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 Summer Season Overview
Welcome back to a new season of anime settings and background art! There are many shows featuring real location settings from a range of genres, and there ought to be something for everyone, but there are two front runners which I’ll focus on for review each week:
Free! Dive to the Future (Kyoto Animation) is the third broadcast season in the Free! series and, when it’s not in the swimming pool, will divide time between Tokyo, Sydney and the original setting in Iwami, Tottori Prefecture.
Yama no Susume Third Season (8-Bit) is back with the same art director and background art studio from the second season, a new batch of mountains, and Aoi’s determination to attempt Fujisan again. Fans are already climbing the new locations, often within a few days of broadcasts.
There are plenty more interesting series, each of which could potentially see pilgrimage activity:
Harukana Receive (C2C) has thus far inhabited a small patch of beach in Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, but I’m hoping we’ll see an outing down to Naha. As touristy as Kokusai-dōri is, there are some wonderful Shōwa era shōtengai that are fascinating places to explore.
Island (Feel) uses locations on Niijima, an island 163 km south of Tokyo, but administratively under the Tokyo Metropolitan government. This is close to Miyakejima, where Two Car (2017) was set. Fortunately the former doesn’t have a pesky volcano spewing sulfur dioxide into the air, so you won’t need to carry a gas mask for an anime pilgrimage.
Hanebado! (Liden Films) blends locations picked from Tama, Kawasaki, Yokohama and possibly more.
Kyōto Teramachi Sanjō no Holmes (Seven) includes many postcard images of popular tourist attractions in Kyoto, often with little interaction from characters. Based on the title, I had hoped we would see more of the shōtengai around Teramachi-dōri.
Grand Blue (Zero-G) in theory is about diving, though it’s hard to tell with all of the drinking, and is set in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture.
Banana Fish (MAPPA) is set in New York City, however the time period has been updated from the source work. The manga is set in the 1980s, when it was originally published. The anime uses contemporary New York City, but with added grit, such as dilapidated buildings and graffiti on the subway, as a bridge to the earlier time.
Finally, there are additional works that may be of interest, though your mileage may vary:
Sirius the Jaeger (P.A.Works) is a period work with fantasy elements, set in 1930s Tokyo.
Jashin-chan Dropkick (Nomad) includes locations in Jinbōchō, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Metropolis.
Shōjo Kageki Revue Starlight (Kinema Citrus) includes locations in Kodaira and Musashino, Tokyo Metropolis.
Sunohara-sō no Kanrinin-san (Silver Link) includes locations in Shimotakaido, Suginami Ward and Kitasenju, Adachi Ward (both Tokyo Metropolis), and brief references to locations in Shizuoka Prefecture.
High Score Girl (J.C.Staff), based on the manga, includes locations in Mizonokuchi, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture; and Shibuya, Tokyo Metropolis.
Ongaku Shōjo (Studio Deen) may include locations in Higashi-Ikebukuro, though I haven’t been able to confirm directly.
Media and General Interest
Washinomiya Lucky Star seichijunrei
Danro published an article by contents tourism researcher Kawashima Tarō exploring the history of seichijunrei to Washinomiya, Kuki, Saitama Prefecture for Lucky Star, including fan-initiated engagement, and paradigm creating official collaboration with the series rights holder Kadokawa.
Keihan Kyoto Holmes collaboration
Keihan Railway published a press release with full details of its marketing collaboration with Kyoto Teramachi Sanjō no Holmes, including character panels in train stations, series location map, stamp rally, commemorative train tickets, train headmarks and special menu at Juicer Bar (part of the Keihan group).
New York Banana Fish locations
Travel agency Travel.jp published a guide to New York City locations that appear in the Banana Fish manga.
Yamanashi Yuru Camp locations
NewsWalker published an article about the Yamanashi Prefecture campgrounds that appear in Yuru Camp.
Tonoshō Takagi-san map
The town of Tonoshō on Shōdoshima, Kagawa Prefecture published an official guide map to locations from Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san.
