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Why do so many anime (e.g. Code Geass, Steins; Gate, Ano Hana) have cicadas in the background?

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Read more about it here, yes it is a cultural gap for Western audiences (WARNING TVTROPES): tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CicadianRhythm –  congusbongus Mar 26 at 3:19
    
@congusbongus: not to be confused with Circadian Rhythm. –  Lie Ryan Mar 26 at 8:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 29 down vote accepted

In Japan, cicadas are symbolic of summer, and possibly symbolize reincarnation as well, based on summer being the time when the cicada comes out to sing.[1]

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As per their role in anime, according to Wikipedia,

The songs of the cicada are often used in Japanese film and television to indicate the scene is taking place in the summer.

  — Cicada, Wikipedia

I do not remember when exactly they appeared in Steins;Gate (nor the other anime), but I would assume that this is simply a reference to a summertime setting.

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I'm curious how this is reflected in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, where it literally is "When the cicadas cry", and if that has any bearing on your answer. –  Seiyria Mar 25 at 0:32
    
@Seiyria A live action film adaptation of the series entitled Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (ひぐらしのなく頃に, also known as Shrill Cries of Summer internationally), directed by Ataru Oikawa, premiered in Japanese theaters on May 10, 2008. –  Cees Timmerman Mar 25 at 9:30
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@Seiyria ひぐらし is a particular species of cicadas, and they may have additional connotations. They usually start crying in the evening, so I suspect many people associate them with summer evenings. Moreover, in literature, they are symbols of late summer or autumn. –  Pteromys Mar 26 at 2:41

I grew up in an area that was close to sea level (a bit further south than Japan) and in the Spring and Summer I recall hearing cicadas just about every time I went outside. I suspect the effect in anime is to improve immersion or accurately reflect the reality of the situation that the anime is trying to portray.

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Thanks, I wondered if Cicadas ever chirp in sunshine, as in Steins Gate. Do they even chirp inside cities? –  aitchnyu Mar 26 at 11:19
    
@aitchnyu They made noise whenever it was hot (85F and higher). I've heard them day and night. Consult the wiki linked in the top answer. [Wikipedia]en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada#Cicada_song –  Trippy Biscuits Mar 26 at 21:33

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