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.
2021 Fall Season Overview
Welcome back to a new season of anime settings and background art. While this fall doesn’t appear to have a front runner, there are many interesting options. With various Covid-19 state of emergency declarations being lifted in Japan, butaitanbou and self-initated seichijunrei, as well as official anime tourism marketing collaborations, are tentatively resuming from suspended states or launching anew. While my hope is that this is truly the beginning of a gradual shift into a new normal, with winter approaching, uncertainties around viral mutations, and sub-optimal rollout and support for vaccination, there is still potential for more setbacks. As always, I’m trying my best to be both positive and realistic.
I continue to be thankful for the hard work of all the animation and support staff who bring us these shows, who must persevere through a pandemic on top of working conditions that, for most, have never been good enough. As we approach two years of this period of immense uncertainty and stress, anime and butaitanbou have been both much needed diversions, but also reminders of how long many of us have been separated from the places, people and activities that are meaningful to us. Street View seichijunrei is a nice option to have, but nothing beats the real thing.
Ai no Utagoe wo Kikasete (J.C.Staff) is a theatrical film premiering October 29. None of the marketing materials, including the PV trailer, identify the location, nor has there been any mention of tourism tie-ins. @unimaru_ identified the primary location in the PV as Sadogashima, an island in the Sea of Japan that is part of Niigata Prefecture. In the work, the setting is called Keibu City (景部市). A pure coincidence, @nadukari_h happened to be on Sadogashima on a long-deferred hunt for an obscure Shirobako scene when the discovery was made and detoured to the location for first-hand confirmation. The model for the school building has also been found, but is not in this location.
Shiroi Suna no Aquatope (P.A. Works) continues into its second cour, shifting its primary setting from Nanjō to a smaller set of locations in Kadena and Yomitan, with a few elements grafted in from the grounds of and other areas close to Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu, all Okinawa Prefecture. Most of the new episodes take place inside the fictional Aquarium Tingaara and (I think also fictional) restaurant Ohana. Butaitanbou-sha and seichijunrei-sha who had deferred visits during the first cour due to the state of emergency have also started to make their way to Nanjō and other locations. @fragments_sue, @626shin and @cunqi continue to be the most active butaitanbou-sha on Aquatope.
Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru: Dai Mankai no Shō (Studio Gokumi) brings us back to now familiar Shikoku haunts, Kagawa Prefecture specifically, in this interquel installment. The frequent callbacks to events both before and after Dai Mankai no Shō can be a little disorienting, but Kagawa is always Kagawa. Kan’onji remains the center of gravity for the franchise and opens the first episode here. Across the OP, ED and story as of four episodes, we also see both familiar and new locations in Mitoyo, Ayagawa, Sakaide, Utazu and Marugame.
Yuyuyu is a series that I was at first not really into, but liked more after I had spent time in the seichi. After I went around Kagawa for a light pilgrimage and udon run, it resonated a lot more. In contrast to the numbing emphasis on tragedy and suffering in the work, real Kagawa is calming and restorative. Ongoing fan-initiated engagement, such as dōjinshi spot sales in Kan’onji, and light-touch official promotion that still allows for participatory activity, like the fans who diligently clean the Yuyuyu wrapped vending machines at michi-no-eki and other locations, help keep the community of shared experience alive and flourishing. Lastly, as with other Yuyuyu works, this is an opportunity for prolific butaitanbou-sha and Kagawa native @lidges, who for the past eleven years has reported widely on anime locations across Japan and overseas, to show us his own backyard. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
Senpai ga Uzai Kōhai no Hanashi (Doga Kobo) is all over the place, in an interesting way. The historic office building is the former Mitsui Trading Company branch in Otaru, Hokkaidō Prefecture, but the rest of the setting is a basket of various locations spread across Chiba Prefecture, Tokyo Metropolis and Saitama Prefecture. An initial, non-exhaustive tally of the OP, ED and first three episodes includes a Chiba Station interior scene; then in Tokyo there is Kanda-Surugadai, Kanda-Awajichō and Sarugakuchō, Chiyoda Ward; Kōraku and Hongō, Bunkyō Ward; Takinogawa, Kita Ward; Shinjuku and Tomihisachō, Shinjuku Ward; Jingūmae, Shibuya Ward; Sakaechō, Nerima Ward; Nishiogikita, Suginami Ward; Okamoto, Setagaya Ward; Kichijōji, Musashino; and finally Ōmiya Ward, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture. The cherry on top is a tachigui soba stand that resembles one from a shinkansen platform at Tokyo Station.
