Mikuni City, Fukui Prefecture: Home of Glasslip
June 14, 2015
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“Hollywood always wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.” —Bette Davis
It’s been quite some time since I’ve done any location posts. I will break that streak with a post detailing the differences between the Glasslip depiction and real-world town of Mikuni. While it’s been nearly a year since Glasslip aired, it strikes me as surprising that there are not any half-decent collections of screenshots comparing the locations of Glasslip to its real-world equivalent. Mikuni is a town in the Fukui Prefecture of Japan. This small town is quite unremarkable for the most part, minus the fact that it was merged with Harue and Maruoka in 2006 to form the city of Sakai. Boasting a population of 23207 as of 2003 prior to the merger, the combined cities have a population of roughly 94000 (as of 2011). Despite Mikuni’s relatively small size (it’s only double the size of Canmore, Alberta), the town is well-known for its fireworks display, which are hosted every August, and as depicted in Glasslip, some of the fireworks are floating charges distributed by boats that explode on the water’s surface to create a unique effect.
- There are twenty-eight screenshots in this post, fourteen depicting the anime location and fourteen of its real-world equivalent. Similar to KyoAni’s depictions of their respective locales in K-On!, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Kanon and CLANNAD, P.A. Works puts in a great deal of effort into its landscapes and environments, as well. Careful inspection of this image pair finds that the individual buildings are faithfully reproduced.
- As with the Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari location posts, I’ll comment every two images: the anime depictions are remarkably well-done and in some cases, indistinguishable from the photograph. The fastest way to differentiate between the two is that the anime screenshots are much cleaner and vivid in colour, lacking the grittier feeling in the photographs.
- The level of details in the environments is astounding, and for all of the limitations present in Glasslip, the visuals are not anything to casually dismiss. So vividly rendered and detailed the landscapes and cityscapes are, that one might even say that P.A. Works can rival Makoto Shinkai’s artwork to some extent. For instance, this shot of the harbour was taken just outside the Mikuni postal office.
- Because Mikuni is a relatively small city, it was possible for me to scour map data to relocate some of the spots seen in Glasslip. Hinode Bridge is near the heart of Mikuni, passing over a train route. This is the spot where Yanagi confesses her feelings to Yukinari despite knowing the latter’s feelings for Tōko. It typifies P.A. Works’ talent for making use of lighting and music to transform what would otherwise be mundane locations into places where major events happen within their stories.
- Mikuni Ryushokan Museum is one of the landmark buildings in Mikuni for its unique architecture: situated on a hill overlooking the city, this museum was designed by a Dutch engineer and features exhibits on the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history, as well as the Kitamaebune float and the Mikuni festival.
- There’s an observatory at the top floor of the Mikuni Ryushokan Museum that provides an unparalleled view of Mikuni’s cityscape. The area is referred to as the Kirinkan Lookout in Glasslip and is the setting for several game-changers within the plot, such as Sachi’s implied confession to Tōko.
- The Kazemichi Cafe is a favourite hangout spot for Tōko and her friends; details from the original cafe, whether it be the exteriors or interiors, are faithfully reproduced in the anime. Known as the Cafe Kotonoha in real life, the cafe serves coffees, cakes, pastries and other refreshments, although its accessibility in the anime is not reflective of its relative location to Mikuni.
- Cafe Kotonoha is located roughly twelve klicks east of Mikuni (if we’re using Hinode Bridge as the starting point): it’s set in a quiet wooded area that’s a twenty minute drive from downtown Mikuni, contrasting the Kazemichi Cafe of Glasslip, whose location suggests a location that is accessible by foot. While artists often go to great lengths to reproduce the details in an environment, there are cases where it is convenient to make modifications to fit the story.
- Mikuni Station was relatively easy to find: operating since 1911, the station changed hands several times and operated trains for the Japan Government Railways until 1944, when Echizen Railway (formerly eifuku Electric Railway) took over. An accident on the line closed the station in 2001, and the station reopened in 2003.
- Sachi and Tōko share a quiet moment and some ice cream outside of Gelato and Sweets CARNA, a shop that makes use of homemade ingredients to produce exceptionally fresh gelato and gentler-tasting sweets. The more subtle sweetness in Eastern confectionary stands in stark contrast to the sweets available in North America, which are oftentimes overwhelmingly sweet.
- The use of real-world locations in anime is typically intended to reduce the need for extensive world-building. By providing a reasonably familiar location, this would theoretically allow a particular anime to focus on the character development, and while this holds true for quite a number of anime, this is that Glasslip ultimately proved unsuccessful in executing.
- Watari Glass Studio is located around nineteen klicks south of Mikuni station, down the road along Umisai Hill. As a glass factory, it’s open to the public for touring, featuring a small gallery and terrace. In Glasslip, the location has been modified to be closer to Mikuni (similar to the Kazemichi Cafe), and the Fukami residence was added (visible in the upper image).
- The spot where Yukinai confesses his feelings to Tōko is the synthesis of two locations: the intersection and house are located at National Route 305 near Kado Jinja, while the bench and tree are adjacent to a grade level railroad crossing between Mikuni Station and Mikuni-Minato Station.
- This post came to fruition when a reader asked me about providing a locations post on Glasslip for other readers that could be perused easily, without requiring the loading of resource-hogging flash advertisements or even malware. Other sites with these location comparisons simply aren’t searchable in English (some otaku “pilgrimmage” sites don’t even provide Japanese text, instead, displaying mangled strings that make them near-impossible to find again). This forms the motivation behind all of my location posts: I aim to provide interested readers with a relatively clean comparison of anime and real-world locations, on a site that’s comparatively speedy with respect to loading times, and most importantly, is in the English language.
Glasslip was noted as a disappointment as an anime from an objective perspective; English-speaking viewers initially wondered if there were aspects in Glasslip that required a more involved understanding of Japanese culture, but it appears that the anime was not particularly well-received even by Japanese viewers. Official records state that only 584 copies of the first-volume home release DVDs and Blu-Rays were sold. To put things in perspective, the last P.A. Works Anime prior to Glasslip, Nagi no Asakara‘s first volume sold some 3717 copies, and the last anime from P.A. Works that I watched, Tari Tari, sold 8389 copies. Despite this cold reception, viewers in Japan paid several visits to Mikuni for the sole purpose of traversing the same trails as the characters of Glasslip; the region reported a small increase in tourism after Glasslip was released. Thus, while Glasslip may have featured a turbulent plot stymied by poor execution, it is the next entry in the list of anime that have invested a substantial amount of effort into producing realistic environments. For all of Glasslip‘s shortcomings, the detail and care placed into the scenery and cityscapes is nothing short of impressive.