The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

World of Warcraft: Through the Dark Portal to Outland

If you closed your eyes, you won’t gaze into sadness.
If you forget the feeling of warmth, you won’t feel pain.

–Houko Kuwashima, Shinkai no Kodoku

My last World of Warcraft adventure saw me traverse the more scenic places on Azeroth, and with most of Azeroth now visited, I set my sights on the next world: Outland, the shattered remains of a planet known as Draenor. After travelling to the Blasted Lands, I spoke with Relthorn Netherwane for the Through the Dark Portal quest and sought out Commander Duron on the other end. Upon emerging from the portal, I gazed upon an alien sky, littered with planetary fragments, aglow with a nebulae and adorned with two moons. I thus set off for Honour Hold with the goal of picking up a flying mount; the distances in Outland are considerably larger than those of Azeroth owing to the fact that this area had been designed for flying mounts. With my flying mount purchased, I began exploring the desolate ruins that was Outland – this region was introduced with the Burning Crusade expansion in 2007, the first of the World of Warcraft Expansions. When I had passed through the Dark Portal for the first time, it had been a quiet September evening just a ways into my final year of secondary school. My friends had kitted my mage out at the level cap, allowing me to explore the private server to my heart’s content, and having tread through most of Azeroth, I was ready to check out the other region available in Burning Crusade. The sheer scale of the Hellfire Peninsula was awe-inspiring and a little intimidating – although I was fully levelled, the unusual sights and sounds made the area a sight to behold. The larger size of the area made travel a slow process, and although the group of us did do a dungeon here, the fact that it was our final year of secondary school meant that we were spending increasingly less time in World of Warcraft; much of Outland thus remained unexplored.

After passing the standardised provincial exams and securing our admissions to our program of choice, my friends decided re-open the private World of Warcraft server for the summer break before university was set to begin. During this time, I explored regions of Outland briefly, using a flying mount to reach areas much more quickly than had been previously possible. By the summer’s end, my friend decided to shut down the private server and set his sights on creating a private EVE Online server. I’d acquired a decent number of screenshots from my experiences and had most of the spots in Outland discovered. While I’d wished to have seen Outland in more detail, World of Warcraft faded from my mind. Earlier last summer, having recreated my own private server, the chance to explore Outland again had returned. This time around, I was able to check out Outland’s more iconic locations in Zangarmarsh, Nagrand, Terokkar Forest and Netherstore more carefully. It became apparent that beyond the desolation of the aptly-named Hellfire Peninsula, Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, the remainder of Outland is still somewhat hospitable. Terokkar Forest retains dense vegetation, Zangarmarsh is still teeming with life, with its striking mushrooms towering above the ground, and Nagrand’s peaceful rolling grasslands belie the fact that Outland is the sundered remains of a planet. Being a region of great beauty, it became clear that Outland, designed to accommodate flying mounts and larger player counts, was meant to be the next stop for players seeking to reach the level cap. The vastness of the region was thus noticeable on a private server; without other players around, things feel distinctly lonely.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first time I set foot here at the Stair of Destiny, on the edge of Hellfire Peninsula, would’ve been back during my final year of secondary school. It was early in September, and after my friend had maxed out everyone in our party so we could explore dungeons, I decided to capitalise on my newfound powers to go exploring in Outland. Unlike the verdant forests and welcoming plains of the areas I spent most of my time in, Hellfire Peninsula was a very hostile and uninviting environment. The evening I had finally set foot through the Dark Portal, I remember heading straight for Honour Hold to discover the first flight path.

  • On the same evening, I had begun hunting for music from Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny – at the time, I’d just begun watching anime, and having found Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water, I had been curious to check out other songs from this series. I ended up finding Fields of Hope, Quiet Night (and the CE 73 remix), Emotion, Vestige and Meteor, as well as Shinkai no Kodoku. There had been a haunting quality about what I would later learn was Stellar’s character song. I’ve since associated the song with this part of World of Warcraft for little reason beyond having listened to it while exploring Hellfire Peninsula.

  • On my return visit last August, after I reached Honour Hold, I immediately picked up the artisan riding skill and a swift Gryphon mount to explore Outland more easily. Even with a flying mount, Outland is vast, and it took some time for me to discover all of the spots in the Hellfire Peninsula area. Hellfire Peninsula was designed for level sixty players looking to gear up for tougher challenges, and so, the monsters here will take more than one spell to defeat. Here, I stand on a field of Draenai bones – according to the lore, Draenor was once home of the orcs, and in their thirst for conquest, they slaughtered Draenai in droves.

  • When Burning Crusade first released, hordes of excited players passed through the Dark Portal as I did, spawning to Hellfire Peninsula and causing unexpected issues on the servers. Besides server loads, latency and connectivity problems, extremely high player counts meant that monsters were not respawning quickly enough for quests, creating frustration for the players that did manage to connect. A few days after launch, as players began moving into other areas in Outland, this issue resolved itself, but Blizzard would address this in Wrath of the Lich King by creating two different starting areas to manage player loads better.

  • Since I was already at the level cap, there was no real reason to take on too many quests in Outland, but for Hellfire Peninsula, I decided to go exploring in more detail than I had previously – after accepting a variety of quests from Honour Hold, I spent a few evenings blasting low level enemies and explored more of Hellfire Peninsula than I had during my original run more than a decade ago. Once I had most of Hellfire Peninsula discovered, I set World of Warcraft aside to focus more on The Division 2, and returned only recently to finish discovering regions in Outland. Of late, finding a balance between all of my games has been a bit of a challenge.

  • This is admittedly why I’ve not written this post sooner: my original goal had actually been to wrap up my exploration of Outland last September and write about the experience in October, before turning my attention towards recreating my Blood Elf warlock and exploring Northerend. A pair of anime to review episodically, in conjunction with The Division 2‘s manhunt seasons and Halo: MCC releases meant I was up to my eyeballs in stuff, and World of Warcraft thus fell to the back of my mind. Here, I set foot in Zangarmarsh – I’d never really explored this area in detail previously, having only passed through on the way to Nagrand and its peaceful glass fields.

  • Zangarmarsh is usually the second place that players visit after clearing Hellfire Peninsula, and is counted as one of the coolest-looking places in World of Warcraft. While I may have skipped over this area earlier, this time around, I had the time to take a look-see. The area is every bit as exotic as people describe: underneath the deep blue skies and wetlands, vast mushrooms whose cap exudes a light orange glow. The effect is very pleasant and pleasing to behold.

  • While I do have access to by own flying mount, I appreciate the existence of flight paths, which allow players without artisan or expert riding to get around easily; because of the greater distances between everything, flight times are longer, and correspondingly, it costs a bit more to fly. However, since Outland was geared for level sixty players to begin upgrading their gear, even common gear sells for a decent price, and in no time at all, players will begin finding the gear they seek. The uncommons in Outland were oftentimes more powerful than most rares, and offered similar attributes as epics, similarly to how Warlords of New York‘s common level 31 items were more powerful than gear score 515 items.

  • After checking out most of Zangarmarsh, I moved onwards to Nagrand, the only place in Outland with green grass and blue skies. Although the most normal-looking of the regions in Outland, even here, the effects of the Shattering are visible. The unusual-looking nebulae is still visible during the day, and floating islands dot the area. Of all the areas in Outland, Nagrand looked the emptiest, and initially, I wondered if my copy of the resource database was missing assets: it took me a full hour to try and find the flight master, and there didn’t seem to be any major settlements.

  • As it turns out, I simply hadn’t been looking hard enough, and sure enough, I was able to locate the flight master here in Nagrand near the town of Halaa. This area is the home of the original orcs, and lore states that the area most resembles Draenor pre-Shattering. This is one of the few places in Outland where the realm time affects the time of day in-game; during the afternoon, the skies are of a bright blue colour, while during evenings and mornings, the sky takes on a purple hue. Because my realm time is always my system time, I’ve never actually seen Azeroth or any World of Warcraft location by nightfall.

  • I’ve long wondered if sunrise and sunset times affect this; I should make an effort to test this out ahead of the Vernal Equinox, when the length of the night is still longer than that of the day. Of course, I could always change my system clock manually if I wish to explore Azeroth by nightfall, and this might be worthwhile as a future post. Back in the present, I pass through a seemingly empty village. I did end up finding some monsters to fight, and after exploring most of Nagrand, I decided to head on over to Terokkar Forest.

  • Terrokar Forest is a region of dense forest surrounding Shattrath City, a neutral sanctuary area similar to the Stair of Destiny. There are flight hubs, inns and vendors here for both Alliance and Horde factions alike. After locating the flight master, I set about exploring Terrokar forest: the crystal pines, as they are called in-game, emit a faint light from their cones that creates a mystical feel about the area, and unlike the harder-hit areas of Outland, Terrokar forest still feels very much alive.

  • I was surprised to find Human assets reused here in Terrokar forest: the town hall here is the same one used in human settlements on Azeroth. While seeing human town halls in Outland does feel a little out of place, it does make sense that if humans have made their home in some part of Outland, they’d bring their architecture with them. Asset recycling is not that uncommon of a practise in software development, saving on work time, and it’s a bonus that in games, lore can be adapted to work with development processes, as well.

  • After I uncovered most of the places in Terrokar Forest, the next location on my list was the Blade’s Edge Mountains. This intimidating-looking area is characterised by knife-like rock formations jutting out of the mountains, separating accessible areas. I’d never actually visited before, even during my old private server days, and so, upon entering the region from Zangarmarsh, I was quite surprised to see a forest by twilight: the map had suggested the entire thing would be a desert-like region.

