Super Cub – 06 – Forbidden Joyride

Koguma has been busy since we last saw her: she has her motorcycle license and Shino bored out her Cub into a 52cc Type II Motorbike, meaning she’s no longer limited to 30 kph. It may not be a fire-breaking chopper, but every little improvement to her Cub makes Koguma feeling a little more liberated.

It looks like she’ll be riding the bus with the rest of her class on their trip to Kamakura, though since Reiko will be with her, it’s not all bad. Reiko wants to see the Shonan Bullet Road, but absent motorbikes to ride on that, Koguma would rather splurge on some tasty local cuisine. And she’s super excited about that food—a far cry from the plain konbini-bought microwavable meals she usually sticks to.

So it’s heartbreaking when she wakes up with a low fever and has to stay home. But then, a few hours later, her fever breaks. When she kicks a rock in frustration, it skips right over to her Cub and bounces off the exhaust, and it’s as if the universe is telling Koguma what she must do.

Donning her gym jacket (it’s a uniform!) and calling Reiko to announce her plans, Koguma plots a course and hits to Kamakura on her Cub. Reiko warns her to be careful and turn back if she runs into any problems, but promises to have her back when she arrives.

Like most times when Rin rode herself to campsites, it was a blessing in disguise that Koguma’s temporary fever kept her off that bus. Her solitary ride gives her more time with her Cub in a new place, and tests her endurance and navigating skills.

The scenery is also awesome, especially when she looks out into the sky from Fuji-san’s fifth station or riding the Shonan Bullet Road beside Sagami Bay. Koguma built some detours into her trip so she wouldn’t arrive at the hotel to early, so it’s adorable when she pulls in just seconds before the class bus to a relieved and elated Reiko.

As promised, Reiko stands right beside Koguma as she gets a talking-to from the faculty, but it’s not like they can turn her away, so instead they bar her from riding her motorbike for the remainder of the class trip. They believe she’s really sorry, but the looks she and Reiko exchange indicate otherwise!

She and Reiko hit the baths, and she tells Reiko how far up Fuji-san she went, and how she stole a march on Reiko by riding the Bullet Road before her. After a soak Koguma revels in the sumptuous evening feast, and before the two fall asleep in their adjacent futons, they form a plan of action for tomorrow’s designated free time.

That plan involves locating her Cub, retracting its rear footrests, and sneaking off to ride double or “two-up” on the Bullet Road. Reiko even brought a light helmet along for emergencies, and is wearing just the brightest, most infectious smile as she holds Koguma tight from behind.

It’s not just about the ride itself that’s so invigorating, but the fact that they’re breakin’ the rules. The teachers can’t clip these lovely bike wives’ wings—they’re gonna fly! While resting at a station, Reiko admits that she kinda broke her Cub during her summer adventure on Fuji-san, so she’ll need to procure a new one. Fortunately, she has a lead on some rare, out-of-production, and very sought-after Hunter Cubs.

As for Koguma’s Super Cub, Reiko says she’ll probably be able to keep riding it the rest of her life, and that prospect really heightens Koguma’s world. When the two hop back on and continue their forbidden joyride, positively  bathing in lush, vivid greens and blues of their fast-moving surroundings, Koguma declares “I’m not going to change. I don’t want to change. I’m going to keep riding forever…Together with my Super Cub.”

Super Cub – 05 – The Ascent

Kudos to Koguma, who over the summer she expanded her horizons, learned an abject lesson in preparing for the elements, saved up some cash ferrying documents between her school and Kofu. That’s a summer anyone can be proud of. She comes to Reiko ready to make some tasty okonomiyaki in exchange to hear what she did this summer…and why her Postal Cub looks like it’s been mauled by Oniguma-sama.

Reiko also expanded her horizons, learned a hard lesson or two, and presumably also made some money with her job doing manual labor “somewhere close…yet far away.”

It’s just…she went about it a little differently…

I see you, Super Cub.

