Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

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. Links to streaming sources are included when available, though not all may have current episode available at the time this column is published.

Special Note

After repeating a regimen as detail driven as this column one hundred times, one might assume development of some degree of authority on a subject, or at least an interesting view from atop a pile of acquired knowledge. While I’ve learned much over the last two years of observing and analyzing depiction of urban environments in anime, and had a lot of fun in the process, my new level of familiarity and ability to more deeply research the topic have also reinforced how much is still uncharted territory for me.

I started writing this column because I wanted to point out how relationships with the built environment and experiences of using shared resources in Japan, especially public transportation, are reflected in popular culture media. I think I am now better at identifying and explaining urban design, behaviors and social norms with which I’m already familiar, but in the absence of formal education or finding time to digest a few shelves worth of books, I’m soon going to hit a plateau with regard to these areas. While new shows each season will always refresh the scenarios for analysis, ultimately I think I owe it to readers and to myself to bring more sophistication and breadth of ideas to my approach. The path isn’t yet clear, but I’m definitely looking to make a change.

As I mentioned in my pilgrimage to Nara Prefecture for Kyōkai no Kanata and my Demachi Masugata Shōtengai research project for Tamako Market, encountering the seichijinrei/butaitanbou community (pop culture tourism) was an unanticipated result of this undertaking, and one that evolves as my communication ability improves. While I still rely on my dictionary and some machine translation for large pieces of text, I’m now able to read through focused butaitanbou blog posts and have simple conversations over Twitter in Japanese without too much trouble. Publishing the output of my research in Kansai last fall increased awareness within the community of who I am and what I’ve been doing. The overall positive response and encouragement from members of the community have been a big part of helping me plow through the hours of watching and pages of notes every week.

For butaitanbou practitioners, interacting with the creative work is the primary motivation for engagement. Visiting the real world location on which a show’s setting is modeled is their preferred means of continuing the experience of the story beyond the work itself. However, some long-time practitioners have reflected on what keeps them coming back, investing time and money in travel, camera gear and sharing their experiences through blogs and social media. Many enjoy the challenge of discovery, locating the scenes from the show and determining the precise point from which the animator sketched or photographed the environment. The community is also a big draw, largely collaborative and very supportive of each others’ efforts. But it is the grizzled veterans that tend to dig down to a more fundamental layer, explaining that butaitanbou is ultimately a way for them to explore locations they would otherwise never think to visit, sometimes even in their own city. They are quick to note discoveries about the historical background and built environment, and take the time to record their interactions with local residents and describe the impact a show has had on a community. In a sense, they are doing ethnographic field studies, even if they aren’t aware of it. It is this mindset that I am continually trying to tap into and understand. If I could know the preconditions for a person to be highly engaged on issues pertaining to sense of place, the implications for public participation in planning discussions would be significant.

I have learned of a few researchers in Japan that are interested in the anime pilgrimage phenomenon. Some are trying to determine if the effect is strong enough to warrant use of anime as a means of regional revitalization, with the most common arrangement having a city contribute part of the marketing budget for a show in return for being used as the model for the setting. Anecdotally, I find signs that the effect is too unpredictable to see anime as a reliable promotional vehicle. For example, no one had any idea that the Haruhi franchise would send waves of fans to Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture over the years, least of all the city itself. The city of Sabae, Fukui Prefecture was heavily invested in the development and promotion of Meganebu!, only to find that there was too little interest in the story and the location to generate any traffic to the manufacturing town. Meanwhile, just a short train ride north, the cities of Sakai and Awara are inundated as a result of the current season’s GLASSLIP. Kyoto Animation and P.A. Works stamps on new shows generally guarantee a significant amount of interest, but beyond that there doesn’t appear to be a fixed set of factors that determine what cities and towns will be blessed with emergence of a fan following.

