March comes in like a lion resumed this season after a six months break, and it should come as no surprise, that the show is as visually striking and expressive as it ever was, especially these past few episodes. The show’s painterly backgrounds are also as terrific and lovely as they were in the first season. Usually, Shaft productions offer very little material for my column, due to the studio’s distinctive house style with its often sterile and abstract backgrounds we know and love from shows like Nisekoi or the Monogatari Series. While most of the studio’s trademark tics, like instantaneous close-ups, rapid cuts, or chunks of on-screen text are all still present in March comes in like a lion, the show has actually been extremely and surprisingly faithful to its real-world inspirations. Just like in the first season, the show's setting is still mostly confined to the two neighboring residential areas, Shinkawa and Tsukuda, where Rei and the three Kawamoto sisters live, and the Sendagaya area, the location of the shogi hall. All of those areas have been depicted with great care in the anime, but see and compare that for yourself.
Just as a small side note, I took all of these photos shortly before the second season of March comes in like a lion even started airing. So you’ll notice that not all of them will be lined up perfectly, but I think I was still able to correctly guess a good number of them ahead of time.
“In a small town by a big river, is where I live” was the opening sentence of the second season of March comes in like a lion. While Rei’s first claim might be highly debatable (Tokyo isn’t exactly small), the second one is a bit more accurate. He lives along Tokyo’s Sumida River, which branches from the 173 kilometer long Arakawa River. The river is oddly soothing for him, as it reminds him of the town he lived in during his younger days, which was surrounded by a river on all sides.
Which structures keep repeatedly appearing in March comes in like a lion? Yes, bridges, lots of them. The show’s most essential one is probably the Chuo Bridge here, as the 210 meters long and 25 meters wide steel bridge crosses the Sumida River, and connects the Shinkawa area (where Rei lives) with the Tsukuda area (the place where the three sisters live).
It should take Rei roughly 15 minutes to walk from his apartment complex in Shinkawa to the Kawamoto house in Tsukuda. Both Rei’s apartment and the house of the three sisters, unfortunately, do not exist in real life.
The Chuo Bridge was completed in August in 1993 and offers a neat view at the Tokyo Skytree, which we’ll probably never get to see in the anime. I’ll explain my bold assumption as to why at the end of the article.
And from the Chuo Bridge you’ll be able to see the Tsukuda Bridge, crossing the river from Tsukiji to Tsukishima.
Let’s move on to one the show’s most eye-catching bridge, the lovely Tsukuda Kobashi, which translates to Small Tsukuda Bridge.
The vermilion-lacquered railings and ornamental caps give the bride a charming traditional look, both in the anime and real life. While Rei lives in a rather upscale apartment on the other side of the river, the Kawamoto sisters live in the more modest Tsukuda area.
Funny about this one is the speed limit sign in the back, which now also correctly states 20km/h in the anime. In the first season, the sign in the anime turned the Tsukuda area into a 60km/h zone, which might’ve been a bit high for a small residential area with mostly narrow roads.
The 12,5 meters long Tsukuda Kobashi was completed in 1984 and crosses a small tributary of the Sumida River.
The small bridge continues to be the venue for a good number of the show’s most important scenes, as Rei guarantees Akari his unconditional support there in the last episode.
And last but not least when it comes to bridges in March comes in like a lion, the iron Minami Taka Bridge, as viewed from the Taka Bridge.
Let’s move on to another extremely important location of the show, Rei’s shogi hall. But this isn’t just any shogi hall; it’s actually the headquarters of the Japanese Shogi Association, which was founded in 1949. The hall is located in the Sendagaya area.
I could probably stitch together at least a dozen more comparison shots of the shogi hall, but I’ll spare you that… for now.
Judging by the life-sized cutout of Rei that greeted me at the entrance, it sure seems like the shogi association was just as excited for the start of the second season as I was. I obviously didn’t barge into any of the playing rooms, but I checked out the store, which even sold the March comes in like a lion manga. The shogi boards and pieces were surprisingly expensive and easily cost a few hundred bucks upwards.
Just outside of the shogi hall is the Hatanomori Hachiman Shrine, which dates back to 860, and was named after the forest that was located there. The shrine contains one of the oldest Fujizuka, which are mounds shaped like Mt. Fuji so you don’t actually have to climb Japan's highest mountain yourself. But trust me, as someone who climbed the actual Mt. Fuji, the shrine’s small Fujizuka did not grant me the same sense of pride and accomplishment.
Due to the convenient location, the shrine was selling various shogi charms, and unsurprisingly, most of the wishing plaques were filled with shogi prayers. In the first season, both Matsumoto and Misumi have been praying here as well before their matches.
Another standout location of the anime is the Reiganjima water level observatory in the Shinkawa area, which appears suspiciously often in the anime. I’m guessing the peculiar design of the water level observatory appeases Shaft’s unquenchable thirst for animating eccentric geometric shapes with lots of lines, beams, and circles.
A bit further upstream is the staircase to the Chuo Bridge.
Crossing the bridge will eventually lead you to the Sumida River Terrace.
Back in the Tsukuda area. The tall chimney that gets shown several times in the anime belongs to the public bathhouse here.
This torii gate marks the road leading up to the Sumiyoshi Shrine, which was founded in 1646, and protects fishermen and sailors. The Tsukuda area was originally inhabited by fishermen.
The torii gate isn’t grey like in the anime anymore, but has now been painted red in real life.
On his way to the shogi hall, Rei has to pass the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The sporting complex hosts a variety of different sporting events and was also the venue for one of the dance competitions in the currently airing Welcome to the Ballroom.
The current Sendagaya Station is getting an overhaul at the moment in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and therefore looks quite different compared to the anime, which is not a rare occurrence in the show. Like the just mentioned red torii gate, many of March comes in like a lion’s locations are actually quite outdated. Another good example was the old Tokyo Station façade from the first season. It seems like the anime is trying to stay faithful to the manga’s version of Tokyo, which already started serialization way back in 2007. Obviously, a major city like Tokyo is undergoing numerous renovations and reconstructions in the span of ten years, so it’s only natural that many of the manga’s locations are now out-of-date, but it’s still remarkable that the anime is also sticking to those. By the way, this is also the reason why I believe that we won’t get to see the Tokyo Skytree in the anime.
Here’s the map I made for the second season:
Have you been enjoying March comes in like a lion so far? And do the real-world locations of the show seem like places you’d like to visit? Sound off in the comments below!
Wilhelm is an anime tourist, who loves to search for and uncover the real-world spots he sees in anime. You can talk with him on Twitter @Surwill.