Back in the day, anyone could ride up Fuji-san, but new laws and environmental restrictions narrowed the opportunities considerably. Reiko’s job with an official team that maintains and resupplies the trail and outposts going up the mountain was the opportunity to do something she’d wanted to do ever since she got her license: Ride to the top of Fuji-san.

She researched modifying Cubs for off-roading and secured the job, which consisted of a lot of manual labor but also riding ahead to ensure the way is clean for the giant resupply Caterpillar that climbs up and down the mountain. Reiko’s arduous ascent is often appropriately accompanied by heavy metal soundtrack, and also full of vicious crashes and tumbles.

Still, every time she falls, she dusts herself off and gets back up, because there’s still a mountain to be climbed. When her boss, who climbed Everest, asks her why she’s so intent on climbing the mountain on a glorified moped originally designed to deliver mail, she says it’s to find out if she’s the kind of person who can overcome something like that.

Instead of mail, Reiko intends her Cub to deliver her to a better sense of who she is and what she’s capable of. It’s an incredibly moving, well-realized, self-contained epic little movie of an episode, and what’s all the more impressive is that it doesn’t exist to outdo or overshadow Koguma’s own summer achievements, but simply to present the vast spectrum of experiences.

Oh, and it surprised me almost every time Reiko hit a rock or peeled out, and I found myself actually crying out in anguish whenever it happened, hoping Reiko would be able to get up and start her Cub back up. Fortunately, she always is, and always does. One day when it’s clear she’s really struggling, her boss tells her not to try to “stand up” against the mountain, but to “come alongside”.

Also lending a sense of grandeur is the absolutely spellbinding scenery that grows more strange and otherworldly and beautiful as Reiko reaches higher and higher elevations. There is nothing quite like the way the earth sprawls out before you when you’re on a mountain, and that unique feeling is captured perfectly.

Reiko takes her boss’ advice as a reminder that she should be having fun, not suffering, but when push comes to shove, she’s not going to “go limp” let the mountain push her around. She holds herself and her Cub down and fights as hard as she can. Alas, her final crash is her worst, and cracks her stalwart Cub’s enging casing.

She calls her boss, who picks her up in the Cat. He remarks that she didn’t make it to the top: she’s only a few switchbacks from it; perhaps a few hundred feet. But that’s okay; Reiko can’t look out at creation unfolding beneath her and feel bad about what she accomplished.

Koguma maybe gets the line of the episode in response to this epic tale of man vs. nature: “That’s silly.” As in, climbing Mt. Fuji on your motorbike is silly. Maybe it is, but Reiko still had to do it, and doesn’t regret it. They change the subject to Koguma’s “Cursed Cub”, and Reiko eases her friend’s mind by assuring her none of the three previous owners died because of it. Two of them didn’t even die.

Koguma takes Reiko up on the offer to sleep over, if nothing else to experience the pitch-black darkness far from the city lights. Ensconsced in the mummy sleeping bag Reiko provided (and looking more like Shima Rin than ever!) she clarifies her statement about the silliness of climbing Mt. Fuji as not meaning that it could not be done. Hell, Reiko came really really close to doing it, and probably could have if she’d just slowed down a bit!

And as we’re treated most gorgeous images of Fuji-san yet, Reiko says the first Cub rider climbed the mountain in August of 1963, followed that same year by a team of Cub riders. Reiko isn’t done; she’s going to be the next one to do it—and the first high-school girl!

That morning, over coffee, Koguma makes clear she’s not done expanding her horizons either. She took the summer job in part to pay for driving school so she could get her full motorcycle license. Reiko hops on the laptop to book Koguma’s reservations, and also to look for cheap ways to increase the power of her Cub so her friend can climb her own mountain a little higher.

This whole episode certainly took Super Cub to new heights, but even if and when it comes back down to earth, Reiko and Koguma will unassailably remain my two heroes.

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.

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 05 – Chiaki’s Perfect Plan

Rin has her bookstore job and Nadeshiko has her new gig at the restaurant, so for the first time in a while we’ve got a camping trip involving neither of them. The entire episode is carried by Chiaki, Aoi, and an Ena who is suddenly just as crazy about camping as the others. It’s a combo we haven’t seen before and it’s refreshing, fun, and usually hilarious!

