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.
How to donate to Kyoto Animation
I would like to write a few thoughts about the unimaginable catastrophe that has claimed the lives of 34 Kyoto Animation staff, severely injured about as many, and impacted families, fans, the animation industry and global cultural output in ways that we have not even begun to understand. But not right at this moment. My mind is a mess and I need some time to process this. In the meantime, and with the the acknowledgement that money will not and cannot mitigate the psychological suffering of the survivors, if donating funds to aid those directly affected with medical treatment and help rebuild the studio is something you want and are able to do, here are the key details:
Though it has not publicly asked for donations, Kyoto Animation has opened a dedicated bank account for receiving funds, and indicates it will report receipts and usages on its website. Details for sending wire transfers, in Japanese and English, are here. Cumulative donations remitted to the Kyoto Animation account have exceeded 620 million yen in the two days since it was opened.
Yoshihiro Watanabe posted a thread containing very important caveats for sending money to this account from overseas banks. The main issue is that transaction and foreign exchange handling fees, which are standard costs associated with international wire transfers, will be taken out of the original amount, so this route may not be the best choice for overseas donors, but it depends on the options your bank provides and size of the donation.
If you would like to donate but want to avoid these fees, or cannot initiate a transfer through your bank for whatever reason, it has been suggested by multiple sources to give to a local platform in your area that you trust and have confidence will deliver the funds to Kyoto Animation when appropriate. I don’t have the experience or qualifications to endorse any particular platform, but note that the GoFundMe campaign created by Sentai Filmworks is currently the one with the most momentum, having raised over 2.2 million USD at the time of writing.
Kyoto Animation lawyer and appointed spokesperson Daisuke Okeda indicated the company will work on a strategy to transfer the funds from Sentai Filmworks and other platforms while attempting to mitigate associated fees and taxes.
2019 Summer Season Overview
It has been challenging to give it a dedicated slice of attention amidst all that is happening, but we’ve entered a new season of anime settings and background art. As with the previous two seasons, I’ve decided not to single out any series for detailed analysis each week. There are a few reasons for this, which I’ll talk about at the bottom of this section, but it’s not an indication of little happening this summer, as there are several interesting series and a big film of note. Media and general interest, and reports on pilgrimage activity will continue as always. If something exceptional arises in a particular show, I may include a special section to cover it.
Tenki no Ko (CoMix Wave Films) is the follow up to Shinkai Makoto’s Kimi no Na wa. Expectations were understandably high in the lead up to the premiere, in terms of both the presentation overall and seichijunrei potential specifically. From previews, we knew that there would be plenty of locations spread around the Tokyo inner wards and potentially an island setting. Reports from butaitanbou-sha that have seen the film indicate there are additional Tokyo locations fleshing out the setting, and a limited number of cuts in Kōzushima, an island in the Philippine Sea 178km south of Tokyo, administratively part of Ōshima Subprefecture, Tokyo Metropolis. Though not as straightforward as hopping on the Yamanote Line, a small airport, ferries and jet boats make access to Kōzushima relatively feasible, and several butaitanbou-sha have already visited. It seems to offer not quite as exciting of a hunt as Kimi no Na wa., but there is still plenty to keep everyone busy.
Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo. (Lay-duce) has the highest quality background art of all broadcast anime this season, though most of the settings we’ve seen as of the third episode are relatively generic residential neighborhoods cobbled together from parts of Shin-Maruko, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture; as well as across the Tama River in Tokyo Metropolis with bits of Denenchōfu-minami, Ōta Ward; and Naka-Itabashi and Futabachō, Itabashi Ward.
Joshi Kōsei no Mudazukai (Passione) background art is a somewhat less polished, but includes a cluster of quirky locations along the Seibu Tamako Line in Higashimurayama; as well as bits of Kodaira; Kōenjikita, Suginami Ward; and one cut in Jinnan, Shibuya Ward (preceding all Tokyo Metropolis); a few stops in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture; and a one-off building from Kumano, Mie Prefecture. Both the art style and location choices serve the show’s goofy yet incisive vignettes well.