  • This was not the case, and I spent some time exploring this side of the Blade’s Edge Mountains: on my way in from Zangarmarsh, I’d accepted a quest from one of the quest givers, which required I talk to someone at an outpost in the Blade’s Edge Mountains. Previously, when I played World of Warcraft, my preferred style of play was to only go visit a new area if I’d acquired a quest that required me to travel there. From an experience perspective, this makes the most sense, and I would eventually bring this style over with me into Skyrim. In games like The Division, on the other hand, natural progression and smaller maps would see me explore every corner of the game world.

  • After taking to the skies, I soon found that a large portion of the Blade’s Edge Mountains were indeed barren desert as I’d imagined. While the jagged, menacing-looking rocky formations appear as though they would impale anyone who fell off their mount, limitations in World of Warcraft‘s game engine means that falling onto these rocks do not result in any damage: instead, it is falling damage that would cause the most harm to a player. Here, I fly over an encampment near Bloodspire Hold en route to the Netherstorm.

  • After reaching Death’s Door, I saw an Alliance outpost here and dropped in to discover the flight path before moving on. For most players of the time, the Blade’s Edge Mountains would not have been fully accessible until they’d acquired artisan riding: there are some areas that have no land paths reaching them. In my case, this isn’t a problem, but I’ve read that particularly determined players can reach these areas by jumping off Outland’s edge, which, depending on where one dies, the game will register them as being near these inaccessible areas.

  • Netherstorm was the last region in Outland I was interested in checking out: it is a perilous region of swirling energy, barren rock and dark skies, but the area’s most distinct features are the vast eco-domes that were constructed here. These eco-domes resemble vast conservatories, and their interiors possess verdant vegetation and different animals. Players can simply walk through the barriers at any time, which are maintained by devices known as Manaforges. Here, a Manaforge can be seen drawing in Nether from the nearby regions and using it to maintain the domes.

  • I’ve opted not to explore Shadowmoon Valley, a miserable and desolate wasteland seething with greenish Fel energy. While important from a lore perspective, it wasn’t too photogenic. At the time of writing, I have more or less discovered most of the major areas in Outland; I enjoyed some areas more than others, but on the whole, this was a fun experience. For most players, Outland would’ve become familiar as they progressed from level 60 to 70, and eventually reached a point where they had a satisfactory setup for partying up and dealing with the different instances and raids that Outland had to offer.

  • For me, Burning Crusade brought the Blood Elves to the table; I had a great deal of fun levelling up a Blood Elf warlock back in the day, and in particular, remember a challenging quest that gave me a rare item while I’d been at level 20. While World of Warcraft: Starter Edition meant completing this quest wasn’t going to happen if I’d tried it on my own, having my own server means I’ll be able to really explore the lore in the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands. This is going to be my next World of Warcraft post: I can’t promise a specific date as to when I’ll get here, but I’ll definitely try to be more expedient about it than I had been with Outland. With this World of Warcraft reminiscence post in the books, regular programming will resume this week, as I write about the third episode of Yuru Camp△ 2 and do an after-three discussion for Non Non Biyori Nonstop.

With no time constraints this time around, I’ve now visited a majority of the places in Outland. From the floating islands in Nagrand and the town built into the mushrooms of Zangarmarsh, to the spiny formations of Blade’s Edge Mountains and the eco-domes of the Netherstorm, I found myself impressed at how much effort and detail went into World of Warcraft‘s first expansion. Each region in Outland was distinct and noteworthy in some way, and for players of the time, there would’ve been no shortage of things to do as one pushed towards level seventy. The setup World of Warcraft used for its expansions has since been used in other cases: The Division 2 follows the same model, allowing players who’ve purchased the expansion to experience new content, acquire superior gear and explore new areas. Having gone through Warlords of New York, I imagine Burning Crusade would’ve offered World of Warcraft players a similar path, in which exploration would allow them to become increasingly powerful and learned with the new lore that Burning Crusade introduced. Burning Crusade also introduced the Blood Elves, as well as their starting areas (Eversong Woods and Ghostlands): before I set foot on Northerend, I do wish to revisit what is probably one of my favourite starting areas in World of Warcraft and reacquaint myself with playing the warlock class, which specialises in affliction and DPS magic. There is a story behind me spinning up a second character on the private server, and I’ll share that in between the host of anime-related posts I’ve got planned out, once I’ve had a chance to get my warlock started.

The Earth Science Club’s Real Life Adventures in Kawagoe and Fujimino, Saitama: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Koisuru Asteroid Part I

“What master do I serve? What am I supposed to say, Jesus?”
“You’re from Earth?”
“No, I’m not from Earth, I’m from Missouri.”
“Yeah, that’s on Earth, dipshit! What are you hassling on us for?”

–Peter Quill and Tony Stark, Avengers: Infinity War

Because Koisuru Asteroid has an emphasis on astronomy, experiencing the activities that Mira and Ao do in real-life is as simple as looking up at the night sky. With the naked eye, one can appreciate the aurora, eclipses and meteor showers. Having a pair of binocular opens one up to dimmer stars in a constellation, star clusters and some of the brighter nebulae, as well as reveal details about the moon. Finally folks with telescopes can really begin exploring the heavens in detail: the Jovian moons become visible, along with Saturn’s rings, dim nebulae, galaxies and double stars. Amateur astronomy is a flexible hobby, and regardless of where one is in the world or what equipment one has available to them, there is always wonder to be had in looking into the skies at celestial objects, whose light has travelled no small distance to reach our eyes. This aspect of Koisuru Asteroid can be conducted from the comfort of one’s own backyard for most viewers – whether one is in Japan or Canada, the northern skies share similar constellations and features. However, there is an aspect of Koisuru Asteroid one cannot so readily experience just from walking the same paths and enjoying the same events as the Earth Sciences Club do. While Mira and Ao look upwards into the same constellations that Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer describe, the former’s everyday experiences with the Earth Sciences Club extend well behind setting up a telescope and consulting star charts as a part of their club activities. Thus, to fully experience Koisuru Asteroid as Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage and Mari do, one would need to put some boots on the ground in Kawagoe, Saitama. Ordinarily, such an excursion is only a plane ticket away – armed with little more than a smartphone and pocket full of Yen, one can trod the same ground and take in the same sights that Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage and Mari enjoy as they each strive towards their own goals. With its old town host to a collection of iconic buildings, including the Toki no Kane Bell Tower, Confectionary Row with its sweets shops and Kurazukuri Street’s warehouses, the town of Kawagoe is located some thirty kilometres northwest of Tokyo and has a population of around three hundred and fifty thousand. Much of Koisuru Asteroid is set in Kawagoe, and while my Oculus Quest powered tour of Kawagoe means that it’s a few flicks of the wrist to get here, once the global health crisis is well in hand, travellers may begin considering what a real trip might look like, and the first thing to do is consider ground options for reaching what is affectionately referred to as Little Edo. For this discussion, I will assume that the traveller is landing at Narita International Airport. There are several ways of getting here from Narita, with the best option being to either board an express bus for Kawagoe Station, or use trains. With the latter, one first takes the Keisei Main Line’s Rapid Express train from Terminal 2-3’s station to Nippori Station at the heart of Tokyo, which will take around forty minutes (trains run hourly). Here, one transfers to the Keihin-Tōhoku/Negishi line, which takes them to Akabane Station in fifteen minutes. Finally, Akabane to Kawagoe Station, along the Saikyō/Kawagoe line, is a fifty minute journey.

  • A small bridge over the Shingashi River on the western edge of Kawagoe kicks off this post. This spot is only seen during the opening, as the Earth Science Club never comes here during the course of their adventures. Like the location hunt for Yuru Camp△‘s first season, I’ve elected to do this post in two parts to ensure the length isn’t excessive: for this first half, I’m going to purely to focus on locations in Kawagoe itself, and the second half will showcase places in Ibaraki, Tokyo and the nearby spa the Earth Sciences Club visits towards the end of the second episode. All images for the real-world locations in this post and the second half are sourced from Google Street View and Google Places: there isn’t any place in my location hunts that cannot be visited in the comfort of one’s own home, and I will be providing links to most places for ease-of-access.

  • Koisuru Asteroid portrays Raku Raku Bakery as a mere burger joint that Mira and the others stop at to think of a good activity for the Earth Sciences Club. In real life, Raku Raku Bakery sells freshly-baked goods and Japanese kashi-pan using wheat from Hokkaido; their breads are most similar to the sorts of bread that Hong Kong-style bakeries sell, featuring sweet bean paste and even curry mixed into the dough, yielding a flavourful bread. The soft, chewy bread that is popular in Japan is equally as popular in Hong Kong, and my favourite sandwiches have always been made using thick-cut bread with a hint of mango in it.

  • The street that Mai and Mikage walk along is adjacent to Café Torocco, a café that specialises in sweet potato dishes: for over two and a half centuries, Kawagoe has been a key sweet potato producer, and Café Torocco offers a variety of sweet potato dishes on their menu. Folks can sit down to a sweet potato cake for 500 yen, or spurge on a sweet potato kaiseki for 1900 Yen. The restaurant is located adjacent to Yamawa Pottery, and although the fledgling Earth Sciences Club never visit the café or partake in any sweet potato related foods on Ao and Mira’s quest to find an asteroid, seeing these sights reproduced faithfully does indicate that Koisuru Asteroid was serious about getting the details right.

