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 holy land pilgrimage) and butaitanbou (舞台探訪 scene hunting), which are pop culture tourism and place-based engagement induced by the use of real locations in show settings.
2017 Summer Season Overview
Welcome to a new season of anime settings and background art. This is looking to be a light one, probably the quietest season since I began writing this column. It will be a good opportunity to savor what content we do look at, and I won’t mind recharging my energy a bit and digging deeper into the writing backlog of my own pilgrimages.
New Game! (Doga Kobo) returns with a second season exactly one year after the first. The producing studio and art director are the same, but backgrounds have been contracted out to a new studio, so it will be interesting to see what is consistent and what has changed between the seasons. I appreciated the more than just perfunctory nod to locations in and around the Tokyo creative industry cluster on the west side of the city, and hope for more of the same.
Sakura Quest (P.A.Works) continues into its second cour with no surprises.
Beyond the review shows, there are a few other works that may be of interest:
Ballroom e Yōkoso (Production I.G.) Tokyo, with occasional excursions elsewhere
Tenshi no 3P! (Project No.9) Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture
Konbini Kareshi (Studio Pierrot) undetermined
Media and General Interest
Kyoto Shimbun published an article about recent efforts to promote tourism to the city using manga, anime and game content, with particular emphasis on Uchōten Kazoku.
(ニューゲーム!! Nyū Gēmu!!)
We often see backgrounds based on locations in the Tokyo creative industry cluster (animation studios, recording studios, etc.) on the west side of the city, most of which are in Mitaka, Musashino, Nerima Ward and Suginami Ward. Occasionally, as was the case with Shirobako, this is done intentionally as a means to ground a self-referential narrative in the real places where the work is done. But often it seems to be done simply out of convenience. Using your own backyard as a reference avoids the need for extensive location hunting. This in and of itself is not a prescription for an uninspired work, but when a random assortment of locations are referenced simply to have something to put behind the characters, the setting can come off as generic and uninteresting. After demonstrating an affection for and playfulness with the locations in the first few episodes of the first season, I knew New Game! would have a bit more to offer. It looks like the new season will continue this pattern, but I’d love to see some surprises too.
Suzuki Shunsuke (鈴木 俊輔) was the art director for the first season and returns in the same role for this second installment. He has previously served as art director for both seasons of YuruYuri.
Where the first season art was contracted out to BSP (Seoul, South Korea) and Studio Fuga (Suginami Ward, Tokyo Metropolis), this time it will be handled by Moon Flower (ムーンフラワー) in Suginami Ward, which has previously worked on background art for Durarara!!, Flying Witch, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Kill la Kill and Yūri!!! on Ice. The studio is located in Amanuma, just one subway stop or a few minutes brisk walk northwest along Ōme-kaidō from Minami-Asagaya, the main setting of New Game! It really is their backyard. Studio Fuga was even closer, right in Minami-Asagawa, just down the street from the Eagle Jump office.
Keiō Line (京王線)
Chūō-Sōbu Line (中央・総武緩行線)
Asagaya Station (阿佐ヶ谷駅)
The Eagle Jump office is modeled on a building on Ōme-kaidō (青梅街道) in Asagaya Minami (阿佐谷南), Suginami Ward, Tokyo Metropolis.
Shibuya scramble crossing (渋谷スクランブル交差点)
Eagle Jump staff hold hanami at a location not far from the studio, Sanshi no Mori Park (蚕糸の森公園) in Wada, Suginami Ward.
Minami Asagaya Suzuran-dōri Shōtengai (南阿佐谷すずらん通り商店街)
(サクラクエスト Sakura Kuesuto)
Yoshino returns to her hometown for a summer vacation. No one has determined if this is a real location or not, but considering a coastal town that seems to have thing for kamaboko—Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture comes to mind.
Sanae returns for a visit to Tokyo. Though there is no mistaking this as the Shibuya scramble crossing (渋谷スクランブル交差点), what’s notable is how generic it feels, and the presence of features, like the elevated footbridge, that are inconsistent with the real location. Compare this to Uchōten Kazoku with its background art that, while stylized, is very detailed and still faithful to its Kyoto setting. Though P.A.Works produced series are known in general for their high production value, the quality of the artwork varies widely depending on which creators and studios are selected to design and execute it.
Jōhana Sakura Line (城端さくら線)
Yoshino meets a friend now working for the hometown’s local government. She also manages machi okoshi (町おこし town revitalization), but from the perspective of increasing permanent residents, rather than tourism.
The idea of minpaku is not new, but online platforms like Airbnb, which Shiori all but identifies by name, have lowered the barriers to entry. The growth of Airbnb has precipitated a substantial amount of blowback in Japan, where the traditional hotel industry and its lobbyists portray it as a threat to their business, and local residents leery of unfamiliar faces have been known to raise complaints. On 2017 June 9, Japan’s upper house passed a legislative bill that formally establishes the right to operate, requirements and restrictions for services like Airbnb.
A subsequent conversation about minpaku, which Shiori sees as a way to utilize Manoyama’s abandoned houses, eventually turns to the topic of whether it would be better to fill those vacant properties with permanent residents instead.
Hachiman Jinja is a particularly common name for shrines, so it doesn’t help much with trying to identify the seaside town.
More generic Tokyo. I think that’s supposed to be the Shinjuku Takashimaya from the east, but hard to say for sure.
Izakaya used as third place
Jōhana Line (城端線)
Kadota approves Shiori’s minpaku proposal. When Mino says, “It won’t be easy to comply with the hospitality industry laws,” there isn’t enough context to determine if he’s referring to the real law just passed or something else.