Are aliens landing in UFOs? They'll land in Tokyo.
Is a giant alien monster attacking? It's attacking Tokyo.
Is there a neighborhood full of world-class martial artists with superhumanpowers? It's in Nerima-ku.
A race of giant Ultra Horrific Monsters are planning The End of the World as We Know It? Every single one of them will attack Tokyo. Oh, and guess where they store the agency to defeat them along with the Humongous Mecha?
Is there a magical or gateway between worlds? It's in Tokyo, sort of. Well, a few kilometres off the coast, anyway.
Giant creatures from a world of data and crow warriors that can turn into jet planes? Shinjuku's gotthem too.
Is there a mysterious gigantic cavern hidden just beneath the Earth's surface, wherein aliens once upon a time created all life on Earth? It's at the end of the Odakyu train line.
Is there a group of five girlswho each have the potential to fend off aliens who want to conquer the Earth? They go to neighbouring schools.
Is a prominent figure from religion or myth manifest once more and living in the world of Men? They're in Ueno.
An Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny? The Budokan's got front row seats.
This is not merely a Japanese Media Trope but a cliche. For some reason, Tokyo is not only a Weirdness Magnet, but a superconductive multi-million-teslaWeirdness Magnet. It's expected that things will mostly take place in Japan, since the story is created by the Japanese, but it will usually always be Tokyo. The rest of Japan barely exists and the rest of the world might as well not be there at all, because this is the City of Adventure.
This may or may not be due to the fact that Tokyo is Japan's the world's most populous metropolitan and urban area (one-quarter of Japan's population lives in the area, enough that the area is technically governed more like a county than a city) and most manga publishing houses and movie production firms are located there. Setting a story elsewhere often requires that the location be specifically relevant rather than chance. Many authors are also more familiar with Tokyo than other cities.
(Of course, if aliens did make contact in person, it's entirely plausible they might choose the most populous settlement on the planet.)
Koji Okada, creator of the Shin Megami Tensei series, explains Tokyo as a setting by describing it as "a city playing out the cycle of destruction and rebirth", in the historical, political and economic sense.
Interestingly, this affects the characters within the area. Being from Tokyo often gives you a generic 'default' personality compared to the usual regional stereotypes. You won't see their stereotype as obviously, unless the story takes place elsewhere in the country. If it is set away from Tokyo, the city's "normal" residents will instead be meek, overworked, and stuffy — which just so happens to be the American stereotype of Japanese people in general.
In the rare cases Tokyo technically can't exist, you can substitute any of the main 3 locations that were historically capitals: Nara (most of the 8th Century AD), Kyoto (from the end of the 8th Century, officially to the 1860s), or Edo (Tokyo before it was renamed; the de facto capital from the 17th Century onward). SF series set when Tokyo has already met the logical outcome of this trope tend to name their new city after the old one, just with some prefix or suffix to indicate it's not the original. *
Tokyo-3, Neo-Tokyo, Tokyo Millennium...
This is also seen in many American media, particularly involving Los Angeles. Entire books have been written on why fiction writers make Los Angeles a magnet for violence and natural disasters. A lot of shows (violent dramas and sitcoms alike) will be set in Los Angeles as an easy means of subverting California Doubling. Sometimes San Francisco. New York sometimes, especially in Marvel Comics (sometimes lampshaded that New Yorkers tend to be more used to superhero fighting than anyone else). These cities also share many similar traits with Tokyo. See Big Applesauce. Likewise, in British media London Is The Centre Of The Universe. Canadians who refer to Toronto as such, however, are being self-deprecatingly sarcastic (if they live in that area themselves) or just plain sarcastic (if they're from anywhere else in Canada).
This trope is a type of Creator Provincialism. Contrast Aliens in Cardiff.
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Anime and Manga
AKIRA sees the destruction of Tokyo within the first few seconds of the prologue. Neo-Tokyo is constructed adjacent to the God-sized crater. By the end of the movie, Neo-Tokyo is also toast. They can't seem to catch a break.
In R.O.D., a British-backed plot to take over the world is kicked off—in Tokyo.
Enforced in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tokyo (Tokyo-1) is 100 meters underwater even before the series starts. Tokyo-2 is built as the center of government, and is promptly ignored for the rest of the series; Tokyo-3, meanwhile was built as a combat-ready fortress city over the previously discovered ruins of the Black Moon of Lilith, one of the two seeds of life the Angels are looking for, resulting in 13 out of 15 Angel fights being fought there. There are comparatively few incidents in other places. The Jet Alone test was in a different city, and the SEELE council discusses attacks on NERV facilities on other continents, but the audience just doesn't see those because the main characters aren't involved.
