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△ – 10 – It’s All Coming up Outclub

Rin’s Backup Post-Exams Solo Camping Trip takes a turn from relaxing to nerve-wracking when she oversleeps at the hot springs, leading to an hour-and-a-half drive to the campground on increasingly dark and unnerving roads. She’s just 500 meters from her destination when she comes across another “road closed” barrier. A detour would add three hours to her trip!

Fortunately, Rin still has a cell signal, which enables Chiaki (still at Nadeshiko’s) to call her up, telling her to ignore the sign, as it must’ve been left there on accident; happens all the time. Sure enough, Rin’s path to the campground is unimpeded, but then she has to contend with heavy winds threatening to blow her tent away!

Rin finally gets the tent set up and is able to soak in the true reward of her labors: another breathtaking nighttime vista. She then browns and crisps her konbini-purchased steamed bun with some butter on her sandwich grille and brews some roasted tea from the mountaineer lady.

Rin laments being “bad at traveling”, but her present situation enjoying a steamed bun and tea beside her fully set-up campsite contradict her claim. After Nadeshiko got sick, all of Rin’s careful preparation in previous trips made it possible for her to wing it on short notice. I’d say she did fine, all things considered!

Rin then gets a call from Nadeshiko, who Rin instantly recognizes is actually Chiaki doing a Nadeshiko impression. Still, she thanks Chiaki for the tip that saved her three hours of potentially dangerous riding, and Chiaki immediately cashes in the goodwill she earned by being the one to formally invite Rin to the Outclub’s Christmas Camping.

Rin turns her down flat, but then Saitou texts her saying that she’ll be going on the trip…and bringing her cute Chihuahua. Saitou knows Rin likes camping alone, but there’s a different kind of fun to be had in a group. And Saitou is right when she says Nadeshiko was really looking forward to Rin joining them. Also, dog. As Chiaki leaves Nadeshiko’s later that night, she gets a tentative “I’ll think about it” from Rin.

Back at school, Rin passes Toba-sensei in the hall and thinks she recognizes her. Toba is currently being politely nudged into advising a club like all the other teachers, so it’s clear by the end of the episode it will be the Outclub. Nadeshiko and Chiaki learn that Aoi won a bunch of high-quality meat, and are treating her like a queen when Saitou enters.

The four take their Christmas Camping planning meeting outdoors, where Chiaki also shows off her new campfire stand—a compromise buy after the cost of a full set (¥30,000) caused her nose to bleed. Saitou tells them she ordered a sleeping bag after all: a ¥45,000 deluxe alpine model her dad bought for her.

After texting Rin to pick a campground, as they can’t decide, the club discusses exchanging gifts. Due to the costs of camping eating up what cash they have (Saitou excluded), Nadeshiko proposes exchange of “hospitality”, e.g. cooked meals. Saitou gets a kick out of the three girls’ antics, but the meeting is interrupted by Toba-sensei, concerned about their fire.

Since Toba-sensei is new to the school, she didn’t know the Outclub has permission to build fires from the Hiking Club’s faculty advisor, who also advises other clubs. He uses the opportunity to dump the Outclub on Toba-sensei, so he has a club and he has one less.

Toba-sensei is loath to have her precious drinking and drama-watching time stolen by other things, but once she learns the Outclub’s laid-back activities, she starts to realize she dodged a bullet. There are way more laborious clubs to advise!

Rin recommends the Asagiri Plateau for their campsite, and the other four girls agree in sequence on her phone, which makes her smile. Then it suddenly dawns on Nadeshiko after a close look at Toba-sensei, and she uses Saitou’s phone’s stylis to draw a crude hoodie and booze bottles on the pic she sends to Rin, confirming it’s the tipsy lady from Lake Shibire!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TenSura – 33 – A Different Kind of Demon Lord

After a string of absolute bangers that just screamed SHIT GOT REAL, this episode brings all that built-up the momentum to a screeching halt. It starts by repeating, verbatim, Eren’s story about Milim becoming the Demon Lord, as Rimuru is relaying it to his senior staff. It was a very pretty sequence, but I didn’t need to see it twice in as many weeks.

From there, Rimuru puts the plan he’s about to announce in context by taking a look back. While it was nice to see how far he and everyone else has come, from Veldora to Geld, it felt a little indulgent what with a literal army marching on the city. Then again, maybe this was Rimuru’s way of flexing: no need to panic or be in a rush.

