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.
Tari Tari continues to feed us a steady diet of Enoshima and Fujisawa transit and place. Last week we discovered the fan generated Google map, which continues to fill in:
As if that wasn’t neat enough, a very enthusiastic viewer, YouTube user tskobaya, has already made a pilgrimage to Fujisawa, where he shot a video comparison of the real places juxtaposed with screenshots of their animated counterparts on his smartphone:
Thanks to the video, we can see that not only are the outdoor scenes true to life, but the cafe interior from episode 3 is even based on a real place where you can go, sit down and order a drink.
This week we have more scenes set at the Enoden line stations, as well as the beachfront cafe (called the “Beach House” both in the show and in real life). Several new places emerge, all on the Fujisawa mainland. Traveling musicians that have come to participate and compete in the town shopping district festival are invited to camp at the grounds of Jōchi-ji, the temple where Sawa’s family lives and works. Buddhist temples in Japan often offer accommodations for travelers. While the simple furnishings are ostensibly provided for religious pilgrims, some temples also support their operations through casual tourists. Wakana and Konatsu find the last unclaimed performance space, a small flower shop near Shonan-Enoshima Station. The several scenes set here call attention to a ubiquitous feature of urban development in Japan, the small street. These are generally just wide enough for one car to pass and may have shoulders but no raised sidewalk. The boundary between storefronts, sidewalk and street becomes fluid. While these streets do allow for through-traffic, cars proceed cautiously and there is more equitable sharing of the road among cars, cyclists and pedestrians as compared to main thoroughfares. The animators have a particular affinity for depicting the ornate tiling on the walking paths and erosion barriers along the waterfront, with a few new places added in this episode. At the rate they’re going, my guess is we’ll have covered everything from Enoshima to Kamakura by the time the season is done.
(ココロコネクト Kokoro Konekuto)
My hunch about this show seems to be playing out, with a noticeable uptick in the amount of public space settings in the most recent episode. Taichi and Himeko are engaged in volunteer litter pickup at a small neighborhood park near the school, where they become involved in a heated exchange over the dangers of the body switching being imposed on their group of friends by a mysterious being. Iori is being raised by a single and absentee mother, and the first time we actually see the two of them together they’re meeting not at home but over drinks at a cafe. Taichi and Yui, after switching bodies, meet after dark at a neighborhood park to discuss their predicament. Moving from the park to a walking bridge and riverside walking path, Taichi helps Yui begin the journey of regaining confidence and overcoming the androphobia she has experienced since escaping from a past sexual assault. This delicate exchange wouldn’t quite have worked the same over the phone or online. As teens living at home, walkable access to public spaces like this affords them opportunities for privacy that might not be available otherwise.
As in previous weeks, there is strong emphasis on character development and relationships over place, though we do finally get onto the subway and outside of Rokka’s flower shop and surrounding blocks. The Hanayashiki amusement park in Tokyo’s Asakusa district isn’t exactly the kind of place we’re focusing on for this analysis, though it does help us with some bearings. Unless I’ve missed it, I don’t think the show has indicated a specific location for its setting, but it’s clearly meant to be a neighborhood either in Tokyo or a reasonable train ride into town. Ryusuke and Rokka eat lunch at one of the food vendors on the grounds of nearby Sensō-ji, a very famous Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. Asakusa is a fond personal memory for me, as it was literally (not counting Narita Airport) my first glimpse of life in Japan. I stayed in a ryokan there for a week while I waited for my dorm room in Jinbōchō to become available. I remember Asakusa as being the antidote to the glitz and glamor of hubs like Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ginza, where most tourists (and plenty of locals) flock. It is a better known part of the large area referred to as Shitamachi (下町 low city), a simpler and less-affluent side of Tokyo well suited to quiet, contemplative wandering.
(人類は衰退しました Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita)
Humanity moves to the back burner, at least for our purposes, this week. Most of the episode has the main characters trapped in a blank manga volume, which they must fill with with narrative in order to progress through the panels and escape. There are a few more quick swipes at consumerism, but this is an otherwise a typical self-referential, self-deprecating commentary on the state of the manga and anime industry in Japan. I’m hoping we get back to playfully weird next week.