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.
2020 Winter Season Overview
Welcome back to a new season of anime settings and background art! Though there are no clear runaway favorites with regard to butaitanbou and seichijunrei yet, a diverse group of offerings yields plenty of interesting threads to explore.
This season, the review will follow the same pattern as the past year. I won’t single out any series for detailed analysis each week. 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.
Gekijōban High School Fleet (A-1 Pictures) is the first of two theatrical releases this winter. Like the broadcast series that precedes it, open water adventures periodically return to dock at the port in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, the real-life base of Japanese and American naval operations. Yokosuka has for many years been receptive to organic and promoted seichijunrei activity as part of its broader tourism campaigns. The related pilgrimage article linked in the report at the bottom of this weekly includes photographs of promotional materials and events in Yokosuka tied to the January 18 premiere.
Gekijōban Shirobako (P.A.Works) is the highly anticipated film sequel to the 2014-2015 broadcast series, premiering February 29. The heartfelt exploration of the motivations and struggles of creators and managers working in the anime industry is also a map of the cluster of interrelated production companies on the west side of Tokyo, from the vantage point of a fictional studio based in Musashino.
Koisuru Asteroid (Doga Kobo) is set primarily in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, though as of the third episode it has also highlighted a local onsen in nearby Seiganji, and imported a bakery from Shimotsuma, Ibaraki Prefecture. Like other Saitama seichi, Kawagoe is easily accessed by public transportation from Tokyo, but just far enough away to feel like an adventure, and is proactive in supporting real-location anime settings through production cooperation and promoted activities. Koias appears to be the most popular broadcast series among butaitanbou-sha this season.
22/7 (A-1 Pictures) is a much hyped media mix idol project, with an anime setting including a fictional (as far as we know) underground bunker beneath Ueno Zoo in Taitō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis; and a protagonist who commutes from a danchi in Fujimi, Saitama Prefecture. We also briefly saw a highway service plaza from Miyoshi, Saitama Prefecture standing in as a shopping center; a performance hall in Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture (from the PV); and a few shots of Ueno and other Tokyo locations sprinkled here and there. It’s a bit different from the gritty urban feel of the early promotional visuals, but I’ll stick around for a little while to see where this one goes.
Heyacamp (C-Station) is a series of shorts based on the Yurucamp manga and, despite the name, they do leave the clubroom. The shorts have a different director, but the same studio and voice cast as the full length episodes of Yurucamp. As of episode three, we’ve already visited the Fujisan World Heritage Center in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture; and Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture.
Natsunagu! (Kumamoto Prefectural Government) is local tourism promotion shorts, featuring Kumamoto natives among production staff and voice cast. It avoids the common pitfall of just jumping from one postcard location to another, and the rough animation is actually kind of endearing. One butaitanbou-sha has already investigated locations from the first two episodes, which include Kumamoto City, Amakusa and Mashiki.
Hentatsu (irodori) is a series of shorts set in Nakano Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. After the delightful romp across Japan in Kemurikusa—not to mention the amusing antics of Kemono Friends (Season 1)—I will follow wherever creator Tatsuki decides to take us.
Oshi ga Budōkan Ittekuretara Shinu (Eight Bit) follows potentially problematic fan worship of local idols in Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T (J.C.Staff) needs little introduction at this point, the latest installment in the now sprawling Toaru franchise. Since the Railgun spinoff is focused on Academy City, we see comparatively more of Tachikawa and Tama than with the Index main story. The opening credits and first episode also include scenes in Hino and Musashino, Tokyo Metropolis.
Kyokō Suiri (Brain’s Base) includes brief scenes along the Kamo River in Kyoto and at the International Library of Children’s Literature of the National Diet Library in Tokyo, but neither is particularly detailed and the overall setting feels generic. Based on the manga, there may be more locations in store for future episodes.
Uchi Tama?! Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka? (MAPPA, Lapin Track) includes scenes in the Yanaka Ginza Shōtengai and nearby residential neighborhoods in Yanaka, Taitō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. I really enjoy strolling this neighborhood, but the series is a spinoff of a children’s anime and not very engaging.
BanG Dream! 3rd Season (Sanzigen) is the same studio and production style as began with the second season. The same clunky 3DCG animation and uninspired depictions of the Toden Arakawa Line return. Go re-watch the first season for some lovely renderings of tram adjacent neighborhoods in Tokyo.
Magia Record: Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magica Gaiden (Shaft) includes live-action video footage from Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture in its ending credits.
Darwin’s Game (Nexus) is a battle royale set in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo Metropolis.
Hōsekishō Richard-shi no Nazo Kantei (Shuka) includes scenes in Marunouchi, Chiyoda Ward and Ginza, Chūō Ward (both Tokyo Metropolis).
Haikyū!! To the Top (Production I.G) includes scenes at Tokyo Station and Ajinomoto National Training Center in Kita Ward, Tokyo Metropolis.
Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki 2 Satsume (Saetta) returns for a second installment of Nagoya tourism promotion shorts. I still think it is trying too hard to be funny.
Chihayafuru 3 (Madhouse) continues into its second cour. I’m still wondering when we’ll get to see more than a passing glimpse of Ōmi-jingū.
Media and General Interest
Comic Treasure 35
Comic Treasure 35 (こみっくトレジャー 35) was held January 19 at INTEX Osaka in Nankokita, Suminoe Ward. A handful of butaitanbou circles exhibited works.
こみトレ35、5号館二26aサークル「SECRT VERSION 」の設営が完了しました。新刊は、ガーリーエアフォース 聖地巡礼本「Komatsu style 2 」です。ぜひ、スペースまで遊びに来てください。お待ちしております。 pic.twitter.com/INIM7IHsaI
— ノリ＠ひきこもり (@norinorimax1969) January 19, 2020
Just Because! meetup
Fans of Just Because! organized an offline meeting at an izakaya in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture on January 18.
— しん (@626shin) January 18, 2020
The latest convening of a recurring Hibike! Euphonium fan-organized meetup, Hibike! Minna no Otanoshimi-kai (響け！みんなのお楽しみ会), was held January 19 in Uji. The event is held twice annually and usually attracts about 100 participants from inside and outside Kyoto Prefecture. At this meeting, organizers for the first time held a stamp rally, which encouraged participants to visit local businesses. Media coverage: Kyoto Shimbun
Yurucamp Yamanashi collaboration
Ichikawamisato, Fujikawa, Hayakawa, Minobu, Nanbu—collectively the Kyōnan area 5 towns—along with the Fujikawa area / Minobu Line Tourism Promotion Council, released the details for Yurucamp Fujikko Machimeguri (ゆるキャン△ 梨っ子町めぐり), a series of collaboration promotions and events to be held between February 1 and March 31, in conjunction with the previously announced JR Tōkai and Yurucamp limited run trains. The large number of offerings include audio dramas which can only be played by scanning QR codes at specific locations in each town, commemorative commuter transit passes available through patronage of local businesses and events, and open house days at former Shimobe Elementary School on Feburary 1, 2, 8 and 9. On February 1 and 2 a camping meetup event will be held at Shimobe concurrent with the open house. Yurucamp wrappings on municipal buses will be unveiled in a ceremony on February 1, with another viewing on February 8, also at Shimobe.