For all of the progress I’ve made and data I’ve absorbed, it’s important to acknowledge my current limitations and blind spots. There is no substitute for language fluency. Without a firm grasp of Japanese, I have to make due with a surface-level interpretation of the conversations. Though I am equipped to analyze the corporate structures that underpin railway and commercial development, without a formal education in the policy and cultural factors that influence transportation and land use, I can only bring an enthusiast’s acumen to the table.  I follow only the core group of butaitanbou practitioners, which actively blogs and communicates via social media. General interest extends to a much larger group of casual participants, where a digital trail of their activity may consist of only an Instagram photo, if anything at all. Moreover, pop culture tourism has existed far longer than the two years I’ve been following it, and extends well beyond anime and manga. Some of these holes, like language, I can fill bit-by-bit as I go. With higher level issues, I’ll have to decide where I want to bolster my knowledge and where to draw the boundaries. I don’t want to be myopic, but I can’t be an expert in every tangentially related issue, either. It’s a lot of ground to cover. Plenty to work on over the next 100 issues.

GLASSLIP

(グラスリップ Gurasurippu)
Watch: Crunchyroll

Fan Pilgrimage Update

@ni_pu_ (post), @ye_bi_su (post), @teravich (post), @sky_dj_ (post), @aqcuaria (post) made pilgrimages to Mikuni and Awara, Fukui Prefecture for Episode 3.

@lidges made a pilgrimage to Awara for Episode 1 through Episode 3, and updated his previous pilgrimage to Mikuni to include Episode 2 and Episode 3.

@megtan made a pilgrimage to Kariyasu Mountain in Awara for Episode 3 and to WATARIGLASS studio in Mikuni for the OP and Episode 1 through Episode 3.

@kbt_tigers1985 (post) and @aqcuaria (post) made pilgrimages to Mikuni and Awara for Episode 2.

@kbt_tigers1985 also published separately a pilgrimage for the the promotional images for the DVD/Blu-Ray release.

GLASSLIP continues to be the overwhelming favorite this season. The butaitanbou community took advantage of the past three day weekend to hold its annual summit at Yuwaku Onsen in Kanazawa, Ibaraki Prefecture, before moving en masse to Mikuni and Awara, hence the large number of pilgrimages this week.

Episode 4

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

This week is a bit of a reprieve for location hunters, mostly reusing areas introduced in the first three episodes. As with similar productions by P.A. Works, even once the setting has been established, locations will be frequently redrawn from new angles and with different lighting and weather conditions.

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

Mikuni-Minato (三国港)

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

Echizen Railway Mikuni Awara Line (えちぜん鉄道三国芦原線)

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

Mikuni Museum (みくに龍翔館 Mikuni Ryūshōkan)

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

Mikuni-Minato

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

GLASSLIP グラスリップ

Sword Art Online II

(ソードアート・オンラインII Sōdo Āto Onrain II)
Watch: CrunchyrollDaisukiHulu

Episode 3

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

This week includes several of the scenes that featured in the season PV.

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

Asada shops for groceries on her walk home from school.

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

The cafe where she meets a friend is in Ueno Naka-dōri Shōtengai (上野中通り商店街).

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

Sword Art Online II ソードアート・オンラインII

Tokyo ESP

(東京ESP)
Watch: Funimation

Episode 2

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

For all the cyclists in Tokyo, there is surprisingly little formal infrastructure, such as bicycle lanes, to support it.

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Uguisudani Station (鶯谷駅)

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー)

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Local dive bar

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Passing Kaminarimon (雷門), the outer gate leading to Sensō-ji (浅草寺) in Asakusa

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Ueno (上野)

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Ueno Station (上野駅)

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Studio Alta (スタジオアルタ) building, outside the east exit of Shinjuku Station

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Ikebukuro Station (池袋駅)

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Ueno

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

National Museum of Western Art (国立西洋美術館) in Ueno Park

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Ueno Park’s statue of Saigō Takamori (西郷 隆盛)

Tokyo ESP 東京ESP

Tokyo ESP does a lot of jumping around the city, but is more like a caricature of Tokyo than a meaningful use of the setting. We hop from famous place to famous place, but ultimately don’t feel like we’re really experiencing any of them.

RAIL WARS!

Watch: Crunchyroll

Episode 3

RAIL WARS!

Know your densha otaku. Sasshō, the new character introduced this week, is an onkyō-tetsu (音響鉄), someone who likes to record the sounds produced by trains and transit infrastructure.

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

Sasshō and Takayama debate whether they Yamanote Line or Keihin-Tōhoku Line will stop at the platform at Tokyo Station, both running the same schedule in this stretch of track. Sasshō determines the Yamanote trainset to have been more recently serviced based on its mechanical sounds, and correctly predicts it as the winner. I’m in love. Takayama should just ignore the awkward love triangle among his team members and stick with the childhood friend.

