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.
2015 Fall Season Overview
Each season, from a place and pop culture tourism perspective, we generally have a leading show from either Kyoto Animation or P.A. Works, sometimes both. Fail that, one of the multiple offerings from A-1 Pictures will often feature a detailed and faithfully rendered setting based on a real location. In 2015 Fall, with KyoAni and P.A. on broadcast hiatus as future works are under production, and A-1 focusing most of its effort on theatrical release Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterun Da., other studios will have a window of opportunity to showcase their background art chops in broadcast anime. Most of the shows I’ll look at this season are returning series. In addition to those included below, I expect Owarimonogatari will provide the abstract urban textures and Easter egg locations typical to its franchise, though the opening episode was a one-hour exposition set entirely indoors. I’ve always been a fan of studio Bones for its content choices and creative storytelling, though not necessarily suited to this weekly analysis. With the studio’s Concrete Revolutio, I think there will be some interesting bits to extract after wading through the trippy color palette and mashup of retro urban aesthetics with a fantasy story. This fall will have a different overall feel, but I’m hoping for some good surprises.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
The second season of Noragami, also produced by Bones, drops us right back where we were. The opening credits again feature sweeping Tokyo cityscapes as backgrounds to character action.
The elevated pedestrian footbridges (横断歩道橋 ōdan hodōkyō) and activity node at Ōizumi-gakuen Station (大泉学園駅) in Higashi-ōizumi, Nerima Ward return as an anchor point for the series’ compass, though we jump to other places too.
Hiyori waits at a grade level railroad crossing (踏切 fumikiri)
Shakujii Park (石神井公園) in Sakujii, Nerima Ward
Seibu Ikebukuro Line (西武池袋線)
Students take the pedestrian path atop the river embankment (土手 dote) on the evening commute home from school.
K is also back for a new installment, a sequel to the first broadcast season and subsequent theatrical film. To date, it remains my favorite work in the “no discernible plot, but fantastic visuals” genre. The saturated color palette, use of devices with holographic digital displays and other shiny bells and whistles give the show a near-future or slightly alternate reality feel, though once down on the street, most of our familiar Tokyo is alive and well. Along with other works by relatively young studio GoHands (Coppelion, Seitokai Yakuindomo), I appreciate the full use of the anime medium in background art that, while based in reality, isn’t restrained from flights of whimsy when it desires.
Shibuya (渋谷) scramble crossing
Yamanote Line (山手線)
Shibuya scramble crossing
Shibuya Center-gai (渋谷センター街)
Starbucks Shibuya Tsutaya shop in the Q-FRONT building, overlooking the Shibuya scramble crossing
Background: Shinkuku Gyoen (新宿御苑)
Marunouchi 1-chōme intersection (丸の内一丁目交差点). The rail viaducts enter Tokyo Station from the north, just off frame on the right side.
One aspect I really like in K is its use of privately owned public space (POPS). Here, Yata enters the Marunouchi Building (丸の内ビルディング), part of a cluster of privately owned commercial buildings surrounding and connected to Tokyo Station and each other through an extensive underground concourse. These spaces generally come about through negotiations between real estate developers, rail operators and the city, in which the developers are given financial incentives to include publicly accessible amenities and transit links in building plans during both new and redevelopment projects.
Neighboring Shin-Marunouchi Building (新丸の内ビルディング) is also part of the Marunouchi cluster.
Looking down from the nearby Dentsu Building (電通本社ビル) observatory. Near the top of the frame is the main entrance to the inner market of Tsukiji Shijō (築地市場), the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, which will close and relocate in 2016.
Ginza Wako (銀座和光) department store in Ginza, Chūō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
In wide angle shots, the garish colors and flat drawing style has a simplistic, American comic feel to it. But look closer and you can see details that come to the fore when specific elements of the environment are called out.
Sparks from the streetcar pantograph
Streetcars were once a common sight in Ginza, first in 1882 as horse-drawn carriages, then electrified from 1903, and eventually taken out of service in 1967. Only two streetcars remain from what was once a network covering much of Tokyo. However, plans exist to reintroduce streetcars to this part of the city, with a line connecting Ginza and Harumi. (more 1, more 2)
Rail viaduct exiting Kinshichō Station (錦糸町駅), off frame on the right side, in Kōtōbashi, Sumida Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Matsuya Ginza, perhaps? As with the Monogatari franchise, we often aren’t quite sure if we really recognize a location or if we’re just extrapolating based on something that seems familiar.
(アイドルマスターシンデレラガールズ Aidorumasutā Shinderera Gāruzu)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Yokohama Landmark Tower (横浜ランドマークタワー)
Pacifico Yokohama (パシフィコ横浜)
National Convention Hall (国立大ホール) at Pacifico Yokohama
Pukarisan Bridge (ぷかりさん橋)
@ts_kobaya made a video pilgrimage to Chichibu and Yokoze, Saitama Prefecture for Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterun Da.
@ye_bi_su made a pilgrimage to Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture; multiple locations in Tokyo inner wards; and Chōfu, Tokyo Metropolis for Wake Up, Girls! Seishun no Kage, the first of two planned theatrical film sequels to the TV series.