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: This column isn’t normally this long or cursory! This “catch up” edition will bring us up to date after having been off for several weeks while I traveled in China and Japan, and recovered from Hurricane Sandy. Next week things will be back to normal with one episode per show and more breathing room for brief analysis.
(中二病でも恋がしたい! Chūnibyō Demo Koi ga Shitai!)
Watch: Anime Network
As with last season’s Tari Tari, I think Chūnibyō is going to be the show to watch for a massive dose of trains and real place based animation. Writing for Crunchyroll, Scott Green tells us that the same fan who made a pilgrimage to Enoshima and Fujisawa to film the locations featured in Tari Tari, YouTube user tsukobaya, has done the same for Chūnibyō, which is set in Ōtsu, the capital of Shiga Prefecture:
The opening credits feature a grade level railroad crossing (踏切 fumikiri) and the train station ticket gate (改札口 kaisatsuguchi) at Keihan Ishiyama Station, which is served by the Keihan Ishiyama Sakamoto Line. Ishiyama Station, served by the JR West Biwako Line, is part of the same complex.
The rolling stock is the Keihan 700 Series train.
Students commute to high school on foot and via public transit.
Walking path atop the riverside embankment (土手 dote)
Fumikiri near Anō Station
This far in to the show, I still haven’t quite figured out where the plot is going, but the beautiful artwork and richly detailed settings will keep me in for the long haul! The Homra clan’s headquarters is a pub on a back street in Shibuya, Tokyo.
The bar itself is antique, imported in whole from England. It’s interesting to think about the fact that, in the midst of the gleaming modern metropolis of future Tokyo, the proprietor Izumo has gone to such great lengths to preserve part of the past. What is it about these classic materials and designs that comforts us, and how can we incorporate the idea of preservation into modern design and architecture?
Pedestrian overcrossings galore
Yashiro’s favorite hole-in-the-wall meal
The owner keeps Polaroid snapshots of the regulars
I still can’t place this bookstore. The obvious guess would be somewhere in Jinbōchō, but chime in if you recognize the location!
The opening credits make clear the show’s setting in Kawagoe, a city in Saitama Prefecture famous for its sweet potatoes (in Nanami’s hand, above) and preserved (and still functional) Edo period castle town structures, particularly traditional kurazukuri (蔵造り) style warehouses (also above).
The Bell of Time (時の鐘 Toki no kane), originally finished in 1644 and rebuilt in 1894 after burning down, is perhaps the most well know symbol of the city and features prominently on its tourism marketing collateral.
Sweet potato ice cream!
The premise of the show is that Nanami unwittingly assumes the position of the land god of a local Shinto shrine, and must balance this with her desire to be a regular high school student. Complicating matters are the various yōkai (ghosts or phantoms from Japanese folklore) she must contend with, including those that support her as well as adversaries. Hijinks and hilarity ensue.
The yellow Seibu Shinjuku Line express train makes regular appearances, both in the background and during setting changes.
The hand-drawn map that Mikage gives to Nanami shows the location of the shrine where she is to go to stay, using the intersection of the Seibu Shinjuku Line and Tōbu Tōjō Line as a reference point. Based on this map and a quick flyover in Google Maps, it looks that the Senba Tōshō-gū Shrine may have been the inspiration for “Mikage Shrine”. That’s the only one in the general area that sits atop a forested hill, though there are several other shrines nearby.
Nanami goes briefly to the yōkai world to retrieve her servant, Tomoe, from the red light district.
Outside of the core castle town (and primary tourist destination), the city has a more modern face, though there are still old wooden homes and warehouses mixed in.
More sweet potato ice cream.
(好きっていいなよ。 Suki-tte Ii na yo.)
The setting is Hachiōji, a city in Tokyo Prefecture but outside of the 23 special wards commonly considered the core of Tokyo.
The protagonist Mei walks through a residential neighborhood to her part-time job at a bakery.
Mei is followed by a male customer after she finishes work, but the neighborhood konbini provides a shelter while she calls for help.
Yamato comes to rescue her, and makes it clear to the man that she is off limits to him…
…in a very dramatic fashion. Now would be a good time to mention that this story is aimed at a female audience, though I think the guys will enjoy it as well.
Karaoke in Japan is a bit different from what we think of happening in the US. There is no singing in a large room in front of strangers. The setting is much more private and intimate, meant to be experienced with friends, and the music is really secondary to social engagement. It’s very much a third place.
Mei’s dream of a morning commute with Yamato features a true to life rendering of Hachiōji Station.
Chūō Line E233 Series train
The real life Excelsior Cafe (chain coffee shop) is inside the station.
All of these pedestrian streets and plazas are located around Hachiōji Station.
The sidewalk in Yamato’s neighborhood is at the same grade as the street and painted green.
(となりの怪物くん Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun)
The Misawa Batting Center is clearly the third place of choice for Haru and his friends.
Even after nightfall, the neighborhood around the batting center remains lively.
Students walking to school
Shizuku walking with Haru’s older brother Yūzan
Still walking with Yūzan
More walking with Yūzan. In this sequence, and throughout the show, one can’t help be struck by how much of the story takes place while the players are walking. They have rich public spaces and pedestrian infrastructure that allows them to move around the city at will.
Vigilante justice, paranormal activity and awkward dialog. While I’m not really feeling the story in Code:Breaker, it does regularly feature transit use and public space in Tokyo.
Shopping district (商店街 shotengai)
Neighborhood police box (交番 kōban)
The statue of an Akita in the back is Hachikō, and serves as a well-known landmark for meeting others when arriving in Shibuya.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a dystopian cyberpunk mashup of Minority Report, Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, this show might be for you. What I really love about this genre is how it captures both the gleaming perfection of our idealized future urban environments, along with the gritty spaces between that cling to the past. The shadows provide havens to those who don’t buy into the idea that every square inch of civilization must be designed and controlled to death. They remain as the last organic, self-organizing pockets of human activity–good, bad and ugly. This is the sort of thing I sense a little when walking around a place like Hong Kong or Osaka, and is how I imagine many of our cities will look long after many iterations of the global urbanization shift already in motion.
Look at all of the cars! Apparently, we’ve still not solved this problem.
Holograms are used extensively to represent or alter the appearance of everything from people to places and things, making it difficult to discern what is still real from that which is simulated.
A remaining hangover of “real” Tokyo.
Cafe culture is still alive and well, if a bit too bright and shiny.
Roppongi looks… more or less what Roppongi looks like today.
Onii-chan dakedo Ai sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne!
Yamanote Line E231-500 series train
“Next is Mejiro!” The LCD displays in the Yamanote Line train cars do look just like that. It cycles through several types of information, and on this screen is showing the car number, next station, which cars will line up with stairwells and elevators when the train stops at the platform, and other lines to which transfer is available.
Ticket gate at Mejiro Station
Hand-drawn map includes the train station and tracks as a reference point
Neighborhood police box (交番 kōban)
Sakura-sō no Pet na Kanojo
Zetsuen no Tenpesuto
Sword Art Online
Opening Credits beginning Episode 15
In the new version of the opening credits, which reflect the escape from the prison of the virtual reality game Sword Art Online, we finally learn in what part of Japan Kirito lives. Here he stands in front of Tokorozawa Station in Saitama Prefecture, served by the Seibu Ikebukuro Line and Seibu Shinjuku Line.