Sword Art Online: Alicization ソードアート・オンライン アリシゼーション

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.

Media and General Interest

Kyūshū seichi recovery webinar
Manoyama Research Society (間野山研究学会) will host a webinar on August 30 to discuss a possible role for media contents and seichijunrei to play in recovery of Kyūshū areas impacted by flooding and mudslides in early July. The webinar is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required.

Chichibu seichijunrei engagement
Writing for With News, contents tourism researcher Kawashima Tarō published an interview with Nakajima Manabu (中島学), who has been a single point of contact for anime pilgrimage related engagement as part of the Chichibu City Tourism Division (秩父市観光課) since 2011. Nakanjima serves as Chichibu’s “single window” (窓口の一本化) for anime related matters, a centralized information source and facilitator. The window faces both local businesses, alleviating the complexity of contacting rights holders to negotiate production of licensed goods, as well as the production committee members, who can channel all event planning and local fan engagement needs through the same node. Kawashima thinks that the single window can be either local government or private sector led, but its presence is essential to effective engagement at seichi.

Nakajima indicates that developing a relationship of mutual trust with Aniplex through local events and marketing collaboration for Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai. (Anohana) ultimately led to decisions to have Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda. (Kokosake) and Sora no Aosa o Shiru Hito yo (Soraao) also be set in Chichibu. The three works are often referred to as the “Chichibu trilogy”. Nakajima stresses the importance of sustained engagement over time with fans to draw out the initial interest in new works over longer periods of time and periodically renew the city’s committment to them through various events. This mitigates the boom and bust pattern that often occurs with contents tourism.

Tourism flows to Chichibu were in the range of 3.8 to 4 million a year prior to 2011, and skewed to older demographics. In 2011, the year of the Tōhoku earthquake and the original broadcast of Anohana, it dropped to 3.54 million. But in 2012 visitors rebouned to 3.96 million, growing to a peak of 5.83 million in 2017 then settling at around 5 million. Nakajima attributes anime as having played a significant role in this development, but also the virtuous feedback loop in which new businesses catering to the younger new visitors make the city a more vibrant place for all.

Soraao premiered in theaters in 2019 October. 2020 was supposed to be a year of intense engagement in Chichibu for the new film. The tenth anniversary of Anohana arrives in the following year. Events have been cancelled and future ones made tentative as a result of Covid-19. Nakajima hopes that fans can watch the trilogy from the safety of home, then consider a future visit to Chichibu once the pandemic has subsided.

Ōgaki PR anime
The city of Ōgaki, Gifu Prefecture published a series of public relations animated shorts between 2018 and 2020. Development of the campaign began in 2016, at the same time as Ōgaki was promoting its prominent role in the setting of Kyoto Animation film Koe no Katachi, based on the manga by Ōgaki resident Ōima Yoshitoki. The shorts feature voice actor Mimori Suzuko as main character An, who introduces the city to viewers through exploration of historic events and contemporary festivals.

Two primary aims of the animation were to develop fully-controlled intellectual property that could be used by the city in marketing campaigns without the complexity and cost of negotiating with rights holders, and highlight locations that were not included in the artwork of Koe no Katachi. This campaign follows a pattern of locally produced PR anime following initial successful uses of commercial anime series in regional promotion established by Koitabi: True Tours Nanto in Nanto, Toyama Prefecture and The Four Seasons in Saitama Prefecture. Media coverage: Yahoo News Japan (Kawashima Tarō), Oricon

Nishinomiya Haruhi tobidashi
Anibu published a report on Suzumiya Haruhi series-related items found in various locations around Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, including the Anime Tourism Association plates and multiple tobidashi depicting characters from the series. Though not mentioned in the article, all of the tobidashi were created by Tesra (テスラ @tesra1141).

Kyūshū Kimetsu no Yaiba shrines
When restrictions on travel across prefecture borders were lifted in June, fans of Kimetsu no Yaiba began visiting two shrines, Hachiman Kamado Jinja (八幡竈門神社) in Beppu, Ōita Prefecture and Hōmangu Kamado Jinja (宝満宮竈門神社) in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture. Neither location is used as a setting in the work, but share the family name of protagonist Kamado Tanjirō (竈門 炭治郎). Media coverage: Mainichi Shimbun, Bunshun (Okamoto Takeshi), With News (Kawashima Tarō)

Current Season Pilgrimage

@ecotomagia made a pilgrimage to Ashikita, Kumamoto Prefecture for Hōkago Teibō Nisshi Episode 1 through Episode 6, including scenes from the manga.

@kbt_tigers1985 (post) and @flyingbird1124 (post) made pilgrimages to Kyoto for Fruits Basket 2nd Season (2019) Episode 17.

Past Season Pilgrimage

@hiro_senritu (post 1, post 2) and @lidges (post 2) made pilgrimages to Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture for Oshi ga Budōkan Ittekuretara Shinu.

@ad_motsu made a pilgrimage to Toshima, Shinjuku and Shibuya wards, Tokyo Metropolis for BanG Dream!

@flyingbird1124 made a pilgrimage to Demachi Masugata Shōtengai in Kyoto for Tamako Market.

@ken800205 made a pilgrimage (post 2) to Gifu City and Mizuho, Gifu Prefecture for Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.

@kimamanidance made a pilgrimage to Shinjuku Station in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo Metropolis for Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru (5 Centimeters per Second).

@flyingbird1124 made a pilgrimage to Moriguchishi Station in Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture for Kanon.