Despite appearances, it is subverted in the Mazinger trilogy (Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger and UFO Robo Grendizer). For start with, the Headquarters of the good guys are not in Tokyo (two of them are nearby Mount Fuji, and the third one is on the shore). Therefore, the enemy feels not compelled to exclusively target and attack Tokyo. A lot of Japanese cities are destroyed, ships are sunk in ocean, and often Mazinger-Z needed fighting in open sea (and in one chapter of one of the manga alternate continuities, it got deploed in another country). In the Mazinger Z versus Great General of Darkness movie, the Mykene struck New York, Londres and Moscow before striking Tokyo. The subversion gets enforced in the third series, since the Vegan army attacked many countries, not only Japan.
The various Tenchi Muyo! series manage to avoid this trope, as they mostly take place in Okayama... with the exception of the aptly named Tenchi in Tokyo.
In Code Geass, Japan is swiftly taken over and destroyed by a foreign army, and then rebuilt as "Area 11". Tokyo is naturally the center of government, and indeed pretty much any major fighting. Japan itself is still the center of the conflict between The Empire and the natives (who are treated as second-class citizens there, if they're lucky).
Regardless, Ashford Academy is definitely the center of the universe. Not only does half the major cast go to school there, but every time the war comes to the city itself, the Academy is a crucial strategic point for one reason or another. In one episode of R2, a major diplomatic conference is held in the school gymnasium. A basketball hoop hanging in the background silently makes a mockery of the entire scene.
This is more because most of the city's major governmental and administrative buildings got blown up by their equivalent of a nuke than an inexplicable attraction to the school itself.
That and Lelouch picked the location on purpose because of the memories it held, and because it served as a nice place to say goodbye to the one person on Earth who still cared about him (that wasn't already on his side). And because the foremost expert in massive destructive glowing spheres is hiding in its basement, and he wants to kidnap her. Er, that's not as evil as it sounds at first glance.
Semi-justified for the first half of Magical Project S when it was just Pixy Misa as the antagonist (given that she was specifically brought forth to be Sammy's rival), but it seems sort of silly how Sammy only has to act within Tokyo to affect the universal balance.
Played straight in Highschool of the Dead, in which almost everything we see happens in Tokyo... despite the infection having spread everywhere else in the world. Understandable, though, as it's very much a character-driven story, and all of our protagonists are from the same titular high school.
In Darker than Black, one of the two magical "gates" that are connected to the disappearance of the sky and the appearance of Contractors (and the one that is being actively researched after its South American counterpart disappeared under an impregnable energy shield) is located in, you guessed it, Tokyo.
In Sailor Moon, the immensely powerful supernatural enemies of the Senshi almost never seem to attack anywhere but one tiny area in the Minato ward of Tokyo which the Senshi can all reach in a few minutes by running. Also, in the idyllic future ruled over by the main character, guess where her seat of government is?
As always there are a few exceptions. In the anime Sailor V is stated (and shown in her orgin story episode) to have spent some time fighting monsters in England while the Manga version has her defeat a villain in Greece (by accident; she got on the wrong plane) and China.
It's highly implied that other nefarious plots are going on around the world undisturbed. Each of the four Generals from the original plot line are designated as in charge of an area of the world. It's when Sailor Moon and her posse start unraveling their plans in Asia that more and more effort is focused on that area and getting rid of the trouble makers.
The battle for the fate of the entire planet in X/1999 occurs in Tokyo.
Not only that, but of the 14 people (seven on each side) destined to determine the fate of the world, 12 are Japanese, one is half-Japanese, and one is an artificial construct made from the brain of a Japanese girl.
CLAMP apparently loves this. Just see how Tokyo Tower is treated... as the ultimate showdown arena in Cardcaptor Sakura.
In Tokko, Tokyo is more or less the literal epicenter for the destruction of the world.
In the YuYu Hakusho movie, Bonds of Fire, the heroes attempt to stop their enemy from seizing five elemental shrines that would give them untold spiritual power. Naturally, given that the heroes are junior high school age, all the shrines are in downtown Tokyo.
Bubblegum Crisis takes place in "Mega-Tokyo," built on the ruins of the original Tokyo after it was leveled by an earthquake.