  • This area of Kawagoe is known as Kashiya Yokocho (“Confectionary Row”) owing to the high concentration of sweets and candy stores. The area’s history is an interesting one – Tozaemon Suzuki opened a shop in the area to provide candies in 1796, inspiring other shopkeepers to open their own businesses, as well. The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 would help cement Kashiya Yokocho‘s reputation as a candy-selling district: the earthquake destroyed other candy suppliers, leaving Kashiya Yokocho to be the main provider of candies for a time, and today, these stories continue to manufacture candies using traditional methods. Together with the stone roads and architecture, Kashiya Yokocho is a well-known point of interest.

  • Google Street View is not so extensive as to have coverage of the entire pathway located along the shores of the Iruma River. I ended up approximating the site using satellite imagery and got as close as I could to what could be a candidate site. Of course, differences are apparent in the spot I found – mountains are not visible (the location in Koisuru Asteroid suggests that the Earth Sciences Club is holding their barbeque on the eastern banks of the river, since the mountains are westward), and there’s a truss bridge for a rail line rather than a beam bridge seen in the anime. I imagine that Yuki would’ve chosen somewhere close to the Kasumigaseki East Green Space or Kawagoe Park, but lacking the Street View coverage, this is about as close as I can get.

  • On a quiet Sunday afternoon, some time after Aoi and Mira pass their do-over exams (which resulted from a comedic bit of error-making), they meet up in front of Honkawagoe Station. Ao can be seen sitting on one of the benches, and across the way is a residential area. Observant readers will note that the Google Street View images I have appear to have a higher field-of-view (FOV) than their anime counterparts. The observable world in a single frame from Google Street View is larger than that of what Koisuru Asteroid presents, feeling more zoomed-out in comparison.

  • The contrasts simultaneously result from the nature of the cameras that Google uses, as well as the studio’s desire to keep the camera focused on the subjects (i.e. the characters) – a high FOV in anime is usually done for establishing shots or B-roll type materials. For moments such as when Mira finally gets to Honkawagoe Station, the FOV chosen is appropriate, focusing on the characters. However, the Lawson on the loop by Honkawagoe Station can be seen, along with the stairwells on the side of the building here.

  • Honkawagoe Station services the Seibu Shinjuku Line; as the terminus, it is located around 47.5 kilometres from Seibu-Shinuku Station in Tokyo, and has three tracks at the ground level. Honkawagoe Station opened in 1895 as Kawagoe Station, but was renamed in 1940 after the Japanese Government Railways opened Kawagoe Station. The station averages around 48290 passengers per day as of 2013, and in 2016, underwent expansion to make it easier for passengers to transfer to Kawagoe Station.

  • After Mira spots Moe and Mai by an ice cream stand in front of the Prince Hotel, curiosity kicks in, prompting her to ditch her original plans of going shopping for a bit of Tom Clancy-style foot surveillance. The Prince Hotel is conveniently located, being built adjacent to Honkawagoe Station, and is only a short walk from Kawagoe’s attractions: Confectionary Row and the Toki no Kane bell tower are under a quarter-hour walk from Honkawagone Station. Folks visiting Kawagoe would find this to be a reasonable option for accommodations: the average rate per night is 120 CAD, although there are better-priced accommodations nearby that are only slightly further from the heart of Kawagoe.

  • The convenience store franchise Lawson is ubiquitous in Japan, and is headquartered in Tokyo. However, it has its origins in Ohio, when James Lawson started a store to sell milk in 1939. By 1959, Consolidated Foods bought his store out, and in 1974, they signed an agreement with Japanese company Daiei Inc., opening their first store in Osaka in 1975. Daiei Lawson Co. Ltd. became Lawson Japan, and today, they operate some 11384 locations across the country, being the third-largest convenience store chain after 7-Eleven and Family Mart. One of the joys about location hunts is apparent here: common sights, such as convenience stores, prompts investigation, which often yields fascinating bits about something.

  • A kilometre north of Honkawagoe Station is Kurazukuri no Machinami (蔵造りの町並み, the Warehouse District), one of the most famous sights in the whole of Kawagoe. The area’s history dates back to the Edo period, when trade resulted in merchants requiring facilities to store their wares for easy access. However, after a massive fire that leveled a third of Kawagoe in 1893 owing to the dominance of wooden materials in period Japanese architecture, a novel construction style, kurazukuri, was devised to prevent the warehouses (and their contents) from going up in smoke.

  • Kurazukuri utilises a special kind of plaster in their roofs and layering the walls with clay, the resulting buildings proved to be much more resilient to fires. Their heavy, durable construction has meant that many kurazukuri warehouses have survived to this day, appearing much as they did after their construction. While the buildings have endured, their functions have changed over the years, and many of the buildings in Kurazukuri no Machinami are now museums, restaurants and even private homes.

  • While tailing Mai and Moe, Mira and Ao pass in front of a private residence. While the residence’s gates and window grilles in the anime resemble the real world counterpart’s, subtle differences between the two frames suggest that Koisuru Asteroid has taken a few creative liberties here. Most notable, an apartment building and power lines can be seen in the anime, whereas in the real world, this residence is located adjacent to a wooden building home to Iwata, a store that sells sweet potato products.

  • In Koisuru Asteroid, Kawagoe‘s Kurazukuri no Machinami ends up being a backdrop rather than a destination: Moe and Mai are not particularly interested in stopping here for sweet potatoes, and instead, after Mai photographs a flowerbed in full bloom, the pair head off down a side street leading away from the Warehouse District. The timing of this scene suggested that the location was actually down the side street, but using the Oculus Quest to canvas said side street, I wasn’t able to find any flowerbeds of this sort, so I concluded that this would’ve been the location Mai took her photograph at.

  • The building Mira and Ao pass by is Hinomoto Hapu, a luggage store known for selling reliable canvas bags and backpacks. They remind me of the now-closed Pipestone Travel store in my area – a few years ago, I came here to buy a small travel bag for my conference in Cancún. Because I was travelling alone, and didn’t need much in the way of carry-on, my requirements were for a bag that could hold a 9.7-inch tablet, plus all of my travel documents and had space for a water bottle. I ended up picking out a bag with RFID blocking and was slash-proof. This bag has been in service for several of my travels, accompanying me to Japan back in 2017.

  • Following the side street further will find visitors back in a more ordinary side of Kawagoe: private homes and businesses line this street, but there isn’t anything too historical or noteworthy about it. In real life, attempting to re-trace the path that Moe and Mai took during their treasure hunt based purely on what was seen in Koisuru Asteroid would be a difficult endeavour: while I’ve managed to locate everything in this post, it turns out that the district marker, which Mai had been looking for, is located in Fujimino the next town over.

  • The distance between Mai’s destination and the intersection in Kawagoe is some 6.4 kilometres as the mole digs, but accounting for road distances, is closer to 7 kilometres. This is about an hour and twenty minute’s walk – folks looking to reproduce the walk could simply walk the distance, since 7 kilometres isn’t terribly far to travel on foot, and taking the train (using the Tobu-Tojo line) would require almost an hour anyways: one would need to travel back to Honkawagoe Station and ride to Kamifukuoka Station in Fujimino.

  • Mai and Moe pass through a quiet residential area, with Mira and Ao tailing closely. An awning can be seen here both in the anime and real-world location, providing cover for one of the resident’s vehicles. This neighbourhood is located in the western edge of Fujimoto, and locating it was a matter of backtracking from the district marker. Owing to the ease of finding this spot, I feel duty-bound to remind readers that folks who do travel here to replicate Mai and Moe’s walk should be respectful of the residents here and not hassle them in any way.

  • This effect brings to mind The Dark Knight Rises, during the final climactic battle when Batman faces off against Bane for a second time. As they fight, Bane delivers a kick to Batman, which sends him from Wall Street in Manhattan all the way to Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. Real world locations are often mashed together in fiction to create familiar, but unique spots for the story at hand, and Koisuru Asteroid is no different. I imagine that using a real-world spot for locations is to allow background artists to create locations much more quickly: it is easier to draw inspiration from a photograph than come up with a spot anew.

  • Similarities between the houses seen in Koisuru Asteroid and real life are visible in this still, which occurs moments after Moe catches on to the fact that she and Mai had been tailed. During the course of their mini-adventure, Mira had been posting to Twitter and appending なう (Hepburn nau) to everything, indicating that her observations were being made in real-time. For English speakers, the meaning appears intuitive enough (feeling like a cute way of saying “now”), but it turns out that なう is simply a shorthand for denoting a present action. This particular trend is unique to Japanese SNS, and was also seen in Yuru Camp△ when Rin was detailing her travels to Nadeshiko during a trip to Kamiina.

  • It turns out that Mira’s live-Tweeting did not go unnoticed, and Moe soon busts them, causing Mira to wilt in shame. However, Moe’s irritation vanishes instantly when Mira wonders if the pair are on a date of sorts. Their conversation takes place on this peaceful side street, and the location is identified by the fence and hedge beside one of the houses: even though my angle is different, the similarities are indisputable.

  • Mai explains that her outing had been to see an enclave of sorts, and Moe ended up accompanying her. This still was found looking northwest, and past the row of houses on the street is the edge of town. Again, inspection of details between the anime and Street View shows the impressive extent of similarities: the house on the left has a window above its front door opened slightly, and Koisuru Asteroid reproduces the detail precisely.

  • Strictly speaking, an enclave is a geographical feature in which one territory or region is entirely surrounded by another. Mai’s explanation includes regions that are partially surrounded by other territories, but this is technically incorrect. Such mistakes in an anime usually result either from the author not having a full understanding of the material, or deliberately choosing to have their characters make a factual error to show that they’re still in the process of learning. I typically give the author the benefit of the doubt and suppose that it’s the latter, since watching (and writing about) anime is not a pissing match about who’s more knowledgeable about a given topic.

