Welcome to this week’s review of notable instances of public transit use and urban design, as well as discussion of place identity and culture, through anime currently broadcast or screening in Japan and simulcast internationally via the web. This review also documents seichijunrei (聖地巡礼 sacred site pilgrimage) and butaitanbou (舞台探訪 scene hunting)—on this website referred to collectively as anime pilgrimage—which are forms of place-based engagement induced by the use of real locations in show settings.
2016 Fall Season Overview
It’s that time again. This fall brings some returning favorites and several new shows featuring highly detailed settings and a variety of real-world location models. With what looks to be very promising but dense content, I’ll continue to limit the number I review directly to about five or six, though still including news and reporting on seichijunrei for all works.
Hibike! Euphonium 2 (Kyoto Animation) gives us more of all the things we love: more Uji, more Keihan trains, more KyoAni backgrounds, more— Kumiko.
3-gatsu no Lion (Shaft) is an adaptation of an award winning manga by Umino Chica, creator of the wonderful Honey and Clover. The complex and at times dark narrative content—the main character struggles with depression—is combined with locations that, while in Tokyo, are not the more popular areas we are accustomed to seeing in manga and anime. Wrap this up with a Shaft/Shinbō/Okada visual treatment that does not look like Mongatari—character designs and settings are fairly faithful to the original work—and I think this is will be a very interesting presentation.
Udon no Kuni no Kin’iro Kemari (Liden Films) features an unusual setting in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku.
Yūri!!! on Ice (MAPPA) I initially looked at just to see the complex hand-drawn body movement that others were raving about. I then came to learn its main setting is based loosely on Karatsu, Saga Prefecture in Kyūshū, and the show also mixes in international locations.
WWW.Working!! (A-1 Pictures) will hopefully provide more of the same amusing indoor antics punctuated by scenes of Sapporo like its well-loved predecessor Working!!
Next week I will evaluate Girlish Number (Diomedéa) and Fune wo Amu (Zexcs) for inclusion.
Other series that may be of interest but I won’t cover week to week include Natsume Yūjin-Chō Go (Shuka), the latest installment in a long-running series with an unusual location in Kumamoto Prefecture, and Mahō Shōjo Ikusei Keikaku (Lerche) set in Jōetsu, Niigata Prefecture.
Media and General Interest
2016 Yuwaku Bonbori Matsuri
Hokkoku Shimbun published an article about the 2016 Yuwaku Bonbori Matsuri in Yuwaku Onsen, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. Bonbori was a fictional festival from the original anime Hanasaku Iroha that the hot springs town has held annually as a tourism driver the past five years.
Hannō Times Mart
Fuji TV news program Shuzaibu broadcast a segment on regional (not FamilyMart, Lawson, etc.) convenience stores, which includes the Times Mart in Hannō, Saitama Prefecture. This Times Mart location appears in Yama no Susume and has a large section dedicated to goods related to the manga and anime:
Yomiuri Shimbun published an article about seichijunrei to Hida for Kimi no Na wa. and Ōgaki for Koe no Katachi (both Gifu Prefecture).
Iza News Matome (part of Sankei Shimbun) published an article about seichijunrei to Hida for Kimi no Na wa.
Gifu Shimbun published an article about seichijunrei to Hida, Ogaki and Gifu, but points out that a reduction in operating cinemas in the region has left residents in some of these areas without a local theater in which to watch the works that feature these locations.
Tokyo Kimi no Na wa. seichijunrei
The Guardian published an article about popular reception of Kimi no Na wa. that includes a mention of anime pilgrimage, though a terse and unflattering one: “Shinkai’s painstaking recreations of everyday Tokyo scenes have prompted hordes of fans to descend on locations from the film, forcing production staff to plead with them not to disturb local residents following complaints about their behaviour.”
Jōetsu Mahoiku locations
Jōetsu Town Journal published an article about the use of Jōetsu, Niigata Prefecture as a location model for Mahō Shōjo Ikusei Keikaku.
Schools in anime
MyNavi Gakusei no Madoguchi published an article about school campuses that have been used as location models in anime series.
