Yuru Camp△ – 04 – Go-Go Outclub Rangers!

The newly three-member Outclub kicks into gear with preparations for their first camping trip together, starting with trying to keep the budget as tight as possible. While experimenting with different forms of insulation for an otherwise useless-in-the-winter summer sleeping bag, Nadeshiko repeatedly runs into the school and back to retrieve materials they need, like an eager puppy.

Nadeshiko and Aoi are able to make Chiaki warm, but at the cost of being all packed up and ready to ship to Abu Dhabi, like Nermal. They ultimately decide to buy winter sleeping bags, ensuring they each get a unique color. Nadeshiko will be Outclub Red, Aoi Outclub Blue, and Chiaki Outclub Yellow.

Meanwhile, Rin prepares to kick into literal gear of her moped, now that she’s gotten her license. We also learns she works part-time at at bookstore to fund her solo camping obsession. What a good kid! Nadeshiko texts her a photo of Chiaki all packed up, leading Rin to wonder just what the heck those weird girls are up to!

The Outclub picks a campground and a date, and hit up the store to buy all of the stuff they don’t already have. My one wish is that we’d have gotten an exact figure for the total cost of their supplies, but that’s okay. As for Rin, by God is she inspiring, heading out in the early morn with her little bike packed to the gills with gear.

The next day, Nadeshiko misses a bus, but it’s no big deal. The three of them aren’t in any rush; the whole point of their excursion is to relax! Chiaki and Aoi note that Nadeshiko is carrying all her gear on her back, while they have more convenient dollies. They worry she won’t be able to make the four-kilometer hike from the station to the campground.

In what should come as no surprise, Nadeshiko’s energy stores prove inexhaustible. She’s not just a puppy, she’s a pack mule! Speaking of cute animals, Rin encounters a puppy in the back window of a van that moves to whatever side of the lane on which she stops. When the van turns off, Rin is sad, only to find another van ahead of her filled with many dogs!

When the Outclub reaches a famous vantage point at Fuefuki Park, Nadeshiko can’t resist a photo shoot, which she shares with Rin via LINE-like app. The three decide to hit up a café for some sugary treats to recharge their batteries, each sharing one another’s desserts and making me wish I could safely go to cafés with my friends! Maybe someday…

Rin gets Nadeshiko’s message about the apple soft just as she’s pulled into a rest stop at Kirigamine, and decides to stop in to warm up a bit; the closer she gets to her destination of Nagano, the colder it gets, but it’s clear she’s not afraid of a challenge. She picks a cozy spot by the iron wood stove in a room she has all to herself.

Recalling she has some cash to spend from her job, she decides to splurge on a Borscht lunch set with a Caramel Macchiato, and does not regret it, as the Slavic soup quickly distributes warmth to every corner of her body. She texts her feast to Nadeshiko, who asks where she’s headed, and rather than simply text back “Nagano”, Rin chooses a unique way to respond: by sending Nadeshiko a link to a live webcam then waving to her in real time.

The Outclub unanimously decided to stop by the Hottokeya Hot Springs before continuing on to the Eastwood Campgrounds, but as soon as they enter the lounging area, they worry about relaxing so damn hard they won’t be able to leave and go do what they came to do…camp!

This Yuru Camp felt like the best of both worlds: the Outclub’s more spirited and boisterous three-girl journey, cross-cut with Rin’s more Zen solo trip. Both look like a lot of fun! There’s also a wonderful shifting between hot and cold; between exertion and relaxation. Every Outclub member is a ton of fun, but Rin remains the show’s undisputed MVP and my personal hero.

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.

Otherside Picnic – 07 – Queens of the Seaside

Those curious about what became of the American Marines get no answers this week, as the girls are on to their next adventure, this time on a beach. Sorao wakes up in a posh hotel room, having shared the bed with a naked Toriko. She can vaguely remember going shopping and bar hopping, and is proud of her drunk self for plugging in her phone.

While taking a taxi to the beach, both Sorao and Toriko nod off, and when they come to, the taxi is derelict and covered in plants and sand, as if it had been sitting there for years. It looks like they’re still in the Otherside, though with a very Spirited Away vibe with a lush blue and green palette.

The duo do a thorough search of a long-abandoned beach shop that, while creepy, contains no active threats, so on Toriko’s urging they change into the bikinis they bought yesterday(?) and proceed to have a fun time on the beach, drinking beer and practicing shooting. The Okinawan afterlife of Narai Kanai is also referenced as the two discuss the Alcatraz-like ruin on the horizon.

Sorao’s been letting her have her way so much, Toriko is worried Sorao could get sick of her, but that’s not the case. Indeed, Sorao again tries to bring up her feelings, only to miss her chance once again. Regardless, she’s happy to be having fun on the beach, a place she never felt was her scene. It’s also a welcome deviation from the standard Otherside aesthetic.

Their solitary fun is cut short when they hear odd noises and discover zombie-like punks beating up little kids. When Sorao and Toriko are rushed, Toriko freezes up, but Sorao shoots them all down before they can get to them. Toriko is impressed: Sorao can shoot and kill to protect herself and Toriko, but she credits Toriko with helping steel her resolve.

Sorao can also see with her eye that the punks weren’t human, but reanimated piles of washed-up beach detritus. Suddenly, the skies turn blue and brooding, which Sorao remembers the captive Toriko saying was the most dangerous time to be in the Otherside. A legion of creepy child-dolls bursts out of the beach shop while huge walrus-like beasts appear on the beach. The girls are well and truly freaked out.

They also don’t have enough ammo to deal with all of these creepy monsters great and small, so Sorao arranges for their exit, using her eye, Lady Hasshaku’s hat, and Toriko’s hand to open a portal. A great light flashes from the dissolving hat, turning all of the monsters back into garbage, and the girls fall through.

They emerge back in the normal world, apparently still on the beaches of a populated, non-ruined Okinawa, and perhaps where they had their day and night of shopping and drinking. Before the portal closes, Sorao spots a woman with flowing black hair. Could it be Uruma Satsuki, mentioned by one of the monster boys as part of the “Queen of the Beach” urban legend?

If it was, Toriko didn’t see her, and Sorao doesn’t bring it up. Instead, they have some beers and enjoy the fireworks, even though they’re broke and not sure how they’ll get home. As always, because they’re living in the moment together, nothing else seems to matter as much.

With its fun girls trip to the beach-turned-freaky seaside monster convention, Urasekai Picnic again scores high marks for its mastery of mood and atmosphere, and the cozily-infectious chemistry of Sorao and Toriko.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sousei no Onmyouji – 14

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After last week’s big battle and catharsis, we were due for a break at the show’s midpoint. SnO tries to make the recapping medicine go down easier by surrounding it with Tanabata festivities, but they only comprise about half of the episode, making this a half-recap requiring lots of fast-forwarding.

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The Tanabata content also rehashes Rokuro’s triangle with Benio and Mayura, but there just hasn’t been enough of Mayura for me to harbor any hope whatsoever that Mayura will have any success in that arena, despite the wish on the back of her tanzaku.

As for “Ohagi-Man”, the bit is funny at first (especially Rokuro’s running commentary), but grows repetitive fast. Checking in on the various adults guiding Rokuro and Benio doesn’t really result in any new insights; they’re just here to recap what’s happened.

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The episode ends on a nice note, with both Rokuro and Benio, having procrastinated what to wish for all night, gaze up at Altair and Vega, and both privately wish for the same thing: to become stronger with one another.

It seems they will certainly have to become stronger, with many foes and battles looming on the horizon. But whether they’ll ever become a true couple capable of producing a child—the Miko—is not addressed here.

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