Granbelm (Nexus) includes several townscapes and bits of infrastructure along the west side of Lake Biwa in Ōtsu and Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, as well as a few brief shots of Hong Kong. This is a mahō shōjo series, so extensive battle scenes in alternate dimensions limit how much time we get on the ground in the real world, but the locations make a nice companion to Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai!, which covers several areas around the south and east shores of the lake.
Re:Stage! Dream Days (Yumeta Company, Graphinica) has idols, it has high-pitched melodramatic voice acting, and it has—remarkably detailed background art of Mount Takao? It’s a funny combination, but if this show is your thing, there looks to be much to enjoy.
Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? (Doga Kobo) includes recurring scenes at the Kichijōji Sunroad Shōtengai in Musashino, as well as a building in Ariake, Koto Ward (both Tokyo Metropolis).
Machikado Mazoku (J.C.Staff) includes brief cuts in Hachiōji and Tama, Tokyo Metropolis
Given (Lerche) includes scenes in Shimokitazawa and Kyōdō, Suginami Ward; Machida (all Tokyo Metropolis).
Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san (Shin-Ei Animation) returns to its setting on Shōdoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, administratively part of Kagawa Prefecture. There’s also a one-off scene in the first episode that appears to come from Ōita, though it’s more of a resemblance than literal usage. As with Udon no Kuni no Kin’iro Kemari before it, traveling to Shōdoshima for Takagi-san has been especially popular among anime pilgrims.
Toaru Kagaku no Accelerator (J.C.Staff) is the latest release in the Index series, bringing us back once again to Academy City—a gleaming, futuristic version of Tachikawa and Tama—but also hints at the use of Shiodome, Minato Ward in the ending credits (all Tokyo Metropolis).
Fruits Basket (2019) (TMS Entertainment and subsidiary 8PAN) continues into its second cour, adding a point in Tamagawa, Setagaya Ward, Tokyo Metropolis to the usual basket of locations further upstream along the Tama River.
The trend of more and deeper reporting on seichijunrei in Japanese media continues, to the point where it requires a significant of time for me to digest, translate and summarize. Much of this recent reporting, particularly articles written by academic researchers and specialist reporters, is refreshingly thoughtful and thought provoking. Gone are the days when general reporters writing a couple of paragraphs that just happen to include the word seichijunrei was enough to get me excited. The Weekly Review is a research document at heart, and it would be incomplete were I to not examine these denser articles, but I’m up against my time budget limits, so other parts have had to be scaled back.
Another factor affecting the Weekly is that we seem to be in an ebb tide in terms of new anime series that generate substantial butaitanbou response. For very popular works with interesting settings, typically most series produced by Kyoto Animation and P.A. Works, as well as particular works from a few other studios, it is common for five to ten scene hunters to venture out and publish reports each week, episode-by-episode. That intensity of engagement hasn’t happened since Yurucamp (2018 Winter) and Love Live! Sunshine!! Season 2 (2017 Fall). My feeling is this may just be part of a natural cycle, not a permanent state. The possible reasons for the cool down could easily take up an entire discussion, one that goes beyond the scope of this review.
But the lower intensity of new series does not mean that seichijunrei is slowing down. On the contrary, things are really beginning to heat up. Rising awareness and increased marketing has resulted in many more casual pilgrims participating in seichijunrei. In the absence of new series of interest, butaitanbou-sha and core seichijunrei-sha are turning back to their favorite past works, re-kindling the long-term attachments with those pilgrimage locations they have developed over the years. Truth be told, the latter is actually the part of greatest interest to me, out of all aspects of seichijunrei subculture. So, for various reasons, I’m increasingly looking into (or being pulled into) adjacent areas of study. I’m trying to keep one eye on the present, while searching through the past with the other.
