The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Revisiting the Tsukishiro Residence and Finding Metaphors For Growth In The World in Colours’ Architectural Choices

“Architecture is shaped by human emotions and desires, and then becomes a setting for further emotions and desires. It goes from the animate and inanimate and back again. For this reason it is always incomplete, or rather is only completed by the lives in and around it.” –Rowan Moore, Why We Build

Hitomi Tsukishiro had found herself in an unfamiliar world after her grandmother, Kohaku, had sent her back sixty years to meet her younger self. Although she initially finds herself disoriented, Hitomi ends up at the Tsukishiro residence thanks to help from Asagi, Kurumi and Shō, members of the Photography Club who are familiar with Kohaku. While Kohaku is absent, her grandmother (Hitomi’s great great grandmother) prepares a room for her and mentions that this home, located near the family-run magic shop, had been built recently. Hitomi indicates that it’s a familiar spot for her; Kohaku used to read to her up in this cozy space. Not much more is mentioned about the Tsukishiro residence, and the significance of this spot becomes eclipsed by The World in Colour’s touching story, but the interior architecture of Kohaku’s home ends up being a superbly well-written metaphor for Hitomi’s own developments throughout the course of The World in Colours, foreshadowing the elements that would guide Hitomi forwards back onto a path where she can appreciate the colours of her world. In particular, two design choices inside Hitomi’s attic room are of importance. The first of this is shown within moments of her setting foot inside the attic – there’s a small, circular door separating her space from the adjacent space, which belongs to Kohaku. In a home, the bedroom is often counted as the most private of spaces. The notion of the bedroom acting as a sanctuary is a relatively recent thought, and following the Industrial Revolution, as hygiene became ever important, society began favouring homes that allowed people to sleep in a space of their own. Having one’s own room thus became a symbol of success, and of decency. Over the years, bedrooms would become a sacred space, a place of self-expression, and a place where it’s okay to be vulnerable. With this in mind, The World in Colours‘ focus on Hitomi’s bedroom space during the series’ first episode was meant to accentuate the fact that, although she might be having some difficulties of her own, at the Tsukishiro residence, she will always have a place to call her own. Given Hitomi’s personality, there was always the possibility she would just retreat into this space, unwilling to open up to others. To this end, the Tsukishiro’s attic was engineered to give Hitomi a balance between openness and privacy.

The little wooden door separating Hitomi’s space from Kohaku’s ends up being a piece of architectural genius in this regard. As a door, it can be open or closed; Hitomi can be given privacy and time to herself as required, but having the door also allows Kohaku to freely visit her without having to step out into the hallway and knock on the main door. In this way, the wooden door symbolises how with family, there is always the opportunity to be connect to someone and voice one’s concerns. The World in Colours uses this interior fixture in an incremental fashion; initially, Kohaku is content to open the door and speak with Hitomi, but gradually, Hitomi uses the door and takes the initiative to talk to Kohaku. Eventually, Hitomi becomes okay with Kohaku coming all the way through the door and hanging out on her side of the space. This acts as an expressive metaphor for how it takes time for people to open up, even to their own families. While this process can’t be rushed, when allowed to progress naturally, it does eventually help Hitomi to come to terms with her own complicated relationship with magic, as well as gaining the courage to befriend Kohaku’s friends. The use of this door parallels Hitomi’s own opening up to the world around her. Early on, it takes a catalyst from the outside to start things (i.e. Kohaku starting the conversation), but as Hitomi gains more confidence, she lets Kohaku into her room, symbolising how she’s also allowed Kohaku into her heart. Accepting her grandmother’s knowledge and spirit in turn helps Hitomi to grow. To show the extent of this growth, the skylight in Hitomi’s room is used to great effect. This skylight represents the link between Hitomi and the outside world. Offering a beautiful view of Nagasaki Harbour and the night sky, Hitomi gazes longingly out this window throughout The World in Colour, showing an increasing desire to open up to others to a greater extent. On the eve of the culture festival, Hitomi’s feelings finally spurs her on: she creates a magic-infused paper airplane, opens the window and sends the plane to Yuito. This is a milestone moment in The World in Colour – for the first time, Hitomi has taken the initiative of opening herself up to the world, and this is mirrored in her act of opening the skylight window so she can send something to Yuito. From this point on, it becomes clear that Hitomi has gained the very thing Kohaku had intended her to experience when the latter had arranged for Hitomi to be sent back.