  • Moe and Ao manage to find another sign indicating where the district boarders are, and Mai celebrates with a group photo to commemorate their day together. On the topic of factual pissing contests, one wonders why I do location hunt posts when dedicated fans, both in and outside of Japan, have gotten to the finish line much sooner than myself. The answer to this question is simple: other location hunt folks often write posts with low-resolution images and may decline on disclosing locations for their own reasons. However, I’ve always found location hunts to be fascinating, as they often indicate the level of effort a studio has taken in adapting an anime: location hunts are therefore a fun way of conveying this for readers.

  • To ensure that my location hunt posts offer something different, I take the pains of researching locations as to provide readers with something beyond the comparison between anime and real life. This is why I structure my posts to also include a bit of a blurb about locations, and where possible, a link to the spot in Google Street View. I believe that information such as this should be shared rather than obfuscated, and I aim to provide a post that gives readers an outline for what a potential in-person visit to anime locations could look like.

  • After a day where Mikage and Mira visit a mineral show in Tokyo (I’ll detail that in the second part to this post), they swing by a small cake shop to unwind and discuss the day’s experiences. While Koisuru Asteroid presents this as being located by Kawagoe Station, it’s actually a stone’s throw from Honkawagoe Station. The storefronts are quite different, and finding this location was probably the trickiest, involving a bit of a trial-and-error. Fortunately, Wander is not a movement intensive app, and I was able to keep my Oculus Quest plugged in while I did my search. I eventually located the cake shop: it’s known as Chouette in real life, and serves a range of cakes and pastries. Visitors describe it as being a very peaceful and quiet location with delicious cakes.

  • Inside Chouette, there is no doubt that this location inspired the cake shop Mira and Mikage stop at after their mineral fair visit. In general, my usual technique for finding a location is to use landmarks, such as local attractions and train stations, to gain my bearings, and then use the Oculus Quest to explore the area as though I were walking on foot, searching through areas based on the paths shown in the anime between different landmarks. The full immersion and spatial awareness makes it much easier to spot things than on a conventional monitor. Once I see enough features line up, I go in for a closer look, and if it’s a match, I record the location. For easily found and obscure locations alike, I use this method: the latter only differ in that they take me a little longer to search for them.

  • For the really tough spots, I use a bit of computer vision to see if the anime location matches any known photographs of the location in real life. While Chouette was the toughest spot for this first half, I did not use those techniques: locating Chouette was a brute force search of the areas surrounding Kawagoe Station (and then realising there were no candidates, I repeated a search around Honkawagoe Station). Kawagoe Station is Koisuru Asteroid‘s Hoshizaki Station: operated by Tobu Railway and East Japan Railway Company, it is the busiest station in Kawagoe, averaging 128 thousand passengers daily.

  • Kawagoe Station was opened in 1915, and the station seen today became operational in 1989. Kawagoe Station is a quarter-hour away from Honkawagoe on foot. The imagery in Google Street View shows the pedestrian walkway as undergoing constructionKoisuru Asteroid shows the same construction in place as Mikage prepares to head home after saying goodbye to Mira, suggesting that Doga Kobo may have relied on this tool extensively to provide a reference for the different locations of Koisuru Asteroid.

  • I’ll close off this first half with a comparison of Koisuru Asteroid‘s 16-metre high Toki no Kane (“Time Bell Tower”) and its real-world counterpart; this bell tower is an iconic part of old Kawagoe and was originally built between 1627 and 1634. Kawagoe was devastated by fires in 1856 and 1893: the current tower was constructed in 1894 and chimes four times a day (0600, 1200, 1500 and 1800). The 700 kilogram bell is visible in both images. With this post in the books, I will be returning to close off my virtual, Oculus Quest-powered tour of Koisuru Asteroid at some point in the near future, and in the meantime, it’s time to make progress with the other posts that were left behind as a result of this project.

Of course, the trek I’ve described is not exactly the best idea in the world at present, but fortunately, viewers can turn to the next best alternative. A good virtual reality headset, such as the Oculus Quest, will allow one to immerse themselves in iconic locations from Koisuru Asteroid. After the successes I’ve had with using the Oculus Quest in locating Heya Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi locations, Koisuru Asteroid seemed to be the next suitable anime to try my hand at finding the spots to. Unlike Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which was set largely in and around Ashikita (with a few exceptions), or Heya Camp△, whose Stamp Rally was primarily in the Minobu/Nanbu area of Yamanashi, Koisuru Asteroid sees Mira and Ao visit a host of locations. Their everyday experiences are in Kawagoe, which I identified after spotting the Toki no Kane in the ending sequence and subsequently used to find the locations seen in the first few episodes. A cursory search for JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Centre led me to swiftly determine the locations of the Earth Science Club’s summer trip with instructor Yuki (which I will cover in part two). From there, the unparalleled ability in the Oculus Quest allowed me to explore the same old-town streets that Moe and Mai wander on the latter’s quest to find a prefectural boundary marker, and see for myself the Tsukuba Space Centre’s exhibit hall (the latter will be the topic of a later post). Even more so than with Houkago Teibou Nisshi, another Doga Kobo production, doing this location hunt for Koisuru Asteroid outlined the capabilities of virtual reality technologies and how a complete 3D immersion can offer spatial advantages for certain activities. VR technology has come a long way since I was in graduate school: back then, the Oculus Rift system had been a glorified stereoscopic head-mounted display, and the CAVE remained the simplest way of entering a VR environment. In the years following, Oculus upped their game, and with HTC Vive hot on their heels, other companies stepped up to the plate. It was not until Oculus Quest, however, where VR truly became a viable technology: unbound by wires and room-mounted motion trackers, the Quest’s easy setup and usage has made it an appealing headset to use. Coupled with a powerful onboard processor and display, plus a respectable battery life, the Quest has made it possible to fully explore the same locations Ao and Mira visit in stunning detail and comfort. The size of this post attests to the UX the Oculus Quest confers; obscure and little-known locations were found without trouble – that the Oculus Quest has demonstrated itself a versatile and capable tool for anime location hunts, it is tempting to consider what locations could be next on the list of places to check out with a hitherto unmatched level of immersion. However, before then, I will be turning the Oculus Quest’s considerable powers towards one more set of locations that were shown in Koisuru Asteroid, this time, in areas outside of Kawagoe.

New Year’s Solo Camper Girl: Yuru Camp△ 2 Second Episode Impressions and Review

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ―Eleanor Roosevelt

After enjoying the ocean scenery at the southernmost point of Shizuoka, Rin takes off for Kakegawa to buy her mother some tea. Here, she runs into the same lady she’d encountered during a detour on trip to Kamiina: it turns out the lady works at the same teahouse, and after learning about the New Year’s event at Fukude Beach, decides to check it out. Rin’s mother also suggests checking out the teahouse on the top floor. After this stop, Rin hits Mitsuke-Tenjin Shrine, where she decides to do her New Year’s visit before learning that Shippeitarou III had passed away a few years earlier. Rin contacts Ena, who says that a dog’s lifespan is why she’s about having as much fun with Chikuwa as possible, and Rin promises to play with Chikuwa, too. Upon her arrival at Ryuyokaiyo Koen Campground, Rin hastily erects her tent before taking off to explore. After a walk to the nearby lighthouse, Rin returns to camp as the sun sets, and using feather sticks to light her fire, Rin is soon able to begin preparing her New Year’s Eve dinner: soba with deep-fried fish and egg. The next morning, Rin heads over to Fukude Beach to admire the first sunrise of the year. Back home in Minobu, Chiaki, Aoi and Akari accompany Minami to the top of Mount Minobu to see their first sunrise of the year. It turns out that Chiaki had planned for a double-sunrise viewing, but because she misread the time, they end up missing it by half an hour, despite Minami’s efforts to drive everyone up to the viewpoint. Both Rin and the others send Nadeshiko photographs of their first sunrise of the year. However, as a snowfall has blanketed the Minobu area, the roads become impassible to Rin’s moped, and her mother informs her that her grandfather will pick her up in three days, leaving her with two extra days to explore. In a return to form, Yuru Camp△ 2 brings back the juxtaposition between the serene quiet of Rin’s travels, and the energetic thrills that accompany the Outdoors Activity Club. This time around, with Nadeshiko working hard into the New Year, it’s Chiaki and Aoi who liven their New Year’s experiences up.

Yuru Camp△‘s choice to compare and contrast the two camps’ (pun intended) different approaches is to establish the dramatic differences in how Rin and the others do things. Rin’s journey is a peaceful journey of exploration and introspection, of silent appreciation for the sights and experiences in the world: she travels with a certain dignity about her, doing her best to simply take everything in during the moment. Conversely, Chiaki and Aoi’s adventures are boisterous and rowdy. Every sight is a cause for celebration, and every moment is a spirited one. Most notably, when Chiaki misreads the sunrise time for the Diamond Fuji phenomenon, an irate Aoi and Akari chase her around the parking lot, with snowballs in hand as retribution. The juxtaposition of two different styles towards life are apparent, and in between the two ends of the spectrum is Nadeshiko: while she’s been hard at work earning coin for her camping gear, in seeing both Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s events allows her to see two different perspectives on life itself. This choice here, then, is to suggest that Nadeshiko’s experiences will be at the heart of Yuru Camp△ 2, as she comes to discover the joys of quiet and rowdy events, as well as everything in between: with a promising start to the new year, the months ahead are sure to be filled to the brim with adventure and discovery, which is what viewers doubtlessly have come to see. In the meantime, Rin will continue to get some shine time as she tries to figure out what to do with her additional time in Shizuoka, helping her to adapt to ever-changing situations and come away with lifelong memories.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After last week’s welcome-back episode, Yuru Camp△ 2 is off to a strong start as Rin travels along the coast of Shizuoka, whose views of the ocean are remarkable. With a humid subtropical climate, the average temperature in Shizuoka is around 6-9ºC during December and January: thermal regulation from the ocean allows the area to be warmer than in Minobu, which averages around 3ºC during December and January. Rin’s excitement is apparent as she gazes out over the ocean.

