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.
2022 Spring Season Overview
Welcome back to a new season of anime settings and background art. I’m at day 28 of hard lockdown in Shanghai, though it has been a full 43 days since softer restrictions on movement and local supply chain disruptions began. We are stressed and tired, but we have food, and I have anime. All things must pass.
Paripi Kōmei (P.A. Works) is set primarily in Dōgenzaka and Udagawachō, the main commercial areas in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. We have periodic visits to Yoyogi Park, and stops at a club in Maruyamachō, Takeshita-dori in Harajuku (Jingūmae), and in the OP there is a shot from the Shibuya Sky observation deck in Shibuya, all also Shibuya Ward. In episode four there is an excursion to Roppongi, Minato Ward. The backgrounds by Studio Easter are just adequate, and with respect to butaitanbou there is little mystery or potential for discovery in such a popular location. But for its sheer feel good, put a smile on your face, make you bob up and down in your chair energy, this is my favorite show this season. @flyingbird1124, @ssslocation and @k_ssyc are looking into locations for Paripi Kōmei.
Summer Time Render (OLM) was, I had originally thought, going to be the front runner this season and next in terms of both butaitanbou interest and general excitement. The manga is highly regarded. The setting of Hitogashima is based on Tomogashima, a cluster of four islands that is part of Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture. However, these islands are relatively undeveloped. The townscape that appears at the ferry disembarkation area is actually Ogijima in Kagawa Prefecture, one of the settings of visual novel Summer Pockets. There are also scenes in Kada, Saikazaki and other districts on the mainland side of Wakayama City. The cast features multiple voice actors originally from the city, speaking Wakayama dialect. There should be a lot to like here.
Then the Wakayama City government and series rights holders announced a vigorous tourism promotion campaign that made it clear they weren’t going to wait to see what level of spontaneously arising pilgrimage occurs. The series is also being licensed by video-on-demand service Disney+. It is supposedly going to be available for streaming worldwide except for China, but as of the time of writing it appears still limited to Japan. It’s not a surprise that few fans outside Japan are talking about this, but even chatter among butaitanbou-sha in Japan has been tepid. @kimamanidance previously made a pilgrimage for the manga. @fragments_sue has been searching for locations based on the manga and anime, keeping track in a Google Map. @flyingbird1124, @lidges and @mikantanbouki are tentatively evaluating the series, but thus far no one appears to be in a hurry to venture out.
Love Live! Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Dōkōkai (Bandai Namco Filmworks) returns for a second season, still centered around its school setting based on the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center, as well as nearby commercial and residential districts in waterfront areas of Kōtō Ward and Minato Ward, commonly referred to as Odaiba. To this, it is expanding to add new districts in Odaiba, as well as a few isolated scenes that include Harumi and Yaesu, Chūō Ward; Marunouchi, Chiyoda Ward; and Higashi-Shinagawa, Shinagawa Ward. There are multiple in progress and planned marketing promotions with commercial facilities in the area, the most prominent of which is a mockup of the club room from the show at shopping mall Decks Tokyo Beach in Daiba, Minato Ward. As with the first season, @ad_motsu is thoroughly researching, traveling to, and documenting all locations, posting weekly blog updates. There is a large amount of pilgrimage interest and excitement about the series, but compared with other entries in the Love Live franchise, it is tilted toward casual visits over deep investigation.
Deaimon (Encourage Films) is set in Kyoto, with a primary base in the Demachiyanagi area of Sakyō Ward, centered around a wagashi shop. No, this isn’t Tamako Market. But Demachi is probably my favorite place to be, all things considered. Before Covid I stopped in a few times a year. I’ll take anything that puts me back there. Based on the first few episodes and the manga, the series appears to do a bit of traveling around the city. So far we’ve had scenes at Kyoto Station, Kyoto Gyoen, Sanzen-in, Kiyamachi-dōri, and a depiction of Gion Matsuri around Shijō-Karasuma. As of episode four, Kameoka Sports Park in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture is the only location outside the Kyoto City boundary. @Yamachan_Anime, @JuantheMad_, @whitekurosuke and @krousagi are looking into locations for Deaimon.