Additional Thoughts and Remarks

  • I’ve long held an interest in interior architecture at a casual level; back when I was a middle and secondary school student, I was always fond of borrowing interior architecture books from the local library and reading them in my spare time. The interiors that always appealed to me most were those that made extensive use of glass and creatively divided spaces to increase functionality, and this influenced how I laid out the furniture after my move. The end result is that my place is filled with natural light during the day, making for a much more welcoming, well-lit space.

  • The Tsukishiro residence seems quite ordinary at first glance: Kohaku’s grandmother (and Hitomi’s great great grandmother) mentions that their house was completed in 2017. Being only a year old when Hitomi is returned to 2018, the house is still new enough for Hitomi to notice a “new house” smell to it, and all of the surfaces are still shiny. One clever touch in The World in Colours‘ opening episode is actually seen right at the beginning: the wood has a more faded, worn quality to it, befiting of a home that’s stood for six decades.

  • However, even though the anime chooses not to actively show the space off just yet, it is clear that the Tsukishiro residence in 2078 has been a lovingly-looked after home: Kohaku’s filled the attic space with her work, and uses it as a sanctuary of sorts. However, in 2018, the space remains largely unused, so Hitomi has no trouble in moving into this part of the house. While aging buildings normally fills one with a sense of melancholy, to see the old room still being in active use is a hint to viewers that the Tsukishiros look after what’s dear to them.

  • Despite appearing unremarkable at first glance, this little circular doorway is the star of this discussion. While it’s not particularly practical from a real-world standpoint because by reflex, people would prefer to stand up and walk over to an adjacent room, versus getting down on the hands and feet and crawling, the doorway has metaphoric significance in the context of The World in Colours. Architectural choices like these would not be found in the typical home, and I imagine that the Tsukishiro residence was therefore tailor-made to the family’s specifications.

  • Although it is never mentioned, then, the fact that Kohaku and her family live in a custom home suggests that their business as magicians is going well enough. Small details like these, when properly attended to, can speak volumes about the characters and provide exposition without needing to employ more time-consuming aspects, like flashbacks or through dialogue. Over the years, P.A. Works has masterfully fit anime into the single-cour format, doing more with less: this trend began with 2012’s Tari Tari, and while I had been skeptical that 13 episodes was enough to tell a compelling tale, Tari Tari had me proven wrong.

  • The World in Colours kicks into high gear once Kohaku returns from her studies abroad. The dynamic between Kohaku and Hitomi in The World in Colours had been reproduced in The Aquatope on White Sand, with Fūka being equivalent to Hitomi, and Kukuru occupying Kohaku’s role. P.A. Works is fond of recycling character archetypes (Tari Tari‘s Konatsu, Wakana and Sawa are modelled after Hanasaku Iroha‘s Ohana, Minko and Nako, respectively, while Glasslip‘s Tōko was derived from Nagi no Asukara‘s Manaka, and Aoi from Shirobako inspires the design for Sakura Quest‘s Yoshino), but by using different contexts, character growth happens in a completely novel manner, resulting in distinct, memorable stories.

  • The uncluttered interior space in Hitomi’s room is meant to signify the fact that she’s not going to remain in 2018 indefinitely: there will come a point where she will need to return to 2078. In anime, visual clutter is a deliberate choice, meant to show that a space is lived-in, and two of the strongest examples of this are found in Studio Ghibli’s films, as well as anything from Makoto Shinkai. Looking at objects and how they’re arranged in a room speak volumes to the characters, and a space with clutter may indicate anything from its frequent usage, to the inhabitant’s personality.