  • There is something immensely pleasant about skies and ocean waters of a deep blue hue, so one cannot begrudge Rin for taking so many photographs of the ocean. This particular spot is at Cape Omaezaki, the southernmost point of Shizuoka: Rin explores an observation platform near Omaezaki Lighthouse, which was built during the Meiji Restoration and upgraded in 1917. It is still operational, but is now open to the public as a tourist attraction of sorts.

  • Coastal drives are indeed nice owing to the unparalleled views they offer – Rin really takes in the sights of the coastal highway as the travels down Route 357 to her next destination, the Kimikura Teahouse (きみくら本店). This rustic store is located about forty minutes northwest of Cape Omaezaki, and on a day where the temperature is about 6ºC, the drive there can indeed get a little chilly. Cars don’t have this issue, although being the driver means that one’s attention is focused on the road, rather than on the scenery.

  • Here, Rin tries out some tea while hunting for a good choice for her mother: despite being no tea connoisseur, Rin does appreciate the flavours of tea. Kimikura is located just across the road from Maruyama Tea (丸山製茶), and this spot appears to be one of those hole-in-the-wall places that only locals would know about. Unsurprisingly, Kimikura is a very pleasant location: visitors praise the quality of tea and service, but note that the café on the second floor can get a little busy at times. Despite this, it is certainly worth the wait: after learning of the café and that her mother had given her an extra 1000 Yen, Rin decides to stay for the green tea cake and tea. It turns out that the tea set Rin ordered was so good, she ends up wondering if she’ll be delayed on her journey.

  • In a pleasant turn of events, it turns out the lady running Kimikura is the same lady Rin had met during her travels to Kamiina a few weeks earlier; Rin had encountered her after her shortcut failed, and the two share a brief conversation before the lady gives Rin some tea. Seeing secondary characters from Yuru Camp△ return was a nice touch, and although we’re early into Yuru Camp△ 2, I wonder if any new characters will join Nadeshiko and the others as this season progresses.

  • Yuru Camp△ 2‘s biggest takeaway message on each camping trip is the idea that the journey matters; Rin doesn’t just head for her destination right away, but instead, stops to really appreciate all of the sights and sounds along the way. It was doing something similar to this that allowed me to experience some of the things in Canmore that I’d missed over the years: most visitors enjoy visiting Banff because it is located at the heart of Banff National Park, and skip over Canmore, a larger town that is located just on the edge of Banff National Park. While both towns have their charm, Canmore’s location means visitors don’t need to pay for the park pass (20 CAD per day), and there are some out-of-the-way places that are excellent. In particular, 514 Poutine serves the best smoked meat poutine this side of the continent.

  • In Minobu, Nadeshiko takes five after finishing her morning deliveries. Nadeshiko’s largely absent from this second episode – being the focal point of Yuru Camp△, Nadeshiko represented the novice camper during the first season, and the series suggested that beginners typically have the best go at things when they’re in groups, being able to learn off one another and lean on one another for help. Energetic, and a go-getter, Nadeshiko brings much life into Yuru Camp△, so this time around, while she’s working, the episode feels distinctly quieter and increasing the audience’s appreciation of Nadeshiko.

  • Kimikura to the Mitsuki-Tenjin Shrine is a twenty minute drive, and upon arrival, Rin’s first inclination is to see Shippeitarou III. However, a miko working at Mitsuki-Tenjin informs Rin that Shippeitarou III had died a few years previously. The average dog’s lifespan is ten to thirteen years, and Rin becomes a bit introspective here, wondering if Shippeitarou III enjoyed his life, before messaging Ena. As a dog owner, Ena provides new perspective for Rin – it is true they won’t be able to spend a great deal of time together, but the time that they do have becomes all the more valuable for it.

  • This part of the episode was a nice touch and reinforces one of the themes in Yuru Camp△ 2 – moments won’t last forever, but it is what one does while they have these moments that make the difference. I related strongly to this moment: despite not being a dog-owner myself, I am very fond of animals, and when relatives or coworkers lose their pets to age or health complications, the sense of loss is very tangible. I definitely understand the feeling when people say pets are an integral part of their family: their warmth and love bring a great deal of joy into one’s life.

  • Rin arrives at Ryuyokaiyo Koen Campground as her final destination for the day: this is designated an auto campground, allowing RV Campers on site alongside traditional tents. Attesting to how far Rin has come since her first trip at Motosu Lake, she expertly sets her tent up before rushing off to really enjoy the coastal sights. On her walk, Rin reaches the Kaketsuka Lighthouse, which is no more than nine hundred metres away from where she pitched her tent. In the background here, a wind turbine can be seen: this is a part of Japan Electric Power Development Company LTD’s 44.6 MW Kuzumaki No2 Wind Farm, which became fully operational in December 2020. The sun begins to set, and Rin sets about preparing dinner: after having lamented her gaining weight from the Christmas camp trip, Rin decides to keep it simple this time around, making soba noodles with seaweed, fried egg, mushrooms and a generous piece of fried fish as the centrepiece.

  • On the shores of a beach, Rin decides to use the feather-stick method to light a fire. I don’t think Les Stroud’s ever used this method in Survivorman before, but it is a viable bushcraft technique: slicing the wood into thin strips allows it to catch a spark more easily. While Rin wonders if feather-sticks could replace pine cones, I imagine that outdoorsman would suggest that, where pine cones are available, they’d still be preferred, since anything one can preserve their gear (e.g. not dulling up one’s knife) would make survival easier, and so, feather-sticks would be a fall-back for when dry kindling is not readily available. As night sets in, Rin unwinds with her noodles. which lines up well with the idea of New Year’s Eve: Toshikoshi soba is traditionally eaten because it represents letting go of hardship on account of cutting the noodles.

  • I’m not sure if there are any Western equivalents in the culinary arts for symbolic foods, but in Cantonese tradition, homophones mean that dishes for New Years’ are always chosen because they sound similar to phrases for happiness and success. While Rin awakens the next morning ahead of the sunrise, her friends in Minobu are doing the same. Nadeshiko’s gearing up for her delivery route, but Chiaki and Aoi get together with Minami and Akari for their own first sunset at Mount Minobu. Unlike Yama no Susume, there is no rush to ascend the mountain ahead of sunrise – there’s a cable car that takes visitors directly to the summit, and up here, there’s a temple of sorts, where folks can make their New Year shrine visit.

  • It turns out that Akari’s an even bigger prankster than Aoi – her first move after Chiaki shows up, is to shove a snowball up her shirt and then ask her for New Year’s money. Essentially Aoi in miniature, Akari made a few appearances during Yuru Camp△, stopping by to tell tall tales alongside Aoi. While Akari is mischievous, one can’t stay mad at her – like Aoi, she’s got a knack for knowing just where the line is, and her antics thus elicit smiles from viewers.

  • On the topic of New Year’s, in Japan, hatsuhinode (初日の出, “first sunrise of the year”) viewing is custom because it is said to bring good luck. The custom dates back to the Meiji Restoration, and the custom is to view the sunrise from the tallest point possible for the best luck (hence Chiaki and the others visiting Mount Minobu). Sunrises in Japan are early, so some folks will forego the New Year’s Eve countdown and catch enough shut-eye so they can do the hatsuhinode. This stands in stark contrast with the customs I’m used to, which entail staying up to watch the clock roll past twelve, and then sleeping in on New Year’s Day.

  • The first sunrise of Yuru Camp△ 2‘s New Year is gorgeous: I’ve chosen not to show the light pillars from the sun’s rays reflecting off hexagonal ice crystals in the sky, and instead, will merely suggest that readers check the moment out for themselves. Ice crystals can create some truly dramatic effects, although for me, I’ve only ever seen light pillars that appear to emanate from the sun itself. For the event, the community puts up a torii on the beach, and the event draws a few thousand visitors. After the sun’s risen, Rin notices kohaku manjū (紅白饅頭, “red and white manjū“) being given out and rushes off to cash in. She ends up with a boatload of manjū: these are served during special events like the New Year’s and represent gratitude. This scene sees the return of Rin running noises, a carry-over from Yuru Camp△.

  • Some ninety-eight kilometres (as the mole digs) northeast of Rin, Chiaki, Aoi, Akani and Minami also enjoy their first sunrise of the year. However, as the temple at Mount Minobu begins to get busier on account of visitors looking to make their New Year’s shrine visit, Chiaki suggests that they prepare to head off before it becomes too difficult to leave. As it turns out, she’s got another surprise in mind for her friends – by timing things well, it is possible to see two sunrises on New Year’s Day (presumably for double the luck). Chiaki’s plan is to check out Diamond Fuji, the effect when the sun peeks over the summit of Mount Fuji.

  • After Rin begins looking into her day’s schedule, which sees her looking forwards to pork foot curry, she notices a food truck selling pot-au-feu (a sort of beef stew) and pizza. Despite her efforts to hold back, Rin ends up caving, enjoying a pizza slice. Such moments typifies Rin’s character as being someone who is practically-minded and thinking about the future, but also wants to enjoy the moment more. This scene was shown during one of the trailers for Yuru Camp△ 2, and now, we know the context behind it.