(響け！ユーフォニアム2 Hibike! Yūfoniamu 2)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Ebisu continues to defy my thinking about knowledge work—that it can be polished, thorough and done quickly, but you can only choose two at a time. As with the first season of Eupho, he plans to continue heading out on the early morning train after the late night episodes air, conducting butaitanbou (location hunting) for each, then publishing his full findings within a day or two. Ebisu seeks to be a guiding resource for the broader seichijunrei (holy land pilgrimage) community by being the first to report on popular works in his region, but he does not allow the speed element to detract from the quality of his investigation and presentation. There is a reason he was awarded the grand prize by his peers in the Butaitanbou Community the past two years, and rookie award the year before that.
I was able to make my own pilgrimage to Uji a year ago, so while the double length first episode throws in almost every location from the first season plus the kitchen sink, it was fun to reorient myself to familiar places as I worked through the mountain of screen captures.
Todō Senior High School (莵道高校)
Keihan Uji Line (京阪宇治線)
Keihan Electric Railway is again an official collaborator with the production committee, so expect to see more Eupho-themed promotional events and detailed in-show depictions of railway assets.
Mimurodo Station (三室戸駅) on the Keihan Uji Line
Ōbaku Number 1 fumikiri (黄檗1号踏切), the first grade level railroad crossing south of Ōbaku Station
Bench along the Ajirogi no michi (あじろぎの道)
Uji River (宇治川) flood plain, north of Uji Bridge and the JR rail viaduct in the center of the city
Keage Incline (蹴上インクライン) was a Meiji era transport route between Kyoto and Lake Biwa, near Nanzen-ji in Kyoto, now famous as a cherry blossom viewing spot.
Daikichiyama (大吉山) viewing platform
Todō Senior High School
Kyoto Concert Hall (京都コンサートホール)
Todō Senior High School
Keihan Rokujizō Station (京阪六地蔵駅)
The walk to and wait for the train, as well as the train ride itself, becomes an extension of the students’ day together.
Signage, audible announcements and other details in this and other Keihan stations appear to exhibit even more fidelity to the real locations than they did in the first season, which was already pretty impressive.
Midori continues to depart in the opposite direction, toward Kyoto, while everyone else heads south further into Uji at the end of the day.
Ōbaku Station (黄檗駅)
As with the platform announcements, the Foley work for the soundscape in and near the trains—compressors, gearboxes, brakes, rail clacking, fumikiri, etc.—all sound, to my ears, to use on-location field recordings.
The CG backgrounds through the moving train windows are simple, but don’t appear to be just generic buildings. I wouldn’t be too surprised if they’re modeled on the actual scene from a passing train on this route.
Keihan Uji Station (京阪宇治駅)
Tsuen (通圓), the oldest tea shop in Japan, operating in this location since 1160
Uji Bridge (宇治橋)
Telephoto shot of Uji Bridge from the south. No Ishihara-directed series would be complete without a long lens shot of a bridge from another bridge on the same waterway.
I really enjoy unusual angles like this. On a location hunt, art staff would literally have to get their faces (or camera) down on the ground to know what the bridge lantern and planters look like from that perspective. I think this approach to the artwork is part of what gives the viewer the sensation of being there, in that environment alongside the characters.
This location is near Byōdō-in (平等院), however the manshon itself comes from elsewhere in Uji.
Keihan Uji Line
Shinchaya fumikiri (新茶屋踏切), the second grade level crossing south of Ōbaku Station
Kumiyama Junction (久御山ジャンクション), connecting the Second Keihan Highway (第二京阪道路) and Keiji Bypass (京滋バイパス). @nobucafe (tweet) points out that this has appeared in anime before, in an episode of Nisemonogatari.
Golgo indicates he captured this image with a camera mounted on his car:
— ごるご (@golgo_juusou) October 7, 2016
Please be safe and don’t try to take photos of road signs, or anything really, while driving!
