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
I’ve always enjoyed watching and thinking about the artwork in the Monogatari franchise. Because it tends to be a bit abstract, it gives the illusion of having less detail than the realism that is common with backgrounds in much of Japanese animation. But the catch is that it’s in there, just not in the obvious places we’re accustomed to looking, and with a quick pacing that makes it difficult to consciously observe it without slowing down the playback. The built environment propagates with either crystalline repetitiveness or organic irregularity, often times allowed to grow out of control. We see this most often in things like streets with rows of directional signs one right after the other, or intersections with 20 some traffic signals.
Real world locations are periodically incorporated into the scenes, usually not wholesale, but as hard to find Easter eggs and references to obscure locations. Intersections from second and third tier cities are common. Though location models are drawn from all over Japan, and a few outside it, there is a preponderance of urban settings, country roads and natural wonders from Hokkaidō Prefecture. For many of these I have to rely on the eyes of the butaitabou community, as they aren’t the kind of places you can easily pick out unless you’ve been to them. In addition to the pilgrimage blog posts linked above, I’ve included credits below for some of the really obscure places that I would never have found otherwise.
Sugaharashirokita Bridge (菅原城北大橋) in Higashiyodogawa Ward, Osaka. This has appeared before in other Monogatari series.
One thing I’ve noticed in Monogatari, now that I’m able to read things a bit more, is that the signage often comes straight from actual notices and billboards but with the characters scrambled, sometimes just with a dyslexic left-right shift. In the case of the frame above, a little bit of rearranging revealed what would have otherwise been unidentifiable.
Textures are always changing, and combined in strange ways. Here is a submerged and dilapidated town with something that vaguely resembles Yokohama’s Minato Mirai 21 skyline behind it.
Kanbaru walks along the pedestrian path at the crest of a river embankment (土手 dote). Everything seems idyllic at first.
Then the angle changes to reveal the industrial park across the water.
Then we jump immediately from what is meant to be rather blighted area to some of the most pristine in all of Japan. First is the Kakita River Park (柿田川公園) in Shimizu (清水), Shizuoka Prefecture. These freshwater springs are the result of rainfall and snow melt that run off Mount Fuji. At least two identifiable images appear, including this underwater camera shot, and the well in the image after next. Official website for the park. Google Image Search with lots of eye popping, clear blue water.
Blue Pond (青い池) in Biei (美瑛), Hokkaidō Prefecture. Notably, one photographer’s image of this location taken during winter was used as a wallpaper included with OS X Mountain Lion.
Kakita River Park
@sky_dj_ suggested the Nabegadaki (鍋ヶ滝) waterfall (photo) in Oguni, Kumamoto Prefecture. With the stylized interpretations, we’re often not quite certain we know what places we’re seeing in Monogatari, so many suppositions may be equally valid in the absence of a clear identifying point.
Road signs run amok
There’s no guessing needed with this one. Kaiki and Kanbaru have an extended scene in Shinagawa Station (品川駅) that spans the entire central corridor and the large plaza outside the east entrance, close to the shinkansen boarding area.
More textures, beginning with industrial nightmare zone.
Commercial park with what looks like either water or fuel tanks.
Midwestern US suburb ravaged by tornado, or coastal Tōhoku town leveled by earthquake and tsunami?
Kanbaru’s night jog takes us on a journey that includes some places we know, some we don’t, and blends them together such that you’re ultimately not sure when you’re meant to be where.
Fumikiri just before Kamakurakōkōmae Station (鎌倉高校前駅), a stop on the Enoshima Electric Railway. This appears often in Hanayamata and Tari Tari.
Enoshima Electric Railway and National Route 134, west of Kamakurakōkōmae Station
Could be a mountain road in Hokkaidō, or perhaps the US Rocky Mountains? You’ll see why a little further down.
The scenery behind Kanbaru changes from mountains to desert, where she and Araragi meet.
They drive through machine-like, tetrapod housing towers plunked down in the middle of the desert.
I didn’t pick up on this in the first viewing, but when I got to this point again, I had the feeling that I’d been here before, or something that looks like it, on California Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.
Sure enough, here is the Bixby Creek Bridge, in the Big Sur area along to the south of Monterey.
The suburban neighborhood texture almost always sets the scene for events that occur at the Kanbaru or Araragi homes.
This well from a rock garden shared by Honpō-ji (本法寺) and Myōren-ji (妙蓮寺) in Kyoto also appears in a dream, while its zen garden becomes part of the courtyard at Kanbaru’s home (image after next). [Credit: @sky_dj_, from Twitter and blog)
Possibly Blue Pond, again
Honpō-ji / Myōren-ji garden
And now for something completely different, Cape Kamui (神威岬) in Shakotan (積丹), Hokkaidō Prefecture. Almost all knowledge about Hokkaidō locations noted in this section, and in my weekly reviews in general, comes via @paffue.