Their destination is Lake Yamanaka, the southeastern-most and highest of the five lakes around Fujiyama. After a roundabout route after Kofu and Ohtsuki, they arrive at Mt. Fuji Station, and purchase two-day passes just in time to catch the bus that will take them to the campsite on the lake.

Chiaki touts her “perfect plan” which starts with a trip to the Caribou in Fujiyoshida. There, we learn the ultimate fate of Chiaki’s infamous wooden bowl (it’s a cactus pot now) when she takes a look at plastic cookware, then Aoi ponders whether to buy a high or low chair. Chiaki wants a hammock, but can’t find one light enough, so a store rep demonstrates a hammock “hack”, the nature of which we’ll have to wait until it’s implemented at the campsite.

From the store (which features the eminently huggable Caribou-san) the girls head to a Lake Yamanaka Hot Spring, where they bask in 38°C water while out in 1.4°C weather. Chiaki counts down from three for everyone to get out at once, but she’s the only one who leaves.

After the bath Ena joins Chiaki and Aoi for their traditional pre-camping ice cream, and Aoi has to literally pick both Aoi and Ena off the ground to avoid another Hottokeya incident, when they all overslept.

From the Hot Spring the girls hit up a supermarket to buy all the food they’ll need. Chiaki will be making homemade kiritanpo hot pot, following a lot of suggestions by Hot Pot (nabe) Master Nadeshiko, AKA Nabeshiko, whom all three girls promise to marry some day. They also decide to pick up some local lake smelts for tempura.

While on the way to the campsite, the girls notice a lot of foreigners on the bus, as they’re technically near some major tourist traps. Chiaki annoys Aoi when she uses a broken Japanese accent to direct one such foreigner to his proper right stop. When Chiaki continues the accent, Aoi simply says “Stop.”

Chiaki’s seiyu Hara Sayuri is the only member of the voice cast with whom I wasn’t familiar until Yuru Camp, but she’s done nothing but put on a clinic this whole time. This week in particular is a showcase for her goofy, emphatic style that’s seemingly always “on”—much to the chagrin of Aoi (Toyosaki Aki), who plays the perfect straight girl in their comedy duo.

When they finally reach the campsite, Aoi and Ena are a little skeptical of Chiaki’s choice of picking a spot on the cape, on the other side of the lake from all of its attractions. But they get it when they arrive at the cape, which is its own attraction. Sadly, the clerk won’t allow them to pitch their tents directly on the cape as they’d hoped—it’s too dangerous—but there’s nothing stopping them from pitching them next to the cape!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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!

Yuru Camp△ – 11 – Campvengers: Sukiyaki War

Yuru Camp gets right down to the “final battle” of the season: the big unified Christmas Camping trip. After ten episodes of “forming a new team”, we finally get to watch them together in action, much like the Avengers was the culmination of numerous smaller stories. But first the team must meet at the appointed place and time: Asagiri Plateau Campgrounds, 2 PM.

There’s nothing like the beginning of these kinds of trips…so exciting and full of promise! Chiaki and Aoi are the first to arrive, having gotten a ride from Toba-sensei in her rugged-yet-cute Suzuki Hustler. They assure her not to worry about hiding her drinking, as she should enjoy the trip too. The next time they turn around, she’s tucking into her bacon and beer. It’s only noon, so they head to a nearby ice cream parlor.

Next to arrive is Rin via moped, who is also early. Even though she sees Aoi and Chiaki checked her in, they’re nowhere to be found (she fails to notice the sleeping Toba-sensei), so she sets her tent up where she feels is best, looking on her completed work with hands on her hips and a quietly spirited “Yosh!” A little later, “the hyper one” arrives, dropped off by her big sis.