The first two seasons of Free! firmly established Iwami (岩美), Tottori Prefecture as a top anime pilgrimage location. It’s popular not just with scene hunters, but also cosplayers posing for on-location photos. I still remember the excitement of early explorers’ efforts, spearheaded by @lidges, to track down the relatively remote fishing village in 2013, and am impressed by how much interest remains five years later. This new season will split our attention in three different directions, with Haru and Makoto going to college in Tokyo and meeting old and new acquaintances there, Rin training in Sydney, and the Iwatobi swim team continuing on with new members back at home. I’m concerned that the narrative may be spread too thin over so many places and so many boys, but am hopeful we’ll get plenty of new places to explore.
Art Director Kasai Shingo (笠井 信吾) is serving in this role for the first time, was the assistant art director for Nichijou, and has previously worked on background art for all but a few Kyoto Animation series, including the first and second seasons of Free!
Background art for Kyoto Animation series and films is generally produced by a combination of in-house artists and staff from Anime Workshop Basara (アニメ工房婆娑羅) in Nishi-tokyo, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan and Studio Blue (スタジオBLUE) in Seoul, South Korea. This was the case for the first and second seasons. I haven’t confirmed for the new season yet, but my guess is this hasn’t changed.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Shimo-Ochiai Station (下落合駅) in Shimo-Ochiai, Shinjuku Ward
North Sydney Olympic Pool in Milsons Point, North Sydney opened in 1936, but was not used for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Though this is recognizable as Center Gai (センター街) in Udagawachō, Shibuya Ward, and I think is supposed to be looking west on Inokashira-dōri in front of Seibu, the level of fidelity to the real cityscape is low.
Nishi-Hachiōji Station (西八王子駅) in Hachiōji
North Sydney Olympic Pool
Use of fumikiri (railroad crossing) gates as a symbol of obstacles to progress or reaching a destination
San’in Main Line (山陰本線) rail crossing south of Iwami Station in Iwami, Tottori Prefecture
@lidges proposed sunflower farms in Sayō, Hyōgo Prefecture as the inspiration for the scenes in the OP and Episode 1. This is one of the closest large scale farms to Iwami, about an hour and an half away by car.
Likely somewhere in Iwami
The opening shot of the cherry tree is the intersection adjacent to the pool in the following shot. Both are in Nakajūjō (中十条), Kita Ward, which is very far from the location of Haru and Makoto’s apartment.
Jūjōdai Elementary School Heated Pool (十条台小学校温水プール)
I’m really excited about this location. Not for the pool itself, but because Nakajūjō is a wedge shaped district bordered on the west by the Saikyō Line and Jūjō-Nakahara, which contains the Jūjō Ginza Shōtengai arcade and other shopping streets, and on the east by the Tōhoku Main Line and Higashi-Jūjō, which contains an even larger network of shōtengai. There is a nest of winding and hilly streets, mostly residential but with some small independent shops, that weaves through Nakajūjō and connects the two flanks. It’s one of my favorite places in Tokyo to take a walk. If any part of this area were to get the KyoAni background treatment I would go absolutely bonkers.
The neighborhood through which Haru and Makoto walk to reach their train station is Shimo-Ochiai (下落合), Shinjuku Ward, all the way across the city.
The first shot we see is the narrow street along the east side of Seseragi-no-sato Park (せせらぎの里公苑).
Walking north toward the station
Shimo-Ochiai No. 1 crossing (下落合1号踏切)
Shimo-Ochiai Station (下落合駅)
Though public transit wasn’t absent from the first two seasons, I anticipate the Tokyo setting will lead to it playing a larger role, as trains and buses are integrated parts of most daily routines here.
Aoyama Gakuin University (青山学院大学) main campus in Shibuya 4-chōme, Shibuya Ward
North Sydney Olympic Pool
Though we’re supposed to be in Tokyo, Makoto’s lecture hall is a modified version of the Ningenkan (人間館) at the Kyoto University of Art and Design (京都造形芸術大学) in Kitashirakawa, Sakyō Ward, Kyoto. This is also the launch point for the Kirara jump in the opening credits of K-On! Season 1 and appears in this season’s Kyōto Teramachi Sanjō no Holmes. The cameo appearance didn’t go unnoticed by the university’s manga department.