  • Minami’s driving sees her hitting speeds of up to 40 km/h on the narrow switchbacks leading to the observation point. The low speeds are shown to accentuate the moment’s humour, but the low speeds actually make sense – on narrow mountain roads, it is unwise to drive too quickly, since one could easily fall off the roads. Displaying uncommon skill with her vehicle (probably a first-generation Suzuki Hustler X), Minami drifts the tougher turns. However, this effort turns out to have been for naught, and upon arrival, Chiaki is surprised to find the sun more than 10º above Mount Fuji. After looking more closely at her reference, Chiaki realises she’d misread the time, and the Diamond Fuji event was forecast for 0720, not 0750 JST as she’d thought.

  • This is a common enough mistake, and I made a similar one a few weeks ago while attempting to watch the full moon rise nearby. Once I reached the viewpoint, I was perplexed after the expected moonrise time had passed. Upon checking more closely, it turns out I’d read the moonrise time for the day previously, and the actual moonrise was still an hour out. I wasn’t going to stand on top of a wind-swept hill for an hour, so I departed. As soon as Chiaki catches her mistake and “apologises” for it (๑≧౪≦)-style, Aoi and Akari voice their displeasure in the form of snowballs. Akari’s particularly salty: she decides to make a bowling-ball sized snowball with the intent of dousing Chiaki with it, and I particularly liked the use of ragtime piano to accentuate the ludicrousness of this outcome.

  • Rin’s adventures are just beginning: thanks to a snowfall making the roads near Yamanashi impassible for her moped, she’s asked to stay in Shizuoka for a ways longer while her grandfather comes to get her once he’s available, and this is going to lend itself to an unexpected journey in the next episode. With this second episode, it does feel like Yuru Camp△ is back, or at least, almost back – Nadeshiko’s been absent from the proceedings, and the show wouldn’t be complete without her. Fortunately, we recall that she’s set to head back to Hamamatsu to visit family, and so, the two will run into one another at some point next episode, which will be awesome.

Par the course for Yuru Camp△, this second episode has faithfully reproduced real-world locations as the backdrop for both Rin and the Outdoors Activity Club’s travels. This serves to really accentuate the idea that Rin, Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena’s travels are very much things people can get into themselves, and that their discoveries are very much something viewers can make for themselves, as well. With almost all locations in Yuru Camp△ being modelled after their real-world counterparts, this leaves no shortage of places to explore and hunt down: one of the biggest joys about Yuru Camp△ is being able to see how faithfully the anime brings attractions to life. I could occupy entire episodic posts with facts and travel notes about the locations Yuru Camp△ presents. However, these episodic posts are really more to focus on character dynamics, growth and learnings amongst the characters, so I will discuss the locations of Yuru Camp△ 2 quite separately. Even in the absence of location information, Yuru Camp△ 2 leaves much to discuss and consider. This episode, for instance, hints at why living in the moment is such an integral theme in Yuru Camp△; after learning that Shippeitarou III is deceased, Rin wonders what Ena thinks about the fact that Chikuwa won’t always be with her, and Ena’s response demonstrates a respectable level of thought into matters viewers might not always consider. It is precisely because things are finite that makes seizing the day all the more meaningful, tying in with Yuru Camp△ 2‘s opening song. Living in the moment appears to be what Yuru Camp△ 2 aims to convey, and as the series continues, this message will likely return again to the foreground. In the meantime, it would appear that Rin’s certainly living in the moment, deciding to go for a pizza from a food truck before regrouping and figuring out what she’d like to do until her grandfather can pick her up.

I Played a Frog Song: Non Non Biyori Nonstop First Episode Impressions and Review

“When you stand in the present moment, you are timeless.” –Rodney Yee

Renge struggles to play a C on her recorder while practising on the way to school. After music lessons and lunch, she crafts some dolls out of toothpicks and clear tape to pass the time as Hotaru and Komari work on their class duties. Natsumi only manages to annoy Komari, and as they finish, they make a log in the notebooks that their instructor is too lazy. When Akane Shinoda, a first year high school student in the concert band club, struggles to play with confidence in front of her classmates, Konomi suggests that they practise together, Renge goes to pick her up from the bus stop, before getting distracted by cockleburs and a toad on the roadside. Once they arrive at Konomi’s place, Konomi notes that Akane has no trouble conversing with Renge, and Akane notices that Renge’s not properly using the fingering for the C note. After Renge masters this note, she plays the Frog Song along with Akane and Konomi. Akane is thrilled and asks if she can come practise at Konomi’s house again in the future. Later, Renge impresses Natsumi, Komari and Hotaru with her improved skill with the recorder. This is Non Non Biyori Nonstop, the third season to a story about life in the peaceful and remote village of Asahigaoka, a place where time seems to stand still, and one where adventure is seemingly around every corner. Non Non Biyori originally ran as a manga that began serialisation in 2009, and continues to this day. Earlier chapters were adapted into an anime in 2013, and a second season aired two years later. During its earlier run, Non Non Biyori captured audiences with its unique charm and portrayal of a tranquil, rural life away from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s urban centres. Striking a balance between comedy and life lessons about everyday experiences, Non Non Biyori quickly established a reputation for being immensely calming and relaxing, an iyashikei series. It’s been six years since the second season, but Non Non Biyori‘s continued to endure, and in this third season, Non Non Biyori continues with its excellent portrayal of Renge, Hotaru, Natsumi and Komari’s experiences in Asahigaoka.

Non Non Biyori Nonstop (Nonstop from here on out for brevity) continues in the same vein as its predecessors, opening with Renge playing the recorder on her way to school. The first half of the episode sees familiar faces return for familiar misadventures in their one-teacher class at Asahigaoka Branch School: Komari’s attempts to be a proper older sibling and Natsumi’s immature (but amusing) antics, as well as Renge’s endless sense of curiosity immediately re-establish what Non Non Biyori had been about; this time around, rather than using rulers for desktop games, the students fashion dolls out of common everyday objects in boredom after class draws to a close. This typifies the idea that even in a setting where things are laid-back and languid, there is rarely a dull moment. Where things are quiet, Natsumi and Renge always seem to find a way to liven things up, and as Nonstop continues, finding the extraordinary in the mundane will yield numerous moments of discovery and reflection. Nonstop shifts gears in its second half, introducing Akane to Renge and setting the table for new friendship. Through a fateful meeting, Akane discovers that she can indeed play flute in front of others and warms up to Renge, while Renge becomes excited about the sorts of things Akane knows: she and Konomi help her to properly play a new note on her recorder. With this first episode of Nonstop in the books, the precedence for the remainder of the season is set, and I look forwards to seeing what sorts of adventures await Akane: it is inevitable that she will eventually meet Hotaru, Natsumi and Komari at some point in the future.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To be precise, the last time Non Non Biyori graced this blog was two years ago, when I wrote about Non Non Biyori Vacation. The film premièred in Japanese theatres in August 2018, and the home release became available in February 2019. Non Non Biyori Repeat, the second season, ran during the summer of 2015, right during the middle of my graduate studies. At the time, my research project had been well under way, and I was gearing up to write the thesis paper itself. I still remember that when Repeat began airing, I struggled to write a talk for the first episode and ended up going for a quarterly review.

  • For Nonstop, I’ve chosen to take the quarterly review approach because, even though Non Non Biyori has been structured so that episodes are thematically self-contained, the series’ emphasis on the mundane, and appreciation for moments of quiet, means that it can be a little challenging to find something meaningful to say for each and every moment. I’ve found that the quarterly approach I took with Repeat to have worked reasonably well, allowing me to explore themes and messages to a reasonable depth.

  • Renge playing the recorder on her way to school is a callback to how the first season had started; this was my magic moment, and immediately convinced me that the series was worth watching. Here, Renge accompanies Konomi for a short moment as the pair head to their respective schools. Asahigaoka is a small enough village such that younger students can be taught in a single classroom, and for high school, students must travel to the town over.

  • There is something immensely reassuring and calming about the Japanese countryside that I struggle to find the words to describe: of all the places I’ve seen and read about, it seems that rural Japan best exemplifies how humanity can harmoniously exist with nature. These landscapes are known as the satoyama (里山), the interface between villages and forests. Consisting of rice paddies and ponds, satoyama is the result of centuries of a coexistence between Japan’s rural communities and their environment to create a sustainable ecosystem. The European equivalent of the satoyama is the Bocage, which consists of mixed woodlands and pastures.

  • Despite being an older building, Asahigaoka Branch School still has an occupied, well looked-after air about it. There is a charm about traditional, wooden Japanese schools: these dot the Japanese countryside, and many of the wooden buildings were built between the Meiji Restoration and World War Two. Today, as more people move into urban areas, an increasing number of these schools are abandoned. Filled with life and vigour during their operation, the abandoned schools have a drastically different vibe to them.

  • To this day, I cannot help but smile in the knowledge that Natsumi is voiced by Ayane Sakura, whereas Rie Murakawa plays Hotaru. Folks fond of GochiUsa will know Sakura for playing Cocoa, and Murakawa is Megu Natsu. Sakura’s performance of Natsumi is completely different than for Cocoa: unlike Cocoa, Natsumi is mischievous and carefree, preferring to live life on her own terms. Conversely, Hotaru sounds a great deal like Megu.