Todō Senior High School
Seven Eleven Uji Ōbaku Park shop (セブンイレブン宇治黄檗公園店)
McDonald’s Uji Kohata shop (マクドナルド宇治木幡店)
Rail viaduct on the east side of Keihan Rokujizō Station, crossing the Yamashina River
While the 2D animation is par for contemporary KyoAni broadcast anime, there is significant improvement to CG detail level, particularly noticeable on the Keihan trains. You can still tell which elements are computer generated, but the fine detail and shading is much more complex than in the first season. They’ve even simulated the reflection of the scene behind the camera in the glossy paint.
Uji from the Daikichiyama viewing platform
From the beginning of the fireworks display to the end of the episode, the emphasis on experiencing surroundings is elevated yet again. Camera angles and perspective are part of this, but I think the most powerful tool is the attention to how sound and light change based on the environment. Crowd din and shoe steps sound different on stone pavement versus asphalt, or in a closed versus open space. Light quality changes dramatically when reflected off water or filtered through a screen. Despite the exposition of a new conflict through a few backstory segments and introduction of new characters, the primary purpose of this episode is to let the audience again feel what it’s like to exist in this world.
Intersection at the west end of the Ujibashi-dōri Shōtengai (宇治橋通り商店街), west of JR Uji Station
Uji Jinja (宇治神社)
Asagiri Bridge (朝霧橋)
Uji Bridge viewed from Asagiri Bridge
Tachibana Bridge (橘橋)
Kisen Bridge (喜撰橋)
Uji Bridge east end
JR Uji Station (JR 宇治駅)
Embankment (土手 dote) along the Uji River, north of the city center, near the footbridge under which Kumiko and Reina sit in the opening credits
Yamashiro Park (京都府立山城総合運動公園)
With so much of Uji already incorporated into the artwork, I don’t anticipate this second season will introduce a large number of new locations, but I think this may be a good thing. Where a year and a half ago we in the butaitanbou community were scrambling to keep track of new developments each week (or at least watching Ebisu doing so), I’m looking forward to an opportunity to relax just a little and savor these spaces more deeply the second time around.
(3月のライオン Sangatsu no Raion)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Shinkawa (新川), Chūō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Though the neighborhoods that make up the main base for Rei and the Kawamoto family are based on locations in Chūō Ward, they’re far enough from places like Ginza and close enough to Kōtō Ward to be off the radar for most people who don’t live in or haven’t traveled to these predominately residential areas on the waterfront.
Chūō Bridge (中央大橋) in Shinkawa
Tsukuda Bridge (佃大橋) in Tsukuda, Chūō Ward
Taka Bridge (高橋). Takabashi is a common bridge name, this one connects Shinkawa and Hatchōbori.
This is the Tokyo Station (東京駅) Yaesu entrance (八重洲口) prior to recent renovation. Some Japanese friends expressed a feeling of nostalgia after seeing the old facade depicted here.
Chūō Line (Rapid) (中央線快速)
Camera view from directly above the track
View of the sotobori (外濠), what was once the outer moat of the Imperial Palace, from the train
Close up shot of train pantograph
Sendagaya Station (千駄ケ谷駅)
This older entrance was still in use up until several weeks ago, when it was closed for renovation as part of preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It also appears in recent Shinkai Makoto film Kimi no Na wa.
Sendagaya-ōdōri Shōtengai “Green Mall” (千駄ケ谷大通り商店街「グリーンモール」)
Hatanomori Hachiman Jinja (鳩森八幡神社)
NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building (NTTドコモ代々木ビル), another Shinkai favorite landmark
Like the arriving train at Tokyo Station and tight shot of the pantograph earlier, this view of the subway tunnel from the engineer’s cab isn’t something the general public can see without trespassing. Shots like these are interspersed with the view we’re more accustomed to seeing, like the carriage interior shot below. This omniscience gives a sense of how transit infrastructure is woven into the larger built environment.
Tsukishima Station (月島駅)
View from Tsukuda (small) Bridge (佃小橋)
Namiyoke 於咲 Inari Daimyōjin (波除於咲稲荷大明神)
Tsukuda Park (佃公園), Tsukuda (small) Bridge (佃小橋) in the background
The Kawamoto’s “Mikazuki-dō” is modeled on Kotobuki-dō in Nihonbashi-Ningyōchō (日本橋人形町), Chūō Ward. This traditional confectioner has been operating since 1907.
