Yuru Camp△ 2 – 13 (Fin) – It Goes Both Ways

From the first shot of the episode, we know something has ended, because the girls are walking down the mountain after watching the sun come up. It’s the last sunrise on their Izu trip, and indeed of Yuru Camp’s gloriously healing second season. Rin, seemingly sensing this end, makes sure to thank the others for inviting her.

Rin also leaves her moped at the campground and piles into Toba-sensei’s sister’s Lafesta with the others for a visit to the Iidas, where Toba, Ena, Aki and Aoi bow their heads in apology and thanks. The Iidas, being nice people tell them to think nothing of it, as it was fun to have a big group that night.

As Toba stocks up on the good libations, Rin and Nadeshiko meet Choko, only to for him to speed right past them to the more familiar Aki, Aoi, and Ena. The Iida daughter decides to accompany the group to Mt. Omuro, a perfect place and the perfect time of year to walk her heat-averse Corgi.

Rin and Nadeshiko share a chair lift and are startled by the automatic souvenir camera, resulting in a deer-in-headlights shot for the ages. As the girls again race to the peak, Toba and Iida take it easy, and Toba admires Choko’s spectacularly cute butt (a Corgi trademark).

From there, the group heads to a zoo beside the mountain, where Akari finally gets to encounter the Capybara Hot Spring in person, which turns everyone watching into the naturally chill-looking capybaras themselves; Akari comes right out and remarks “This is so healing” while snapping a picture. And really, that’s been Yuru Camp in a nutshell: a capybara hot spring.

Which is why, after the zoo visit, when Iida parts ways with the group and Rin hops back on her moped for the long ride home, it really starts to feel like the end. Because what else could really come after a capybara hot spring but the ride home? Nadeshiko snaps a picture of Rin on her moped before they part, and after they do, Nadeshiko’s smile fades. I know why, too: with Rin headed home, the ending to their Izu trip is really starting to hit her.

It hit differently for me in particular, since I only just recently started Yuru Camp from the beginning, and only needed to hit “next episode” when the first season concluded (and you better believe that’s exactly what I did!) But this time, there is no next episode readily available. I’m reasonably sure we’ll get a third season, but who knows when.

This final episode perfectly captures that unique and powerful bittersweet feeling one gets of the end of a fun trip and the journey back home to the status quo. Nadeshiko is the only kid to stay up as Toba drives, knowing Toba would be lonely if she napped too. Even Rin feels a bit lonely in the saddle after experiencing so much liveliness with so many other girls in so short a time.

But as Aki said in her military general voice, the camping trip isn’t over until everyone is home safe and sound. There was even a foreboding quality to the photo Nadeshiko snapped of Rin, as if it would be the photo she’d chose to put on a milk carton should she turn up missing.

Of course, this isn’t that kind of show at all and would never take a turn like that, but it was still in my mind, just as Nadeshiko remains worried when Rin doesn’t answer her texts. So when her sister comes home, Nadeshiko asks her to drive her out to Minobu town border so she’s there to greet Rin the moment she finally does arrive.

It turns out Rin knew the way back and was focusing on driving, and so didn’t use her phone, which…good for her! When Rin is about to tell Nadeshiko she didn’t need to worry, she remembers when she was sitting in that massage chair and couldn’t help but worry about Nadeshiko on her first true solo trip. Realizing that concern goes both ways, she expresses her appreciation for Nadeshiko.

As they gaze on the now-familiar hometown view of Fuji-san, Nadeshiko remarks how it’s kind of sad the trip’s over. And it is! They’ll never have another trip quite like that one, with that collection of people going to those particular places and eating those particular things. Even if that was all arranged, it wouldn’t be the same, and it would be missing the point in the first place, which is to experience something new with each trip.

And that’s how Rin replies: it may be a little sad, and a little lonely but they can always go somewhere together again, and the options from there are almost limitless. If they were always on a trip, the trip wouldn’t be special, would it? We watch Aki, Aoi, Akari, Ena, and Toba all returning home to their families, then Rin returning to hers and eventually mailing her gramps a thank you letter and some Izu miso-pickled meat for camp cooking.

School starts back up, and Nadeshiko, Rin, Aki, Aoi and Ena all reunite at the ramp that leads to their school, no longer in their cozy puffy camping outfits but their school unis. Life may be back to normal, but they still carry in their hearts all the warmth, joy, and magic of the time they spent together in the great outdoors.

