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!

Fall 2012 OPs and EDs

Another season, another set of opening and ending sequences. How do they stack up?

YouTube links provided where available. Some are just the music. Some are probably dead links :/

Btooom!
OP: There’s something about the girl(guy?) whispering “It’s only just begun…” followed by the rapping that just makes our eyes rollRating: 4
ED: The music’s a little too heartwarming, and the visuals are just beauty shots of Himiko. Rating: 5

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!
OP: Clearly Haruhi-inspired, but not as good – it’s trying too hard. Rating: 4
ED: We like the character names in Roman letters frizzing to the beat, but other than that, but watching Rikka try to dance? Notsomuch. Rating: 5

Girls und Panzer
OP: Utterly average in every way. Rating: 5
ED: Chibi Girls un Chibi Panzer…meh. Rating: 5

Sword Art Online
OP: Not as good as the first season’s, and when we first saw it, all the elf ears really confused us. But nothing offensively bad about it. Rating: 5
ED: Heavy use of Sugu; also pretty innocuous. Rating: 5

Jormungand
OP: The overengineered vocals were fine in the first season’s OP, but there’s something stale and laggy about this new theme.Rating: 5
ED: The first season’s ending theme was a beautiful, haunting piece of music that carried the whole ED. This, like the OP, just isn’t as good, though it does remind us of FF battle music.Rating: 5

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun
OP: Fairly generic brassy-rock music. The visuals are better, with good colors and layers, a chain motif, and a nice moment of the two leads dancing together. (FWIW, this remains our favorite Romance OP.) Rating:6
ED: Also very generic ending rock music. Girl can’t hit the high notes. Ruins the nice watercolor montage. Rating: 4

Zetsuen no Tempest
OP: We’re really not fans of the English vocals, but the rock instrumentation and visuals are solid. Rating: 7
ED: Syrupy-sweet vocals and very generic rock music with walking silhouette. Neither offends nor impresses. Rating: 5

Sukitte Ii na yo
OP: Very quiet, gentle music and vocals. We like the longing strings. Pretty good visuals of characters, settings and various moments. Rating: 7
ED: Fittingly bittersweet rock piece, blue slideshow, and an animated chibi preview Mei that’s either cute or frighteningRating: 6

K
OP: Stirring rock with really strong female vocals (we like the occasional hesitation as she enunciates the lyrics), perfectly fits the energy of the series. Very lively montage of characters/factions too. Ends a bit abruptly. Rating: 8
ED: Whimsical snowglobe-type song, with a lovingly-animated Neko lounging around nude, looking forlorn. Rating: 6

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori)
OP: There is no OP as such; the show jumps right into those flashbacks, which are awesome. (No Rating)
ED: Electro-pop that gets more rousing as it progresses. Nice use of electric guitar. Really neat, dreamy animation too. I’m a soap bubble…Rating: 8

Kamisama Hajimemashita
OP: Cute vocals, cute visuals, just plain cute…but not in a bad way. Rating: 8
ED: Really nice transition from episode’s end to the credits. Same cute vocals form OP. We really like the underlying strings. Ah, ah ah ah…Rating: 7

Muv-Luv Alternative
OP: Same as last season. Which is fine with us. Rating: 7
ED: Also the same. Also fine with us. If it ain’t broke…Rating: 8

Summer 2012 OPs and EDs

None of the OPs and EDs of the shows we’re reviewing have knocked our socks off, but there are certainly good ones and bad ones. Let’s explore:

Tari Tari
OP: The cast running around like they’re on a sugar high to forgettable music. Rating: 2
ED: The cast sitting on a ledge, followed by panning closeups, accompanied by muzak. Boring! Rating: 2

Accel World
OP: Goofy techno beat (there is good techno, this is not it), generic action/character montage, and naked Haru flying around. Guh. Rating: 2
ED: Similarly underwhelming. Rating: 2

Binbougami-ga!
OP: One-way Two-way Three-way Four-way No way this is a great opening. Kinda catchy though. Rating: 2.5
ED: Shots of the two leads in various outfits. Well-drawn, but random. Rating: 2.5