Rather than join Aoi and Chiaki at the ice cream place, Rin whips up a tasty s’more-adjacent treat by placing stove-toasted marshmallows within chocolate sandwich cookies. Nadeshiko approves. When Aoi and Chiaki see that firewood is available for cheap, Rin takes her moped to their location to load it up…leaving one bundle for Chiaki to lug on her own.

Rin then gets a cryptic text from Saitou, saying she’s sent an “assassin” to the campsite. Turns out it’s just her fluffy Chihuahua Chikuwa, whom both Nadeshiko and Rin beckon to, only to be passed by in favor of the warm space beneath the sleeping Toba-sensei’s chair.

Everyone marvels at Saitou’s wonderful (and expensive!) down sleeping bag, then wander over to Rin’s spot to marvel at her setup. Rin isn’t used to the attention, but she doesn’t dislike it. Then the girls break out a frisbee and run around with the little kids, having fun and making the most of Asagiri’s wide open spaces.

As the sun starts to drop and the kids and their parents take off, the group has some hot cocoa—which of course Toba-sensei laces with rum. The group sits back and watch Fujiyama turn red, and then Aoi gets dinner started. Following the advice of her granny who told her to keep things simple when it comes to high quality beef (always good advice), she whips up a big pot of Kansai-style A5 beef sukiyaki.

When the sun is gone and it drops to freezing, Nadeshiko shows everyone her patent-pending “Blankiemonster” method of preserving body heat. Aoi delights in the different ways each girl reacts to the deliciousness of the dish, from Saitou and Rin’s quiet appreciation to Nadeshiko and Chiaki’s “full-body expressionism.” Toba-sensei cries because she forgot to bring sake, the perfect companion to sukiyaki.

Saitou then breaks out the Christmas trappings, including a little tree and Santa costumes for everyone and a reindeer headband for her pup. But Aoi isn’t done, using the leftover broth and onions and garlic fried in Chiaki’s skillet to make tomato sukiyaki, an altogether different experience.

When that’s done, she prepares for a third round of food, this time with cheese pasta. Only she and Nadeshiko seem game, but everyone else commits to no more than a bite or two, stuffed as they are. But disaster strikes: the stove runs out of gas, and Toba-sensei’s cylinder also runs out. Not only can they not use the range to make the pasta, but Nadeshiko won’t be able to make breakfast in the morning!

Nadeshiko starts to weep with despair, but Rin’s got this, changing back into her street clothes and heading out on her moped to a convenience store to buy more gas. Nadeshiko also asks her to buy a tube of ginger. Toba-sensei wants booze, but Rin’s too young to buy it, so tough.

As she heads out into the bitter cold night on her trusty steed, primed to return the hero of the group, a smile comes to Rin’s face: just as Saitou had said, it’s an entirely different vibe camping with a group, and especially so with this group of colorful characters. Rin admits that while it’s different fun, it’s still fun as hell—just as it’s ridiculously fun for the viewer to vicariously share in all their experiences.

Yuru Camp△ – 03 – Return of the Favor

We watch the day Rin goes camping from Nadeshiko’s perspective, as she searches the family storage shed for a tent only to find it’s a canopy tent; useless for cold nights. When she gets word Rin is at Fumoto, Nadeshiko has her very cool sister Sakura drive her there—in her extremely cool Nissan Rasheen.

That’s how Nadeshiko comes to surprise Rin with hot pot ingredients. Last time she intruded on Rin’s camping, it was unintentional, and she mooched off of her; this time she wants to pay her back by preparing a home-cooked meal for her. Who’s going to refuse that?!

By the time it’s ready, night has fallen, and Rin has learned that Nadeshiko is fond of doing a “country granny bit”. Still, upon tasting the dish, both Rin and Nadeshiko are overcome by warmth and coziness, so much so in fact that they must shed some layers even in the cold night!

Rin also observes that Nadeshiko is an absolute pro at making food look really, really good…and is also fond of eating a lot of it! After dinner, Rin apologizes for coming off as annoyed at school, while Nadeshiko apologizes for being too imposing. Rin agrees to go camping with her and maybe others in the future.