  • For me, I’ve always been fond of keeping a clean environment in my living space. In my day-to-day, this simply means putting stuff away when I’m done with it, and making it a point to always wash the dishes after a meal. I have a schedule for tasks like cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming and mopping the floors, and while cleaning house can be a chore, I let my mind wander when doing any sort of housekeeping; in fact, I draft out blog posts in my head during this time, and this has also helped me to maintain this blog post-move.

  • The design of the Tsukishiro residence is one of the reasons why I’d been so disappointed in the fact that no official guidebook for The World in Colours was released. These guidebooks provide concept art for the settings and characters, cast interviews and all of the promotional artwork for a given anime, on top of episode summaries. Some artbooks will go as far as providing the floor plans and interior sketches for a space, as well as a commentary on why spaces were designed the way that they were. Insight like this greatly enhances one’s enjoyment of a work.

  • A year ago, I noticed that The Aquatope on White Sand was getting an artbook of sorts, and I had been surprised to see it sell out within minutes of becoming available. Although I tried to acquire a copy through CD Japan’s proxy shipping service, the exorbitant cost (about 90 CAD) meant I ended up standing down. Someone who bought the artbook indicated that, rather than the content from a typical official guidebook, the book consisted of drawings from the staff and interviews with the cast. With this information, my disappointment in being unable to pick this artbook up has waned.

  • One evening, after an outing with the Magic-Photography Club, Hitomi feels downtrodden that Yuito isn’t willing to open up to her, Kohaku ends up hearing Hitomi out. Despite being the same age at this point, there’s a weight to Kohaku’s words: she feels that at least Yuito is responding to Hitomi, and this beats being ignored. One interesting point that comes out of this conversation is that Kohaku mentions the Hedgehog’s Dilemma (if two hedgehogs are cold and wish to seek warmth, they cannot close the distance without barbing one another), in which people can hurt one unintentionally another if they’re close, but will be lonely otherwise.

  • This concept comes from Arthur Schopenhauer’s 1851 essay, and while anime fans use the concept to explain isolation, it was quite bold of The World in Colours to both define the concept and offer a solution (Kohaku indicates that moderation is key). In anime, fans enjoy ambiguity whenever philosophy is concerned because it allows them to interpret things in their own manner of choosing, so when a series actively indicates it’s got a specific interpretation of a philosophical model, fans tend to ignore it rather than trying to understand why the writers incorporated the concept into a given work. For me, I prefer it when works do this, since it tells me precisely what the creators think of an idea.

  • In The World in Colours, Kohaku’s comments indicate that the Hedgehog’s Dilemma isn’t as much of a dilemma as people make it out to be, and can be addressed by giving people space. By offering viewers with one potential answer, The World in Colours demonstrates that philosophical quandaries can still have solutions even if they appear difficult. Indeed, this is where the series excels, and over time, Kohaku visits Hitomi with greater frequency. Kohaku’s casual posture here shows that Hitomi has accepted and opened up to her.

  • A look around Hitomi’s room finds jars of Star-Sand and a small number of personal effects. The Star-Sand is one of my favourite aspects of The World in Colours because they emanate a gentle glow of their own, and seeing the jars of Star-Sand in the Tsukishiro shop gave it a very distinct appearance. Star-Sand is used as a conduit for magic in The World in Colours: after being infused with magic from a Witch, the magic is stablised and can be stored for later usage. It was a clever concept, and although the magic in The World in Colours is a bit more fantastical than that of either Glasslip or The Aquatope on White Sand, it was utilised extremely well to drive character growth.