After a few minutes of everyone else trying to accept the blame for what happened (ultimately there’s plenty of blame to spread around, even if Rimuru claims all of it) we get down to the planning stage. He’s going to take on the approaching force by himself, in order to assure he’s able to secure sufficient nourishment to Demon Lord-ify himself.

While he still wishes for a future in which humans and monsters can coexist peacefully across the world, the more pressing issue is getting the humans to acknowledge their existence, and the fact they’re not going away. When he becomes a Demon Lord, he plans to protect humanity from the other Demon Lords, thus hopefully earning goodwill.

While Rimuru goes after that Lordship, he has important roles for everyone else. For one thing, there are still four devices around the city maintaining the barrier as they speak, each guarded by a company of knights; the one to the west likely supplemented by the Otherworlders. Rimuru’s orders are simple: take them all out at once.

Benimaru will handle the eastern device by himself; Hakurou, Rigur, Gobta and Geld the west; Gabiru and his men the south, and Souei and Soka the north. Everyone in those groups it itching to atone for letting their guards down. Rimuru also asks Mjurran to join Shuna at the town center to keep the barrier raised after the devices are taken out, while Youm, Grucius, and Eren and her party will guard them.

So! Everyone has their assignments; all that’s left is to execute. Sadly, there isn’t any time to show any of that. We’re left with an episode that tries to keep things fresh by switching up the angle of the meeting table, with limited success. And is it just me, or shouldn’t the bodies of Shion and the others be, i dunno, kept somewhere cool and dry? Leaving corpses out in the sun doesn’t seem like the best idea.

The one upside to having this kind of episode is that with the emotional stakes established and the table thoroughly set, the next episode can go 100% all-out with the action and ownage. If that’s what transpires, I may just go back and add a half-star to episode…for taking one for the team!

Oregairu 3 – 08 – The Person in Charge

It’s the much-belated appearance of Hayama Hayato, the only person who comes right out and tells Hikki that he shouldn’t be going about things this way. Hayato is already helping the StuCo, but frankly he partially blames himself for helping out in a previous scenario that didn’t turn out so well.

Hikki, while grateful for his friend’s candor, insists this isn’t about codependency, but personal pride and satisfaction. That pride extends into the purchase of a high-end camera and learning how to use it for a beach photo shoot that will be the hero(ine) image on the website.

Despite this, Ebina Hina still has to flip a couple of switches on the camera so it will take the most dramatic pictures, just as she, Yui, and Yumiko have to take off their shoes in the freezing cold water for it to seem “genuine”.

The final product speaks for itself and looks fantastic, and the Gaming Club nerds are again surprised by Hikki’s formality and gratitude for their and Zaimo’s assistance. Little did I know this would be all he’d call on them to do, since the “dummy prom” effort comes to an end this week!

With the site in place, Hikki needs his fake prom plans “leaked” to the PTO (AKA Yukino’s mom) and recruits Haruno for the job. Like Hayato, Haruno won’t stand in his or Yui’s way but doesn’t see how his argument for it not being codepenency is anything other than a battle of semantics.

She suggests they simply “watch over” Yukino as she works towards her goal alone, and Yui is the one to rebut that. Watching over someone, to her, isn’t any different from staying away from them, even abandoning them. That’s no way to “end things properly”, as all three of them desperately wants to do.

The next day (or so), thanks to Haruno, her mother has gotten word of the second prom proposal, and quickly outmaneuvers Hikki’s slipshod preparation for the meeting by declaring the gig is up, she knows his prom is a decoy, and as such isn’t going to move the needle on the PTO’s position.

That said, Hiratsuka (who prior to the meeting asked Hikki out for ramen sometime) offers a solid assist to Hikki in stating that the current options on PTO’s table are to look over the adjusted proposal for Yukino’s prom and retain some influence on the event, or risk the rebellious elements of the student body hold the event outside school grounds and rules.

Yukino’s mom still doesn’t show her cards, but to add a game metaphor, Hikki considers her the queen in a game of chess, and as such someone he can turn into an ally if he uses a very specific underhanded tactic only he could use: his name, which she recognizes as the boy who got hit by her car.

This has the intended effect, thankfully for Hikki, since after that he’s probably out of moves. Yukino’s mom is impressed with his “remarkable intrepidity”, even unfolding her fan as if to concede his point. Responding to her question about his leg injury by telling her it’s stronger than ever and he’ll display it by dancing at the prom…chef’s kiss.