At first glance the locations seem scattershot, but there is logic to them on closer inspection. Most of these are linked to each other by rail transit with relatively uncomplicated transfers. As the cast work in corporate sales and frequently visit clients, the travel is a key part of the narrative. The most notable to me out of all those locations is Takinogawa, where Sakurai and Kazama are depicted waiting for a fumikiri to open as a train passes. The train carries the yellow livery of the Chūō-Sōbu Line, which appears throughout the first three episodes and doesn’t seem out of place given many of the locations used in the show fall along its route. However, in this case it is a red herring, as this fumikiri is on the dedicated tracks of the Toden Arakawa Line. No JR train would ever pass through here. For butaitanbou-sha, shows that use overfamiliar Tokyo settings can be yawn inducing, while those that dig deep into local neighborhoods and really test how well you know the sprawling city are a breath of fresh air. @ssslocation is the butaitanbou-sha to follow for ongoing investigation of locations for Senpai ga Uzai.
Mieruko-chan (Passione) uses as its home base a cluster of locations around Ichigaya Station in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Metropolis, including the station itself, and one cut in the ED looking across the sotobori at the station from the Shinjuku Ward side of the former moat. There are also excursions to Kabukichō, Shinjuku Ward; and Satake Shōtengai in Taitō, Taitō Ward. Ichigaya is named explicitly, both on signage and in spoken announcements, while other locations are not identified in show. I unfortunately identify with Miko in the sense of being well acquainted with the damage chronic stress does to one’s mind and body. I’m hoping to see her catch a break from her paranormal harassment and reclaim her sanity. @ssslocation and @JuantheMad_ are keeping tabs on locations for Mieruko-chan.
Selection Project (Doga Kobo) opens with a flurry of locations from all over Japan that appeared in the first two episodes and in the credits, nods to the regions from which each of the idol contestants has come and suggestions of future events that may happen in those places. Then the show subsequently locks itself inside a training facility. This is a fictional campus drawn into a seaside location in Amatsu, Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture, though the credits also show the cast training at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. After arriving in the Tokyo area via planes, shinkansen, buses and private cars, the JR Sotobō Line and vehicles traveling on the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line both appear as contestants make their way to the facility. Initially, it seemed Ōmiya Ward, Saitama City might play a central role in the series. It is the protagonist’s home town and gets significant screen time in the first two episodes and credits, but that hasn’t resurfaced as of the fourth episode. @ssslocation and a few others are keeping tabs on locations for Selection Project.
Komi-san wa, Komyushō desu. (OLM) seems to be connected with Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, based on a satellite view in the opening credits. Beyond that, not much is known yet about the setting. It does look like an interesting show. Komi-san director Watanabe Ayumi also directed Koi wa Ameagari no Yō ni, which I enjoyed very much. @ssslocation is looking into Komi-san.
PuraOre! Pride of Orange (CAAnimation, C2C) leans heavy into tourism promotion for Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture. The premise of a women’s hockey team and connection to the real life Nikkō Ice Bucks is actually interesting. However, obvious product placement such as postcard shots of tourism spots unconnected to the narrative, lingering high detail shots on train station signage that include corporate logos, and straight on the nose promotion of local foodstuffs in show and the end cards, completely take me out of the story. This is before we even get to the various efforts to engineer seichijunrei happening online and on the ground in Nikkō.
