Yuru Camp△ 2 – 10 – Dispatches from the Geofront

The OP to Yuru Camp’s second season is a vast improvement over the first, but there was one thing that always bugged me: a Nissan MPV was featured instead of Toba-sensei’s adorable Suzuki Hustler. Turns out the car in the OP is Toba-sensei’s sister’s van, a first-gen Nissan Lafesta.

With that mystery solved, there’s immediately a new one when Toba-sensei picks up Nadeshiko in the morning: What’s with the bags under her eyes? This is solved before the OP: she was simply too excited for their trip and couldn’t sleep a wink. So she sleeps in the van. The Whole. Damn. Time.

Rin, who set off hours earlier, is already checking out Cape Ose, Izu’s “geospots”, unique geological features along the way, visits to all of which she and the others hope to collect like Pokémon. She encounters some very hungry fish, a giant shrimp, and a thrillingly windy mountain road.

The van gang catches a glimpse of the fist-like mountain Jouyama, then stops at an ice cream spot—an established Outclub tradition—to sample Izu’s local specialty: raw wasabi ice cream. Then take a ride on the Kawazu Nanadaru Loop Bridge.

Rin’s wanderings take her to the Ryugukutsu Cave, which has a skylight due to erosion and for me called to mind the Hidden Beach in western Mexico. From there, she arrives in Shimoda, rests her road-weary dogs in a hot spring foot bath, and admires the torii by the water.

The van gang is delayed by choking traffic caused by the cherry blossom festival in Kawazu, home of some of the earliest-blooming sakura. Aoi’s sister Akari gets out to use the restroom but comes back with local treats. Eventually they meet up with Rin in a Shimoda parking lot, and a panicked Nadeshiko asks her where they are and what day it is, having been throughly messed with by Aoi and Akari, the “Lying Sisters.”

After a lunch of fried alfonsino burgers with Camembert cheese and sweet-and-spicy sauce (goddamn that sounds good), the van gang and Rin form a two-vehicle convoy to the grocery store where Nadeshiko stocks up on more alfonsino for the first night’s dinner.

It is here where we learn that Chiaki, Ena, and Rin are responsible for dinner on the second night. Not to be upstaged by Nadeshiko, Chiaki had convened with the other two back at school before the trip Gendo Ikari-style to organize Operation Shrimp.

The gist is, they’ll make Toba-sensei give up drinking and use her booze money to buy some of the spiny lobster Shimoda is known for. Ena dispenses with the subterfuge and simply requests Toba-sensei buy some spiny lobsters, and she does.

The convoy continues on to Cape Tsumeki, where Toba-sensei learns that despite the city saying they could camp along the coast in the winter, the landowner no longer allows it as of a few years ago. It’s a setback, but it doesn’t stop the gang from visiting a lighthouse and checking out the rad columnar jointing at Tawaraiso Beach.

Ena, proving to be the X-factor of the group, suggests they contact the Iidas, who saved them at Lake Yamanaka. Sure enough, they know someone who owns a campground and has arranged a place for them. It’s a 43km detour that throws some of the later parts of their itinerary out of whack, but Rin puts them back in whack with her Mad Map Skillz.

Their updated route sends them to explore the next geospot, Hosono Plateau, before continuing to the campground in Nishiizu. There’s a mini mountain peak to climb, and Akari challenges Nadeshiko to a race in which Chiaki unwisely decides to participate. Despite having built up strength in her legs from her liquor store job, Rin, Ena, and Aoi find her planking on the steps nowhere near the top.

This episode feels worlds away from where the previous one ended, with Rin and her grandfather on a magical early morning ride. But there’s a different kind of magic at work here, one of overflowing excitement and anticipation as we dart breathlessly from spot to spot with the seven travelers, who divide mingle in fascinating new ways. As always, the journey to the campsite, with all its sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, proves just as meaningful as the destination.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 06 – Spitting in the Wind

After a comprehensive layout of the order of battle on both sides, the flatland goblins, giants, and mountain goblins advance on the three sides of the first unit, led by Deusolbert, Fanatio, and Eldrie, respectively. Eldrie falls victim to his inexperience and lets the goblins get too close, and their smoke bombs turn his flank into confusing chaos.

But Sir Deusolbert has a big ol’ quiver of giant arrows, each one of which is capable of blasting away dozens of foes in an instant. It’s impressive firepower…but there’s a limit to it, and when he runs out of arrows, he’s badly exposed and must rely on his men to protect him by essentially throwing their lives away—lives the Human forces cannot afford to lose.

Fanatio also looks poised to make quick work of the charging giants, until their chief starts to glitch and enters a kind of savage berserk mode that catches Fanatio off balance. Fortunately, her loyal lieutenant Dakira steps in and blocks the giant’s attack. Unfortunately, Dakira dies of her injuries, and Fanatio uses up a lot of time and energy eliminating the chief.

The episode ends with the front lines just barely holding together after just the first wave of Dark Territory forces, with Eldrie’s unit in particularly bad way. And that wave is nothing but cannon fodder; it felt like the knights were throwing their best weapons at this enemy without much thought to preserving some of that power for the tougher waves.