I’ll vicariously carry all of that in mine as I hope for third season of Laid-Back Camp. But even if we don’t get one, I’ll always treasure this show as a singularly cozy therapeutic experience. And you better believe I’m going camping as soon as I can!

Yuru Camp△ – 12 (Fin) – Campvengers: Tentgame

The final episode of Yuru Camp’s first season ends somewhat confusingly with flash-forward that starts exactly how the previous episode ended: with Rin on a bike. Only this time instead of a moped it’s a motorcycle (possibly her grandpa’s), and ten years have passed. Rin meets up with Chiaki, Aoi, and Ena at Asagiri campground, which has presumably become a Christmas tradition ever since the first time.

It’s mentioned that Nadeshiko founded a camping equipment company that really took off, and just when I’m expecting her to arrive by helicopter, she arrives instead by rocket-powered tent instead—like the one in the OP! Turns out Nadeshiko of the present is merely musing about what the future might hold. Then Rin returns with the gas, ginger, and no alcohol for Toba-sensei, and she’s welcomed home.

While Aoi, Ena, and Chiaki take their baths first, Rin and Nadeshiko wonder why Toba-sensei isn’t with her boyfriend for Christmas, referring to the capable young lad who helped them start their fire on Lake Shibire. Turns out that wasn’t her boyfriend or her brother, but her kid sister, who is often mistaken for a boy. Their father instilled in them a love of camping, just as Rin’s gramps did for her.

Then it’s Rin, Nadeshiko and Toba-sensei’s turn to bathe, and upon returning find that everyone is sporting a “Shimarin Bun” courtesy of Ena, hairstylin’ extraordinaire. Nadeshiko wants the same treatment, and then agrees to take a group picture without realizing that Ena actually gave her more of a Cactuar-esque bun.

It’s a bit too early to turn in, so on Chiaki’s suggestion, they avail themselves of the streaming service she signed up for prior to the trip so they could watch media to their hearts’ content. While I’d normally object to breaking out the technology when they’re supposed to be enjoying the untouched wilderness, it’s a cold night, and they’re basically running out the clock until they’re sleepy enough to retire, so I’m fine with it.

Rin and Nadeshiko officially share a tent for the first time here, first lying outside and watching the starry sky. They talk about Moped Journey, and how part of it took place where Nadeshiko is from. Rin thinks she’ll be working for new years, while Nadeshiko isn’t having luck finding a job. Before Nadeshiko nods off while smiling, she says they should go camping lots more next year. Rin in turn smiles and agrees. It’s one of many lovely, quite moments of friendship this series has so excelled at.

Rin wakes up to a 5:00 AM alarm, and wakes Nadeshiko, who is still so out of it she wishes Rin a Happy New Year a week too early. Before the sun rises over a very blue Fuji-san, Rin helps out as Nadeshiko prepares a traditional Japanese breakfast, using leftover meat and broth from the sukiyaki and the ginger Rin bought to make Yamato stew to go with grilled salmon and Rin’s veggie and natto miso soup.

Everyone gets up to break their fast together, and suddenly the sun emerges from behind Fuji-san. It’s as beautiful a sight as you will ever see—whether in this episode or in real life—as all sunrises call to mind rebirth, redemption, and new beginnings in general. And this Christmas Camping trip was certainly the beginning of friendships which could last well past Nadeshiko’s ten-year look forward.

After breakfast, the six young women break camp, Sakura arrives to take Nadeshiko and Ena home, Toba-sensei drives Aoi and Chiaki home, and Rin rides home herself. A bit later, while Rin is working at the bookstore, she’s approached by Ena to buy a camping book, having liked her first experience camping in cold weather.

Meanwhile, Chiaki tells Aoi and Nadeshiko that she tried to recruit Ena while they were camping, but Ena isn’t quite ready to quit the “Going Home Club”.  And so, expecting to remain in their mail slot of a club room for the foreseeable future the trio gives it a top-to-bottom cleaning.

While walking home, Nadeshiko’s worries about seeking employment are allayed by a text from Rin, who puts her in contact with Ena, who has a temp job writing New Years cards and tells Nadeshiko there’s a position for her. This…This is how Nadeshiko’s ground-up camping supply empire gets started! Roll credits.

