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.
2018 Spring Season Overview
Welcome back to a new season of anime settings and background art! At first glance it appears this round won’t offer more than some light fare with regard to the scope of this review, but peeling back the layers on some of the shows reveals interesting details. Not all shows have premiered yet, but at the moment I have three I plan to review each week.
Uma Musume Pretty Derby (P.A.Works) is based on a mobile phone game and features girls with horse-like features competing in races at venues around Japan. It sounds completely vapid, but the use of real racecourses and incorporation of horse racing history makes it more than meets the eye.
Amanchu! Advance (J.C.Staff) returns to Itō, Shizuoka Prefecture for a second season of diving and friendship.
Fumikiri Jikan (Ekachi Epilka) is a quirky short about students shooting the breeze while they wait for the gates to lift at railroad crossings.
There are two shows I plan to watch both for butaitanbou awareness and to enjoy:
Comic Girls (Nexus) had everyone excited with the PV and beginning of the first episode featuring locations in Shirakawa and Nishigō, Fukushima Prefecture. The story promptly shifts to Bunkyō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis, where it takes some topographical liberties with respect to the real location. I’m still interested to see if the initial setting will expand and if there will be a return to Shirakawa later in the series.
Tokyo Ghoul:re (Pierrot) is the third anime adaptation in this popular series. After reviewing the first two seasons, I’ve gotten the feeling that the locations, even the interesting ones, are a much lower priority for the show than the character designs and action scenes. Still, I like to keep tabs on where it goes.
There are two more shows I plan to watch but have yet to air:
Steins;Gate 0 (White Fox) is set in Akihabara and was a show I enjoyed immensely when the first season aired way back in 2011. I generally don’t review Akiba settings because of its overuse, but if any series would get me to reconsider, this would be it.
Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory (Xebec) could be a great nostalgic walk back into the Chōfu and Kichijōji settings that were used in Fumoffu, the side series from ye old 2003 between the first and second seasons, or everyone might just jump aboard the Danaan and sail off on a mission. I’ll be happy either way.
If either show makes a compelling case for weekly review I’ll consider adding it, but otherwise will just enjoy the ride.
Finally, there are additional works that may be of interest, though your mileage may vary:
Tada-kun wa Koi o Shinai (Doga Kobo) — Tokyo
Hinamatsuri (Feel) — Tokyo
Otaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii — Tokyo
Media and General Interest
Yuru Camp induces wintertime camping boom
Sankei Shimbun published an article about the over threefold boost to wintertime camping activity in Yamanashi Prefecture resulting from Yuru Camp. The story notes the series is a boon to Yamanashi, which previously had few established anime pilgrimage locations. Realistic depiction of actual camping sites drew both domestic and inbound tourists, some experiencing camping for the first time, on anime pilgrimages for the series.
Fujinomiya Yuru Camp overnight meetup
A large grounp of Yuru Camp fans organized an overnight camping offline meeting at the Fujisan YMCA Global Eco Village in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, the setting of the final two episodes. @offtama published an extensive report with excellent photography from the event.
Sanya and Ashita no Joe
@7_weights published an article exploring themes of Ashita no Joe on the 50th anniversary of the original manga, later adapted as an anime series. He mentions the use of Tokyo slum Sanya—now nearly whitewashed from maps and collective memory—as the setting of the seminal pop culture work about the laborer class in Japan.
Keihan Eupho collaboration
The marketing collaboration between Hibike! Euphonium and the Keihan Electric Railway is in full swing. @makotomatic (post), @hoe0808 (post) and @donko824 (post) published reports featuring excellent and extensive photography of the train wrappings and in-carriage materials on the Uji Line and Ishiyama Sakamoto Line, character panels in stations, and the peak of cherry blossoms in Uji and Ōtsu.
Oyama Station and Byōsoku 5 Senchimētoru
Cinema Today published an article about the use of a piano version of Yamazaki Masayoshi song “One more time, One more chance” as background music at Oyama Station in Tochigi Prefecture until 2018 June 30. The song is used on the soundtrack of Shinkai Makoto film Byōsoku 5 Senchimētoru (5 Centimeters per Second), which features scenes set in Oyama Station.
(ウマ娘 プリティーダービー Uma Musume Puritī Dābī)
This adaptation is based on a mobile game that features racehorses reborn as girls with horse-like features and racing abilities, who train at a fictional academy in Fuchū, Tokyo Metropolis and compete against each other on real racecourses in Japan. And they’re idols. My first reaction to the premise was something along the lines of wow, that sounds terrible. After three episodes, there are still some things I have trouble getting over—those idol concerts are really unnecessary—but there are also many interesting bits. The entire cast are based on real life racehorses. Their costumes echo the jockeys’ silk uniforms. Unique hair colorings come from the horses’ markings. Their racing histories, temperament and even injuries are tied back to the horses after which they are named. Each event is held at a real racecourse in Japan, with the grandstands and concourses getting screen time along with the tracks.
The series is produced by P.A.Works and directed by Oikawa Kei.
Art Director Itō Hiromu (伊藤 弘) has previously served as art director for Celestial Method and Golden Time.
Kusanagi (草薙) in Nerima Ward, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan has previously worked on background art for Celestial Method, Durarara!!, Flying Witch, Girls Beyond the Wasteland, Girls und Panzer (film), Hanayamata, In This Corner of the World, Kuromukuro, Love Live! (all), Love Live! Sunshine!! (all), Napping Princess, Non Non Biyori (all), Oreimo (all), A Place Further Than the Universe, Saekano (all), Steins;Gate, Tamako Market, Tokyo Ghoul (all), Waiting in the Summer.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@nobucafe is a butaitanbou practitioner and horse racing enthusiast. He published a detailed primer of horse racing history in Japan and how this is embedded in the series, which includes a pilgrimage to the Hanshin Racecourse in Takarazuka, Hyōgo Prefecture for Episode 2.
