Monday, January 17, 2011

Anime on Location: Tokyo Tower

Tokyo tower as seen in the opening from Air Gear.
As prominently as they placed it up front, one would think
the series might actually have a scene or two with it in the show. 
But surprise! There isn't.
Hey gang, today we're taking a look at a famous Tokyo landmark in anime. An incredible 1,091 feet (or 333 meters as claimed by the official website) Tokyo Tower has been a national landmark since its completion in 1958. It is currently the second tallest structure in Tokyo, as it has recently been supplanted from the top spot by the Tokyo Sky Tree which will open for business in 2012, but even so, it still remains a cultural icon, and is often used as a key indicator a story is taking place in Tokyo. So how accurately is it represented in anime, and what sort of place is it really? I guess I'd have to have actually been there to know for sure, but I did some research...    that has to count for something, right? Anyway, let's take an informal tour and see what we can find.

Sakura flying through the tower's girders
 in her final challenge to win dominion over the cards,
in Cardcaptor Sakura.
While I was studying abroad, the school that was hosting us was not far from a street that led directly to the tower. As such, I caught sight of it practically every other day for the six weeks that I stayed in Tokyo. It's definitely an impressive structure to look at, and even now I sometimes find I'm kicking myself for not going to check it out when I had the chance. Why? Because most Tokyo residents in anime have visited it at least once in the course of their various series. Not only is it a popular hangout for Tokyo's young folks, it's also a major plot location for several shows, and even those whose plots are not directly connected to the place may find their way there in some capacity. Phantom thieves have flown off the observation decks, gun battles have taken place inside, it's been bombed repeatedly, knocked over, shot at, had trans-dimensional portals opened inside it, and to top it all off magical girls seem to like having important rites of passage take place along the tower's steel rungs. I suppose it makes some sense from the TV production side of things that this would be an important icon in Japanese television considering that on top of all the crazy stuff that has happened to this tower, it also happens to house most of the analog and digital broadcasting equipment for a majority of the TV stations in the Tokyo area. According to the official website, the tower hosts the airwaves for Fuji TV, TV Tokyo, TV Asahi, as well as a couple of NHK channels, among others. It also plays host to the equipment for several radio broadcasting companies both digital and analog.

There are two of these tower-things running around,
the other one has a blue jumpsuit. In case you're wondering,
in this scene from Detective Conan, Takagi just came on the scene
at the tower (called Touto Tower to avoid trademark issues)
after a bomb blew up.
There are about four primary locations in the tower that are available for regular visits, these are the main building underneath the tower, known as Foot Town, the two lower observation decks and then, you can take an elevator up even further to the highest observation deck which sits on top of the part of the tower with the radio equipment (once again this info is from the official website) though availability certainly hasn't stopped characters from taking liberties, such as a certain crazy kid from Air Gear who uses his motorized roller blades to perch on top of the ring-shaped protector for the digital antenna to make the opening for his anime look cool. Anyway, for most normal people who actually exist in real life, the first thing they're going to see is Foot Town. It's mostly a spot with gift shops and the like, with a roof garden with stuff for the kids to do, but one thing that you can actually spot in one of the Detective Conan specials is a rendering of a mascot character you'll find wandering around. Actually, there are two of them. They are a pair of humanoid-tower....   things who are apparently brothers (whatever they are, they're pink) that wander around to play with the kids and pose for pictures. Interesting what these guys come up with isn't it? You can also find souvenirs themed for these guys in the gift shop. I've previously railed about why the building shouldn't even exist in the show, but you can't fault Code Geass for not paying attention to architectural detail at least. Foot Town is also one of the few remaining parts of Tokyo Tower that are still intact in the series, and it has apparently been turned into a Museum about Brittania's superiority, kinda sad.

I know you can't see Hikaru's face in this
shot from Magic Knights Rayearth,
but I wanted to show you the girders.
The next two levels that most people go to visit are the first and second observation decks and these are the areas that are most commonly shown in anime where a character actually goes inside the building. You can tell that this is where the characters are because of the characteristic steel support girders coming up from the floors in a lot of these scenes. A number of crucial scenes have taken place on this level including the initial one from CLAMP's series Magic Knights Rayearth in which the first thing that happens is that three girls are snatched through an inter-dimensional rift while on their school field trip.There are a couple of interesting things up here, like a cafe and even a Shinto shrine.

It's a real shame this pristine view from
 Detective Conan: The Raven Chaser
is about to be shot to pieces in a few seconds.
On a good day you can see to Mount Fuji from here.
The last area of the tower that is open to the public is the special observatory. I have only seen it used once in the anime I've seen so far (Feel free to comment below if you spot others.) It's a rounded observation area set just below the digital antenna. It's a good bit smaller than the lower ones, for obvious reasons, and the most I've seen it do is provide Conan with cover from a military helicopter during the climax of his 13th theatrical release, Detective Conan: The Raven Chaser. What the hell was he doing being chased up the tower by a helicopter you ask? It's a long story, although you can tell the movie wasn't written by Gosho Aoyama because there's no way in hell the Black Organization should have been able to commandeer a helicopter and shoot at a major landmark without the public noticing!  Forget the police, this would be a situation where the Self Defense Force should have been called in. I don't care if it's dark, there's this little invention called radar, and even without that, people are going to notice guys!...      However, I guess that sort of thing is better left to a critique of the actual movie. I guess this concludes our little exploration of the various parts of Tokyo Tower and how they relate to anime. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples out there, so keep your eyes peeled, trivia hounds and feel free to comment if you want to point them out. See ya next week!

Images taken from Air Gear, Cardcaptor Sakura, Detective Conan, Detective Conan: The Raven Chaser, and Magic Knights Rayearth.

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