Welcome to this week’s review of notable instances of transit, place and culture as rendered in anime currently broadcast in Japan and simulcast internationally via the web. For a detailed outline of the approach, please refer to the explanation in the inaugural issue.
Thanks to its well researched and detailed depictions of public space on both Enoshima and in Fujisawa city proper, Tari Tari is shaping up to provide an abundance of opportunities to observe social phenomena in urban settings. As if to hammer home the importance of place in this show, fans have already generated an open Google map which is tagged with all of the locations identified. Particularly dedicated viewers within anime fandom subculture make it a practice to visit the real life locations that inspire their cartoon counterparts.
Enoshima is connected to the mainland by two parallel bridges, one for cars and one dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. The latter is included in the show credits, and this episode features an entire scene here with a friendly if awkward Spaniard helping Wakana repair her slipped bike chain. Later on, we see a town committee debating approaches to an upcoming festival to be held in the shopping district. When not in school, the group of friends spends leisure time in various cafes, one even on the beachfront. After their principal is injured (previous episode), they board the Shonan Monorail for a short trip to the hospital to visit him.
(人類は衰退しました Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita)
First of all, I am really getting a kick out of this show. It’s only drawback for casual viewers is that it’s a bit like a Japanese version of Family Guy or South Park, in that it’s packed densely with both obscure and self-referential pop culture memes that take a serious amount of focus and brain power to decode at the delivery speed. The humor is of the kind that if you have to look it up or have someone explain it, you probably wouldn’t find it funny. Erudite references notwithstanding, we again have a healthy amount of material to help us flesh out the culture piece of this review. The episode opens with the Mediator’s college friend, named Y, brandishing her newly purchased status symbol, a steam-powered automobile, a Stanley Steamer (I’m going to guess this is the reference). Apparently this is the most advanced technology available in this alternative reality, which she makes a point of mentioning cost an exorbitant amount of credits just to make the down payment. We then find out that this person is working with the local government to research and create a monument to human development (which is really a tongue-in-cheek poke at shallow material and consumer culture). Y quickly loses interest in this endeavor as her research uncovers digital records of yaoi manga, which she republishes in print using “antique” photocopiers, to great response by the female members of the village. Y then begins publishing original content. Fairies copy this model, encouraging other entrants and creating a burgeoning competitive manga industry culminating in a area-wide comic con. In a future where material goods are difficult to make and costly to buy, this homage to manga consumption run rampant is a bit ridiculous, which is probably the point. The Mediator contributes one of the episode’s more thoughtful reflections, pointing out that beyond the business of manga publishing, the convening of groups with common interests in shared public experiences like the comic con creates significant value from a social capital perspective.
(ココロコネクト Kokoro Konekuto)
Though most of the action is set at school or home, I still think this anime will explore more of the broader community space as it goes forward. The credits seem to hint at this with several shots of the students congregating in urban parks or navigating pedestrian infrastructure such as overhead walking bridges. We get another quick look at the pedestrian downtown shopping district, walking to and from school, and even one exchange on a train platform. The story is entertaining, a kind of toned-down version of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, so I don’t mind waiting.
Again, we get just a quick glimpse into one of the neighborhood third places, a restaurant where Ryosuke and Rokka’s sister-in-law Miho go together for drinks and barbecued unagi (freshwater eel) after closing the flower shop for the evening. The opening credits show one cut of what looks like a typical suburban community in Japan, and while we’ve seen tight shots of characters walking on the street, I’m still hoping for a more immersive dive.
Not much in terms of plot development this time. Pes is still lamenting Kurumi having been lured away by cool guy Sho driving a Toyota GT 86, rather recklessly, around the city. He helps the Nasubi (another alien species) infiltrate Toyota’s R&D lab, physically demonstrating crush zone and airbag technology by falling onto a car from the roof of the building. Can you feel how excited I am?