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
The Fukui Shimbun ran an article about the artist that opened the WATARIGLASS studio used as a model for the background art, and mentions pop culture tourism resulting from the show.
Just in case it wasn’t clear already, the group spends an inordinate amount of time at Cafe Kotonoha (カフェコトノハ), which becomes Cafe Kazemichi in the show. This is unquestionably their preferred third place.
WATARIGLASS studio (ワタリグラススタジオ)
This is the observatory atop the Mikuni Museum (みくに龍翔館 Mikuni Ryūshōkan).
The building is a town landmark and one of the show’s key visuals.
View from the top
gelato & sweets CARNA (ジェラート&スイーツ カルナ)
Takeda River (竹田川)
The confession scene is a synthetic background that combines two locations. The intersection and building are found on National Route 305 near Kado Jinja (加戸神社), while the bench and tree are adjacent to a grade level railroad crossing (踏切 fumikiri) between Mikuni Station (三国駅) and Mikuni-Minato Station (三国港駅).
Fan Pilgrimage Update
A few more parts of Kinki University (近畿大学) are incorporated this week. Though architectural elements of the campus are borrowed to create Samezuka Academy, the show so far doesn’t appear to include any attempt to recreate the neighborhood around it. The walk between the west entrance of the campus and Nagase Station is a neighborhood shōtengai (scroll to the bottom) that’s particularly interesting.
A handful of Iwami (岩美), Tottori Prefecture street scenes, many of which we’ve seen in the previous season.
(残響のテロル Zankyō no Teroru)
After taking a bit of a backseat to Kansai-based settings over the past year or so, Tokyo in anime is back in full force this summer. This and one other show are strongly skewed to themes of terrorism and conflict. Processing the memory of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII has been expressed through manga and anime since they existed (think Akira), though rarely is the imagery as explicit as that in the opening credits to Zankyō no Teroru.
The opening credits sequence uses a large amount of Tokyo imagery, but most of it appears within the episode without the artistic distortion. Generally, works like this focus so much on destroying the city in spectacular fashion that it limits what we can talk about here, but as this is the latest experiment from Shinichirō Watanabe I’m expecting a bit more nuance and sophistication.
Asagaya (阿佐ヶ谷), Suginami Ward
Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (警視庁 Keishichō) in Kasumigaseki
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎 Tōkyō-to Chōsha) in Shinjuku is the scene of the first episode attack.
Yamada Denki (ヤマダ電機) branch in Shinjuku
Shinjuku Station (新宿駅)
Studio Alta (スタジオアルタ) building
Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line (丸ノ内線) platform in Shinjuku Station
Shinjuku Central Park (新宿中央公園)
The images of one of the towers collapsing is a pretty blatant 9/11 reference and may be off putting for some. Probably was the point.
Shinjuku Central Park
Fan Pilgrimage Update
In Aldnoah.Zero, terror comes not from a few individuals within the society, but from humans that migrated to Mars and once attempted to subjugate Earth in a conflict that ended in a cease fire and stranding them in orbit around the planet. Phew. The conflict had already left scars of heavy devastation. The setting of Shin-Awara is a city in the midst of reconstruction, which draws heavily from Shiodome (汐留) in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
The Vers Empire, the humans in orbit, launch an attack after a peacekeeping mission goes awry and begin targeting cities around the globe. This is New Orleans, USA.
As in Zankyō no Teroru, use of the mushroom cloud is quite shocking, more so here given the context of major cities as targets.
A different kind of terror, the second installment of Tokyo Ghoul continues its hopping around the city. This week is a stop in Kichijōji (吉祥寺), a dense, pedestrian oriented neighborhood in the city of Musashino, outside the 23 special wards on the west side of Tokyo Metropolis. In the background is the entrance to the Kichijōji Sun Road Shōtengai (吉祥寺サンロード商店街) and Kichijoji Daiya-gai (吉祥寺ダイヤ街), two large, covered, pedestrian shopping arcades. I recently published a photo essay exploring Kichijōji within an ongoing Tokyo urbanism research project.
The art reflects the current state of the renovation work at Kichijōji Station (吉祥寺駅).
The alley is one of the entrances to Harmonica Yokochō (ハーモニカ横丁).
Spoiler: Bad stuff happens after this point. Suggest not watching right after lunch.
What could get me to sign up for a show with content far more terrifying than any of the above? One that depicts Harajuku in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. Despite the neighborhood’s popularity, particularly Takeshita-dōri, it appears surprisingly seldom in anime, and generally never in this much detail. The first frame is Harajuku Station (原宿駅).
Pedestrian overcrossing at the end of Omotesandō, in front of the entrance to Meiji Jingū
Perfectly coiffed shōnen riding the train. That the show is not aimed at my demographic isn’t really the problem, so much as its dreadfully awful, vomit inducing writing and characters that are either grating or forgettable. I may have to watch on mute.
The turret in the center is part of the Laforet Harajuku (ラフォーレ原宿) building.
Moody, sensitive shōnen and cool, ambivelent shōnen share a moment on the train commute home.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@ts_kobaya made a video pilgrimage to Ginza and the Imperial Palace for Episode 1, as well as several locations that appeared in the PV:
In SAO, the vast majority of the story takes place inside the virtual worlds of online multiplayer games, so people notice when the players behind the avatars are given an opportunity for a stroll around the real world. In the first frame, astute viewers noted that this is the precise view of Shinjuku from the vantage point of the Bunkyō Civic Center (文京シビックセンター).
