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.
2018 Fall Season Overview
Welcome back to a new season of anime settings and background art! This is a busy one with potential for many developments. There are two shows that explore underrepresented settings and will be target rich for anime pilgrimage, so I’ll focus on those for detailed weekly review:
Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (P.A.Works) is set in Nagasaki City which, despite its history and picturesque vistas, is surprisingly seldom used as an anime setting. The lush artwork makes it a pleasure to watch and includes many places that look like they’re a lot of fun to explore on foot. Several butaitanbou-sha have already walked the neighborhoods and published findings, and more are on the way.
Tsurune: Kazemai Kōkō Kyūdō-bu (Kyoto Animation) won’t premiere for almost two more weeks, but it’s clear from the PVs that it’s set in Nagano City, also a place we don’t see very often.
There is a second group of shows that could be just as interesting and should be on your radar. I plan to watch all of them, and if I had the bandwidth would include them for deeper analysis:
Seishun Buta Yarō wa Bunny Girl-senpai no Yume o Minai (CloverWorks) inhabits the familiar Kamakura Fujisawa axis along the Enoshima Electric Railway. Enoden has developed a sophisticated business strategy of getting its trains and the neighborhoods it serves featured in anime. Sometimes I feel it’s a victim of its own success, with the same places appearing over and over in various series, leading to fatigue. Still, the area is easy to access and is a perennial favorite among anime pilgrims. This series in particular has already spurred great interest among butaitanbou-sha—four have explored and published findings for Episode 1.
Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Production I.G) has a local base comprised of neighborhoods around Soshigaya-Okura Station in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, including some interesting shōtengai. However the series has its sights on competing in the Hakone Ekiden, a two day relay marathon from Ōtemachi, Tokyo to Lake Ashi in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture and back.
Sora to Umi no Aida (TMS Entertainment) is set in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, a photogenic hillside city on the Seto Inland Sea that has previously been used to great effect in both anime and live-action drama, generating pop culture tourism for both. Soraumi starts out a little too eager, having the protagonist get lost and conveniently routing her to all of the city’s tourism sites. The mishmash of tropes and the space-fishing premise are more distracting than anything else, but I hope that daily life scenes in the city will be interesting enough to anchor it. One butaitanbou-sha has explored and reported findings for the PV.
Toaru Majutsu no Index III (J.C.Staff) takes us back to Academy City (Tachikawa and Tama, Tokyo Metropolis) after a long absence, and looks like it will include overseas settings as well. Though I’ve never seen Index, I did watch spinoff series Toaru Kagaku no Railgun and reviewed the second season in the weekly. I’m not really sure what’s going on from a plot standpoint, but this is an important franchise for anime pilgrimage, so I’ll try my best to follow along. There are several marketing collaborations for the series going on in Tachikawa, and one butaitanbou-sha has explored and published findings for the OP and Episode 1.
Finally, there are additional works that may be of interest, though your mileage may vary:
Release the Spyce (Lay-duce) includes locations in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Zombie Land Saga (MAPPA) is set in Saga Prefecture, including Yūri!!! on Ice city Karatsu, and looks like it might be a lot of fun.
SSSS.Gridman (Trigger) mentions Nerima Ward, Tokyo several times in its first episode, though the places identified so far are found in Togoshi, Ogikubo and Kitasenju.
Sword Art Online: Alicization (A-1 Pictures) periodically includes locations in greater Tokyo, though emphasis is on the in-game world.
Tokyo Ghoul:re (Pierrot) returns for its second season. It’s Tokyo, though the backgrounds in this franchise have become so generic that it might as well be anywhere.
Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken (8-Bit) included a scene in Kyōbashi, Chūō Ward, Tokyo before the protagonist is killed, then reincarnated in another world. If he doesn’t return, perhaps that’s all we’re going to get.
Media and General Interest
Asahi Shimbun published an article about efforts by Gunma Prefecture to leverage various subculture trends to drive local tourism, with particular emphasis on manga and anime seichijunrei.
My Navi News published an article about a marketing collaboration between Toaru Majutsu no Index III and convenience store Lawson, in which the chain’s Tachikawa Akebonobashi shop will feature advertising for the series and sell limited edition goods.
The rescheduled and abbreviated Eighth Yuwaku Bonbori Matsuri was held on October 8 after Typhoon Kong-rey had passed by. The fictional festival from Hanasaku Iroha has been held in Yuwaku, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture every year since the series broadcast. As a safety measure, many elements of the festival were absent this year, most strikingly the lanterns ascending the steps in the heart of the onsen village, but attendees who were able to accommodate the new schedule experienced a quiet and low-key version of the celebration:
— ヨーク (@york21c) October 8, 2018
— 葛城 (@saki_achiga) October 8, 2018
(色づく世界の明日から Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara)
Nagasaki is surprisingly underrepresented among real location settings in anime, so I was excited to learn P.A.Works and one of its frequent background art studio partners would give us their interpretation of this historic city. After a brief glimpse of what things may look like in 2078, our protagonist is transported back to present day Nagasaki, albeit with fantasy elements thrown in for color. So far, we’ve seen impressive vistas and terraced neighborhoods with winding alleys. Though a few landmarks are subtly hinted at, the first episode avoided overtly going after the most recognizable tourist sites, so I’m hopeful we’ll get more than just a surface deep experience of the city.