  • Renge’s concerns about being unable to play a C note stem from worry that she’ll stick out like a sore thumb during music class. It would appear that beyond this, she’s reasonably well-versed in playing a recorder, a woodwind instrument that dates back to the Middle Ages, being used by shepherds. It’s a common instrument that primary school students pick up, and I remember that back in my time as a primary student, I had my own recorder. Once I reached middle school, I ended up playing the Clarinet because it was similar to the recorder. The classroom is the only time Suguru shows up this episode: a recurring joke in Non Non Biyori is that Suguru silently comes and goes, having very little presence.

  • Lunch on today’s menu for Renge, Hotaru, Komari and Natsumi is curry rice. In many ways, Non Non Biyori brings to life the scenes described in Jordy Meow’s Abandoned Japan: in his chapter about derelict schools, his text describe energetic young students learning to read and write for the first time before breaking to handmade obento lunches. The teacher’s instructions and student chatter would’ve filled the hallways to buildings that now lay empty. The scenes that Meow describes are captured in Non Non Biyori perfectly: now-musty and dank classrooms were once lively, happy places of learning.

  • After classes come to an end, Renge breaks out the toothpicks she’d brought from home earlier and fashions homemade dolls with them. Natsumi joins in, and even Suguru can be seen making a doll in the background. Such moments speaks to Renge’s creativity, and for the next few minutes, Natsumi annoys the living daylights out of Komari, until the latter’s limit is reached and she swats the doll from Natsumi’s hands, leaving it in separate pieces. As Komari and Hotaru focus on their remaining task of logging the day, they start running out of things to write about.

  • Eventually, the students craft a range of dolls out of tape and toothpicks to prank Kazuho, who’s fallen fast asleep. Her lethargic and lazy manner at school is apparent, but this is not her entire personality: during the events of Non Non Biyori Vacation, she looks after her students well and frees Komari and Hotaru from a branch during a kayaking trip. My conclusions about Kazuho’s character are therefore simple enough; she’s lazy and lacks motivation where the humour requires it, but otherwise, is a competent teacher.

  • Nonstop‘s episode is broken up into two halves: the first half is set entirely in the classroom, while the second introduces Akane to the cast. Her blank stare after disembarking the bus suggests shock at the setting and what circumstances led her here to the sticks. The phrase “the sticks” appears to have originated from 1800s Chicago as a way of referring to places in the middle of nowhere, likely on the assumption that remote places are remotely forested. These days, the phrase generically refers to somewhere backwater and remote. While there’s a bit of a negative connotation with this phrase, Non Non Biyori does a fine job of showing a different side of rural areas, and this is one of the strongest points about the series.

  • In a flashback, Akane is seen speaking with Konomi; after expressing her doubts about being able to participate in the concert band on account of nerves, Konomi suggests heading to her place for some practise. This is the first time I’ve seen Konomi’s high school, which is likely located over the hill and across the water – rural high schools in Japan often serve students from different small towns and villages, but with dwindling populations, even these schools might be on the verge of being closed.

  • The amount of detail in Asahigaoka is always impressive. Everything from blades of grass in a recently-drained rice paddy to reflections in an adjacent canal are portrayed in great detail. Like the first two seasons and the film, Nonstop is produced by Silver Link (Brave WitchesBofuri and Kokoro Connect) – among their repertoire of works, Non Non Biyori stands as being one of the most visually impressive, as stills of the countryside in and surrounding Asahigaoka can attest.

  • After meeting Renge, Akane initially is struck by nerves and doesn’t know what to say to her, but she declines Renge’s suggestion of calling her Aka-chan (赤ちゃん is an affectionate way of referring to babies, since babies have redder complexions). However, while running down a road she frequents, Renge soon finds cockleburs (genus Xanthium) and names them a mortal enemy for getting stuck in her clothing. These plants are a member of the sunflower tribe, but are also counted as a weed; the seeds are toxic, and some animals will refuse to graze in areas where cockleburs are present. After finding some, Renge gifts one to Akane, before trying to give her a toad, as well. In the ensuing chaos, Renge and Akane end up at Konomi’s house.

  • Konomi’s room is very clean and organised – Konomi had only made a few appearances in Non Non Biyori and had a more prominent role in the movie, so it was good to see Nonstop gave her a bit more screentime. The oldest of the students, Konomi is mature and composed; until recently, I would mistake her for being Hotaru. The two begin practising, and Renge soon takes an interest in Akane’s flute, calling it an octo-corder on account of the fact that the complex mechanisms on the flute resemble an octopus’ tentacles and grippers.

  • While Akane might be shy and cannot play too well in front of others, she is sufficiently knowledgeable with woodwind instruments. After helping Renge to properly play a C note (she refers to them by the Solfège syllable “do”), Renge is ecstatic and she subsequently asks to play alongside the others. This simple session helps Akane to realise that playing in front of and communicating with others isn’t as terrifying as she’d thought. For Renge, she’s met someone who she can befriend and look up to.

  • This moment is what lends the first episode its title: Konomi, Akane and Renge play a song together on their instruments. Non Non Biyori episodes are typically named for the episode’s main event, and one has a good idea of what’s upcoming in each episode, although seeing which characters experience the event described by the title is always exciting. On the topic of music, Nonstop‘s opening and ending songs are both excellent, and the album with these tracks will be titled Non Non Biyori Days. Retailing for 2970 Yen (around 36.32 CAD), this album releases on February 24 and is a best-of album, with the opening songs for the first and second seasons, as well as the film.

  • With the day drawing to a close, Akane prepares to head home, thanking Konomi for having her over and asking if it’s cool for her to come over again. Because Akane figured prominently in the key visuals for Nonstop, she’ll definitely be returning: Akane is voiced by Aimi Tanaka (Himouto! Umaru-chan‘s Umaru Doma and Akane Sawatari from Anima Yell!). The main advantage about long-running series is that they can slowly introduce relevant characters, which balances keeping things fresh for viewers without disrupting existing dynamics. GochiUsa is an excellent example of a series that does this well.

  • Akane is positively thrilled with how the day turned out, jumping for joy under a warm sunset. While the cocklebur might be counted a weed, for Akane, it’s also come to be a tangible representation of the day that she’d taken a step forwards towards being able to play her flute in front of others. While Renge’s non-sequitur way of thinking can be confusing, I imagine that this is done deliberately, both to viscerally show that a six-year-old has a very different view of the world than youth do, and further to this, the idea that symbols and objects take their meaning based on what people choose to attach to them.

  • Each episode in Non Non Biyori does have a standalone theme or messages that makes the series worth writing about, and Nonstop is no different: even just an episode in, I’ve managed to cover quite a bit of turf here. However, my schedule means that I can only focus on one series episodically this season (Yuru Camp△ 2 takes this slot), and previously, I’ve found that Non Non Biyori was a series that works best when I consider several episodes together in a sort of big-picture style talk. Thus, I’ll be writing about Nonstop in a quarterly fashion, and will return to write about this one after the third episode. Having said this, I anticipate that Nonstop will be every bit as enjoyable as Yuru Camp△ 2 in its own right, and with this post in the books, the winter 2021 season looking to be off to a very solid start, one that will give slice-of-life fans much to smile about.

When Non Non Biyori Repeat began airing, I had been surprised that the story had actually been set in between episodes of the first season. The second season continued to impress with its subtle incorporation of life lessons into a gentle and humourous story, leaving a decidedly positive impression on its conclusion. Upon watching Nonstop, my initial question was whether or not this third season would be similar to the second, being set in the same time-frame as the first and second seasons. As this first episode continued, it became apparent that Nonstop is a proper continuation, set after the events of the first and second season. Renge is accustomed to life at school, and Akane is introduced, indicating that this third season is ready to keep things rolling. With this being said, the time-frames in Non Non Biyori seem to hardly matter, speaking to the sense of timelessness in Non Non Biyori; Asahigaoka is so far removed from major population centres that going to a department store is a big deal, and here in Asahigaoka, things like smartphones and tablets are non-existent. The end result is that time does seem to stand still here, and without the pressures of an urban setting, each of Renge, Hotaru, Komari, Natsumi, and now, Akane, are each able to really appreciate the sights and sounds of home. Moreover, the timelessness of Non Non Biyori‘s setting means that, despite a six year gap between the second and third season, Asahigaoka has not aged a day. It only feels like yesterday that Renge and the others met up on a hill with a blossoming cherry tree to welcome a new spring: Nonstop picks up where things have left off, ready to take viewers on another relaxing, cathartic journey alongside Renge and her friends. If it were not apparent, I’m definitely excited about Nonstop: the lovable cast and breathtaking scenery that brought me into this series has only continued to find new ways to impress with time, and I’m confident that viewers will be treated to another wonderful season with Nonstop.

Curry Noodles Are the Best Travel Companion: Yuru Camp△ 2 First Episode Impressions and Review

出入平安

After receiving camping gear from her grandfather during the summer, Rin sets up his old tent in her living room one winter day and decides to go camping nearby; her father drives her to Koan Campground on the shores of Lake Motosu. After setting her tent up, Rin decides to start a campfire on account of it being a brisk one, but is unsuccessful. With help from the campground manager, she gets a fire going and begins to cook dinner, but ruins the rice. Fortunately, Rin’s mother had the foresight of packing additional food for her. After a dinner of instant curry ramen, Rin appreciates the beauty of Mount Fuji under sunset. In the present day, Nadeshiko’s finished her delivery route for the morning and takes a lunch break with Ena. As it turns out, everyone except Chiaki has a bit of time off for the New Year. Rin plans to visit Shizuoka so that she can check out an ocean sunrise, and sets her eyes on the Mitsuke-Tenjin Shrine, home of Shippei Taro. She sets out the next morning and runs into Nadeshiko, who hands her a package of instant curry ramen and wishes her safe travels. Thus begins the long-awaited second season to Yuru Camp△, an iyashikei anime whose focus on camping, and an appreciation of moments, struck a resonant chord with viewers. In its first season, the manga’s themes of companionship, open-mindedness, adaptability and resourcefulness were tied together with a faithful portrayal of camping and brought to life, captivating viewers who universally reported a cathartic, relaxing experience. Announcement of a second season was thus met with anticipation, and out of the gates, Yuru Camp△ 2 does not disappoint, easing viewers back into where things had left off some three years earlier.