With that Rin, retires to her tent, while Nadeshiko sleeps in the car with her sister. Sakura has to force the issue when the alarm goes off and Nadeshiko insists she’s awake even though she’s still horizontal. As Sakura drives off to buy breakfast, Nadeshiko makes good on her plan to be up at dawn.

Watching the night sky gradually brighten as the sun rises from behind Fuji-san is a gorgeous, majestic sight to behold. As someone who is rarely up for sunrises, whenever I am by choice it’s definitely a warm, empowering feeling…the feeling of accomplishment, and the feeling that everything is just beginning.

Eventually, the sun proves too bright for the still very drowsy Nadeshiko, so she curls up inside Rin’s tent. When Rin wakes up and notices her, it’s time to wake up, but she can’t rouse her, so she goes back to sleep too. The next day at school, Rin looks through all the pics she took on her phone, including with Nadeshiko.

Her friend Saitou Ena (Takahashi Rie!) is glad the two are getting along, mentioning she too would consider camping once it gets warmer in six months or so. The main takeaway is that there’s nothing wrong with camping solo, but camping with someone also has its appeal, just as sharing a meal with someone usually makes that meal taste better.

Yuru Camp△ – 02 – Wide-Open Camp

This was never going to be a show just about two girls, so this week Nadeshiko joins her school’s Outdoor Activities Club, or Outclub for short. To my surprise, Shima Rin is not a member, which in hindsight explains why she always camps solo. The only two members of the club are Oogaki Chiaki and Inuyama Aoi. Aoi convinces Chiaki that if they increase the club to at least four members, they may be able to get a larger clubroom.

A lot of comedy is suceesfully mined from the current clubroom, which is more of a cloakroom. Its surreally absurd narrowness reminded me of the low ceilings at Lestercorp office in Being John Malkovich. But a good point is made: it doesn’t really matter how small their indoor clubroom is. Their true clubroom is the great outdoors!

Aoi shows Nadeshiko some tent magazines so she can become familiar with the pros and cons of various types, but Chiaki suggest they leave the cozy confines of their clubroom for the courtyard to put theory into practice. This is where Rin, reading in the library, finally spots Nadeshiko and realizes they attend the same school.

Unfortunately, the club’s super-cheap (¥980!) tent’s support poles snaps. Rin’s friend Saitou Ena asks if there’s a way to repair it, and just happens to have the little bit needed to do so, having “found it in lost-and-found!” After helping the other girls fix the pole, Ena makes it a point to point out “Shimarin”, and Nadeshiko is so excited to see her she rushes headlong into a plate glass window.

While it’s fun to meet Chiaki and Aoi and see how Nadeshiko fits into their club, the first half of this second outing was missing the sweet natural serenity of camping that drew me in. Fortunately, the second half makes up for that as Rin goes on another solo camping trip, this time in the wide-open fields of the Fumoto Campgrounds.

As Tateyama Akiyuki’s breezy guitar gently strums, Rin proceeds with her elegant, joy-sparking ritual. Never has watching someone set up a campsite felt so wonderfully relaxing. After exchanging some playful texts with Ena (and it’s absolutely 100% important to let a friend know where you’ve gone) and weighing the costs of a fire, Rin goes on a leisurely stroll, sees the sights, and snaps some photos.

As she settles in with a book and some tea, Fuji-san starts to turn pink from the setting sun—a breathtakingly gorgeous image that, as with all images of Fuji, doesn’t remotely do the real thing justice but is a fair facimilie. She thinks back to the other day at school when Nadeshiko approached her, and in response to her offer of a camping trip together she gave her a disgusted look.

Rin didn’t didn’t want her solo camp time to be threatened—and who can blame her…it’s bliss!—but realizes that it was “kinda crappy” of her not even try to hide it. But who should then appear at her campsite but Nadeshiko, bearing a big bag full of groceries!

