A Kizuna Ai ita-bus sounds like a great idea, until you find out it’s an aqua bus too.

Recently the winter iteration of Comiket, Japan’s largest gathering of dojinshi manga and anime art creators (and cosplayers), was held, and Tokyo bus operator Sky Bus had a great idea. Since some of its buses run in the area around Comiket’s venue, the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, why not plaster some of its buses with gigantic graphics of Kizuna Ai, Japan’s most popular virtual YouTuber and a beloved idol of the otaku community?

And so the Kizuna Ai ita-buses (not to be confused with personal-use itasha anime art cars) were born. One featured Ai with a sophisticated smile, but the real treat for fans was the one showed her in her most commonly seen mood, as she energetically waves and calls out in greeting.

The finished product looked great, with professional-level craftsmanship and an extra-large automotive canvas. However, there was one problem.

You might notice that the bus itself has an unusual shape. That’s because this particular model, which Sky Bus calls the Sky Duck, is an amphibious vehicle that occasionally hops off the road and into the waters of Tokyo Bay. On the plus side, that means that in addition to being an ita-bus, the Kizuna Ai version is also an ita-boat. However, it also means that once the bus hits the water…


it looks like Ai is drowning!


On dry land, Ai’s blushing cheeks, outstretched hand, and enlarged eyes combine to lend her an aura of shy but pure-hearted energy. But with the waterline coming up past her chin, her body language takes on a different atmosphere, as it looks like she’s screaming for help, imploring someone, anyone, to grab her hand and pull her to the safety of solid ground.

The second-version bus didn’t really have the same problem, as Ai’s calmer and more composed expression makes it clear that she’s in no danger (or at least that she’s accepted and made peace with her impending death).

While it may have been an honest mistake, a few Twitter users have voiced their suspicion that the “drowning Ai” bus was designed that way on purpose, with planners envisioning in advance how it would look like Ai was in peril as she made her way about Tokyo Bay. That’s actually a pretty grim theory, though it is true that Ai’s head never goes completely below the surface, and the buses always return to dry land to be parked at the end of the day, so it’s not like the virtual YouTuber would have had to hold her breath overnight. Still, with the limited-time ita-buses having competed their service as of December 30, it’ll be interesting to see if Sky Bus repositions the graphics for future promotions, or doubles-down by having its next anime spokesmodel wear a bathing suit and pose like she’s swimming.

Source: Twitter/@Dahliandros via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Sky Bus