Pilgrimage Shorts: Spec-Ops Asuka

Welcome to the first installment of Pilgrimage Shorts. Join me as I retread the most memorable anime pilgrimages from my last trip to Japan. I already wrote about my Granbelm pilgrimage, but for the rest I believe a shorter format will suffice. Let’s get to it!

Spec-Ops Asuka wasn’t extraordinary, but it did have some great character designs plus the opening song by nonoc was a banger. A military fantasy with an isekai backdrop, Asuka consistently incorporated real-life locations to tie itself to our reality. It prominently featured locations from Shibuya, Shinjuku and elsewhere, comparisons of which you can find in Wilhelm Donko’s Anime vs. Real Life post.

I will not be as thorough as Wilhelm, but I do have a tale to tell of how I tumbled down the rabbit hole as I paused at the following scene from the third episode. Also, about my effort to track it down in real life.

Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka 03
Spec-Ops Asuka episode 03

This throwaway background, which could have been any stock background image and nobody would have batted an eye, actually has an equivalent in the real world. I thought it had too much going on for it to be just another background artist’s routine brain fart. The focus of my search was the black storefront, which had the awnings and the distinct window shapes. This was a good artifact to focus on, but where to start the search?

From the episode, we know that the girls were returning from a public swimming pool back toward Shinjuku Station. So the next logical step was to open up Google Maps, find Shinjuku Station, and search for nearby pools.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any facilities with Olympic swimming pools nearby, as was the case in the episode, nevertheless one of the results turned out to be very amusing. I will assume that you, the reader, are a man – or woman – of culture, therefore you probably know about the existence of a very specific pool in Tokyo, one more commonly referred to as That Pool.  That’s right, the Hanazono Room, frequently featured in Japanese bikini porn and hardcore hentai is located very close to Yasukuni Street, which is also the real location of the background above. The proximity of this pool might just be a funny coincidence, but I choose to believe that storyboard chose this location on purpose. Now you are free to fantasize that the girls actually went to spend a relaxing afternoon in one of Shinjuku’s hottest premium properties.

Isetan Men's Shinjuku vs. Spec-Ops Asuka 03
Isetan Men’s Shinjuku

The chic storefront belongs to Isetan Men’s, a larger fashion and lifestyle complex. The store’s name was censored for obvious reasons. The awnings on either end of the black storefront series, along with the rectangular white arcs provide the most proof that this is indeed the background under consideration. The glass reliefs are portrayed in gist, but contribute substantially to making the scene unmistakable.

Isetan Men's Shinjuku storefront
The glass reliefs are but quick-and-dirty approximations

I’m not sure how to justify spending my last afternoon in Japan hunting for this garbage location. I felt like not many other people are interested in generic backgrounds and their origin. What’s more, there is something satisfying about knowing that other people missed something and you didn’t, even if it holds little aesthetic value to them. The location wasn’t easy to find either. So I consider this hunt as a unique accomplishment. Thank you for reading!

Isetan Men's Shinjuku
With less pedestrians

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