Picking up where I left, I will be writing the reviews of shows from the past year that I didn’t have a chance to talk about. Last year had some strong contestants not only for great shows of the year but also shows that got into my favorites of all time. Bear in mind that these reviews will not only cover the good shows, there were also some stinkers that I would like to tear apart and special recommendations for overlooked Anime. With this out of the way, let’s grab our camping gear and explore the world of Yuru Camp △.
About the Show
Yuru Camp △ (ゆるキャン△) is an adaptation of an ongoing manga. The show premiered during the 2018 Winter season and consisted of twelve episodes and 3 specials released afterwards. A second season, movie and spin-off short Anime were announced on December 2018.
Shima Rin is a girl who likes to camp alone, a niche activity even among other campers. But in one of her escapades, she will encounter Kamigahara Nadeshiko, an energetic but clumsy girl who will take an interesting in camping after her fateful meeting with Shima Rin. Nadeshiko joins the Outdoor Activities Club where she meets meets Oogaki Chiaki and Inuyama Aoi, as well as Saitou Eina, Rin’s friend. The girls begin to share their experiences about outdoor activities, visiting unique places and enjoying the quiet life in the wilderness.
Yuru Camp △ hits all the notes of things I like on Slice of Life shows: Charismatic set of characters, discovering new stuff I didn’t know existed, and great music and visuals. You cannot underestimate the raw appeal this show has since its first episode. You get hooked immediately with Shima Rin and her camping adventures and then you are introduced to the eyes of this world, Nadeshiko from which will learn all the quirks involved from setting a tent to finding the best spot to spend the night outside. The show works in both ways, as an introduction to the audience who is unaware of these activities and to those who already have taken a liking in the outdoors.
One thing that sets Yuru Camp △ apart from other Cute Girls Doing Cute Things shows is that it doesn’t begin with the same ‘club’ formula. On other shows, when the new and upcoming character enters the scene is roped into an activity she doesn’t know about but it’s fascinated by the other club members, and want to engage in the same club activity. Now, it’s true that Nadeshiko does enter a club but the show is not about that, Yuru Camp △ goes beyond that by showing the differences between camping solo and with a group. Shima Rin and Saitou are both outsiders to the club but still maintain a friendly relationship based on their enjoyment of going outdoors. This feel more like a prequel of sorts, where it is until the very end of the season you get all the characters together. Another aspect that is remarkable is that the club activities are not restricted to the young population. The majority of club-centric shows are a reminiscence of things you could only do while in high school (Theater Club, Quiz Club, Light Music Club, etc.) but with this, anybody can engage and learn from the show useful information.
The stronghold of the show are its characters. Every single one of them are given time to shine, and they stand out on their own without depending much on their tropes. Shima Rin is the most adventurous one, someone who enjoys their time alone but who is not loner. Far from being an expert of camping, she is also learns to open up to others and the experience to camp together. Nadeshiko is the energetic, clumsy but willing to learn girl. Sometimes bumbling but never being a pain to others, she is the eyes of the audience as we learn together the essentials of camping. The dynamic duo of Aoi and Chiaki, friends since childhood who want to delight in the simple action of going outside. The banter between them is on point and believable, you feel like they’ve known each other for so long. And let’s not forget Saitou, a kind-hearted, mischievous girl who is always trying to find the next fun thing, always there for Rin but who also befriends the other girls. The ensemble is what maintains the story together by focusing on different stories that involve sometimes only Rin, or Rin and Nadeshiko or Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko. If we had to do the same formula of other shows, it will probably get repetitive and boring real fast.
What holds the story and characters are the score and scenography. A show whose whole purpose is to display the camping lifestyle cannot afford to cheap out on its art direction. Yuru Camp △ does a magnificent job of presenting the grandiose scenery from all their locations where the story is located. From the breath-taking images of Mount Fuji to the down-to-earth dinner on the outskirt of the city, the attention to detail is a delight to the visual sense. Every frame a screenshot worthy scene. Thus, a soundtrack fitting of those images is what close the deal with my preference to this show. Since the first episode, when you hear that vibrant opening (which it may or may not be inspired by a 70s hit song) you already engaged with the adventures that lie in front of you. The soundtrack has the power to transport you to a winter scene in the woods or lake covered by golden leaves. Even now when I hear those tracks, I visualize those terrains, and feeling the cold winds that surround the area.
It’s difficult to find something to complain about Yuru Camp △, if I had to pick one is that the show sometimes abuse of the slideshow transition. Static images one after the other to move to the next scene and they are probably parts of the story the audience could find interesting. I know it’s difficult already to ‘translate’ from manga to anime but the show could use less of those transitions. This was a former complain, now that we know there’s a second season on the horizon, but everything happened in a small frame of time. The whole show is contained in a two-month framework and that’s too little. I wanted it more, to flesh out more the characters of Aoi and Chiaki, Rin going to other places and maybe interacting with the person who showed her everything about camping. Hopefully the new season or the movie will accomplish that.
At this point, it would be difficult for you to have not encounter Yuru Camp △ or something related. It was one of the most popular shows of the previous year, still generating buzz among Anime fans and even camping aficionados. But if you haven’t, or you were hesitant, go ahead and watch it. If you were a fan of K-ON!, Bakuon!!, Yama no Susume or just enjoy CGDCT, you will not be disappointed. Yuru Camp △ is available where Anime is.