Healer Girl (3Hz) opens with an extended scene at Seiseki-Sakuragaoka Station in Tama, Tokyo Metropolis. It briefly includes other locations in Tama, the Budōkan in Chiyoda Ward, and Igusa Hachimangū in Suginami Ward. But its star player is the clinic, based on the Osamu Dazai Memorial Museum, commonly referred to as Shayōkan (the name of one of his novels), located in Goshogawara, Aomori Prefecture. @ssslocation, @flyingbird1124, @tesra1141, @hiphaist and @heero_yuy2 are looking into locations for Healer Girl.
Dance Dance Danseur (MAPPA) is about ballet students. Character animation is clearly the priority. But when we do get backgrounds beyond the practice studio, they are wonderful. Studio Pablo loves doing this work, and I love seeing it. There is an extended scene at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan in Ueno Park, Taitō Ward. The locations used when characters are transiting between the studio and elsewhere include a fumikiri in Kamitakada, Nakano Ward, rail viaduct in Koenji-Minami, Suginami Ward, and Nakasugi-dori, the main street through Asagaya-Minami, also Suginami Ward. My guess is that, rather than preserving real world spacial relationships, the setting is a composite of photogenic locations near Studio Pablo, which is based in Ogikubo. @heero_yuy2 is looking into locations for Dance Dance Danseur.
Spy × Family (Wit Studio, CloverWorks) is set in not-Germany during the Cold War. Based on the technology depicted, it is around the 1960s or 1970s, which makes Yor’s Art Deco inflected fashion wonderfully anachronistic. On an outing, there is also a brief scene at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Anya is adorable. @k_ssyc is looking into locations for Spy × Family.
Onipan! (Wit Studio) is a series of shorts that are part of children’s TV show Oha Suta, which airs weekday mornings in Japan, but take it lightly at your peril. (Or just enjoy it, even though it’s for kids, because it’s quite great.) Director Ōta Masahiko has a resume full of “real” anime we know and love, but doesn’t hold anything back just because of the format or intended audience. The backgrounds, handled by Studio Fūga and Yostar Pictures, are uncomplicated but not poor quality. They feel a little like pencil and watercolor sketches. There are several recognizable locations, including the Shibuya scramble crossing and Center-gai, Kami-Igusa Station in Suginami Ward, and photographs of Okayama Kōraku-en and Okayama Castle. @ssslocation and @tesra1141 are looking into locations for Onipan!
Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme (J.C.Staff) returns for a second season. The primary setting draws from locations along the Tama River in Tama and Hino, and as of season 2 episode 3 adds locations on the other side of the river in Fuchū. The school is in Chiyoda Ward. The first season also included Musashikoyama Palm Shōtengai in Shinagawa Ward. All locations are Tokyo Metropolis. @flyingbird1124, @shira_ry, @ssslocation and @heero_yuy2 are looking into locations for Machikado Mazoku 2-Chōme.
Heroine Tarumono! Kiraware Heroine to Naisho no Oshigoto (Lay-duce) is a mixed basket of locations. The school and surrounding streets are from Kamishakujii, Nerima Ward. This is the same school from SSSS.Gridman and SSSS.Dynazenon. Hiyori is shown transiting through Shibuya Station both during leisure outings to Dōgenzaka and Shibuya, Shibuya Ward, and on her evening commute, but it is not indicated if this is her final stop before arriving home. The idol agency is implied to be in or near Kita-Aoyama, Minato Ward. These comprise the main setting and are all Tokyo Metropolis. Episode 3 is set at a wedding venue inside the Yokohama English Garden in Nishihiranumachō, Nishi Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. From PV scenes, it looks like we’ll get some Jingūmae and Odaiba at some point, too. @flyingbird1124, @Roan_Inish, @ssslocation, @heero_yuy2 and @QgrlVszS4b2Ordg are looking at locations for Heroine Tarumono!
Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Ultra Romantic (A-1 Pictures) returns for a third season. The series has historically used Mita, Minato Ward as its anchor, but often branched out to other parts of the Tokyo inner wards and Machida. Thus far in the new season we have seen Yoyogi Park and Dōgenzaka, Shibuya Ward; Tokyo Station in Chiyoda Ward; Minami-Aoyama, Minato Ward. @flyingbird1124 and @JuantheMad_ are looking into locations for Kaguya-sama.
Kakkō no Iinazuke (Shin-Ei Animation, SynergySP) draws loosely from locations along the Meguro River in Nakameguro, Kamimeguro and Higashiyama, Meguro Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. Butaitanbou-sha report that while individual scene elements are being found, particularly the railings along the canal in Naka-Meguro, few of the scenes in the work appear to depict real locations in their entirety. There is a fair amount of simplification and synthesis, and it seems the intent was to capture the feeling of the area, rather than recreate it literally. In the OP, there is a one-off cut of Kanda Myōjin in Chiyoda Ward. @ssslocation and @tesra1141 are looking into locations for Kakkō no Iinazuke.
Gunjō no Fanfare (Lay-duce) is set primarily at the JRA Horse Racing School in Shiroi, Chiba Prefecture. Episode 2 features an extended scene at the Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchū, and there are a few shots of the Shibuya scramble crossing in the ED. There is a marketing promotion with the Hokusō Railway that includes commemorative tickets and character panels at stations in Shiroi. @k_ssyc is looking into locations for Gunjō no Fanfare.
Love All Play (Nippon Animation, OLM) includes locations in Chigasaki-Minami and Nakamachidai, Tsuzuki Ward; and Nōkendai-dōri, Kanazawa Ward (all Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture). We often see the Keikyū Main Line traveling past Yokohama High School. Most of the scenes depict a gymnasium setting. @ssslocation, @k_ssyc and @JuantheMad_ are looking into locations for Love All Play.
Shenmue the Animation (Telecom Animation Film) is set in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Hong Kong, and Guilin, China in the 1980s. There is a marketing promotion underway in Yokosuka, anchored on Dobuita Street, the shōtengai that is the focal point of community activity for the main characters. @heero_yuy2 is a black belt in Shenmue.
Komi-san wa, Komyushō Desu. (OLM) returns for a second season. I haven’t followed this closely, but my understanding is that it is a composite of multiple locations. The bird’s eye view of the the town is based on a satellite image of Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture. However, the ground level street scenes, the ones that have been identified at least, come from Edogawa Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. There was an excursion to Yomiuri Land in the first season. Most of the scenes depict a classroom setting. @ssslocation, @tesra1141 and @KindaNeet have previously looked into locations for Komi-san.
Cue! (Yumeta Company, Graphinica) continues into its second cour. As before, the setting is anchored in Akihabara, with occasional visits to other parts of Tokyo, but the majority of scenes depict recording studio work. There was an excursion to Niigata Prefecture back in episode 11. @heero_yuy2 has previously looked into locations for Cue!
Date A Live IV (Geek Toys) returns for a fourth season. The series has historically used Machida, Tokyo Metropolis as its primary setting. Thus far in this installment, we’ve seen Akihabara, something vaguely resembling Tokyo Big Sight, and a few other unidentified locations, but no Machida yet.
Kyōkai Senki (Sunrise Beyond) returns for the second part of its split two cour. As before, it textually references various parts of Japan, and we occasionally glimpse urban landmarks, but most of the action takes place in rural and forested settings.
Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki 4 Satsume (Hayabusa Film) is the fourth installment of what is a short PR anime in all but name for tourism to Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture.