Shikizakura (Sublimation) is a tourism promotion vehicle for Nagoya and Toyota, Aichi Prefecture. I’m not a big fan of fully 3DCG productions, but the technology doesn’t necessarily preclude having interesting background art. The film Hello World, for example, was quite polished. Unfortunately, in Shikizakura there is an obvious disparity between the high detail and attractive framing of the target backgrounds that depict tourist spots and the Nagoya central business district, with the mediocre quality of everything else. It’s not clear yet how full-throated the promotional campaign intends to be, but the official Twitter account for the series has been posting photos of an actor in a sentai suit posing at locations that appear in the show, referring to this as seichijunrei. @shira_ry is looking into Shikizakura.
Yakunara Mug Cup Mo: Niban Kama (Nippon Animation) returns for a second season. The formula is unchanged from the first. There is an animated A-part depicting a high school pottery club and its adventures in Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture, based on a local manga that was created for the express purpose of tourism promotion. There is a live action B-part in which the voice actors tour the city, visiting locations used in the anime and tourist spots. The voice actors are only allowed to use the adjectives kawaii, kirei, suteki, oishii, umai and sugoi. The only difference in this season is that when the actors visit places used in the anime, they now encounter large plaques installed by tourism and regional revitalization magazine Location Japan that declare the location an anime spot. It’s a bit meta.
Kyōkai Senki (Sunrise Beyond) has a key visual with its mecha posed in front of Tanashi Station in Nishitokyo, Tokyo Metropolis. The first episode begins with brief flashes of Byōdō-in, Kinkaku-ji and Shirakawa-gō as exemplars of Japanese tangible cultural properties that are rendered to ashes as foreign colonizers fight amongst themselves and terrorize remaining Japanese citizens for—some reason. It moves into nondescript rural and forested areas in what my guess is Shikoku, based on dialog about crossing the Seto Inland Sea to Okayama. If you like giant robots and have a high tolerance for xenophobia, you could stick around to see where this one ends up going.
Kyūketsuki Sugu Shinu (Madhouse) is set in Shin-Yokohama, which is not a separate city but a district in Kōhoku Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. The background art is highly stylized, so while distinctive locations like Shin-Yokohama Station are easy to identify, others may be harder to discern.
Blue Period (Seven Arcs) includes scenes in Ueno Park and other Tokyo locations.
Platinum End (Signal.MD) includes a scene in front of the Yunika Vision screen on the Labi Shinjuku Higashiguchi Building, as well as several other vaguely Tokyo-esque cityscapes and possibly fictional locations.
Ganbare Dōki-chan (AtelierPontdarc) is a short form anime based on a web comic that includes scenes in Toranomon, Shinbashi and Shiodome, Minato Ward; Ginza, Chūō Ward; and Asagaya Station in Suginami Ward (all Tokyo Metropolis). @ssslocation is looking into Dōki-chan.
Getsuyōbi no Tawawa 2 (Yokohama Animation Laboratory) is the second season of a short form anime based on a web comic that, despite its one-track mind, includes many depictions of transit use and occasionally unusual locations. Tanashi Station in Nishitokyo, Tokyo Metropolis is the origin setting for the comic and is featured prominently in the ending credits. Episode 5 includes a visit to Mother Farm in Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture and drive through Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. @ssslocation is looking into Tawawa.
“Dēji” Meets Girl (Liden Films) is the shortest of short form anime, essentially an advertisement for a hotel at Naminoue Beach in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, brought about by a marketing partnership between Meitetsu Tourism Service and the Anime Tourism Association.
Media and General Interest
Yuyuyu dōjinshi events
There are two upcoming events for Yūsha-bu Mankai (勇者部満開)—a Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru fan-organized exchange event and dōjinshi spot sale. Yusha-bū Kokoroe 18 (勇者部心得、じゅうはーちっ！) will be held 2021 November 14 Tokyo at Tokyo Metropolitan Industry and Trade Center Taitō Building (東京都立産業貿易センター 台東館) in Hanakawado, Taitō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. Yusha-bū Kokoroe 19 (勇者部心得 じゅうきゅーうっ！) will be held 2022 February 20 at High Staff Hall (ハイスタッフホール) in Kan’onji, Kagawa Prefecture.
