Anime can take you to all sorts of different places — from alternate dimensions to the distant past. Sometimes, though, the best settings are the least presumptuous. Take these small-town anime, set in rural spots you won’t find on any map.
These low-key settings let viewers focus up on character and plot. Sometimes they’re charming; other times they’re terrifying. Either way, these smaller stages bring a special flavor to their respective shows.
Our first small-town anime is also the farthest afield — and the “town” in question is more of an abandoned school. Haibane Renmei comes from a doujin by Yoshitoshi ABe (the character designer for serial experiments lain, titled The Haibane of Old Home. While our heroines move about in the somewhat larger city of Glie, their lives take place mostly in this makeshift “nest.”
The haibane themselves are angel-like beings, born from cocoons in nests and adopted into monk-like lives. Leading up to their “Day of Flight,” they use only cast-off things, cannot use money, and cannot approach the walls of Glie. Where Old Home and its rural setting in general are is as big a mystery as what the haibane are… but you’ll develop your own theories quickly.
While you won’t find the setting of small-town anime Non Non Biyori in the real world, you can still find many of the spots that inspired it. That’s because, while the town of Asahigaoka doesn’t exist in and of itself, it does contain buildings based on other locales.
Asahigaoka is so small that one of its only schools has only five students. And they’re all in different grades! Tokyo schoolkid Hotaru has a lot of adjusting to do when she transfers in — both in terms of school life and the more laid-back vibe of the countryside.
Higurashi When They Cry
Not all small-town anime is relaxing. After all, what’s more terrifying than being out in the middle of nowhere when the supernatural madness hits?
Higurashi When They Cry takes place in Hinamizawa, a fictional village based on world heritage site Shirakawa-go. While the terrifying Hinamizawa Syndrome has (thankfully!) no exact real-world corollary, other unfortunate events of the horror story do. The Hinamizawa Dam Conflict takes inspiration from the fallout of the flooding caused by Shirakawa’s Miboro Dam. Fortunately you can explore Shirakawa, and see buildings that show up in the game and anime, without having to fear for your life.
What other rural-set anime do you enjoy?