  • The other aspect of Hitomi’s room that I found important to The World in Colours was the skylight window. On a clear night, Hitomi is afforded with an unparalleled view of the night sky, and the window’s placement means that she could lie in bed and see the stars. In reality, the light pollution in Nagasaki is ranked as a Class 6 on the Bortle Scale. Only magnitude 5.0 or brighter stars are visible with the naked eye. However, to put things in perspective, my home city’s skies are a Class 7, and the maximum magnitude visible is 4.5, speaking to how Nagasaki has better control of their light pollution than my home town: despite the transition to LED street lamps years earlier, the sheer sprawl of the city means that the night sky is degraded to the point where, even on a clear night, it’s a light grey rather than pitch black.

  • The sight of Hitomi gazing out, longingly, over the city of Nagasaki is a common scene in The World in Colours, and if the Tsukishiro residence represents the world Hitomi is comfortable opening up to, then the rest of the world corresponds to the people around her. Throughout The World in Colours, although Hitomi gets along with Kohaku, she still struggles to open up to the others. Mirroring this, the skylight window remains closed: Hitomi can see out the window and longs for a connection, and the latch is inside, show that ultimately, it’s up to her as to when she’ll open it.

  • According to the blog archives, the last I wrote about The World in Colours was back in December 2018; although I briefly mentioned this series and its influences on The Aquatope on White Sand, I’ve not otherwise had a chance to revisit the series in writing since then. I remember that December well: I’d just started a new position, and was working out of the downtown core. In the time that has passed, I now work with a different organisation, and on Wednesday, my last workday of 2022, I decided to ride the bus downtown after work and take in the Christmas lights. While the world today is dramatically different than it’d been four years earlier, the view from my old bus stop still looks like it did when I boarded my bus here previously. However, with the iPhone 14 Pro’s Photonic Engine, the photos of the same spot look much sharper than they had previously.

  • When I was watching The Aquatope on White Sand a year earlier, the similarities between Hitomi and Fūka only held in the first few episodes; as Fūka found her footing, she became increasingly confident and was able to guide Kukuru through a few rough spots, whereas here in The World in Colours, Hitomi leans on Kukuru for the most part. However, towards the end of The World in Colours, Hitomi does begin to make several strides, taking the initiative to better learn and control her magic. With support from the Magic and Photography Club, Hitomi slowly improves her control over her magic and eventually is able to make her own decisions.

  • Thus, when Hitomi opens the window to the skylight for the first time, it’s symbolic of a season’s worth of progress: this action had been her call alone, and this shows that Hitomi is now more honest about what she’d wanted. With her time in 2018 limited, she ultimately returns to her own time with more confidence, and she’s able to befriend two of her classmates, who are presumably Asagi and Kurumi’s grandchildren. The World in Colours had ended on an exceptional note, and entering 2019, I was feeling happier than I had in the years following graduate school.

  • Overall, The World in Colours is one of P.A. Works’ more underappreciated anime; it took concepts from Glasslip and presented them in a more mature fashion, ultimately creating a moving tale that also set the stage for last year’s The Aquatope on White Sand. I would like to remark that this one did take some effort to write out: the idea of writing about the circular wooden door in Hitomi’s room had been in my mind for the past two years, and it was only now I’ve managed to put out something coherent about the topic. With this post now in the books, and with only a week left until Christmas, I am now officially on winter break, so there will be some time for me to unwind in the next few weeks.