Toho Cinemas at the Yurakuchō Center Building (有楽町センタービル)
Ōtemachi Station (大手町駅) exit C10
Imperial Palace (皇居)
You’d think a column with transit in its title would rejoice at idea of a show entirely devoted to rail travel. The overall impression of the first episode is of a show that recruited a writing committee of densha otaku (railfans), then gave them a budget and carte blanch to do whatever they like. As early as the opening credits, particularly detail oriented viewers noted how the map in the graphic depicts the Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) as already complete. A stream of juicy train-related minutiae and esoterica, much of which probably went over even my head, follows. Don’t get me wrong, I eat this stuff up as much as the next obsessive rail geek, but in the absence of any sense of narrative or purpose it ultimately falls flat. As Leiji Matsumoto once alluded to in an interview, maniacs—as he called them, before otaku as it is currently defined entered common usage—are a very important part of the fan base, support structure and inspiration for many creative endeavors, but only pandering to them makes it difficult to do good work. Let’s hope the first episode was just the casualty of an attempt to shock and awe, and that subsequent ones will offer more opportunities to discuss the influential role of rail travel in everything from macro level urban development to daily behaviors in Japan.
Tokyo Station (東京駅)
Ōmiya Station (大宮駅)
Quite a few of the trains featured are classic models no longer in service. The green and orange 115 series is one of the original trainsets used on the Shōnan-Shinjuku Line (湘南新宿ライン), and affectionately referred to by children as the kabocha densha (pumpkin train).
Doctor Yellow (ドクターイエロー), a shinkansen outfitted with instruments to test the electrical systems at full speed
This weekly review leans heavily toward representations of urbanization in pop culture. At first glance, it might seem like Bakaramon wouldn’t have much to offer for our purposes, being set on Fukuejima (福江島), the largest of the Gotō Islands (五島列島) in Nagasaki Prefecture, off the western coast of Kyūshū. Relative to the rest of Japan, it’s about as far away and isolated from any urban center as you can get. Buses from the small airport depart only a few times a day, and not all run everyday. Yet there are a number of really interesting aspects that make me think there will be plenty to appreciate.
Handa, a calligrapher, moves to the island in self-imposed exile to cool his head and find his creative muse. He comes expecting to be alone, however finds the case to be anything but.
Village scamp Naru immediately takes a liking to the new arrival, dragging him into all kinds of inconveniences and annoyances that ultimately cause him to pause and reflect on his own problems. The young characters in Barakamon are performed by actual child voice actors. Many of the local characters speak with what appears to be a regional dialect.
At one point, Naru leads him up to the top of the seawall to look out at the setting sun over the tetrapods. Seawalls are a controversial topic, seen by some to provide a false sense of security against tsunami while also impeding the natural environmental processes that shape shorelines.
At the end of the episode is a very lovely scene in which Handa is taken aback by the spontaneous gathering of villagers to welcome him and help unpack his belongings. As Handa has come to escape the pressures of the cosmopolitan art world, perhaps we too should step away from the hardware of urban life and reflect on the fact that it’s ultimately people who create a community.
(ヤマノススメ セカンドシーズン Yama no Susume Sekando Shīzun)
The first season of Yama no Susume was an unexpected collection of gems, short episodes of only a few minutes each, packed with interesting little adventures to many of the natural wonders just a short distance from Tokyo and easily accessible by train. Equally impressive was the substantial amount of activity among the pop culture tourism community, making mountain treks each week to follow along with the show.
As before, the main setting and home for the main characters is Hannō (飯能), Saitama Prefecture, which enthusiastically capitalized on its notoriety with many special events based on the show to welcome visitors. This season, Mount Fuji looming in the distance in the opening credits, as well as several mentions during the episode, suggest Aoi, Hinata and the others may be setting their sights higher and higher as their interest grows.
I had high hopes for the first season of Hamatora, anxious to see how the show would incorporate the seldom animated neighborhoods of Yokohama (横浜), Kanagawa Prefecture. However most of the detailed work went into static wide angle shots with no interaction from the characters. The background art in scenes with actual activity were often drawn so simply that it made the distinction of modeling it on a real location irrelevant. The mind-numbingly dumb material and screenwriting just added insult to injury. In the interest of research I’ll continue slogging through in hopes that this time around will be better, though as Einstein once quipped, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
The Enoshima Electric Railway (江ノ島電鉄), or Enoden, pulling into Kamakurakōkōmae Station (鎌倉高校前駅) has become a familiar sight for anime fans, thanks to frequent appearances in Tari Tari and wide use of the seaside line in many other shows. As we get into the episode, we see that the backgrounds are mostly modeled on this location and a few further north, back along the Enoden and in the main part of Kamakura (鎌倉), Kanagawa Prefecture.
The tunnel through the rock is found near Jufuku-ji (寿福寺).
Fumikiri with stairs behind it leading to a shrine to the west of Hase Station (長谷駅).
The red torii that line the steps up the hill come from Sasuke Inari Jinja (佐助稲荷神社), but thus far the inner area of the shrine hasn’t been matched with anything on the ground. With all of the jumping around between locations that are quite dispersed in real life, as well as inclusion of a few elements that may be fabrications, the show appears to be more Kamakura-inspired rather than a literal usage.
Sunset over Enoshima with Mount Fuji in the background
A small shrine that Futaba passes each day on her commute to school figures into her relationship with Kō.
A commuter rail trip completes her journey.
IC transit card swipe
(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
Nanako and Yukari are getting into the swing of promoting local businesses. One of their assignments in this episode is a food tasting segment for a traditional sweets maker in the shōtengai where Nanako walks each day on her commute to school.
(金田一少年の事件簿R Kindaichi Shōnen no Jikenbo Ritānzu)
A grade level railroad crossing (踏切 fumikiri) in a residential neighborhood becomes the scene of an attempted suicide.