Media and General Interest
Haruhi long-awaited official recognition in Nishinomiya
Thirteen years after the original broadcast, long after fans, local businesses and residents had built a community of understanding around the unofficial recognition of Nishinomiya as the setting of the Suzumiya Haruhi series, formal recognition finally came to the city in the form of two “Animation spot” plates from the Anime Tourism Association, affirming the selection of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yūutsu and Nagato Yuki-chan no Shōshitsu to the Association’s list of anime pilgrimage locations. When the earliest installment first broadcast in 2003, awareness of butaitanbou and seichijunrei beyond the niche groups that practiced them was just beginning to emerge. To my knowledge, there had never been a formal collaboration between a local government and rights holder, or even official recognition of the identity of a work’s setting, which first happened with Lucky Star in Washimiya in 2007. These collaboration marketing campaigns have become so ubiquitous in just the past few years that it’s easy to take their existence for granted.
These plate presentations are typically low-key affairs, often not open to the public, occasionally including small-scale local events. After such a long wait, Nishinomiya wasn’t going to let this pass by without making a big party out of it. A series of events and activities under the banner SOS-Dan in Nishinomiya ni Shūgō yo! (SOS団in西宮に集合よ！)—Gathering of the SOS Brigade in Nishinomiya—began July 5, when the plates were presented to mayor Ishii Toshirō, Cafe Dream owner Hosomi Akiko, affectionately referred to by fans as “Mama-san”, and Nagato Yuki voice actor Chihara Minori in a ceremony at Nishinomiya City Hall. On the same day, the plates were installed in the display window of the Nomuru Securities Nishinomiya branch, which faces Nishikita Park. Cafe Dream began offering a licensed clearfile with Haruhi characters over photographs of the shop, the first ever instance of local licensed collaboration goods in Nishinomiya, and included a coupon for a melon cream soda as part of the price. (By the way, you’re not a full-fledged member of the extended SOS Brigade until you’ve had a melon cream soda at Cafe Dream.)
On July 7, an official stamp rally with six locations in Nishinomiya launched and will run until August 31. The rally start was accompanied by release of the first official seichi map for Haruhi (there have been many unofficial maps created by butaitanbou-sha over the years), unique posters featuring charcters over photographs of settings in Nishinomiya installed at various locations, a gallery of Haruhi art and other exhibits at Frente Nishinomiya, and newly designed posters and cards for sale at multiple locations.
Media coverage: Official blog (post 1, post 2), Nishinomiya City, Mainichi Shimbun, Kōbe Shimbun, Mantanweb, Nishinomiya Style (article 1, article 2, article 3, article 4), Nishinomiya Tsūshin (article 1, article 2), Kiss Press, Chihara Minori official blog
I love all my butaitanbou-sha friends and each one is incredibly generous to me in his or her own way, but only a Haruhi fan will take an entire day off work and drive me around from morning to night just so I can see as many pilgrimage locations as can possibly be squeezed into 12 hours. No one deserves this more than you.
— 石井としろう (@toshiro141) July 5, 2019
— ミサキズム (@misakism) July 5, 2019
— リズと青い虎（かぶとやまタイガース）只今療養中 (@kbt_tigers1985) July 6, 2019
— テスラ (@tesra1141) July 13, 2019
Butaitanbou Community retreat at Lake Kizaki
At the annual Butaitanbou Summit, usually held in the fall, presentations, a formal dinner and organized tours dominate the agenda, though there’s still plenty of room for hijinks and hilarity. At the summer camping retreats beside Lake Kizaki (木崎湖) in Ōmachi, Nagano Prefecture, held this year July 13-15, it’s all about the fun. Lake Kizaki has long been a place of spiritual significance for butaitanbou-sha. The lake is central to the narrative of Onegai Teacher (2002) and sequel Onegai Twins (2003), and appeared again in Ano Natsu de Matteru (2012), which shared the screenwriter and character designer from the earlier works. The Suzumiya Haruhi series gets a lot of credit as the tipping point when seichijunrei was noticed beyond its niche, but many pilgrims I talk to point to the Onegai series as their first exposure and engagement.
