first, Haruka isn’t overly excited about Kouya or the unexpected photo, but when he realizes that the older guy is attempting to process something akin to his own baggage, the show really takes off.
The plot’s true motivation is emotional, even though the majority of the episodes have racing-based action. As the series comes to a close, rival driver Tokunaga comes to the realization that he is racing against himself rather than Haruka or teammate Satsuki. This idea of racing feels really honest in that it’s both a team sport and a single one. Supporting the driver and getting them out on the circuit does require a full team, but once they’re out, it’s just a matter of feeling the road and the car and watching other drivers to alter your movements. This is made abundantly evident when Satsuki sustains injuries during a race, shattering multiple ribs and a leg. He’s trying to beat himself when he’s permitted to return to the competition, fighting to manage the agony of pressure on his healing ribs and his newly vulnerable physique. It would be fantastic to defeat Tokunaga and Haruka, but first he needs to relax both physically and mentally.
Kouya’s story is far more inward-focused than Haruka, Tokunaga, and Satsuki’s, who all use their driving as a means of self-expression and mental and physical healing. The entire tale is revealed in episode nine, but even before then, we are aware that he snapped a photo of a young girl just before the tsunami ate her. It’s a terrifying photo; even on film, it seems to encapsulate the whole disaster—you can see it in her eyes, knowing full well that she is going to die. However, Kouya also paid a heavy price for the image; while there is undoubtedly emotional distress associated with witnessing it firsthand, the backlash on social media was swift and harsh. Why did you take her picture when you could have saved her? became the constant chant in Kouya’s mind, and the most of his journey is him coming to terms with this response, his survivor’s guilt, and realizing that he can still find fulfillment in his art. The point isn’t that nobody realizes how far away he was when he snapped the picture; it’s easy for us, on the other side of the screen, to grumble something about how nobody in the series has ever heard of a telephoto lens. Rather, the idea is that Kouya is already feeling what the voices on social media and in the news are simply expressing.
At this point, Kouya and Haruka’s relationship takes on significance. They have different experiences with trauma and differ in how they respond to it. However, Haruka understands that Kouya is struggling with trauma, and the fact that Haruka is the first person he is able to take a picture of suggests that Kouya understands something about Haruka as well. Despite their different ages, their bond is genuine and supportive rather than father/son. The series is successful because of its emotional foundation, even though a major plot point is watching Haruka succeed as a driver.
There are several parts of this series that may be difficult for those who are sensitive to loud noises; the buzzing sound made by the cars is particularly unpleasant. Alice’s storyline and grid girl outfit are also not my favorites, even though they aren’t as overly sexualized as they could be. All things considered, this is a strong narrative that recognizes its emotional and action elements. Even while Overtake! could have done more—possibly even better—with twenty-four episodes, it nevertheless merits the recognition it might not have received in a season full of more eye-catching titles.