Then again, they don’t have a choice. Their regular soldiers are under-trained and untested, and even one of the younger Integrity Knights demonstrates he has no integrity by fleeing the battle to hide in a storage shed. The battle has barely begun, and the forces of the Human Empire have already taken a serious hit in manpower, energy, and morale.

Alice glides over all of this, holding her powder for the next waves to come, and summons a massive ball of…something. Destructive energy, I guess? Hopefully she can slow the enemy’s advance at least somewhat to allow the units to regroup, but it still feels like the Humans are going to need a lot more help, either from Kirito finally waking up (or at least instinctively contributing somehow) or the timely arrival of Asuna.

Fate/Extra Last Encore – 12 – Doing What You Can

Shortly after Hakuno and Saber are expelled from the Seventh Level, Twice Pieceman paying Leo a visit from the Angelica Cage in an apparent flashback. Their unaligned positions are laid bare: Twice believes there is nothing left of humanity but its past; Leo still believes he can restore it if only he has the grail. As a Harwey, Leo has long been groomed to be the ultimate leader, but while he can “control” humanity, but he can no longer save them, or even live among them.

Kishinami Hakuno may not even be a real human, but he still wants save them and continue to live as one. The previous act’s ending suggested he and Saber had a long climb ahead of him, but while FELE faithfully replicated the old-school video game cruelty of having to start back at the beginning, Hakuno had in his pocket the bookmark of hope Alice gave him, which serves as a handheld save point.

Once he and Saber finish falling, he uses the bookmark like a phone flashlight to lead them through Limbo, where they first met. Rin gives a report; she’s still on the Seventh Floor just barely staying alive against Leo and Gawain as SE.RA.PH begins to crumble around them. Leo doesn’t have a concrete plan for defeating Leo, but a simple realigning of his thinking will serve him immensely in Round Two.

In Round One, he and Saber were separated, having to fight their counterparts one-on-one and being so overwhelmed they had no time to regroup. This time, they’ll arrive side-by-side and fight as one unit. Neither Hakuno nor Leo believe a mass of anger and hatred—much of it collected from those who failed to defeat Leo—will ever be sufficient. As such, when Hakuno and Saber arrive to spell an exhausted Rin, Leo is more bemused than anything else; the Dead Face has a death wish.

But Hakuno doesn’t wish do die, nor is he not dying because he’s pursuing a concrete goal. He wants to keep living so he can find a goal. The warmth of Saber helps him to focus just the anger within him, not the hatred. She believes she can break Gawain’s Excalibur, and only needs Hakuno’s best for an instant to do so.

It’s the ideology of hoping the best they can do will suffice against Leo’s bored arrogance and certitude. Indeed, Gawain and Excalibur put on a bigger, brighter show than the tiny red glowing dot that is the Dead Face-turbocharged Saber, while Hakuno’s face starts to crack and bleed like he could come apart at any moment.

But again, a moment is all Saber needs, and it’s what she gets, smiling when the light comes, knowing she’s got it. She shatters Excalibur Galatine in two and then activates her Golden Theater for One Final Play, Fax Caelistis; the Closing Rose that Fames Stars.

Excalibur is broken. Gawain is disarmed. Leo concedes defeat, and the battle is over without him dying, as is the rule of the Holy Grail War…though his still-smug look still amusingly pisses Rin off.

Leo rings the bell signalling Hakuno’s victory, and the floating chunk of rock upon which they stand begins to rise, taking them up to Angelica Cage AKA the Tree of Possibilities (without a bath, to Saber’s disappointment). Rin is upset that Leo still looks like he won something even though he just lost…but maybe he did win something by losing.

Unlike Pieceman, Leo hasn’t given up on humanity, only he lacked the ability to save it. By conceding to someone who can, a part of his goal could yet be achieved. The best Hakuno could do was enough to get to Pieceman. Will it be enough to defeat him? And barring defeat or victory, can humanity be saved another way before SE.RA.PH perishes?

Kokkoku – 08

Sagawa completes his merging with a Specter while able to maintain his own will. I just wish his various “experiments” he performs had a bit more bite. Now he’s essentially just a Hulk-like OP monster man, and he doesn’t even seem to take much if any joy out of his success. As he says, he’s a cautious man and always has been, but in this case a cautious villain is a dull villain.

Killing off his remaining followers didn’t really do much for me, since I never knew them anyway. It’s Sagawa’s apparent disinterest in quickly dispatching the Yukawas, Majima and Sako that confuses me.

More than once they butt right up against him, and he doesn’t put a lot of effort into taking them out, giving them ample chances to escape him, and even leaving Tubasa with them.

At this point in the story it feels like things have stalled, which shouldn’t be the case considering how the villain has powered up and become even more lethal. But it feels stalled because Sugawa is such a drab, boring dude who has slowed to a crawl right before the finish line.

It’s even more concerning that this is the eighth of what I presume to be 11-13 episodes. If things are this slow now, and the only remaining baddies remain as dull as they are, how in the heck are they going to fill the time?

Perhaps the family drama that results if Gramps really is expelled from Stasis, and Takafumi continues to oppose the rest of the family’s desire to be rid of Stasis, will inject some energy into the proceedings. All I know is the increased focus on the bad guys this week didn’t do the show any favors.