Finding the train station was the comparatively easy part. @kitakasukabe was able to discern that the train is not only a Kiha 40 (キハ40系), but specifically train number 1768. The combined power of anime otaku and densha otaku should never be underestimated.
Keiō Line (京王線)
Higashi-Fuchū Station (東府中駅)
Though Special Week chooses to run to the racecourse, most travelers would take the Keiō Keibajō Line (京王競馬場線), a one station spur of the Keiō Line from that delivers spectators to the venue from Higashi-Fuchū Station.
Hosoe Junko (細江純子) on the left, playing herself, is a real life former jockey and now horse racing commentator.
Hanshin Racecourse (阪神競馬場)
The quote “Eclipse first, the rest nowhere” refers to 18th century champion racehorse Eclipse, who was undefeated in his career. Almost all contemporary thoroughbred horses can trace their pedigree back to Eclipse. The horse’s owner Dennis O’Kelly is said to have made a bet on 1769 May 3, in order to increase his payoff, that not only would Eclipse win a race but the rest of the field would finish ‘nowhere’—greater than 240 yards behind the lead horse. The Guardian published a colorful story in 2007 about the history of Eclipse and O’Kelly.
Nagoya Racecourse (名古屋競馬場)
KaraokeKan Harajuku No. 2 shop (カラオケ館 原宿２号店)
Nakayama Racecourse (中山競馬場) in Funabashi (船橋), Chiba Prefecture
(あまんちゅ！〜あどばんす〜 Amanchu Adobansu)
Pikari and Teko are back for more diving adventures along the coast in Itō, Shizuoka Prefecture. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but the backgrounds seem more detailed than before, though the art director and background art studio are the same. There are already a few new locations in the first episode and I hope we’ll get to see more over the season.
The series is produced by J.C.Staff and directed by Satō Jun’ichi and Sayama Kiyoko.
Art Director Shibata Chikako (柴田 千佳子) was the art director for the first season, and has previously served as art director for Honey and Clover (all), Kiniro Mosaic (all) and YuruYuri (Nachuyachumi!, San Hai!).
The credits list background art staff as being part of the ‘J.C. Staff Art Department’. However, Shibata is still staff at Studio Kanon, which did the art for the first season. I’m not privy to enough information to know if this is just a superficial change in how they refer to contractors or if the work truly moved from one team to another, but I’ll include Studio Kanon below just in case.
Studio Kanon (スタジオカノン) in Suginami Ward, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan worked on background art for the first season, and has previously worked on background art for The Anthem of the Heart, Durarara!!, Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic, Honey and Clover (all), Natsume’s Book of Friends (Season 3) and YuruYuri (Nachuyachumi!, San Hai!).
Fan Pilgrimage Update
The 2018 March edition of the Itō City public relations newsletter features a large leading section on seichijunrei for Amanchu!
@yuruhuwa_dive is a group of anime pilgrims inspired by Amanchu! to pursue diving certification in order to explore locations featured in the series and elsewhere. They published a dōjinshi documenting their activities that was available at Comiket 93 in 2017 December:
— ゆるふわダイビング部@新刊🐯委託中 (@yuruhuwa_dive) December 26, 2017
To refresh our memories, Shiofuki Park (汐吹公園) in Itō (伊東), Shizuoka Prefecture is loosely used as the basis for the area where the Amanchu-ya diving house is located. The actual terrain is even rockier and harder to access, but the general outline of the coast and large rock formations are consistent.
Dive House Futo (ダイブハウス富戸)
Itō Orange Beach (伊東オレンジビーチ)
(踏切時間 Fumikiri Jikan)
These shorts are lighthearted vignettes of what happens when people have to think of things to say to each other when they’re caught waiting for a train to pass at a railroad crossing. If the anime follows the manga source, all of these crossings should be based on real fumikiri (踏切) in Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa.
Daigaku Press Center published an article about the involvement of Kyōei University lecturer Itō Taiga (伊藤大河) and students in his seminar in the production of Fumikiri Jikan. Students visited and documented railroad crossings that would be used in the series, providing materials from the location hunts to the production committee for use in the background art creation process.
The series is produced by Ekachi Epilka and directed by Suzuki Yoshio.
Art Director Kawashima Miyuki (川嶋 みゆき) has previously worked on background art for Hinako Note.
Studio Suuuu (スタジオ Suuuu) in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Japan has previously worked on background art for The Anthem of the Heart, Blue Spring Ride, Erased, Girls und Panzer (film), Shirobako and WWW.Wagnaria!!.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@ssslocation previously made a pilgrimage to multiple crossings in Tokyo, Saitama and Kanagawa that appear in the manga, and to the Ikebukuro No. 2 crossing for the anime PV, which is comprised of scenes from Episode 1.
Ikebukuro No. 2 crossing (池袋2号踏切) in Nishi-Ikebukuro 2-chōme, Toshima Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. This is the crossing used in Episode 1.
Kame No. 13 crossing (亀第13号踏切)—probably—in Tachibana 2-chōme, Sumida Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Ikebukuro No. 2 crossing, again
Nakai No. 4 crossing (中井4号踏切) in Nakai 1-chōme, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Second Nakazato crossing (第二中里踏切) in Nakazato 3-chōme, Kita Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Ikebukuro No. 2 crossing (池袋2号踏切) in Nishi-Ikebukuro 2-chōme, Toshima Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Seibu Ikebukuro Line (西武池袋線)
Other Current Season Pilgrimage
Past Season Pilgrimage
The blog Shiofilm published a cherry blossom pilgrimage to Ogawa, Saitama Prefecture for Non Non Biyori.