After the credits, Nadeshiko makes a solitary journey by bike to the same seaside campsite where Rin soloed back in the first episode, when I all but immediately fell in love with this series. As soon as she’s all set up (complete with her retro gas lamp), she gets a text from Rin asking what she’s up to.

Nadeshiko says she’s soloing; so is Rin. Rin asks where; Nadeshiko decides to make it a guessing game based on the photos. Rin sends back a photo fo the exact same place, only with Nadeshiko in the shot—they went to the same place! It’s such a beautiful moment of friendship I’m not ashamed to say I teared up a bit!

It’s pretty much the perfect epilogue, and while viewers of Yuru Camp would have to wait three excruciating years for more Rin and Nadeshiko (including 2020, which was more like ten years), All I need to do is hit “Next Episode” to continue following their story in Yuru Camp Season 2!

3-gatsu no Lion – 44 (Fin) – From Darkest Depths to Highest Heights

The eight minutes that kick off 3GL’s final episode (for a while at least), in which Rei visits the Kouda household, were some of the most hauntingly beautiful, unsettling, and emotionally gutting eight minutes I’ve ever seen. He is received only by the mother, who narrates the entire segment.

Rei was always capable—more capable than her children, which is why he had to go—but she finds him even more so now; he’s become an adult. Meanwhile, Kyouko and Ayumu (seen but never heard here) continue to flounder; they remain children, seeking immediate enjoyment.

Rei’s visit confirms to Mother Kouda that it was for the best for Rei to leave, and she is grateful that he did it of his own volition. Rei was such a genuinely good boy, it was a weight the rest of the family could not bear. When she dreams of Rei being her real son, he’s a sassy layabout like the others.

I was already in tears before the OP, but this episode wasn’t done, as Rei takes Takahashi and Rina out for monja to congratulate their graduation and bid farewell to the brawny baseball kid. Going pro is no longer a dream for him, it’s a goal, and leaving the home he loves was something he had to do to achieve it.

As they talk about how there won’t be monja where Takahashi is going, and that he’ll simply bring it with him to represent March Town, it dawns on Hina that while people may move away, they remain children of the town.

As the minutes and seconds left with Takahashi tick implacably down to zero, Hina savors those remaining moments with everything she has before saying goodbye. Again I held back tears…watching her hold back tears.

Takahashi leaves for his new school the day of the cherry blossom festival, which means he’ll miss it, but Hina doesn’t see him off. For one thing, the previous night’s farewell was just fine; for another, she’s got work to do, working at the Crescent Moon food stall.

She, Akari and Gramps clean up, capitalizing on the slight remnants of the winter chill by selling hot red bean soup and dumplings. Like so much with the Kawamotos, it’s warm, tasty, cozy, and fun.

And as Hina remembers a younger, smaller Takahashi sitting on the steps with an ice cream bar in his baseball uniform, she commits to doing her best where she is, just as he’ll be doing his best farther away.

Soon thereafter, just before she starts high school, Hina decides she’s going to get her hair cut. Privately (or rather in the presence of their aunt), Akari has bittersweet pangs about Hina’s choice to give her childhood self a “proper sendoff” and take a step forward as “the new me.” Akari is sad that one stage of her little sister’s life is ending, but excited and even a little envious of the next; Hina’s “springtime of life.”

However, that first step forward seems to go horribly awry when only an older hair stylist was at the salon. Hina asked for an “adult-like bob”, but once she get it, Akari can barely contain her shock, while Gramps, in his most hilarious reaction to date, thought on first glance that Hina was the household deity. Momo thinks she looks like a kokeshi doll, while Akari asks her to pose with a box of candy.

But when’s all said and done and we get a decent look at it (from numerous intimate close-up angles) I’m in agreement with Rei’s first impression: it’s nice. It’s a really nice new look! Despite the references made by her family, she looks a little more mature and serious, especially in her new high school uniform.

The more Rei looks at it, the more he likes it…and the more embarrassed Hina gets. But let’s not forget what’s happening: the two are walking to school together! This is huge. What will his classmates think? What will they say? How will Rei and Hina handle the fact that they look like one of history’s most perfect couples, straight out of the gate?

Unfortunately, all of that must be left up to my imagination, because 3-gatsu no Lion closes the book on the life of Rei, Hina, the Kawamotos, the Koudas, and all of the shogi folk. Hopefully it will be back, but if this is truly the end of the anime, it couldn’t have ended on a higher, brighter note, rising from the sullen depths of the Kouda household.