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
@kai881 (post), @ye_bi_su (post) and @aqcuaria (post) made pilgrimages to Mikuni in Sakai and Awara, Fukui Prefecture for Episode 1. In particular, Ebisu’s post includes detailed accounts of the history of the town and significant points of interest, in addition to extensive comparison of the animation with photography from his visit.
Are you ready? The first half week of the 2014 Summer anime season drops this long anticipated new series from P.A. Works, which reunites the studio with many of the staff and cast from 2012’s Tari Tari, one of the shows your reporter covered in the very first issue of this weekly review. Like Tari Tari, Hanasaku Iroha and other works by the same studio, GLASSLIP offers up lush backgrounds and fluid animation that draw the viewer into the environment. P.A. Works’ extensive use of real-world settings makes it a favorite of the anime pop culture tourism community.
Our setting is the former town of Mikuni (三国), now part of the city of Sakai (坂井), Fukui Prefecture. The WATARIGLASS studio (ワタリグラススタジオ) becomes YATAGLASS studio in the show, and the title suggests it will be a key element of the story.
Mikuni-Minato Station (三国港駅)
On the morning commute to school, students cycle to the station and leave bicycles in a covered parking area before boarding the train.
Shiomi Park (汐見公園)
Fair amount of transit use right in the opening credits. A good sign!
WATARIGLASS studio workshop
An end of Kamome-dōri (かもめ通 Seagull Road), the main road through town
Shirayama Jinja (白山神社)
Minato Bridge (港橋)
The episode opens with the town in preparation for a summer festival, having closed Kamome-dōri, the main street along the shoreline, to setup vendor stalls.
Grade level railroad crossing (踏切 fumikiri) near Mikuni Station (三国駅)
Echizen Railway Mikuni Awara Line (えちぜん鉄道三国芦原線)
Mikuni-Minato (三国港), the port area
Many attendees arrive by train and proceed directly to the festival along the main road.
Megane (Spectacles) Bridge (めがね橋)
This neighborhood near Mikaeri Bridge (見返り橋) exists, but Sachi’s home was added into the scene.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
As with the first season, the Free! ending credits are meant to be fun and don’t necessarily match up with the setting of the episode content, so just enjoy! The swimming pool sequence is inspired by an installation at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture.
The remaining almost have a small town Canada vibe. Just go with it.
Update 2014/07/09: ED backgrounds confirmed as being taken from Sydney, Australia:
Normally, shows from Kyoto Animation and P.A. Works would be neck-and-neck with regard to interest from the anime pilgrimage community, or anyone with a thing for high production value and meticulously researched real-world background art. Because Free! is a new season of an existing series, it may not generate the same buzz as its first installment. However, the first episode only hands us a few token shots of Iwami (岩美), Tottori Prefecture, the main setting of the previous season, before moving on to new territory. It may just surprise us.
Tottori Station (鳥取駅)
Samezuka Academy is modeled on Kinki University (近畿大学) in Higashiōsaka (東大阪市), Osaka Prefecture. The school recently changed its English name to Kindai Univeristy, borrowing the Japanese nickname, in an effort to avoid the awkward sounding homophone.
(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
If you haven’t heard of Nagareyama (流山市), Chiba Prefecture, you’ll find yourself in good company. Though the city is said to be known for its production of mirin (sweetened rice wine used in cooking) and is considered a Tokyo bedroom community, it’s so far north of the city that it’s really beyond the radar of the greater metropolitan area. Neither dense city nor idyllic countryside, the unremarkable exurban community is representative of many throughout Japan. As population growth continues to decline and talent further concentrates in the largest cities, these places are challenged to evaluate what they can do to maintain or rebuild a sustainable business environment and attractive cultural amenities. This context is more or less ported directly into the show’s Nagaregawa, where protagonist Nanako and her uncle are at the beginning of an attempt at thwarting the town’s decline into irrelevance.
Nagareyama Station (流山駅)
Suwa Jinja (諏訪神社)
Nagareyama City Hall (流山市役所)
Nagareyama Line (流山線) crossing the 運河橋
Nanako’s morning commute to school includes a walk through a neighborhood shōtengai en route to the train station.
This is the Nagareyama Otakanomori S・C (流山おおたかの森S・C). Sprawling, monolithic shopping centers are an unfortunate reality for exurban Japan, but this one is at least adjacent to a rail station with two intersecting lines.
Roping Nanako into the “locodol” routine is just the latest in the uncle’s attempts at promotional efforts to raise the profile of the city.
At the opening event for the community pool, before Nanako and Yukari face the public for the first time, the uncle gives a pulled-from-real-life explanation of how the middle section of the demographic has hollowed out as young and middle age workers flee to the big city.
He cites local cultural points like food and historical attractions that cities have used as promotional vehicles. He doesn’t name any of the cities, but most Japanese will probably recognize many of them.
Here I see some Kamakura, Tokyo and Kyoto.
The statue of the samurai with his dog is Saigō Takamori (西郷 隆盛). If you recognize other people or places, let me know!
(東京喰種トーキョーグール Tōkyō Gūru)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
This horror series brings us a dark and ominous version of Tokyo with lots of gritty textures. Rather than adopt a specific neighborhood as its home base, Tokyo Ghoul creates a composite setting that draws elements from multiple areas to create the fictional 20th Ward.
Contrasts play a big role. The opening flyovers of a dark and lonely city give way to this pastoral, tree-lined neighborhood street where Kaneki and Kirishima meet at the cafe Anteiku, which by the end of the episode appears to have some significance for the ghoul community.
Kabukichō (歌舞伎町), Shinjuku Ward
Milky Way (ミルキーウェイ) cafe in Ikebukuro (池袋)
Feels like Omotesandō (表参道)
Passing under the rail viaducts on the north side of Tokyo Station
A cut near the beginning of the dark neighborhood scene puts Kaneki and Rize in Kasuga, Bunkyō Ward, but with all of the jumping around it’s clear at this point we’re not meant to interpret the setting as a literal Tokyo.
The enormity of Tokyo translates to a wide range of possible experiences. Many are positive, some not. The not uncommon sense of isolation is drawn out for great effect in the final scene as a metaphor for Kaneki’s horror at his transformation. If you’ve been looking for a break from happy, shiny Tokyo ala Love Live!, this is the show for you.
The Yomiuri Shimbun ran an article about a recent increase in pop culture tourism to Iwami, Tottori Prefecture in the run up to the second season of Kyoto Animation’s Free!
@BloodRambo made a pilgrimage to Shimonada Station in Iyo, Ehime Prefecture, and Nara and Kashihara, Nara Prefecture for extra Episode 0 of Kyōkai no Kanata, as well as an additional stop at Ōboke Station in Miyoshi, Tokyushima Prefecture for Episode 10.
@seki_saima updated an already very comprehensive full season pilgrimage for Kyōkai no Kanata. The update includes a detailed map of cuts from Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, as well as the addition of missing cuts or replacement of the original photos taken when the weather matched the conditions from the show, or using a tall monopod to recreate high-angle shots. This is the most extensive Kyōkai no Kanata pilgrimage covering the original broadcast.