Some time ago, I wrote a kind of light and frivolous observation: What if the home renovation shows were given a kind of isekai twist? Because both genres are built on reliable tropes and wish fulfillment, it could work. What I later came to realize is that there are already anime out there that capture some of that same spirit as a Fixer Upper or Home Town, and they’re “most P.A. Works shows.”
While P.A. Works anime like Sakura Quest and the recent The Aquatope on White Sand aren’t focused on sprucing up individual houses, they do often tackle or at least address an increasingly prevalent problem that home renovation shows are also built around: decreasing populations in small towns as people move to bigger cities to find opportunities and birth rates decline. This is a recurring issue in both Japan and the United States in particular, and has led to the decline of rural areas as they can’t hope to compete with more urban ones. Much like how Home Town remodels homes to try to breathe life into Laurel, Mississippi, so too does P.A. Works create events from scratch like Hanasaku Iroha’s once-fictional Bonbori Festival as a way to try to start traditions—because they have to begin somewhere, right? Sakura Quest meanwhile is explicitly about this topic, and the characters actively strategize on how to bring people back to a half-way abandoned town.
The cause is just, and it would be great if these approaches could make a difference, but there are underlying issues that TV shows, fictional or otherwise, can only do so much to fully fix. For the US, one major problem is the poor health infrastructure (and infrastructure in general) that forces even those who might not want to leave non-urban areas to try to chase employment down in the hopes of, if not getting health insurance through work, at least making enough money to afford it. In Japan, a lack of economic opportunities and a sexist society that still looks at career-oriented women with suspicion means that the rural regions of Japan are filled with empty and abandoned houses as a brain drain occurs.
I wonder if the two sides could learn from each other. Perhaps P.A. Works can do an anime all about renovating homes in a town, while maybe HGTV or whatever can try to make a program that pulls the camera back a bit and looks at infrastructure issues beyond single homes per episode. If there’s some way to make both work, I’d love to see the result.