We backtrack a bit to Yui visiting Haruno again on her own to take exception to her use of the term “codependency”. Haruno proceeds to harunosplain it to Yui, but Yui doesn’t budge. When Haruno dismisses her dream to be together forever with the other two as “not genuine”, Yui doesn’t see how it can’t be, considering how much it hurts.

Let it be said Haruno practices what she preaches. She and Hayato were an item, but it wasn’t sufficiently genuine. And things she deems not genuine aren’t simply an annoyance, they are repellent, and she’ll say and do what she thinks she must to stamp them out.

Hikki visits Yukino in the Service Club room to tell her that her revised plan was safely approved by the PTO, making her the winner of their prom rivalry. She begs to differ: because she went along with his decision to make a competition at all, and trusted that he’d succeed in getting her prom approved, she feels that he is the one who won.

Yukino takes this trust in him as further evidence of her dependence on him, but Hikki still maintains that because her prom was approved, she won this particular rivalry. She takes it the next step to say that if he insists she won, then he has to do what she says, which is to grand Yui’s wish.

Yukino tearfully tells Hikki how much she’s cherished the time the three of them have spent in the Service Club, but the “seemingly fake” relationship that has resulted from their continued interaction is “wrong” and different from what Hikki “desired” for them.

Therefore it’s time to end that relationship right there. Hikki leaves without argument while Yukino hopes this is the “correct ending”. Later, Yukino meets with Yui and while she doesn’t explicitly say the relationship they had had is now over, Yui can see it in Yukino’s smile.

Still, by essentially placing the ball in Yui’s hands, there’s a chance that even if one relationship between the three is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean a new beginning isn’t in the cards. The question is what form that beginning takes. After all, it’s certainly not Yui’s wish that the three stop talking or seeing each other.

In this way, Yukino is doing the same thing with Yui’s wish she claims to have done with Hikki’s alternate prom plan: relying on it, knowing full well she will find a way just as he did. Haruno’s strict ideal of what is properly genuine—maybe these three are simply destined to keep relying on one another as they continue to stumble towards adulthood.

Oregairu 3 – 07 – The “Psycho” Project

Zaimokuza introduces Hikki and Yui to Hatano and Sagami of the gaming club, who harbor a very crude opinion of Iroha. Hikki manages to convince them they’ll be better positioned to influence next year’s prom if they help him this year—and that one eventually comes to see Iroha’s “wickedness” as “cuteness” in time.

As the newly-formed team forms some broad strokes, Yui suggests they try to ally with a neighboring school they’ve already had dealings with in order to make their project both more realistic and more likely to be pooh-poohed by the PTA. That’s right, Orimoto Kaori and Tamanawa are back!

While Tamanawa has ditched all the corporate lingo, the gesticulating and weird ticks remain. So naturally, his and Hikki’s discussion of the feasibility of the plan in its current state unfolds as a EPIC RAP BATTLE, complete with Kaori punctuating verses with her trademark vapid 2-3 word comments.

I cannot convey with words how unexpected and delightful this was. It kicked all the ass. Tamanawa and Kaori like the idea, but the former wants a little more focus and detail before committing to cooperation. They’re also enthusiastic about hanging out socially some time soon.

Back in the gaming club, Yui vetoes the rest of the committee’s decision to make her “Yahallo” their official greeting, while Zaimokuza comes up with a name for said committee: “The Saiko Project.” Sadly, his explanation is cut off by Hikki…I wanted to hear it!

Hikki steps out to speak to Hayato about collaboration, but spots Yukino with the same coffee he usually drinks, taking a break by herself. Hikki approaches her and she makes room on the bench, and the two proceed to be extremely cute, cozy, and cordial in their dialogue, like two soldiers on opposite sides of the battle calling a brief time-out to shoot the breeze.

Then Yui arrives, and made what had been pretty comfortable situation a lot more awkward. Yukino gets up to leave without saying anything, leading Yui to ask if she’s avoiding her. Yui informs her that she’s helping Hikki, but once the prom planning competition is over, she hugs her and lists all of the things she wants to do with her, and how everything will be okay because those things are on the horizon.

While these are all nice things to aspire to, they also can’t help but smack of desperation, as if not saying them straight-out might mean they won’t happen. But more than that, Yui seems to be getting a bit ahead of herself. I’ll always hope the three can remain close in some capacity down the road, but the fact is we and they just don’t know that yet. Even so, neither Hikki nor Yukino were ready, willing, or even tactless enough to talk Yui down.