Hyouka
OP: Very well-animated, but paired with uninspiring music, and the whole “Oreki stuck inside reflections” thing…it’s just bludgeoning us in the heads with its symbolism. Rating: 3
ED: Corny Sherlock/Watson cosplay. We get it, they’re like, detectives! Rating: 2.5

Kokoro Connect
OP: We like the flying logo, but the rest is your standard high schoolish opening, much like Tari Tari. Rating: 2.5
ED: We like how the ending theme plays over the next episode preview, then segues seamlessly into the ED; a novel approach. The music is nice and funky and complements the ‘winding down’ sunset visuals. Not too shabby! Rating: 3.5

Eureka Seven AO
OP: Great Animation, so-so music. Overall, not bad. Rating: 3
ED: In no danger of supplanting our favorite EDs, ‘Tip Taps’, but not bad either. Rating: 3

Sword Art Online
OP: Comely visuals and a theme that gets us pumped up without getting irritating (though we don’t really dig the dissonance in the last sung lines.). Nothing extraordinary, but competently done. Rating: 3
ED: Nice slow, graceful vertical character pans, so-so music. Rating: 3

Rinne no Lagrange 2
OP: We loved the first season’s OP. We just like this. Rating: 3
ED: This actually improved last season’s ED by expanding on it and making it weirder. Very catchy theme. Rating: 3.5

Natsuyuki Rendezvous
OP: Pleasant enough visuals (we liked the multi-burst character portraits) paired with fairly generic music for the genre. Rating: 3
ED: Gorgeous visuals and better music. Rating: 3.5

Muv-Luv Alternative
OP: It’s not the prettiest, but the quirky pulsing techno-rock sells it. Rating: 3.5
ED: Pretty standard visuals, but again the music steals the show, progressing from a smooth and breezy ballad to more urgent battle music appropriate to the series’ harsh setting. Rating: 3.5

Spring 2011 – Best (and Worst) Openings and Endings

Best Opening: [C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility. A very slick, confident, adn frenetic beginning to a show that also possesses those qualities. A virtual camera zooms into a 1000 yen note, a dollar, a Euro, and a black MIdas bill, and the designs on those currencies explode and fly by with impressive depth and detail. I also like how the financial district’s giant spinning coin is presented.

I didn’t include [C]’s ending, because while it was pretty good, the School Food Punishment song sounded too similar the one used for the Eden of the East ending, which had far better visuals.

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. The WWE-grade metal lyrics of this season’s runner-up are kind of silly, but there’s nothing wrong with the music itself; it’s harsh, dark, and unyielding, like the series itself. The mostly red palette and multi-layered, highly-textured visuals also match the show’s mood quite well. While hardly subtle, they also show the dual personalities of both Shiro and Minatsuki. Sweet on the surface, but terrors lurk within.

Best Ending: Ao no Exorcist. I discuss the music and visuals of this ending at length here. Suffice it to say, It’s a great concept, very simple and very nicely executed. A really elegant yet satisfying ending. (Sorry, that video was removed!)

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. A peaceful shot of a Ferris Wheel glowing at sunset combined with a soothing, upbeat dance track makes for a nice respite from each episode’s pervading darkness and despair. The slideshow of photos – which didn’t mean much the first time we see them, are given more gravity as the series has progresses: they’re snapshots of the character’s pasts. In each case, they’ve all changed quite a bit, except perhaps Ganta and Shiro.

So, what were the worst openings and endings? The World God Only Knows II was a beginning I don’t think I ever watched in its entirety after the first time. They were clearly trying to replicate the novel and IMO very successful opening of the first season, and failed miserably. See it here. The ending is also something I skipped every time.

Hanasaku Iroha has a pretty (if not altogether original) opening that’s hampered by a subpar vocalist. Watch here, but be forewarned: it’s shrill.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko though, takes the cake as the most obnoxious vocals by far, and the visuals just seemed a bit lazy and uninspired. If you’re a aural masochist, you may get your kicks watching it on a loop. As for the ending, it’s just a cutesy-cutesy Arakawa-type sequence with Etsuko Yakushimaru’s shy vocals putting me to sleep. Venus to Jesus was infinitely better.

Aside from having one of the dumbest, laziest logos for a series I’ve ever seen, Tiger & Bunny‘s opening and ending are notable only for their crushing genericness. The blatant product placement didn’t bother me so much.