Real Place Background

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Holy crap, that is my house!

Everyone loves some good Scenery Porn every now and then. It's a wonderful means of immersion. If the creators make a background and scenery vibrant and detailed enough, you might even be able to convince yourself that you're actually there!

...Wait a second, is that my house?

Congratulations, you have just encountered the Real Place Background — a subset of Scenery Porn where the scenery in question is based on a real location. This goes beyond just simply making use of notable landmarks. Sometimes every building, storefront, stairway and streetpole will be lovingly re-created for the purposes of the show, no matter how inconsequential.

Locations used for this purpose tend to become the subject of Otaku "pilgrimages", a prime example being the Washinomiya shrine which is used in Lucky Star.

This is far more common in TV shows, comics and games that are set in real places (e.g., New York, Tokyo, or Paris).

See No Communities Were Harmed when the setting is highly recognizable, but never gets mentioned by its proper name. Even a mix is possible, when the town is never mentioned by name, but settings like train stations or streets are. Attention to detail in backgrounds is one possible aspect of Shown Their Work.

Not to be confused with GIS Syndrome.

Examples of Real Place Background include:

Anime and Manga

  • Kyoto Animation is quite well known for this, to the point that fans have managed to track down the location of and angle on many if not most of the places on which the backgrounds of individual scenes were based.
    • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya became infamous for this.
      • Nagaru Tanigawa made their work much easier in this case, lovingly describing the various locations in his hometown of Nishinomiya (even if he never named it explicitly), where the novels take place, in great detail. KyoAni people only needed to make a weekend visit to take pictures—it's about one hour from Kyoto by train.
    • Kanon
    • Clannad [dead link]
    • K-On!
      • Done in two ways. The unnamed city is based on Kyoto, but since it's explicitly not Kyoto (they later visit Kyoto in a Class Trip), no famous landmarks are shown. The school's interior and exterior are the Toyosato Elementary school [dead link], which is located in the small town of Toyosato (50 km from Kyoto).
    • As mentioned at the top, Lucky Star
  • Beck does this a lot during their tour of America. And seems to have Shown Their Work.
  • The series Durarara!! recreates much of the city in which it is set — sometimes disturbingly so. (That vending machine Shizuo uprooted and tossed around in Ep. 3 actually exists.) People have even made montages of the many suspiciously familiar places they've found in the anime.
  • According to fans of Gunsmith Cats, you can tell when its location scouting in Chicago was done by the state of repairs on some of the buildings.
  • Kamichu! does this with Onomichi in the Hiroshima prefecture. See here. Of course, everything looks a little newer in the anime—it's set in the period between spring 1983 and spring 1984.
  • Eden of the East for Washington, D.C.
  • So Ra No Wo To's Seize is based off Cuenca, Spain. Fans have even gone there to take photos of locales shown on the anime.
  • Naoki Urasawa's Monster takes you mostly through the scenery of the former Communist bloc, like Germany and Czechoslovakia, as it tries to unravel the mystery of Johan's creation and his past, though some other settings occur as well, such as Southern France.
  • Most iterations of Digimon do this, at least before the places in question get torn apart by Kaiju. Some of the best examples are the Fuji TV station in Digimon Adventure and the extensive scouting of Shinjuku's surrounds in Digimon Tamers.
  • Tentai Senshi Sunred takes place in Kawasaki, Japan, and matches it shot for shot. The art style of Sunred might not be the one usually associated with this trope, but the locations are all too real.
  • Hinamizawa in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is based on Shirakawa-Go. Not even the real world is safe now.
    • There's a possible justification here: The original self-published Visual Novel had backgrounds that were simply Photoshop-filtered photos.
    • Umineko follows this with at least the Mansion (and probably also the garden) which is based upon a mansion in the Kyū Furukawa Gardens.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima makes partial use of this, as Mahora obviously has no real world counterpart, but as a whole it's a composite of many real-world places. For instance, the Mahora Bell Tower, pretty much is the bell tower of the Florence Cathedral.
  • The town of Kamakura, in the Kanagawa prefecture in Japan, is popular as a setting for various anime and manga series, due to its extensive seaside beaches and numerous historic sites with lots of Shrines and Temples. Some notable series taking place there are:
    • Elfen Lied. Lucy winds up on Yuigahama beach. The stairs of the Gokuraku-ji shrine get a lot of screen time, up to and including the emotional ending. Enoshima island and the Benten bridge leading up to it are used for the ultimate battle in the anime, with lots of screen time for the Enoshima Light House Observatory.
    • Uta Kata. Most of the attention is on the shrines, parks and temples within Kamakura itself. Enoshima island and its tower form the backdrop of one of the more dramatic episodes. And then there are the two episodes in which the main characters head for Yuigahama beach.
    • Aoi Hana features Kamakura's local train service, Enoden, since the characters use it to travel around. Enoshima island and the Benten bridge are shown as well, but the show gains bonus points for having a scene in the Iwaya cave. The "Milk Hall", the show's main hangout spot, is a real location and the famous Elfen Lied stairs are also shown, this time in a more romantic setting.
    • Twin Spica takes a more stylistic approach, although the shorelines and the Yuigahama boulevard where Asumi goes jogging are clearly recognizable.
    • In Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, Alpha takes a trip to Kamakura, with a very prominent view of Enoshima.
    • Squid Girl is set on Kamakura's Yuigahama Beach.
    • A Channel has the obligatory Beach Episode, in which the girls take the very recognizable Enoden train ride to their destination.
    • Tsuritama is explicitly set at Enoshima.
  • Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora takes place against photo-realistic real-life backgrounds. Of special note are Biei in Hokkaido, hometown of the main character Sora, and the hip Tokyo neighborhood of Shimokitazawa. In one episode Sora and Kohta also go on a date in Kamakura.
  • Amanchu! largely takes place in the town of Ito on the Japanese Izu peninsula, which is known for its abundant hot springs. The big building at the shore where the cast gets together a few times is a well-known local landmark.
  • Umi Monogatari is set on one of the subtropical Japanese Amami-Oshima islands. It doesn't get any explicit mention though until the DVD special.
  • Darker than Black is big on this. All three major localities the TV show takes place in, Tokyo, Sapporo and Vladivostok, were painstakingly researched to the point where indeed it was possible to pinpoint the time the references were taken by the state of specific buildings alone.
    • To the point that it explicitly binds the action to January 2008. The large-scale redevelopment that begun in Summer 2008 in preparation to 2012 APEC summit, has changed the downtown Vladivostok to the extent that it would be impossible to miss, had the action happened any later.
  • Asobi ni Iku yo! is set in Okinawa. The credits reveal that the staff worked with the Okinawa tourism board, and does it ever show. There is almost no part of the show that's not showing off the island, its wildlife and its attractions at one point or another.
  • Tamayura takes place in Takehara, a small seaside town of in the Hiroshima prefecture of Japan, not far from Kamichu!'s Onomichi. The town is rendered with painstaking detail, up to and including touristic signs.
  • Fractale contains detailed shots of the west of Ireland, and the town in episode 2 is a lot like Galway.
  • Grave of the Fireflies featured locations that were accurately based on real locations.
  • Only Yesterday used actual railway stations.
  • Hanasaku Iroha is set in a town modelled after Yukawa. Comparison pictures can be found here
  • The girls from Ichigo Mashimaro live in the town of Hamamatsu, in Japan's Shizuoka prefecture. The artist loves to sneak in references, like maps and local landmarks, although it doesn't get any actual mention until chapter 55.
  • Many of the locations in Yubisaki Milk Tea are real places in Tokyo, often surprising detailed drawn. A collection of pictures of the real places can be seen here.
  • Yuritetsu is about four girls which form a railway club and naturally goes by real trains to real stations and sights all over Japan. Their local station Yurigasaki-Joshikoumae is a renamed Hino Station on the Chūō Main Line in Tokyo, but the other places goes by their real names, be it the big Ueno Station in Tokyo or the secluded Koboro on Hokkaido. And since one of the girls, Hakutsuru Tsurumi, is a fan of a serie which is obvious K-on they are also visiting the above mentioned Toyosato Elementary School, which certainly look like Yui & Co could come in any other minute.
  • The Nuku-Nuku OAV series explicitly takes place in the Nerima ward of Tokyo, and Nuku-Nuku's fight with Eimi climaxes at a local landmark, a field of massive natural gas storage tanks. (Oddly, this prominent landmark is prominently missing from Ranma ½, another series which takes place in Nerima.)