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

Tokyo Station (東京駅)

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

Kita-Ageo Station (北上尾駅) in Ageo, Saitama Prefecture

RAIL WARS!

Tokyo Station

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

Sasshō uses her finely tuned ears and knowledge of the rail system to identify a line and station from a sound file. This leads them to Umi-Shibaura Station (海芝浦駅) on the Tsurumi Line (鶴見線) in Yokohama.

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

RAIL WARS!

Train maps and signage are used liberally in this show.

Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 49-

(少年ハリウッド -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49-)
Watch: FunimationCrunchyrollHulu

Episode 3

Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 49- 少年ハリウッド -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49-

Speaking of onkyō-tetsu, in the opening scene in Harajuku Station (原宿駅) in this week’s Shonen Hollywood, if you listen closely to the background sound you can pick out that it’s not canned effects. This is an actual recording of ticket wicket feedback, audio announcements and crowd noise from the station.

Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 49- 少年ハリウッド -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49-

IC transit card swipe

Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 49- 少年ハリウッド -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49-

Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 49- 少年ハリウッド -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49-

Omotesandō (表参道)

Shonen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 49- 少年ハリウッド -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49-

Takeshita-dōri (竹下通り)

Free! – Eternal Summer

Watch: CrunchyrollFunimationHulu

Fan Pilgrimage Update

@lidges made a pilgrimage to Iwami and Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture for Episode 1 through Episode 4.

@yacchamfree made a pilgrimage to Iwami and Tottori City for Episode 4.

@Bf109K1 made a pilgrimage to Iwami for Episode 4.

Episode 4

Free! - Eternal Summer

Iwami (岩美), Tottori Prefecture

Free! - Eternal Summer

Hino Jinja (日野神社)

Free! - Eternal Summer

Free! - Eternal Summer

Tottori Station (鳥取駅) bus terminal

Free! - Eternal Summer

Aldnoah.Zero

(アルドノア・ゼロ Arudonoa Zero)
Watch: CrunchyrollDaisukiHulu

Episode 3

Aldnoah.Zero アルドノア・ゼロ

A random assortment of locations work their way into Shin-Awara this week. Here is Shiodome (汐留) in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

Aldnoah.Zero アルドノア・ゼロ

Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (慶應義塾大学湘南藤沢キャンパス)

Aldnoah.Zero アルドノア・ゼロ

Pacifico Yokohama (パシフィコ横浜)

Aldnoah.Zero アルドノア・ゼロ

Yokohama Bay Bridge (横浜ベイブリッジ)

Aldnoah.Zero アルドノア・ゼロ

Terror in Resonance

(残響のテロル Zankyō no Teroru)
Watch: FunimationHulu

Episode 3

Terror in Resonance 残響のテロル

Terror in Resonance 残響のテロル

Terror in Resonance 残響のテロル

Hiroshima

Terror in Resonance 残響のテロル

Terror in Resonance 残響のテロル

Higashi Yotsugi (東四つ木), Katsushika Ward, Tokyo

Terror in Resonance 残響のテロル

Studio Alta (スタジオアルタ) building, outside the east exit of Shinjuku Station

Terror in Resonance 残響のテロル

Shirahige Jinja (白髭神社) in Higashi Yotsugi

Terror in Resonance 残響のテロル

Shibuya crossing

Re: Hamatora

(Re:␣ ハマトラ)
Watch: Crunchyroll

Episode 2

Re: Hamatora Re:␣ ハマトラ

Minato Mirai 21 (みなとみらい21), Yokohama

Re: Hamatora Re:␣ ハマトラ

Re: Hamatora Re:␣ ハマトラ

Re: Hamatora Re:␣ ハマトラ

Re: Hamatora Re:␣ ハマトラ

Re: Hamatora Re:␣ ハマトラ

HaNaYaMaTa

(ハナヤマタ)
Watch: Crunchyroll

Fan Pilgrimage Update

@rimatai made a pilgrimage to Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture for Episode 3.

Episode 3

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

Students walk to school on the morning commute.