— リジス＠C97 4日目西け-39b (@lidges) July 14, 2019
— リジス＠C97 4日目西け-39b (@lidges) July 13, 2019
Yuyuyu dōjinshi event in Kan’onji
Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru dōjinshi circles and fans gathered for Yūsha-bu Mankai (勇者部満開)—a fan-organized exchange event and spot sale—on July 7 at High Staff Hall and Kamaboko Concert Hall in Kan’onji, Kagawa Prefecture. Approximately 90 circles participated in the event, which is quite striking considering that Kagawa, even at the part of Shikoku closest to Honshū, require a bit more travel for most participants than cities along the shinkansen trunk lines. As part of the event, Yuyuyu fans organized a litter pickup at Ariake Beach, one of the locations used as a setting in the series. Media coverage: Shikoku Shimbun (print scan, digital-paywall)
Among the dōjinshi on offer, notable seichijunrei oriented volumes included new releases in the Yuyubu (ゆゆぶ) series from @lidges circle Tsurebashi (つればし), and Kan’onji-shi wa Seichi de Aru (観音寺市は聖地である) from contents tourism researcher @hanara_striker.
— リジス＠C97 4日目西け-39b (@lidges) July 6, 2019
— かぴばら (@capibara_llc) July 7, 2019
Lucky Star event in Washimiya
Fans of Lucky Star gathered for an annual official event, a celebration of the character birthdays of Hiiragi sisters Kagami and Tsukasa, held July 6 and 7 in Washimiya, Kuki, Saitama Prefecture. This year, Tsukasa’s voice actor Fukuhara Kaori was the featured guest. @debuchokobo14c published a detailed event report. Media coverage: WebNewtype (article 1, article 2)
— 福原香織 (@FukuharaKaori) July 7, 2019
Yuwaku Bonbori 2019
Fans of Hanasaku Iroha gathered in Yuwaku Onsen, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture on July 21 for the annual lantern lighting ceremony that marks the three month period before Bonbori Matsuri, the fiction festival from the series that studio P.A.Works and the hot spring village worked together to create as a real world event. The lanterns will be light every evening from 7-10 pm until the October 14 festival. Media coverage: Hokuriku Shin’etsu Kankō Navi—Butaitanbou Community member and contents tourism researcher Ōishi Gen (大石玄) (おおいしげん @genoishi) is quoted in the article.
— つくよみさん (@tsukuyomi0775) July 21, 2019
— おおいしげん (@genoishi) July 22, 2019
Love Live! Sunshine!! event in Numazu
Fans of Love Live! Sunshine!! gathered for a celebration of the character birthday of Yoshiko Tsushima, held July 12 at the River Side Hotel in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture. A train wrapping and headmark featuring Yoshiko on the Izuhakone Railway Sunzu Line coincided with the event. Media coverage: Shizuoka Shimbun
— しん (@626shin) July 13, 2019
Tenki no Ko Pilgrimage
@nadukari_h made pilgrimages to (post 1) Kōzushima, Ōshima Subprefecture, Tokyo Metropolis and aboard the Sarubia Maru on the route back to Takeshiba Terminal in Tokyo; and (post 2) aboard the Sarubia Maru on a night cruise in Tokyo Bay for Tenki no Ko (Weathering with You).
@krissy297_ph made a pilgrimage to Yoyogi and Shibuya scramble crossing, Shibuya Ward; Kishō Jinja in Kōenji-minami, Suginami Ward; Tabata, Kita Ward; Kabukichō and Tsukijimachi, Shinjuku Ward (all Tokyo Metropolis) for Tenki no Ko PV and CM.
@ts_kobaya made a video pilgrimage to Tokyo for Tenki no Ko:
Current Season Pilgrimage
@flyingbird1124 made a pilgrimage to Shin-Maruko, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture; Denenchōfu-minami, Ōta Ward; Naka-Itabashi and Futabachō, Itabashi Ward; Shibuya Station in Shibuya Ward (latter all Tokyo Metropolis) for Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo. Episode 1 though Episode 3.