Oregairu 3 – 06 – If There Is a Choice, Something Must Be Chosen

This week is an episode full of conscious and unconscious choices, in which one of two things must be chosen—and the other rejected. The first is when Hikki buys drinks and Iroha must choose between his favorite coffee and red bean soup. Last week Iroha had gone over in her head what she wanted Hikki to take “responsibility” for her the same way he was with Yukino.

Here he does so, but only so far as apologizing for getting her caught up in everything. That said, Iroha doesn’t consider her prom duties a burden; she wants to send Hikki, Yukino, Yui and all her other senpai off properly and not have any regrets. Of course, if she doesn’t want to regret not letting Hikki know her true feelings about him—despite the possibility of rejection—she’ll have to act soon.

Komachi gives Hikki the next choice, between two seemingly identical bowls of stew/hotpot. After dinner he asks her about all the various events her school is doing to celebrate her graduation from middle school. Her mention of a friends-only class trip activates his Big Bro alarm, but like many things it’s all a part of his sister growing up

When he reveals his school is having a prom, Komachi is super-excited for him, even flashing her fang. Telling his sister that a prom is definitely happening basically seals Hikki’s fate, and he knows it: even if he has no idea if a prom will actually happen or what his plan for countering Yukino will be, the goal is in place, and he’s staking everything on that result.

Remember Yuigahama Yui? Coral hair, burnt-orange eyes, could pass as one of the Quintessential Quintuplets…and former member of the Hikki-Yukino-Yui love triangle? Well she makes a triumphant return here after not appearing last week, while Yukino is the one to sit this one out. Things start out pretty awkward, but improve when Hikki immediately asks if she’s okay over yesterday.

She lies that it is, and since he only saw a small fraction of the tears she shed, he lets it be. He then brings her up to speed. Yui assumes that he’ll be working with Yukino a lot more from this point on, meaning they’ll be seeing less of each other, so she’s shocked that things took a completely different direction, and his plan is to compete with Yukino.

Hikki doesn’t ask, but Yui declares she’d like to help him out. With no other staff or budget he can hardly refuse, so off they go to a family restaurant. There, Yui serving Hikki salad and watching him turn up his nose at a tomato like an 8-year-old, she can’t help but rest her head in her hands and gaze in pure joy.

Before eating, Hikki explains the general concept of their alternate prom plan: they’ll be proposing a prom that is even more objectionable than Yukino and Iroha’s, but still legitimate and serious enough that the PTA is forced to make a choice. He cleverly likens it to choosing between regular ice cream and “light” ice cream with half-calories.

Straddling the line between serious and undesirable will be tough, especially with no money, time, or manpower. On the last front, Hikki and Yui reach out to their friends, and while neither Saki nor Saika can help out (Saki is on team Yukino, but Hikki has her bashful blessing, while Saika is busy with tennis), they do manage to score Zaimokuza, who is his usual delightfully chuunibyou-inflicted self.

Before Hikki makes his proposal, Saika asks him what he wants, so they’re all on the same page. Saika seems heartened to see that Hikki knows exactly what he wants to get out of this: making Yukino’s prom a reality by creating a less acceptable one to give hers cover. Hikki says this while Yui holds his hand for support.

From there, Hikki and Yui head to an internet cafe, but due to the time of day, their selection of a “pairs” office suite, and the prom-themed movie Yui watches, it has the distinct aura of an illicit trip to a love hotel. As when she smiled at Hikki being picky at the restaurant, Yui savors every moment she has with Hikki here, and doesn’t their time there to end.

Because they have privacy, she even decides to be a little more assertive and pretend to fall asleep on Hikki’s shoulder. Whether he knows she’s faking or not, he covers her with a scarf and keeps his shoulder still so as not to wake her. In her head, as the tears well up again, she prays/begs anyone who will listen: give her just a little more time like this.

In a heartbreaking, poetic closing inner monologue, she promises she won’t hope for anything to happen, and that one day she’ll be able to stop the tears and along with Yukino help “bring this relationship to its proper end”, whether it ends for good or changes into something else. But mostly, for now, she just doesn’t want what she has right here and now to end.

Hikki may feel like he’s in a good place and has a way forward, and Yukino may feel the same, but lost in the middle is poor Yui, who is having the hardest time reckoning with impending change.