Aoyama Gakuin University
Nothing is known yet about the cafe, but if it turns out to be a real business in an accessible location, look for it to become a frequent touch point for anime pilgrims. Establishing a real world third place—a neutral meeting point—often occurs as an outgrowth of visitors looking to connect while out in the field. Proximity to the anime locations and amenability to group meetings are key considerations, and interest may be stronger if the setting is also used as a meeting place in the work. If management is open to the idea of hosting one, this is the kind of place where you will often find a pilgrimage exchange notebook.
Tajiri (田後), Iwami, Tottori Prefecture viewed from the Tajiri Park observation deck (田後公園展望台)
Nothing is known yet about any of the scenes that appear in the ending credits, but after the first two seasons I’ve learned not to overlook them. Despite the silliness, the backgrounds have often proven to be at least inspired by if not literal uses of real locations.
(ヤマノススメ サードシーズン Yama no Susume Sādo Shīzun)
My own history with Yama no Susume has all been about surprises. With the first season in 2013, I hadn’t expected the short-format episodes, clocking in at just three and a half minutes, would unleash such an enthusiastic wave of mountain climbing pilgrimages. With the second season in 2014, I hadn’t anticipated just how much the change to a half-length episode, upgraded background art studios, and more adventurous location selection would lead to a further bloom of interest, bringing the series to the center of attention for the anime pilgrimage community. I later understood that there was a quietly growing cohort of fans that first discovered interest in climbing through the manga, and that the anime series was a trigger for them to raise the visibility of their activities and unlock latent interest. I hadn’t expected how much I would enjoy climbing Tenranzan and Tōnosuyama on a group pilgrimage in Hannō, and later Takaosan with my six year old. I hadn’t thought I’d eventually find myself considering buying a real pair of hiking shoes and keeping a list of the mountains I want to try climbing. I wonder what surprises the new season has in store.
Art Director Tajiri Ken’ichi (田尻 健一) was art director for the second season, and has previously served as art director for Akiba’s Trip, Aria the Origination, Comic Girls, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Etotama and Tamayura (all works).
Art Setting Fujii Kazushi (藤井 一志) held this role for the second season, and has previously worked on art design for Etotama and The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls (Season 2).
Mukuo Studio (ムクオスタジオ) in Suginami Ward, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan was one of two studios that produced background art for the second season, and has previously worked on background art for Akiba’s Trip, Aria the Origination, Comic Girls, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Etotama, Mekakucity Actors, Silver Spoon (Season 2), Someday’s Dreamers II Sora, Sword Art Online, Tamayura (all works) and Wake Up, Girls!
Fan Pilgrimage Update
After the first two episodes opened with a temporary recap sequence, we now get to the real opening credits for the series. I couldn’t tell if the opening few shots are part of the sequence or belong with the episode, but in any event they contain two interesting details.
As Aoi sets out in the morning, the brick pattern in the shot comes from the Hannō Ginza Shōtengai (飯能銀座商店街), the main shopping street that leads out from Hannō Station into the city.
As the sun rises she comes around the side of Hannō Station (飯能駅), on the right. This combination of station and shōtengai as physical anchor and visual symbol of a civic space is something I never get tired of studying on my walks in Japan. It’s always interesting to see how it carries into anime settings.
Family Mart Hannō-eki-mae shop (ファミリーマート飯能駅前店)
Fujisan (富士山) summit
Hannō Central Park (飯能中央公園)
Wareiwa-bashi (割岩橋) in Hannō
Kannonji (観音寺) in Hannō
Seibu Ikebukuro Line (西武池袋線)
Tenranzan (天覧山) summit in Hannō
Hannō Ōdōri Shōtengai (飯能大通り商店街)
Higashi-Agano Station (東吾野駅)
Tenkakusan (天覚山) trail head
Shiro noted in the tweets that the paths at Tenkakusan are often overgrown with grass, so it can be challenging to visually confirm you’re still on the course.
Ōtakayama (大高山) summit
Nenogongen Tenryū-ji (子ノ権現天龍寺)