Art Director Higashi Junichi (東 潤一) has previously served as art director for Cowboy Bebop, Love Live! Sunshine!! (S1), Red Data Girl and Sirius the Jaeger.
Art Director Suzuki Kurumi (鈴木くるみ) has previous served as art director for Love Live! Sunshine!! (S2), and has worked on background art for Kuromukuro, Love Live! School idol project, Napping Princess and Red Data Girl.
Studio Easter (スタジオイースター) in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan has previously worked on background art for Angel Beats!, Aria the Origination, Genshiken series, Hanasaku Iroha television series and film, Kuromukuro, Love Live! School idol project (TV series and film), Love Live! Sunshine!!, A Lull in the Sea, Napping Princess, Noragami, Oreimo, Red Data Girl, Saki series, Silver Spoon 2, Sirius the Jaeger, Steins;Gate (TV series and film), and Tari Tari.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
The mountainous topography of Nagasaki has led to interesting neighborhood layouts and access routes, many of which are not available on Google Street View. This will be an opportunity for butaitanbou-sha to get back to old-fashioned legwork hunting.
Much of the core of Nagasaki is comprised of terraced neighborhoods built into steep slopes that surround its harbor. This gives rise to large numbers of sloping streets, many pedestrian only, as well as numerous vantage points from which to take in views of the city. The challenge for scene hunters with Irozuku will be not finding slopes and observation points, but discerning which specific ones are suggested by the composition of the artwork.
Right from the beginning, we get a night view shot from Izumo Kinrin Park (出雲近隣公園) in Izumo (出雲), a popular city viewing point. Though this is 2078 Nagasaki, the contours of the land are unchanged and this location makes sense in context of other scenes in this sequence.
Missing in this shot, but returning once Hitomi arrives in 2018, on the right side of this street is the upper end of the Glover Sky Road (グラバースカイロード), a series of free, public access escalators and elevators for ascending the slope in Aioimachi (相生町) and Uedamachi (上田町) districts.
Just in the first episode there are several locations that include the name Glover, and from the PV it appears there will be more, so I looked into it a bit. Thomas Blake Glover was a Scottish merchant who first arrived in Nagasaki in 1859, a few years after the forced opening of Japan to foreign trade at the hands of Matthew Perry. Glover assisted rebellious factions in their overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate, leading to the return of imperial rule in Japan, know as the Meiji Restoration. Glover was a key figure in Japan’s industrialization, introducing steam-locomotive technology, commissioning the first warships for the new navy, developing the first coal mine, and helping to establish companies that would go on to become the Mitsubishi Corporation and Kirin Brewery Company. For these contributions he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun.
My favorite bit of Glover trivia—there is an urban myth that the mustache of the mythical creature on Kirin labels is a tribute to him.
A stairway that serves as the entrance to the magic shop is located here, though becomes a dead end after a short climb.
The model for Magic Shop (まほう屋) is Mori no Majo Cafe (森の魔女カフェ)—Forest Witch Cafe—located in Nishiumimachi (西海町). Though depicted in the work as near other settings, this is quite far north of the city center and about 30-40 minutes by foot from the nearest bus stop. Looks like they have good curry, though!
Izumo Kinrin Park
I like that, though we’ve got futuristic technology, magic and time leaping, we still hang on to twentieth century public transit as a metaphor for travel.
The neighborhood where Yuito’s home is located and the slope Hitomi runs down after escaping are in Motomachi (元町).
Higashiyama Park (東山公園) in Higashiyamamachi (東山町)
FamilyMart Nagasaki Glover-dōri shop (ファミリーマート 長崎グラバー通り店) in Minami-Yamatemachi (南山手町)
Kinenzaka (祈念坂) is a narrow, stone-paved, sloped pedestrian street that leads up behind Ōura Church (大浦天主堂) in Minami-Yamatemachi. In the background you can see the steeples of both Ōura Church, built in 1853 and said to be the oldest church in Japan, and Catholic Oura Church (カトリック大浦教会), an affiliated 1975 building where regular masses are held.
Ōura Tenbō Park (大浦展望公園) is at the top of Kinenzaka, though administratively it is in Aioimachi, just over the boundary that separates it from Minami-Yamatemachi. This is also a popular city viewing point.
There’s that elevator at the top of Glover Sky Road.
Mori no Majo Cafe
Don no Yama Park (どんの山公園) in Motomachi
Slope street in Shiinokimachi (椎の木町)
Main road at the bottom of preceding slope street
The end of the episode returns to Izumo Kinrin Park, now in its present-day state.
Other Current Season Pilgrimage
@touyoko_com (post), @rica0867 (post), @miyaken46 (post) and @tianlangxing (post) made pilgrimages to Fujisawa and Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture for Seishun Buta Yarō wa Bunny Girl-senpai no Yume o Minai Episode 1.