Ena told Nadeshiko where Rin was staying. While this certainly wasn’t what Rin planned (like last time), she has grown tired of eating cup ramen. She’d hoped to try some real cooking, but none of the supermarkets on her way were open. Now that Nadeshiko is here, they can cook after all (and maybe split the cost of firewood and a stand). Trading solitude for al fresco hot pot—I think that’s a trade off Rin can live with!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Yuru Camp△ – 01 (First Impressions) – So Amazing, So Tiny

I’m three years and two months late to Yuru Camp, AKA Laid-Back Camp, but Hannah taking a very worthwhile look back at Demon Slayer got me thinking, what was a series from the last couple years I never took a look at, for no reason in particular? Yuru Camp is the answer, which in hindsight is a crime, as it’s about as up my alley as an anime can be!

Its first episode really sets the tone. After a cold open involving the entire future group, we go back to an instance of Shima Rin going to the foot of Mount Fuji during the off-season to camp all by herself. She gets there by bike, and I have to agree with the campsite reservations guy and his friend: she’s small, but tough!

One thing I loved about Cast Away was how it just let events breathe, really pulling you into its world as if you were there on that beach with Tom Hanks and a volleyball. Only here, the situation isn’t a matter of survival, but simply getting away from the hustle and bustle of the town and enjoying Japan’s natural splendor.

Rin is clearly very practiced at camping and camping alone in particular, bringing everything she needed for a cool evening, carefully, perfectly setting up her tent and galley. With every completed task, she balls up her fists and lets out a little satisfied “yoshi” (Touyama Nao delivers a cute, subtle, pitch-perfect voice performance). And while she didn’t want to deal with a campfire, it eventually gets cold enough to warrant one, and once she’s beside it, there’s no substituting that warmth!

Rin’s tent isn’t too far from the public bathrooms, and the first time she passed them on her bike she noticed a girl with pink hair sleeping on a bench. She spots her again when she uses the bathroom, noting she migrated a bit but remained asleep. Finally, when Rin takes a second trip there in the night, the girl is seemingly gone…only to pop up behind her in tears. After a brief chase, the girl identifies herself as Kagamihara Nadeshiko, voiced by Hanamori Yumiri.

She recently moved to the town, and wanted to catch a look at Fuji-san, only to fall asleep and wake up in the pitch black of night. Rin, while not expecting company, is nevertheless a kind and generous host, offering Nadeshiko a spot at the fire, a cup of curry noodles, and the use of her phone to call her big sister. But before calling, both Nadeshiko and Rin bask in the sight of a moonlit Fuji-san, no longer obscured by clouds.

It’s a gorgeous, dreamy shot, only adding to the coziness of Rin’s warm campsite. Before Nadeshiko is carted off by her big sis, she gives Rin her contact info, saying they should go on a proper camping trip together sometime. Rin calls Nadeshiko a “weirdo”, but that doesn’t preclude the  fact that Rin is a little weird, too. Nadeshiko is the yang to Rin’s yin, if you will.

The next day, Nadeshiko makes her way to school, first by bike, then train, then foot. She’s excited to have seen Fuji-san in all its glory, and as she searches for her shoe locker, she passes Rin, who just happens to have her head down.

While the two miss each other, it should come as a surprise to Nadeshiko that her new acquaintance isn’t a grade schooler, as she suspected, but her own age. I imagine it won’t be long until Nadeshiko is introduced to the other members of the Outdoor Activities Club.

Yuru Camp is anime-as-meditation therapy absolutely oozing with charm. The vistas are gorgeous, the direction is simple and naturalistic, and the laid-back score by Tateyama Akiyuki is the perfect accompaniment. The first episode left me with a big smile on my face, and I couldn’t wait to see the next episode. It’s nice to not have to wait a week!

P.S. There’s a lot to love with this show, but one thing I can’t quite get on board with is the OP. The song sounds like a version of the Jackson 5’s “ABC” tweaked enough to avoid a copyright suit, while the visuals are a bit too herky-jerky for such a “laid-back” show.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 08 – Growing Up Quickly, Venturing off the Path

As their days in Japan grow less numerous, Alec might’ve hoped Teresa will gradually ratchet down her lingering glances in Mitsuyoshi’s direction. Instead, after a lovely trip to Lake Kawaguchi to photograph Fujiyama and the stars, the opposite seems to be happening, and Mitsuyoshi finds himself glancing back more and more.