Fan Works

  • The Teraverse's Sister Marie subseries (beginning with It's Just A Habit) is set in San Diego, California, particularly by referring to many specific buildings by name and details. However, the address given for the heroine's home address doesn't precisely exist (it's a skipped number on a real street).
  • Seen multiple times just in the first chapter of Drunkard's Walk S: Heart of Steel. Doug's apartment, the gym where he trains Usagi, a restaurant where he meets the Tsukino family, even a random 7-11 visited by Minako Aino -- all are real places and most get Google Maps coordinates in the story's concordance. The author has also tracked down real places which inspired canon locations in Sailor Moon, such as the OSA-P Jewelry store, and provides locations and Google Maps links for them as well. He's even created a Google Earth project that contains most of these locations, along with additional information and images.


  • With the amount of detail author Michael de Larrabeiti put into the Adventurers' travels in The Borribles, the reader can follow almost every footstep they take above ground on Google Maps.
    • It's possible to narrow down the location of Dewdrop's home to a specific block.
    • And sometimes even specific buildings can be identified, such as Spiff's house. See the Flickr streams on the Image Links subpage for The Borribles.

Video Games

  • True Crime: Streets of LA featured a rather extensive 240-square-mile re-creation of Los Angeles and its surrounding area, down to the individual street names and landmarks.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series, starting with San Andreas. Many a player was surprised at the level of detail that went into the fictional versions of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Likewise for GTA IV and NYC.
    • Not to the same extent, but present in Vice City as well. More than just Miami Beach, you can see various familiar sites driving around the city of Miami itself. We may see a much more faithful recreation if rumors of GTA V returning to Vice City pan out...
  • The World Ends With You contains a remarkably faithful recreation of Shibuya, barring the stylish yet impossible angles of skyscrapers and the fact that none of the stores are the brands they should be.
  • The tracks in Project Gotham Racing 2 are so accurate that one Scottish gamer was able to identify a store he used to frequent on an Edinburgh track.
  • A lot of effort was put into replicating London in The Getaway. You can find the pub you burn down in real life; the screenshots are as similar as the page image.
  • Fallout 3 uses the Washington Metro area for its Capital Wasteland. Of course, the scenery is all blasted and post-apocalyptic, but there are several places where you can see what the Real Place Background would look like if it got blown up.
    • Fallout: New Vegas is even better at this. Even the little ghost town you start the game in, Goodsprings, is a real-life location; the bar and general store are lifted straight from the real ones.
  • Project Reality' includes several real cities and locales among the map roster, such as several cities in Iraq and Lebanon.
  • The STALKER series contains numberous locations recreated painstakingly from the Real Life Chenobyl exclusion zone. In some cases the only differences are the distances between locations. And the mutants. We hope.
  • Modern Warfare 2 did this with various real life cities, most notably Washington, with running and gunning inside the White House, but in a less obvious but funnier case, there was a level of the campaign (and the Special Ops-mission "Homeland Security") made from an area with some fast-food restaurants in Vancouver.

Web Comics

  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Tom Siddell based the backgrounds of Zimmy's Dark World off actual locations in Birmingham.
  • Because Paul Taylor, the author of Wapsi Square, has a background in photography, the backgrounds in the comic match up quite nicely with the actual geography of Minneapolis, even to the point where the fanbase can identify the exact street corner a scene is taking place at.
  • Orange Marmalade does this for the backgrounds, using photographs of Korea taken by internet photographers (after getting their permission) revealed in one of the bonus strips.
  • The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal is full of these.
  • Moperville North High School in El Goonish Shive is based on Naperville North High School in suburban Chicago.

Western Animation

  • Apparently the design team for Spider-Man: The Animated Series thoroughly researched New York and almost every rooftop has some sort of real-life counterpart.
  • True for most locations in the Watership Down animated film. This is fitting, because everywhere mentioned in the book is a real place.
  • The crew of Avatar: The Last Airbender traveled around the world looking for the best backgrounds possible to base the show's areas off of.
  • The Establishing Shot of the Griffins' house in Family Guy features the actual Providence, Rhode Island skyline in the background.
  • Ralph Bakshi is fond of using real photographs as the basis of the backgrounds for his films. This is especially true of his rotoscoped films, particularly The Lord of the Rings and American Pop. In some early films he even superimposes his characters against live-action footage.