Cape Kamui Lighthouse (神威岬灯台)
Otaru Music Box Museum (小樽オルゴール堂) in Otaru, Hokkaidō Prefecture
Otaru Canal (小樽運河)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Now that’s more like it. This is the kind of place-based background art we expect from Kyoto Animation, but which has appeared only sparingly in the second season of Free!
Rei and Nagisa wait for their train home at Iwami Station (岩美駅).
Makoto and Haru walk through the coastal fishing village area of Iwami (岩美), Tottori Prefecture.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@kai881 has done some deep analysis and determined that the orientation of the town in the show has been flipped around its north-south axis relative to the actual map of Mikuni, based on positions of the sun. In other words, west has become east, and vice versa.
Yukinari accompanies Yanagi to dance practice, traveling to the studio via Echizen Railway Mikuni Awara Line (えちぜん鉄道三国芦原線).
Tōko and family walk across town to the Okikura home.
Mikuni Museum (みくに龍翔館)
A synthetic location, the intersection and building from National Route 305 near Kado Jinja (加戸神社), with bench and tree are between Mikuni Station (三国駅) and Mikuni-Minato Station (三国港駅).
Fan Pilgrimage Update
The yosakoi club heads out of town for a training retreat, riding the Romancecar (ロマンスカー), a limited express luxury service operated by the Odakyū Electric Railway between Tokyo and resort areas like Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture. This is the Odakyū 7000 series LSE (小田急7000形) trainset.
We know for sure the destination is Hakone (箱根) with the mention of two local sites, active sulfur vents in the volcanic valley Ōwakudani (大涌谷), and mountain Kanmurigadake (冠ヶ岳). Hakone is a popular hot spring resort town. [Credit: @sky_dj_, from Twitter]
The first cut of the outdoor practice is looking east from the footbridge crossing the Haya River (早川) in front of Hakone-Yumoto Station (箱根湯本駅), where the Romacecar makes a stop. [Credit: @sky_dj_, from Twitter]
(普通の女子校生が【ろこどる】やってみた。 Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita.)
Nagoya Station (名古屋駅)
Nana-chan (ナナちゃん) is a very large mannequin maintained by the Meitetsu Department Store (名鉄百貨店), which gives the model a clothing change each month. Her location in front of one of the exits from Nagoya Station makes her a popular meeting point.
Nagoya Castle (名古屋城)
Correction 2014/09/20: I previously wrote this was the Daikanransha Ferris wheel in Odaiba, but that was incorrect. It’s actually the Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel (ダイヤと花の大観覧車) at Kasai Rinkai Park in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo.
In Minami’s flashback, she and aother elementary school students walk unaccompanied to school on their morning commute.
The jumbotron on the front of the Studio Alta (スタジオアルタ) building is a popular meeting place outside the Shinjuku Station east exit.
Futaba accompanies friends back to the train station after the study session.
Ueno Station (上野駅)
Blue Train otaku, rejoice! This week features the Hokutosei (北斗星), one of the few remaining long-distance sleeper trains, which makes a daily run between Ueno Station in Tokyo and Sapporo Station in Hokkaido (one train in each direction). Already reduced from several services a day during its heyday, the Hokutosei will become a special holiday service only, beginning 2015 Spring.
JNR Class EF81 electric locomotive (国鉄EF81形電気機関車)
JNR Class DD51 diesel-hydraulic locomotive (国鉄DD51形ディーゼル機関車)
The discontinued Hayabusa (はやぶさ) sleeper service ran between Tokyo and Kumamoto from 1958 to 2009. Its name was inherited by the Tōhoku Shinkansen service between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori stations.
The discontinued Fuji (富士) sleeper service ran between Tokyo and Ōita from 1929 to 2009, and was coupled with the Hayabusa for part of the trip.
JNR Class EF66 electric locomotive (国鉄EF66形電気機関車)
JNR Class EF63 electric locomotive (国鉄EF63形電気機関車)
Departing Ueno Station
Departing Ōmiya Station (大宮駅)
Utsunomiya Station (宇都宮駅)
@yomikatajiyu made a pilgrimage to Iwafune Station in Tochigi City, Tochigi Prefecture for Makoto Shinkai’s film Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru (5 Centimeters Per Second). He also updated a previous pilgrimage to Kanita Station in Sotogahama, Aomori Prefecture for Shinkai’s Kumo no Mukō, Yakusoku no Basho (The Place Promised in Our Early Days).
@ngwrb made a pilgrimage to Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture for K-On!! Important to note that the other Kamogawa (as in the river in Kyoto) is a frequent element of the background art in all of the seasons, whereas this one-off usage from Chiba seems to have been something of an inside joke.