The subject of the group’s conversation turns to love when they visit a shrine and purchase their fortunes. Ijuuin continues to quixotically flirt with Alec, while Hajime continues to make remarks about HINA when she’s standing right beside him. Pretty standard TKS stuff.

Teresa probably also hoped Charles’ continued presence would steer Teresa back on course, but Charles is drawn away from the fun by work from home, and has to stay at the inn while everyone else sets out for the lake to make camp and wait for the stars to come out.

Everyone ends up dozing off except for Mitsuyoshi and Teresa, who end up talking a lot about their respective pasts. While Mitsuyoshi losing his parents was certainly more tragic than Alec getting wet and crying, the fact of the matter is both of them reacted the same way: by regretting mistakes they made and wishing they could go back and fix them.

But they can’t so Mituyoshi opines that regret is a means of reminding themselves not to repeat mistakes that were made but can’t be unmade. The symbolism of the clouds parting to reveal the stars just as the two possible soul mates open up to one another was not lost on me.

Unfortunately, any further developments between the two are curtailed when Ijuiin pops out of the darkness, though Teresa instinctively grabs hold of Mituyoshi’s arm, turning beet red when she realized what she’d done.

The photo club gets their star shots, and before you know it the trip is over and Charles is headed back to Larsenburg. When he kisses Teresa’s hand and bids her goodbye, her hilarious lack of emotional response is conspicuous, but Charles doesn’t let his disappointment show until he has his back turned to Teresa and Alec.

Alec, meanwhile, doesn’t have the same faith Charles does that Teresa will end up fine eventually; perhaps because she’s been by her side in Japan far longer. So she confronts Teresa right there at the airport, preparing to ask, no doubt, about what exactly she’s doing falling in love with Mitsuyoshi.

I doubt the question will be phrased quite that way—nor is there a version of such a question Teresa will be able to answer easily—but when the hair of anime characters whips around that emphatically, you know drama’s afoot.

Samurai Flamenco – 14

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Perhaps it would be better to get down to brass tacks: we can tolerate the wacky direction Samurai Flamenco has gone in (to a point), but we don’t have to like it. By giving over most of its running time to completely implausible and often tacky situations while the smaller, more intimate, more human realism takes a back seat; that just feels backwards to us. We miss the old Samumenco, dicing with petty crooks and litterers. Yes, the show has been taken to dizzying heights and depths of lunacy and adventure, but, well…let’s hear it from Dr. Ian Malcolm, shall we?

I’ll tell you the problem with the power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it…

We think that applies especially at this point in the series, because Samurai Flamenco no longer strikes us as a smart, savvy satire of superhero shows; it is just another superhero show, full stop. There has been less and less ironic subtext, and more and more going through the bland, unsatisfying motions, ostensibly recycled from the superhero trope repository. Back to you, Doc:

…Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

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Replace “scientists” with producers. Here we have an enormous, potentially Japan-shattering “all-out attack” by the 65,000-odd members of From Beyond, and the execution was sorely lacking in every way. The bad guys were pathetically lame; the superheroes who showed up with Kaname (surprise! Ugh.) weren’t much better; and there just wasn’t any artistry or creativity in any of the action. The show clearly didn’t have the budget for these things. Someone should have stopped and thought about whether they should have done them at all.

Throughout the big battle, we were far more interested in watching Maya’s forced reunion with the other two-thirds of Mineral Miracle Muse. But the show isn’t interested in the same things we are; not in this episode, at least. The final twist is that From Beyond’s last man standing is Masayoshi’s doppelganger, which is so random and out of left field we’re not sure what, if any, reaction we got aside from a figurative shrug of apathy. This episode was way too much WTF and not enough TLC.

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Rating: 4
 (Fair)