Death Note has its first arc located entirely in Tokyo and its surrounding area. Ryuk drops the notebook there despite writing its instructions in English on the offchance that it lands somewhere in the American or European world, L determines the location of Kira by broadcasting exclusively in the Kanto region of Japan (it contains the Greater Tokyo Area), and the headquarters is built somewhere in the region. It only decides to leave the area the minute Mello shows up and takes Sayu hostage, holding her somewhere in LA. However, there is always SOMEONE that's part of the major investigation still hanging around in Tokyo.
In Ghost in the Shell Tokyo has been completely destroyed in one of the lasts wars and the entire national administration has been moved to Fukuoka.
Justified in Detective Conan where the villainous organisation runs on a worldwide scale and the fact that their screw-ups only seem to happen in two close districts of Tokyo only serves to make The Dragon suspicious.
As mentioned above, most of the most powerful martial artists in Ranma ½ congregate in Nerima.
In Please Save My Earth somehow a bunch of aliens observing planet Earth from the moon are all reincarnated in or just outside of Tokyo. Of all of planet Earth, Tokyo is the place they observed most often from their space station as well. Similarly, Nazca involves a bunch of Incan warriors who were all reincarnated in Tokyo of all places.
Gintama is set in Edo. But... Edo is an old name of Tokyo.
In Transformers: Car Robots, the Autobot base is in Tokyo, and Fortress Maximus is buried in some ruins under the city. The majority of episodes also take place in Tokyo.
Durarara!!. Of course a Dullahan decides to travel overseas to the Ikebukuro of Tokyo in search for her missing head! Where else could it possibly have gone?
Silent Möbius takes place in a Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain version of Tokyo infested with man-eating monsters from another dimension. The city was also the site of a failed attempt to solve the world's pollution problem using a particle accelerator and large-scale magic in the backstory.
Played around with in RahXephon. Tokyo is cut off from the rest of the world, and the protagonist grows up there, thinking that it's essentially the last/only civilization on Earth. But then he leaves Tokyo and finds out the truth, and atypically, Tokyo is where the "villains" are coming from rather than attacking. On the other hand, as is typical, while there is a multi-national Federation, it seems to be run from Japan.
Lampshaded in Mikarun x as the commander wonders why all 9 of the aliens who tried to invade the earth attacked Japan.
Wangan Midnight, as the title implies, is centered exclusively on the Tokyo highway system other than a minor showdown in Osaka and a couple brief trips to Hakone. The main hero, Akio, almost never leaves the city and never shows any interest in racing anywhere else.
Recently in Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Leaping Through Time, Taiki and friends are lured to a Hunt outside of Japan where a powerful Digimon, Volcdramon, resides; this causes Taiki to believe that Digimon outbreaks are happening all around the world. However, Taiki's old friend Kiriha reappears to help subdue Volcdramon, and, before leaving, he tells Taiki that Japan is the most important of places when dealing with Digimon.
Despite a popular misconception, not all of the Godzilla films were set in Tokyo, although it was by far the most important city to the series. A good example is Godzilla And Mothra Battle For Earth, in which Nagoya is destroyed early on, with Yokohama (on the other side of Tokyo Bay) as the site of the final showdown between Godzilla, Mothra, and Battra.
In the MST3K-featured Invasion Of The Neptune Men, saving Tokyo is apparently equivalent to saving the world. Interestingly, when a big shield is built around the city, the aliens hurl themselves through it in a mad attempt to get through, rather than fly to another city.
District 9 at first appears to be doing things differently, given that the action taken place entirely in Johannesburg. But, of course, the guy who drove the project is South African.
Demon City Shinjuku — an evil genius summons demons to destroy the world. Guess where they start.
The various Super Sentai series; the ones that take place on Earth, anyway.
Carried over to Power Rangers, just replace "Tokyo" with "the Greater Los Angeles Area" (or "Angel Grove" in the case of the original series). Even the seasons filmed in New Zealand still take place in the GLA.
Averted at first in Chouriki Sentai Ohranger since Baranoia is performing a worldwide-scale invasion of Earth, but then played straight when Japan provides too much resistance to go unnoticed.
Most Kamen Rider series are implied or stated to take place in the Greater Tokyo Area.
Played Straight in Kamen Rider Kabuto, witch takes place in the Minato Ward (As the Tokyo Tower is often on screen).
Ultraman, although at least a few episodes have the kaiju getting out and about in the world (or space). But the rest are in Tokyo, so, yeah.