In the work, the confectioner has been grafted into the Tsukuda neighborhood.
Tsukuda (small) Bridge
Tsukuda (small) Bridge
This eagerly anticipated work ought to have something for everyone to enjoy.
(うどんの国の金色毛鞠 Udon no Kuni no Kin’iro Kemari)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
While Ebisu is a rapidly rising star, Lidges has long been the butaitanbou community’s leading pillar, the standard by which anime tourism, and writing about anime tourism, is measured. Lidges’ articles are frequently printed out and used by local tourism offices in lieu of formal advertising materials and maps to promote regional pop culture tourism. Lidges takes the responsibility that comes with this notoriety seriously. He uses his platform both to share information that enables anime pilgrimage, while also disseminating norms coming out of the butaitanbou community around appropriate behavior for visitors, such as refraining from trespassing, taking invasive photos or being too noisy, reminding fans that they are all ambassadors for the greater pop culture tourism community when they travel to these neighborhoods.
Lidges has asked me more than once when I’m ever going to come down to Shikoku to see him (he lives in Kagawa Prefecture). Though I would like to see the original Awa Odori in Tokushima someday, I’ll admit that Shikoku has never really been high up on my list of places I felt a burning need to visit. But I promised him that once Udon no Kuni airs, I will most definitely make a point to head down for a seichijunrei/udon eating tour with him.
Great Seto Bridge (瀬戸大橋)
Hayashimichi Station (林道駅)
Ritsurin Garden (栗林公園)
Shikoku Mura (四国村)
Takamatsu Port Tamamo Breakwater Lighthouse (高松港玉藻防波堤灯台)
Takamatsu Marugamemachi Shōtengai (高松丸亀町商店街)
Near Shinmiyagawa Bridge (新宮川橋)
Takamatsu from the Yashima (屋島) observation platform
The defunct udon shop appears to be a fictional location.
Great Seto Bridge
Bukkake Udon Daien (ぶっかけうどん 大円)
If you’re going to animate a manga about udon shops, you can do worse than painstakingly depicting the noodles as they’re really presented:
— リジス (@lidges) October 9, 2016
It’s the same story no matter what part of the world you’re in: the folks back home don’t want to hear how they live in the sticks when you come back to visit from your life in the big city, no matter the accuracy of the assessment.
Chikiri Jinja (ちきり神社). The work depicts a Buddhist priest supervising a temple, though this is actually a Shinto shrine. It is also in the Takamatsu suburb Busshōzan (仏生山), far from the other locations used in this episode.
Along the Tsumeta River (詰田川)
Nagasaki no Hana (長崎ノ鼻)
Kaname Jun (要 潤) plays himself and delivers the next episode previews. The live-action drama actor is a Kagawa Prefecture native and was appointed to the symbolic post of vice governor of “Udon Prefecture” in 2011. This was part of a marketing campaign to promote the prefecture’s famous noodles, in which officials, perhaps only half jokingly, lobbied to have Kagawa’s name officially changed to Udon.
(ユーリ!!! on ICE Yūri on Aisu)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
— スカイＤＪ (@sky_dj_) October 6, 2016
Karatsu (唐津), Saga Prefecture
Karatsu Station (唐津駅)
Paper ticket used in wicket
Yoyogi Nation Gymnasium (国立代々木競技場) was designed by Tange Kenzō for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Kuma Kengo, designer of the new stadium for 2020, has lobbied for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list designation for Tange’s Pritzker Prize winning design.
Karatsu Castle (唐津城)
Imperial World Ice Skating in Bangkok, Thailand
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo di Firenze) in Florence, Italy
Fukuoka Nakasu yatai (福岡中州屋台) is one of several collections of outdoor food stalls for which Fukuoka is famous. In the cramped but cozy setting, it is typical to chat with and pour drinks for people who may have been complete strangers before sitting down to eat.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Past Season Pilgrimage
@SSEBTBM883 made a pilgrimage to (post 1) Asagaya and Ogikubo; and (post 2) Shinjuku, Akihabara, Kameido and Tsukiji (preceding Tokyo Metropolis), and Makuhari, Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture for New Game!