Yuru Camp△ 2 – 06 – Ice Station Yamanaka

Their dreams of cape camping dashed, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena set up their two tents and their tarp as close to it as they dare, then break out their brand-new (and IMO somewhat overpriced) camp chairs. Chiaki opted for the two-chair set-up to a lighter hammock.

A group of hobbyists are flying RC planes over the lake, while they’re visited by a friendly Corgi named Choko (named after the cup in which you drink sake) and his owner. The girls aren’t alone on this cape, and that proves to be of vital importance to their very survival later on.

But first, this trip starts out like many others we’ve seen before; with the participants basking in the beauty of their natural surroundings and bracing themselves against the cold with blankets and something warm to drink. For the latter Chiaki whips up some delectable non-alcoholic hot buttered rum, the recipe for which she got from a co-worker.

While Chiaki demonstrates she can be an angel when she offers one of her two chairs to the chairless Ena, she also shows she’s got a devilish side when she sends a picture of them relaxing to Rin back home. Rin is airing out her bag and cleaning her grill—all the maintenance required to keep your gear in ship shape. Chiaki’s photo puts a smile on Rin’s face, but it quickly turns to a look of concern as she checks that night’s low temperatures at Lake Yamanaka.

At the very end of every episode we’ve been told the same message: It gets cold during the winter. Stay warm and be well-prepared! No duh, right? Except that there’s cold, and then there’s COLD. At 4:30PM, before the sun even goes down, it’s already two below (28° F), and all three girls’ phones’ batteries die due to the cold.

It wasn’t anywhere near as cold in Asagiri for their Christmas Camping, but that was over 1,300 feet lower elevation! And it’s only going to get colder. Chiaki curses herself for not checking the weather forecast, and it would seem like the Outclub got “a little in over their heads” once they started getting all gung-ho about winter camping.

Still, the three come up with an emergency plan to stay warm through the night: build a fire and cook the hot pot to warm themselves up, then pile into one tent with every blanket and coat piled on top of them. Aoi and Ena don’t have the heavy-duty hand warmers, so Chiaki volunteers to run to the konbini to buy more, as well as some cardboard for insulation.

But the plan soon falls apart when Aoi and Ena arrive at the administration building to find the manager has already locked up and is driving off. Unable to buy or even access proper firewood, the two search for twigs, only to find the ground completely immaculate! With the sun fully down and the temperatures dropping fast, things look grim…but for the grace of their fellow camper and owner of Choko.

By the time Chiaki returns from her odyssey to the konbini and back, their campsite is worryingly abandoned. Then she’s called to the dog lady’s big teepee-style tent, which is both blessedly warm due to the continuously-burning wood stove, and large enough to accommodate the three girls. The lady and who I presume to be her dad are even preparing their own hot pot.

The dad may say with a laugh that the girls would have been “goners” if left out there, but he’s not wrong. Toba-sensei ends up showing up to check on them, and while looking in their tents gets the shit scared out of her when Chiaki sneaks up on her. As she explains, Rin notified her of their plans to camp at Lake Yamanaka, where the temps get down to 15 below (just F!), and weren’t answering their phones.

Toba-sensei puts on her Adult hat and firmly scolds the girls over the seriousness of their error. The greatly varying elevation means drastically varying temperatures and unpredictable shifts—stand on a mountain any time of day and you’ll learn that quick! Furthermore, their gear is woefully inadequate for even a normal Lake Yamanaka winter.

She impresses upon them the absolute necessity of thoroughly researching their campsite and preparing accordingly. The girls bow in tearful apology, but Toba-sensei is also sorry, for while she knew the three of them were camping, she didn’t ask where. From now on the must be sure to talk to each other about where they’re camping.

With all that settled, the dad/(or husband?) invites Toba-sensei to join him in imbibing a big bottle of sake—the good stuff from the store they own in Itou. Within minutes, Serious Adult Toba-sensei devolves into Drunk Toba-chan. Then they prepare their two batches of hot pot: both motsu and kiritanpo. A magnificent feast ensues within the toasty tent.

