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 Spring Season Overview
Welcome back to a new season of anime settings and background art. With the Covid-19 pandemic upending nearly every aspect of life around the world, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this season is already experiencing significant disruption. Several anticipated shows have aired completed episodes but announced indefinite delays of future releases. Others are delayed in their entirety. With a national emergency declaration and call for self-restraint in Japan, traveling for the purpose of scene hunting and face-to-face engagement between anime pilgrims and locals, the essence of butaitanbou and seichijunrei, are precisely the kind of activities that should and will be severely curtailed, if not completely avoided. In time, this will pass, but for the foreseeable future we will have to make the best of a very challenging situation. It is a good opportunity to reflect on how important freedom of movement and association are to a rich life.
For the shows that do manage to make it to broadcast 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. Though I have not ruled out an eventual return of the weekly screencaps and detailed notes for selected shows, it’s not something I can manage at this time.
Yesterday wo Utatte (Doga Kobo) covers a cluster of areas in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo Metropolis, with confirmed neighborhoods as of the third episode including Shimokitazawa, Daita, Matsubara, Akatsutsumi, Gōtokuji, Setagaya and Wakabayashi. We also briefly see the Tōkyū Setagaya Line, one of only two extant tramways in Tokyo, although unlike the Toden Arakawa Line, the Setagaya Line travels completely on its own right-of-way. Many have been looking forward to this series, both for the high detail level of the background art, and because it’s a great part of the city for wandering. I love old Shitamachi neighborhoods for their history, but for sheer quirkiness and adventure, all things considered I’d rather be in Setagaya.
Hōkago Teibō Nisshi (Doga Kobo) is set in the coastal fishing villages of Ashikita, Kumamoto Prefecture, and was much anticipated by butaitanbou-sha. Several hunters earlier traveled to the area for scenes from the manga and anime preview. The series is delayed indefinitely after Episode 3.
Nami yo Kiitekure (Sunrise) puts its Sapporo, Hokkaidō Prefecture setting out front with a selection of postcard shots in the opening credits, though as of the third episode we’ve seen just a handful of low detail street shots, a little of Ōdōri Park, and the view from Asahiyama. For reasons unclear, the restaurant where Minare initially works is based on a Sapporo soup curry shop in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Sapporo appears in anime often enough, though usually this is limited to popular central locations and tourist attractions. But the city has an abundance of high quality public spaces and interesting neighborhoods that rarely if ever appear on screen, so I’m hoping we’ll see more of those as the show plays out.
Kakushigoto (Ajia-do Animation Works) is a bit like earlier Kōji Kumeta-based series Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei, in that you don’t watch it so much for the backgrounds as for the batshit crazy dialog and character animation. But there are plenty of real location settings to pick out here, with a world that alternates between parts of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture and a cluster of adjacent Tokyo neighborhoods: Aobadai and Kamimeguro, Meguro Ward; Sarugakuchō and Hachiyamachō, Shibuya Ward. One of the key visuals is plucked from Meguro (municipality), Meguro Ward, a bit to the south of the other areas.
Kitsutsuki Tantei-dokoro (Liden Films) is set in late Meiji/early Taishō era Asakusa, part of present day Taitō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. In the first episode we briefly see Ochanomizu Station in present day Kanda-Surugadai, Chiyoda Ward.
Fugō Keiji Balance:Unlimited (CloverWorks) as of the second episode is a collection of Tokyo locations, including metropolitan police headquarters in Kasumigaseki, and a car chase through Ginza, Shinbashi and Tsukiji. Kanbe’s mansion is the former Imperial Hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, originally built in Uchisaiwaichō, Chiyoda Ward, now preserved at the Meiji-mura open-air architectural museum in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture. The series is delayed indefinitely after Episode 3.
Tamayomi (Studio A-Cat) is set in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture, with a nod to nearby Ōmiya Baseball Stadium in the opening credits.
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Kan (Feel) was to be the long-awaited return of an old friend, but the third and final season has been delayed indefinitely. The series is set primarily in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture.
Fruits Basket (2019) (TMS Entertainment and subsidiary 8PAN) continues where it left off with its second season. The series is set primarily in Denenchōfu, Ōta Ward, Tokyo Metropolis; and Nakahara Ward, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai? Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen (A-1 Pictures) returns for a second season. The series is set primarily in Mita, Minato Ward, Tokyo Metropolis.
Jashin-Chan Dropkick’ (Nomad) also returns for its second season. Though the background art is simple, it is unmistakably bookworm favorite Jinbōchō, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. This is where I lived as a student in Tokyo, so although Jashin-chan isn’t my thing, I enjoy the nostalgia.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T (J.C.Staff) was one of the early shows to experience production delays, and is only just now nearing the end of its first cour from the previous season. It is now delayed indefinitely after Episode 12. Parts of fictional Academy City are based on areas of Tachikawa and Tama, Tokyo Metropolis.
Media and General Interest
Shizuoka Shimbun published an article about cancellation of Love Live! Sunshine!! character Watanabe Yō birthday events in Numazu, pursuant to the national emergency declaration and call for restraint due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
Agata Matsuri cancelled
This year’s Agata Matsuri (県祭), held annually on June 5 in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 epidemic. In the past, this has been a popular event for Hibike! Euphonium fans. Parts of Agata Matsuri were depicted in the first season of the series. Since 2016, each year the city had coordinated with Kyoto Animation to create a unique character panel that was displayed at Daikichiyama for several days surrounding the festival. Media coverage: Kyoto Shimbun
Love Live! Sunshine!! Hakodate tour cancelled
A Love Love! Sunshine!! tour package to Hakodate, Hokkaidō Prefecture that was being offered by JALPAK, a tour agency affiliated with Japan Airlines, has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The agency plans to update the itinerary and offer the tour at a later time.