It used to be a given that just about any anime series set in a real-world location would take place in Tokyo, but in recent years there’s been a trend of putting the events and characters in a smaller town outside Japan’s capital. This tends to be a boon for the depicted city, which is generally recreated with loving detail, as it draws fans, and their tourism money, to locations that otherwise might have been overlooked.
That’s definitely been the story for Numazu. Ever since it was chosen as the setting for "Love Live! Sunshine!!," the most recent arc of popular anime/video game franchise "Love Live!," otaku have been coming in droves to the town on the Shizuoka Prefecture coast. Recently, the city even installed nine custom-made manhole covers depicting the "Love Live! Sunshine!!" cast of cute schoolgirl idols, funded through a crowdfunding campaign that raised an incredible 33.8 million yen.
▼ The city also produced a map showing the location of each manhole, so that fans could visit their favorite or complete a pilgrimage to all of them.
There’s been an unfortunate turn of events, though. In addition to attracting people who love the "Love Live!" girls, the manholes have also drawn the attention of someone who absolutely hates them, and the result has been repeated vandalism. The first such incident occurred on May 27, when one of the covers was discovered to have been purposely scratched and defaced. Last week, the vandal changed tactics and spray-painted over multiple covers (the damage can be seen here), earning the ire of local politicians.
The culprit remains at large, and in light of the attacks on the "Love Live!" girls, the city has now decided to remove the covers and replace them with the standard, non-anime related ones used elsewhere in the city. A statement on Numazu’s official website includes: “The manholes covers were produced through the contributions of everyone who participated in the crowdfunding campaign, and many people, including Love Live! fans, have enjoyed visiting them and taking photos. We apologize to everyone who was looking forward to visiting them, while asking for your understanding and acceptance.”
As a silver lining, the city has said that it hopes to reinstall the "Love Live!" covers once the situation has been resolved, although it also says that it currently has no time frame for when that will happen. It’s a sad development in what should have been a lighthearted, innocuous bit of fun. As with any popular entertainment franchise, "Love Live!’s" fanbase is opposed by those who feel its success is undeserved, and it seems likely that the vandal is someone who’s sorely in need of a lesson on the difference between being a good otaku and a bad one.
Sources: Numazu City via Jin, First Flight
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