Toba-sensei is too drunk to drive, so she and the girls spend the night in her Hustler with the heat on. I once thought this was a bad idea, but only if your car is parked on ice! Turns out as long as your car’s battery and alternator are in good working order, as long as you’ve got gas in the tank you’ve got a warm car to sleep in. And it’s not like they had another option in this instance!

Just prior to sunrise, Ena is the first to wake up—quite uncharacteristic for the girl they’ve always cut to in the past curled up in her bed with her pup well into the late morning. She’s soon joined by Aoi and Chiaki, and their reward for braving the outside is another truly majestic sunrise complete with soaring orchestral score, which as by now become a Yuru Camp specialty.

Once Toba greets the morning, Ena gets to work on tempura smelts for breakfast. Ena snaps a photo with her newly car-charged phone, and all three girls send Rin their heartfelt thanks for worrying about them. Chiaki adds that she’ll never forget this, and Rin immediately cashes in by playfully warning them they’d better have gifts for her from Lake Yamanaka!

While cleaning her trusty but lately quite dingy moped, Rin gets a call from Nadeshiko, who just got off work, and voices her intent to try solo camping like the kind Rin does. Whether this leads to her trip to Lake Motosu in which Rin and Nade end up soloing at the same place (the epilogue of the first season) or a different, truly solo trip, we shall see.

But yeah, this week Yuru Camp got real with us, showing how quickly laid-back can become life-threatening! Winter camping can be wonderful, but it is not for the ill-prepared. No doubt Chiaki, Aoi, and Rin learned their lesson, and between doing their research and maintaining clear communication, they’ll be ready for their next excursion in the cold.

Freezing – First Impressions

After a few minutes of Freezing I was immediately reminded at first of Chrome Shelled Regios – what with all the shapely warrioresses and the sudden downpour of terminology (Nova clashes, carnivals, pandoras, limiters, Eringbar Sets, etc.) But while it’s tarted up with lots of terms, Freezing is fairly easy to get: there’s an Angel-like implacable alien foe (the Nova) that’s invading earth, and it’s up to pandoras (genetically and bionically-enhanced high school girls) and limiters (their male underclassman partners) to defeat them.

Freezing does a good job stuffing lots of bloody, exciting battles with an introduction to this world and its systems. It shows that pandoras endure a lot of physical and mental suffering to gain their superhuman advantages. Sometimes this means lost limbs and slit throats, sometimes its lost tops (this show is right on the edge with the service, with more boob shots inserted for no practical purpose). But there’s no negotiating with the enemy, so if humans are to survive, they must soup themselves up and steel their psyches.

Of course, like us, the male protagonist Aoi is being exposed to all this for the first time, as he has just enrolled in “Genetics”, the training facility where pandoras and limiters are made and fight one another for rank. Aoi’s older sister defeated a Nova (at the cost of her life), but when he spots the school’s top-ranked fighter (Bridgette Satellizer…porn name much?), he thinks she’s resurrected and immediately gropes her. Well, the kid’s new, anyway. None of the characters stand out much, but one thing’s certain, Freezing will provide epic action with a healthy dollop of ecchi mixed in. Animation, lighting, and soundtrack were all above par. I could watch this stuff all day. Rating: 3.5

Winter 2011 Season Preview

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for – among other things – fewer series to watch. Fall has been fun, but keeping track of so many shows (and not able to let any go) has been taxing. For Winter 2011, only eight shows have piqued my interest so far, but even that may whittle down if a couple aren’t up to snuff. So without further ado, here’s what’s on tap during the snowy time:

Kimi no Todoke Season 2 – Production I.G. – January
Freezing – ACGT – January
Infinite Stratos – 8-Bit – January
Fractale – A-1 – January
Yumekui Merry – J.C. Staff – January
Rio – Rainbow Gate! – Xebec – January
Level E – David / Pierrot – January
Puella Magi Madoka Magica – SHAFT – January