Estab Life: Great Escape (Polygon Pictures) … … … WTF did I just watch? Tokyo, sort of.
Media and General Interest
Kuonji Yuru Camp event
Kuonji (久遠寺) in Minobu, Yamanashi Prefecture held a Shima Rin themed traffic safety prayer ceremony (ゆるキャン△ 身延山久遠寺で志摩リンの愛車仕様のスクーターと一緒に安全祈願会) on April 23. The event invited participation by owners of the Yamaha Vino scooter used by character Shima Rin, though all vehicles were welcome. Temple staff lead the cycles around the grounds, which is not something normally permitted. A prayer for traffic safety was held by the head priest, after which stickers with unique character designs were offered. The traffic safety stickers are now available for sale to all temple visitors. The new designs this year feature Ōgaki Chiaki and Kagamihara Sakura, in two sizes.
— たかよでぃ△ (@takayody1000) April 23, 2022
Toyosato K-On! event
Sakura High New Student Welcome Party 9.5 (桜高新入生歓迎会!!9.5じかんめ)—a K-On! fan-organized meetup—will be held May 1 at the former Toyosato Elementary School (豊郷小学校旧校舎群) in Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture.
Yamanashi Yuru Camp promotion
NHK Kōfu TV program Kaidoki (かいドキ) included a segment on Yuru Camp and its various tourism tie-in promotions in Yamanashi Prefecture during its broadcast on April 19. The segment discusses bus tours, popular locations, the large amount of official merchandise the show has spawned, and mentions special events held at Kuonji (久遠寺).
Comment: When I see reports like this, where they spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about official merchandise, I’m reminded of Alex Kerr’s criticism in Dogs and Demons of Japan’s education system and bureaucracy being unable to do much other than produce manufactured goods. Kerr points to this as the root cause of a wide range of unhealthy developments, not just for tourism. He is particularly concerned about environmental degradation and construction of uninspiring cities. Government and tourism promoters have been saying nice things about “transitioning from mono to koto” for years, but most of it is empty talk with little substance or intention to actually make it happen. 20 years later, it seems little has changed.
Awara Chihayafuru AR course
There was additional reporting on the Chihayafuru “seichijunrei course” demonstration experiment in Awara, Fukui Prefecture running from from April 1 to May 8, covered previously. Media coverage: Chūnichi Shimbun
Saga Zonsaga manhole covers
There will be an exhibition of the next batch of manhole covers featuring Zombie Land Saga characters to be installed in Saga Prefecture, at the Saga TV Harufes (サガテレビ春フェス) on April 30 and May 1. The details of the phased manhole cover rollout were covered previously.
Chichibu Kokosake stamp rally
Chichibu Anime Tourism Executive Committee (秩父アニメツーリズム実行委員会) will organize a Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterun Da. (Kokosake) stamp rally in Chichibu and Yokoze, Saitama Prefecture from April 23 to May 22. News release: Chichibu Anime Tourism Executive Committee
Kasamatsu Uma Musume promotion
Kasamatsu Racecourse (笠松競馬場) in Kasamatsu, Gifu Prefecture will hold Uma Musume Pretty Derby promotional tie-in events connected with the Uma Musume Cinderella Grey spinoff manga and character Oguri Cap on April 27 to 29 and May 2. The promotion will include a special race featuring only white and grey horses, commemorative betting tickets, and character panels. A memorial for the real life Oguri Cap will also be held on April 28. Media coverage: Inside, Chūnichi Shimbun, Chūnichi Sports, Game Watch, Famitsu.com, Dengeki Online, Game With
Current Season Pilgrimage
@ad_motsu made a pilgrimage (updated post) to Daiba, Minato Ward; Aomi, Toyosu, Monzennakachō and Shiomi, Kōtō Ward; Yaesu, Chūō Ward; Marunouchi, Chiyoda Ward (all Tokyo Metropolis) for Love Live! Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Dōkōkai Season 2 Episode 4.