I was watching Penguindrum last week while working on some artwork and jokingly sending texts to a friend. I was in episode 9 and the episode started with the characters arriving in Ikebukuro. My friend that I was texting was the one that traveled to Japan with me. The reason I texted him, was because after the characters were revealed to be in Ikebukuro they were at an aquarium.
This past summer when we traveled to Japan, we also visited an aquarium in Ikebukuro. This immediately got me sending him texts about how funny it would be if that was the aquarium we were at. Well, it turns out it was.
Here is the subway signs that Penguindrum uses to let viewers know what area of Tokyo the characters are in.
Now you may be thinking big deal, but let me proceed with my point from an artist stand point. As artists we typically use reference material for characters, environments and objects. It is virtually impossible for anyone to have intimate knowledge of every item to be able to draw it convincingly all the time. For instance if you had to draw a desktop or car or house from memory, chances are you could but to take those areas to the next level is to make it look like someone uses the desk, the car and lives in the house.
If you were to draw a living area of a house, you could draw the couch, tv, tables, maybe some magazines on the table and a ceiling fan. But when you compare scenes and items that you draw from memory with ones in real life, you will notice all kinds of things that you may have missed. Maybe there is a child’s toy on the floor in the living area. Did you draw a tv remote or a coffee cup on the table? A book? There is so many little things in areas that reference material is needed for artists.
While I was in Japan, our guide told us about an area (that I can’t recall) that was the setting of a manga series, and that this area drew thousands of visitors each year just because of that. I want to say it was a school… I’ll have to look into this. But this is part of the appeal of basing series off of an actual location.
Another film that comes to mind is My Neighbor Totoro from Studio Ghibli. That film is based on locations in the countryside of Japan. On dvd extras it is revealed that other films such as Ponyo and Spirited Away are also. It is through research that these rich worlds are created and it my opinion actual locations help connect with viewers as well.