This trope is lampshaded in one episode of Ultraman Gaia, in which the main character Gamu, after analysing the trajectory of an incoming alien invader, remarks that it's headed directly towards Tokyo. Captain Tsutsumi replies with an exasperated, "What? Again?"
In fact, a vast majority of Mega Ten games take place in or around Tokyo, features characters from Tokyo, or takes place in a city similar to Tokyo. These are the people who managed to set an entire MMORPG in Tokyo.
And in the sequel, Tokyo - and six other cities - are the only places to withstand the original alien attack/deletion of the universe thanks to a powerful stream of magic running through the country. By time the climax comes around, Tokyo is literally all that's left.
In Pokemon Red And Blue, though Tokyo technically isn't in the game, Celadon City and Saffron City are said to be modeled after two areas of Tokyo. The majority of the Team Rocket plot in the games (plus two official Gyms and one unofficial Gym) take place in those cities. Mix that with the fact that 90% of the population of Kanto lives in those two cities (with all the other cities being puny), and you can tell that there is a certain love for Tokyo shown.
In Robot Alchemic Drive, most of the action takes place in a rather generic Japanese city. The first time you go to Tokyo sees you taking down a Godzilla knock off that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the plot.
In The World Ends With You, the entire game takes place in Shibuya, Tokyo. Even more importance due to the fact that God, er, the Composer, er, Joshua chooses it as the site for a modern-day Sodom and Gemorrah.
However, it is 'implied that other cities have their own Composers.
Alternate Cave Johnson: Hello, test subject. Just a heads-up that our research into stopping all theGodzillaattacks on U.S. soil has been postponed indefinitely. Turns out it doesn't matter where you hatch a nest full of Godzillas, they just make a beeline straight for Tokyo. *chuckles* Shoulda seen those things go. Anyway, crisis averted. Now everybody grab a dustpan and a broom, we gotta get rid of all these egg shells before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission shows up.
Parodied in MegaTokyo; there is a Cataclysm Division in Tokyo specifically dedicated to handling this kind of stuff. Their duties includes scheduling catastrophes in advance, issuing permits for zombies and Martians to conduct their invasions, preventing non-registered attacks on Tokyo, then cleaning up the mess later.
To the point where, when the zombie invasion comes a week early, the police issue them a ticket and tell them that the invasion is next week; come back later.
Then there was the part where two guys blow up city hall for the lulz. This pisses off the zombies, as the police explains "there's a ten year waiting list for the permit to blow it up".
Heavily lampshaded in the Mecha Easter Bunny arc of Sluggy Freelance. The titular killer cyborg is programmed to kill Bun-bun (to appease Santa's desire for vengeance), deliver Easter Eggs (because Bun-bun killed the real Easter Bunny), and destroy Tokyo (because otherwise it can't be called "Mecha"). The destruction of Tokyo happens off-panel and is never referenced again.
The webcomic Okashina Okashi starts with an anomaly hitting Tokyo Tower and pulling a group of teenagers into another universe. The main character is Genre Savvy and has deliberately dressed in a Sailor Fuku just in case something like that actually happens. I can't think of a reason why said plot hole would hit Tokyo Tower, particularly.
Parodied by Unwinder's Tall Comics. Unwinder consults an online quiz to determine which anime series he'd like. Question #3 reads:
If you could live anywhere, where would it be? • Tokyo • A futuristic Tokyo under a dome • A demon-infested wasteland that serves as a metaphor for modern-day Tokyo • A sort of "Neo-Tokyo" in space
In the titular Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, it all began when Ol' Godzilla was hoppin' around Tokyo City like a big playground...
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo represents the first time the cartoon-verse Titans have to deal with a villain from Japan, so a superhero showdown in Tokyo is the natural end result.
The lesser known RPG AMMO has Kyoto as the starting place of a transdimensional demonic invasion, source of mystic emission that empower magic users everywhere, and base of the heroic army that fights invaders. The Kyoto Tower is the physical place where things gone wild (not to be confused with the Tokyo Tower).
In Feng Shui, Hong Kong is the center of the Universe.
Applies to other countries, too: American or Russian television, for example, firmly believe that everything can happen in their respective "two capitals" (NY and LA, Moscow and St. Petersburg), the only exception being a necessitated somewhere in the middle of nowhere like Dorothy's Kansas, which may or may not get an actual geographic location, one likely never to be dwelled upon again.