The World in Colours had done a fantastic job of conveying its themes to viewers, with great clarity – the metaphor of colour made it unambiguous as to what the anime had intended to accomplish. However, to accentuate its messages, P.A. Works had taken their game one step further, and utilises architecture to provide one more avenue of highlighting pivotal moments in Hitomi’s development throughout the series. Interior spaces and lighting can be employed to further give viewers insight into how characters might be feeling in a given moment, and while such details can be subtle, they remain highly valuable to the story. Use of architecture allows P.A. Works to enrich a given story’s clarity and meaning without needing to use any additional dialogue, and this allows a scene to kill two birds with one stone; while the spaces the characters occupy can be used to denote their progress, the conversations characters share while using these spaces can be focused on advancing the story. For instance, when Hitomi asks Kohaku about the Star-Sand, the moment itself brings Hitomi one step closer to thanking Yuito and expressing how she feels, but at the same time, the space allows The World in Colours to also remind viewers that Hitomi is being gently nudged to take a step forward, and she’s now at a stage where she can take the initiative to start something. It is quite understandable that details like these can be overlooked when one is going through an anime: all eyes are on the main story and how well its intentions are conveyed. However, the merits of a re-watch become apparent; small details that were missed the first time around suddenly become more apparent, and this creates a much richer, deeper connection to a given work and its messages. Although it’s been four years since The World in Colours aired, this work remains one of P.A. Works’ most impactful titles, and it is the studio’s use of every appropriate tool that contributes to this enjoyability. Moments like these, of rediscovering something like the clever use of interior architecture in The World in Colours, is what makes rewatching anime a worthwhile task; since there are no more surprises or twists, the mind is allowed to freely explore other facets of an anime, and the results can be fulfilling.

5 responses to “Revisiting the Tsukishiro Residence and Finding Metaphors For Growth In The World in Colours’ Architectural Choices

  1. David Birr December 19, 2022 at 18:28

    You mention how the view of the night sky wouldn’t be as good as the series makes it seem due to light pollution. It occurred to me, though, that since magic, genuine magic, is an openly-used resource in this story’s society, the locals may have been better at keeping light pollution under control than in our world.


    • David Birr December 20, 2022 at 08:37

      I should’ve made it clearer: my thought was that “the locals may have been better” because they had magic in addition to our technologies to help them deal with light pollution.


      • infinitezenith December 25, 2022 at 14:26

        It is conceivable that magic could be used to help manage light pollution; it suddenly hits me that there’s a myriad of ways magic could be applied to create clearer skies. The obvious one is impacting the sky clarity itself, but since magic is temporary, it’d probably be an expensive ask to continuously refresh the magic, so one other way is to use magic on the lighting fixtures, too. The scope of magic isn’t fully defined, but if Kohaku can send Hitomi back in time, I’m sure there’s magic to get the job done!


  2. Michael E Kerpan December 20, 2022 at 19:20

    I re-watched this a few months back, courtesy of the new BluRay release. It was even better on (second) re-watch than on my earlier viewings. This really is a top-tier product of PA Works. Too bad it seems to have gotten largely overlooked (in the West at least). I wonder if this was because it got Amazoned? Or whether this just isn’t the kind of show that suits Western viewers? Hopefully now that this is available on disc and one HiDive it will pick up at least some new fans.

    I like your focus on just how important the house is in this series. I would say that all the settings are utilized quite nicely. The attention to detail is quite impressive.


    • infinitezenith December 25, 2022 at 14:47

      The World in Colours is definitely a show that has gone unnoticed, and I have heard that, generally speaking, Western viewers prefer shows with a more defined structure, whereas Japanese viewers (in keeping with the idea of mono no aware) value beauty in what’s transient. This is why folks here are raving about Top Gun: Maverick, and over in Japan, their viewers think that the Yuru Camp△ Movie is a superior film: the former is bombastic, gripping and thrilling, but the former is introspective, thoughtful and encouraging. On this token, most North Americans would consider The World in Colours to be too slow, and pass over it.

      Architecture in anime has always been a topic of interest to me: fiction has nearly unlimited creative freedom in structuring building and spaces to fit the narrative, and P.A. Works has long excelled at using architecture to quietly reinforce or enhance their messages. I’ve always wanted to share my thoughts on this circular door because it had been such a distinctive part of the Tsukishiro home, and Kohaku was quite at ease with using it to enter Hitomi’s bedroom, but since magic was such a large part of The World in Colours, it always overshadowed the smaller details like these. I do hope that P.A. Works, whenever they return to their next coming-of-age story, will continue paying this level of attention to their details 🙂


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