Fans of handsome swimming boys anime Free! don’t think gardeners should be free to plant sakura wherever they want.

Through the late ‘90s, anime primarily took place in fictitious settings. Sure, the series might ostensibly be set in a real-life city, and in-story dialogue or text might even mention specific neighborhoods (Sailor Moon famously lives in Tokyo’s swanky Azabu Juban, while the cast of Ranma 1/2 are residents of the city’s Nerima Ward), but for the most part, a lot of the environmental visuals in anime came from the animators’ imaginations.

Things are different in the current era. Digital photography and online image resources make it extremely easy to gather visual references for real-world locations, and a lot of anime being produced today puts its characters in places that those of us in the 3-D world can visit as well. For example, many of the events in competitive swimming/suspiciously intense male-bonding anime Free! unfold in Tottori Prefecture, including a scene in last summer’s Free! Timeless Medley-Yakusoku theatrical release that takes place at the ruins of Tottori Castle.

▼ Tottori Castle ruins

Thanks to their sakura trees, the ruins are a popular spot for locals to come in the spring for cherry blossom viewing parties, or hanami, as it’s called in Japanese. Recently, the city announced a plan to plant a new batch of trees, to replenish their numbers after a number were removed due to disease, withering, or their roots damaging the structure’s stonework. However, the plan has drawn objection from some Free! fans.

▼ Trailer for Free! Timeless Medley-Yakusoku

Specifically, fans are opposed to the planting of sakura trees that would alter the scenery so that it no longer looks like specific cuts from the anime movie. Those in opposition say they want no new plantings in places where there were no trees before, or, at the very least, for new sakura to be limited to locations where they won’t contradict the anime.

Given the widespread and centuries-long popularity cherry blossoms enjoy in Japan, it’s extremely unusual to hear of anyone protesting their planting. Nevertheless, the Tottori Castle ruins have seen an increase in visitors since last summer as Free! fans travel to the city to check out its setting, and so local administrators say they’ll be taking the fans’ request into consideration as they decide where to plant the new trees.

Source: Nijimen
Top image: YouTube/KyoaniChannel

Follow Casey on Twitter, where if anyone wants to plant a sakura tree outside his apartment, he’s pretty much OK with the idea.