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

One of the eyecatches this week has a cute drawing in which the train station attendant mistakes Hana for a small child and tells her she doesn’t need pay the full fare.

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

Egara Tenjinsha (荏柄天神社)

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

Hana and Yaya come to at least a moderate level of understanding after spending a good part of the afternoon browsing around a shopping arcade. This is Komachi-dōri (小町通り), an arcade north of Kamakura Station.

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

HaNaYaMaTa ハナヤマタ

They unfortunately forget all about Naru, who is left waiting at the meeting point in front of the the station.

Locodol

(普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。 Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita.)
Watch: Crunchyroll

Fan Pilgrimage Update

@SSEBTBM883 (formerly @Beetle787) made a pilgrimage to Nagareyama, Chiba Prefecture for the OP, ED, Episode 1 and Episode 2.

Episode 4

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Nanako and Yukari commute to school. While not pictured, they mention first riding the train before disembarking and walking the remainder of the route.

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Their promotional work as local idols continues. This segment uses the river embankment (土手 dote) as a backdrop.

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Pedestrian overcrossing

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Locodol 普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。

Blue Spring Ride

(アオハライド Aoharaido)
Watch: Crunchyroll

Episode 3

Blue Spring Ride アオハライド

Futaba takes advantage of the walking commute home to get Kō’s attention.

Blue Spring Ride アオハライド

Blue Spring Ride アオハライド

Blue Spring Ride アオハライド

Blue Spring Ride アオハライド

Students walk to school on the morning commute.

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns

(金田一少年の事件簿R Kindaichi Shōnen no Jikenbo Ritānzu)
Watch: Crunchyroll

Opening Credits 2

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns 金田一少年の事件簿R

Kindaichi gets a new set of credits for the second cour, but based on the first one I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for these urban scenes to appear in the episodes. Bait and switch, if you ask me.

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns 金田一少年の事件簿R

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns 金田一少年の事件簿R

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns 金田一少年の事件簿R

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns 金田一少年の事件簿R

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns 金田一少年の事件簿R

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns 金田一少年の事件簿R

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns 金田一少年の事件簿R

Barakamon

(ばらかもん)
Watch: Crunchyroll

Fan Pilgrimage Update

@sky_dj_ made a pilgrimage to Fukuejima, Gotō, Nagasaki Prefecture for the OP, ED and Episode 1 through Episode 4.

The blog アストラルのつれづれ旅日記 made a pilgrimage to Fukuejima for Episode 1 through Episode 3.

Tokyo Ghoul

(東京喰種トーキョーグール Tōkyō Gūru)
Watch: FunimationHulu

Fan Pilgrimage Update

@rimatai made a pilgrimage to Shinjuku and Minamitanaka, Nerima Ward for Episode 3.

Encouragement of Climb Second Season

(ヤマノススメ セカンドシーズン Yama no Susume Sekando Shīzun)
Watch: Crunchyroll

Fan Pilgrimage Update

Still no word on what’s been holding up the international streaming of Yama no Susume. Meanwhile, a handful of dedicated fans seem to be taking to the mountain trail pilgrimages with gusto.

@cairn_07 made a pilgrimage to Mitsutōge Mountain in Nishikatsura, Yamanashi Prefecture for Episode 2 and Episode 3.

@fureshima made a pilgrimage to Higashi-Hannō Station in Hannō, Saitama Prefecture for Episode 2.

@hauyashi made a pilgrimage to Hannō for Episode 1.

A series of images in tweets from @bluetwintail covers his pilgrimage to Mitsutōge

 

Special Items

Suzaki Aya, the voice actress for Kitashirakawa Tamako, made a visit to Demachi Masugata Shōtengai in Kyoto while passing through Kyoto and stopped to meet with many of the vendors.

@cairn_07 made a pilgrimage (Episode 5, Episode 6) to Tama and Hino, Tokyo Metropolis for Isshūkan Furenzu.

@Minky_j made a pilgrimage to Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture for Gokukoku no Buryunhirude.

@ye_bi_su (post) and @tsuruga_mega (post) made pilgrimages to Yoimiya Matsuri at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto for Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha.

@paffue made a pilgrimage to the Nara Hotel for Kyōkai no Kanata.

@paffue made a pilgrimage to the Sapporo Clock Tower for Amnesia.