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.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@ts_kobaya made a video pilgrimage to Mikuni and Awara, Fukui Prefecture for Episode 1 through Episode 4:
Almost all of the events in this week’s episode pivot on Mikuni-Minato Station (三国港駅).
Yanagi accompanies Yukinari to his track meet, taking the Echizen Railway Mikuni Awara Line (えちぜん鉄道三国芦原線) to Fukui City, the prefecture capital.
The track is part of the Fukui Sports Park (福井運動公園) campus.
On the return trip, Yanagi spots Kakeru in town from the train window.
A charismatic owner-operator that keeps tabs on the troubles and concerns of his regulars isn’t a requirement for a third place, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
The arch that supports Meganebashi (眼鏡橋 Spectacles Bridge), called Hinode Bridge in the show, forms the final portal through which the train passes before reaching the terminal station at the waterfront area. On the hill above the tracks, it acts as a choke point that funnels pedestrians and cyclists across the gap as they move parallel to the river.
While GLASSLIP has been the darling of the pilgrimage community since before the start of the season, Zankyō no Teroru is the show that’s grown the most on me now that we’re a handful of episodes in. At first I was a little suspicious this was going to be another generic, Tokyo based setting with a few interesting moments between overused urban centers like Shinjuku and Shibuya. However, Episode 4 moves away from the wide angle aerial shots and pyrotechnics, putting more emphasis on tight shots that emphasize everyday experiences, like riding a crowded subway and staring into a bowl of ramen. With the first-person perspective, we finally feel we’re part of the scene.
Shibazaki takes the Tōhoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線) to Aomori.
This is the first of several scenes that emphasize Lisa’s isolation, despite being in the midst of one of the densest urban conurbations in the world.
Shibazaki mulls the inconclusiveness of the evidence gathered as his coworker complains about the unimpressive offerings of a cheap, no frills ramen shop.
Note the shot from the hip camera angle.
While we do get a few scenes in Shibuya crossing, the framing puts the viewer in the crowd, straining to see over taller heads to watch the terrorists’ video on the Q-Front building jumbotron, rather than the more frequent, wide angle view from above the station.
Designated smoking area near the Hachikō statue in ekimae
Mobile applications, particularly social media platforms Twitter and LINE, as well as mapping, appear frequently in the show. One branch of urban studies looks specifically at how these kinds of communication and orientation tools have affected how people relate to and use cities.
The later part of the episode really begins to shine with its use of darker spaces away from the main avenues, particular in the narrow parks or non-specific spaces that fill the gaps between rail viaducts and buildings. Lisa’s desolation is made palpable by the shadowy tones and green tints from street lamps. This isn’t the bright and shiny Tokyo that often appears without much thought in so many shows, but one much more rooted in reality.
By the time Lisa encounters the police on night patrol, you feel so anguished about her situation that you just want her to catch a break.
It sets you up perfectly to rejoice in the moment when Hisami buzzes the police on his motorcycle, brazenly riding up onto the sidewalk.
Now I find myself humanizing a character that was presented as a deranged criminal hiding behind a creepy, childlike front.
As the pair speed away, you can see the tension lift from Lisa as the nighttime skylines and wind wash over her. In all of these scenes, you feel these emotions along with her, and you can see them reverberate in the shifts of lighting and street textures around her. This is masterful use of the city to create a sense of full immersion. More please.
Tokyo ESP continues to act as the goofy, younger brother to Zankyō no Terror. An upshot of its aggressive location hopping is that we are getting to see many parts of Tokyo that don’t often get much airplay. Here is the Yurikamome Line (新交通ゆりかもめ), which connects Odaiba with Tokyo proper.
Rainbow Bridge (レインボーブリッジ)
The Taitō Ward side of the Sumida River, just north of Komagata Bridge (駒形橋)
Redevelopment of the Sumida waterfront and cleanup of the river itself began in the mid 1960s and continues to present day. The promenades replace what was once a severely degraded industrial manufacturing and warehouse district.
Edo River (江戸川), just north of Waseda Station
Here is the Arakawa Line again, just north of Ōtsuka-ekimae Station (大塚駅前停留場).
I made a short film of a rainy night, end to end ride on the tram line as part of a 2012 urbanism research project:
Fan Pilgrimage Update
A pattern that I had sensed a bit in the first three episodes is heavily emphasized this week: walking, either alone or in groups, is frequently used when a character is working through key background exposition or dense emotional issues. It is as if the act of moving through the town facilitates the gelling of thoughts. Here, Tami crosses through the fumikiri (踏切) after the Enoden (江ノ電) passes, as she thinks about the social opportunities she has forgone in favor of extracurricular activities that please her father.
Thanks to this marker and post box, @rimatai has found what we finally think to be the model for the arched bridge over the canal. In the Street View that he links to, you can see that the actual bridge is flat.
In this scene, Tami digests Naru’s confession of admiration, while wishing that she could obtain the same from her father.
Machi and Tami walk to school, as Tami’s father complex comes to a head.
Naru is convinced that Tami needs to rely on her friends for help, waiting for her to walk home from school and chasing her through the rain to convince her to share her troubles.
(普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。 Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita.)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
At the beginning of the episode, Yukari introduces street food made with locally produced mirin, sweetened rice wine used in cooking. This is the principal product for which the real town of Nagareyama (流山), Chiba Prefecture, the show’s model, is known.
Fans that ventured out in the past week have noted that the facade of Cake House Ēderu (ケーキハウス エーデル) looks nothing like what appears in the show, but the tanuki cake is spot on. Pictures of the cake on the shop’s Tabelog profile attest to its popularity.
Pedestrian lane on the bridge
In the show, the art frequently plays up the public space value of the the river embankment (土手 dote).
Fan Pilgrimage Update
An oldie but a goodie. Taziri Jinja (田後神社) was a constant fixture of the neighborhood scenes during season one, but hasn’t appeared much in this season up until now.
Shines in urban areas occasionally offer to host public amenities, such as playgrounds, on part of their grounds. In dense cities, they are often some of the only remaining holdouts from the concrete jungle. I don’t think camping is exactly what they had in mind, though.
Shonen Hollywood has firmly entrenched itself in Harajuku (原宿), Tokyo.
Harajuku Station (原宿駅)
Ending Credits 2
A new set of ending credits uses live footage from aboard the Yamanote Line, stopping at Harajuku Station and walking around the neighborhood.
RAIL WARS! seems to have had difficulty with achieving genre clarity. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in this case it appears to reflect a general lack of focus or purpose, and not a deliberate, boundary crossing approach. General viewers tend to identify it as densha otaku fanservice. The railfans, however, have little tolerance for sloppy treatment of train details and moderate to low quality production value, and see the sexual elements as distractions or annoyances. If you’re still aboard for the ride, this week focuses on the Odoriko (踊り子), a limited express train between Tokyo and Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture.
I’m a little beyond my league, but what seems to have been done is the head car from the 185 series EMU train originally used for the service is combined with the large windowed cars of the Super View Odoriko (スーパービュー踊り子), a different trainset that was introduced later.
Statue of the young student from Tokyo and the dancing girl with whom he becomes infatuated in Kawabata Yasunari’s short story Izu no odoriko (伊豆の踊子). The train takes its name from this well-known work of fiction.
Itō Station (伊東駅)
Often, when real locations are used as models for background art, station, place and business names are modified, but they’re frequently close enough to the actual name that you can usually figure it out with a few educated guesses. Then sometimes, you’re just stumped. In any event, Kō and Futaba take the local commuter train to meet their school group for a weekend retreat.
IC transit card swipe
Fan Pilgrimage Update