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.
(一週間フレンズ。 Isshūkan Furenzu.)
Each episode of One Week Friends reiterates the extent to which the animation team has done their homework. In particular, Seiseki-Sakuragaoka Station (聖蹟桜ヶ丘駅) is depicted at many times over the course of a day, showing changes in use patterns and lighting, and capturing information from multiple angles and vantage points. The end purpose is different, but the approach isn’t unlike that of an urbanism field study.
Fujimiya and Yamagishi settle in for a talk at the riverside embankment (土手 dote), the archetypal setting for exposition of school age turmoil and angst.
(ラブライブ! School idol project Rabu Raibu! Sukūru aidoru purojekuto)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Honoka goes for a morning run, returning to the steps that lead up the hill to the shrine.
The street in front of Homura is relatively narrow and doesn’t carry through traffic, allowing them to appropriate part of the sidewalk (the red zone painted on the edge of the street) for the mochi pounding demonstration.
A great thing Love Live! has done through both seasons has been to illustrate how historic sites like Kanda Myōjin aren’t cordoned off and sealed away, but are pieces of living history and public space that are fully open and accessible at all hours of the day. They are a unique feature of urban fabric in Japan.
Akihabara UDX (秋葉原UDX)
(メカクシティアクターズ Mekakushiti Akutāzu)
The episode opens with what almost resembles a Norman Rockwell depiction of post-WWII wealthy America suburbia. The compact Fiat-esque automobile is the only thing a little off. American cars were way bigger! The settings in Mekakucity are already pretty strange, but this is almost more jarring by its sudden appearance.
We later return to this contemporary urban residential neighborhood that has appeared many times, but I’m just now noticing the crane-topped towers in the background, which look a lot like the ones that appeared in Episode 2 and are based on a location in Dalian, China.
Two extremes: In this frame, the sidewalk is almost non-existent, just a narrow shoulder created by a paint line. Counter-intuitively, in Japanese residential neighborhoods this tends to work quite well. Narrow streets drop car speeds and make drivers more cautious. In very low traffic streets, pedestrians and cyclists just use the entire width, only needing to make way when a car is passing.
In this and the following frame, wide promenade style sidewalks are walled off with a protective rail on one side and trees on the other.
The arches are part of a pedestrian plaza connected with Odaiba Seaside Park (お台場海浜公園 Odaiba-kaihinkōen), though this scene is so abstracted it looks more like an Atari 2600 game.
(極黒のブリュンヒルデ Gokukoku no Buryunhirude)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
(金田一少年の事件簿R Kindaichi Shōnen no Jikenbo Ritānzu)
Other than the first couple of episodes set in Hong Kong, Kindaichi has turned out to be a no-show in terms of urbanism. This whodunit appears to prefer use of indoor settings to keep the variables of the crime scenes limited, but hopefully the pedestrian street and outdoor cafe seating that popped up briefly this week is a sign that, now back in Tokyo, we’ll finally see characters interacting with the larger environment in these last few episodes.