Kitauji Scenery exhibition
Yōkoso Festival (ようこそフェスティバル)—a Hibike! Euphonium fan-organized event that has in the past included dōjinshi sales, cosplay, itasha displays, concert and a stamp rally in Uji—last February launched a spinoff event, Kitauji Scenery (きたうじシーナリー), a gallery exhibition of photography and illustrations at event space Naka Uji yorin (中宇治yorin). The exhibition will return, this time called Kitauji Scenery refrain (きたうじシーナリー refrain) on December 11 and 12 at the same location. This will be concurrent with the third convening of the Yōkoso Festival on December 11 at Uji City Cultural Hall (宇治市文化センター).
Washinomiya Jinja torii rebuilding
After a groundbreaking ceremony and preliminary site preparations in June, reconstruction of the torii at Washinomiya Jinja (鷲宮神社) in Kuki, Saitama Prefecture began in earnest on October 25. Work is scheduled to be complete December 3 and visitors will be able to pass through the torii the following day. The historic gate, which collapsed in 2018 August, is an iconic location used in Lucky Star. Photos: tweet 1, tweet 2, tweet 3
Nikkō Puraore promotion
Various elements of a tourism promotion campaign for Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture based around the media mix project Puraore! Pride of Orange have been put into motion over the past few weeks. The city has published videos that refer to Nikkō as a seichi. They include staged visits by voice actors that are referred to as seichijunrei, as well as promotion of local dining and tourist locations. The city included promotion of the show and interviews with voice actors in the October edition of its PR newsletter. It also plans to create items featuring show IP as part of its gift packages for furusato nōzei. The Nikkō Ice Bucks hockey team is credited for production assistance and tweeted a photo of the series’ full page advertisement in the Shimotsuke Shimbun. Singer May’n released a music video of the song Orange, the anime ending theme, shot on location at Tōbu-Nikkō Station, Nikkō Kirifuri Ice Arena and Lake Chūzenji. There is also a mobile game scheduled for release sometime in 2021. Media coverage: Sankei Shimbun, Otakomu, Anime News Network, Crunchyroll News
Comment: Taking in all of this, including the content of the anime itself, it is apparent just how much Puraore is a tourism marketing campaign first and foremost, one that is unabashedly trying to engineer seichijunrei. The show itself is almost perfunctory. It is only there to fill a role in the line up. The series flirts with the line between conventional anime that happens to have a tourism promotion component, and PR anime that is essentially a very nice commercial.
Tajimi Yakumo itasha
Tajimi City displayed its official government vehicle wrapped with Yakunara Mug Cup mo character illustrations at an itasha contest held in Tarui, also in Gifu Prefecture. Media coverage: Jiji
Tajimi Yakumo Animonozukuri Award
There was additional reporting on the Animonozukuri Award (アニものづくりアワード) regional revitalization category silver prize given to the Yakunara Mug Cup mo regional promotion project (テレビアニメ「やくならマグカップも」を活用した地域振興事業), covered previously. Media coverage: Yomiuri Shimbun
Hokuruku onsen anime collaboration
Anime de Tsunagu Hokuriku Yumeguri Map (アニメでつなぐ北陸湯めぐりマップ) is a promotional campaign centered on a stamp rally to hot springs at locations in the Hokuriku region used in P.A. Works series Hanasaku Iroha, True Tears, Sakura Quest and Glasslip. The campaign began 2020 August 1, but had been suspended during the period when Covid-19 state of emergency declarations were active in affected areas. With lifting of the declarations, the campaign has resumed as of October 26.
Tottori anime bus tour
Nihon Kōtsū offered a bus tour of anime locations in Tottori Prefecture that includes a stop in Iwami for Free! on November 13 and 14. As of October 21, all seats were sold out.
(白い砂のアクアトープ Shiroi Suna no Akuatōpu)
The arches and seating area are not direct recreations, but borrow motifs from similar structures in Kaiyōhaku Park (海洋博公園), the large seaside park that includes Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu (本部町), Okinawa Prefecture.