Yuru Camp△ 2‘s decision to open with Rin’s first camping trip, set during the late winter, establishes how Rin came to be an avid solo camper: while she’d been tangentially curious about her grandfather’s old gear and preferred to stick to her books, after she found enjoyment in assembling his tent, Rin decided to put the gear to use. Her first-ever camping trip, on the shores of Lake Motosu, is a far cry from how she currently camps: she bends one of the stakes holding the tent in place while hammering them into the ground, struggles to start a fire and improperly cooks her first camping meal. However, after eating curry ramen and taking in Mount Fuji by sunset, Rin was moved, realising that with more equipment and preparation, she’d be able to really enjoy the sights and sounds of nature more often. While Rin has been shown to be somewhat inflexible and not always thoroughly preparing for her trips during Yuru Camp△, she manages to have fun nonetheless, and Yuru Camp△ 2‘s choice of flashback is a reminder that every journey had to have begun somewhere; even though her first camping trip had been comparatively rougher, she came out with precious memories that would start her hobby off in earnest. To open off Yuru Camp△ 2 in this manner is to gently remind viewers that half the fun in adventures is handling the unexpected, and so, as Rin sets off for the Shizuoka, it becomes clear that her journey there will be full of the unexpected but memorable, much as how this second season is going to be full of enjoyable surprises.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s fantastic to be back: after a full year without any Yuru Camp△, and then last year’s excellent live-action drama and Heya Camp△, Yuru Camp△ is now back in full force. This second season opens with Rin returning home from classes to find a package for her. The background is verdant and warm: together with the uniform Rin’s wearing, it would suggest that it is somewhere during the summer. This would mark the first time that Yuru Camp△ has portrayed the Yamanashi area by summer; the story’s events up until now have purely been set during the autumn and winter.

  • For this post and all future posts, I’ve chosen to render the title for Yuru Camp△‘s second season as Yuru Camp△ 2, to differentiate it from the first season. The location of Rin’s house has been a topic of interest for viewers. The location from the live action drama was readily found, but at present, I’m still hunting down the spot for Rin’s house in the anime: the location in real life is supposed to be occupied by a small shed belonging to local flood control crews, but beyond this, I’ve not found the spot for myself yet. The only thing I know right now is that the location is by the Hanki River, a tributary of the Tokiwa River, and while this narrows down the size of the search space, it’ll still take some time to figure the spot out.

  • At this point in time, Rin’s still very much fond of her books, and typically spends most of her days engrossed in a book of some sort. However, on a gentle autumn afternoon, Rin decides to check out the camping gear after pulling open a window and feeling the breeze. In no time at all, she gets the tent set up and decides to keep reading. Eventually, curiosity takes over, and Rin decides to try her hand at camping. Attesting to this being her first-ever solo camping trip, Rin does not have any of her specialised gear that she was seen with during Yuru Camp△.

  • The design of Rin’s home speaks to the Japanese belief about connecting with nature: such a window would easily allow one to welcome in the warm air of a beautiful summer day. Summer in the Japanese countryside are gorgeous, magical, and with nature being such a prominent part of Japanese beliefs, it is unsurprising that architecture is about being in harmony with, rather than keeping out, nature. As Rin’s mind drifts towards properly using her grandfather’s old tent, Yuru Camp△ 2’s opening theme, Seize the Day, begins playing. Asaka’s performance of the song has a late 70s/early 80s city-pop vibe to it, reminiscent of Taeko Ohnuki’s Summer Connection in her Sunshower album.

  • There’s a certain appeal about the sound of city-pop: it is upbeat and lively, and while it did lose popularity during the 90s, made a resurgence in the early 2010s. Yuru Camp△ 2‘s opening theme, in using these elements, creates a sense of joy and yearning in viewers: I found that Seize the Day felt like a distinct upgrade to the first season’s Shiny Days, itself a solid song. At this point in the season, it is still very early, and no release date has been given for Seize the Day just yet. Hence, we return to the shores of Lake Motosu, where Rin’s father prepares to head off after Rin mentions she’ll be okay for getting set up.

  • Right out of the gates, Rin is shown to be a greenhorn with her equipment: this is, after all, her first time camping, and Rin has not yet accrued the experience she is seen with by the events of Yuru Camp△. She is surprised by how hard the ground is, and ends up bending one of the stakes to her tent by sticking it a little too forcefully. Even now, however, Rin is quick to learn, realising that a gentle but firm strike is all that’s needed.

  • The contrast between Rin here and later is also apparent: younger Rin prefers to solely read books after camp is set up, whereas the current Rin also takes the time to explore the camp site and check out all of its sights. However, Rin’s reading party is cut short by the brisk autumn winds: seeing a family with a campfire going, Rin also decides to set up her own campfire. However, when she attempts to light the branches she’s gathered, the flames won’t take. Help from the campground manager means Rin soon has a roaring fire, and she learns here to use kindling to help start her fires. The コンニチワ pinecones make a welcome return here.

  • Once her fire’s ready, Rin sets about preparing dinner; she’s got curry rice planned out for the evening, but ruins the rice. I’ve grown accustomed to cooking rice with a rice cooker, which simplifies the process considerably. In the absence of a good rice cooker, it is fortunate that culinary minds have designed a procedure to ensure great tasting rice. Using a pot, the recommendation is to throw in two units of water per every unit of rice, and after cooking for around seventeen minutes (for a cup of rice, with more time required if there’s more rice), one should simmer the rice. Rin could accomplish this by opening the lid a smidgen and then moving the pot to the side, where the heat is less intense.

  • In the aftermath of her failed efforts to cook dinner, Rin remarks she’ll find some way to properly handle the still-raw grains of rice. Undercooked rice can be easily salvaged: it’s simply not absorbed enough water and expanded into a fluffy, delicious state yet. When Rin attempts to clean the soot off her pot, she finds that it’s stuck on. Experts suggest coating the outside of the pot with a thin film of dishwashing liquid, which reduces the amount of soot that contacts the pot. In Rin’s case, there isn’t anything she’ll be able to feasibly do about the pot at Koan, but once she gets home, a mixture of dish soap and baking soda can be used. After bathing the pot in this for five minutes, using a scouring pad will clear some of the soot off. More stubborn patches can be addressed by immersing the entire pot into a mixture of boiling water and vinegar.

  • Fortunately, Rin’s mother had foreseen that there might be a need for extra food and packed a package of instant curry noodles of the Nissin Cup Noodles variety. Renowned for its rich flavours, and a three-minute prep time, these noodles end up giving Rin some much-needed food energy and taking the edge off hunger. Rin wonders how something so ordinary can be so delicious, scarfing the noodles down as the sun goes down. I would imagine that since this first camping trip, Rin subsequently would always eat instant curry noodles for their simplicity of preparation, and although longing to try more sophisticated recipes, didn’t really get the inspiration to do so until she’d met Nadeshiko.

  • After a day of struggles, Rin finally has a moment to herself. She gazes up to find Mount Fuji bathed in the crimsons and oranges of a day’s last light. This sight is Rin’s magic moment, whereupon she becomes hooked on camping. She begins considering what sort of gear she’d like to have on her next adventure. At around this time, Nadeshiko still lives in Hamamatsu, and can be seen cycling with her childhood friend, Ayano Toki. Because it is commonplace to add more characters into sequels, I expect that that Ayano will appear at some point later this season.

  • Back in the present, Nadeshiko’s settled into her part time job and appears to be making some headway into saving for her Coleman gas lantern. This pegs the first episode as being a ways before Yuru Camp△’s ending, which saw Nadeshiko running into Rin at Lake Motosu by spring. With New Year’s fast approaching, everyone is busy with their work, doing what they can to save up money for the Outdoors Activity Club’s adventures. Yuru Camp△ had the girls go on some memorable adventures on a minimal budget, so Yuru Camp△ 2 could stand to see the girls go on bigger and more exciting camping trips as their budget increases.

  • It looks like it’s time for me to break out the old location hunting prowess I brought to the table during the first season: this is the Minobu Post Office (2483-37 Umedaira), located on a small street a mere thirty-five metres south of the Hagii River. On the topic of location hunts, I intend to do an Oculus Quest powered tour of Koisuru Asteroid at some point in the near future: the superior immersion and visibility conferred meant that I had a straightforward time of finding obscure locations, and my last post on Houkago Teibou Nisshi was well-received. It’s been a year-and-a-half since I received my complementary Oculus Quest by attending F8 2019, and while I’ve had a considerable amount of fun with SUPERHOT VR and Wander (the maps app I’ve used for my last location hunt), I’ve not actually bothered with other games in the store, which feel a bit pricey for the amount of replay I’d get out of it.

  • I might consider Half-Life: Alyx if it is ever ported and scaled down to run on the original Oculus Quest, but for now, I’m most happy with the basic suite of apps I already have. Back in Yuru Camp△ 2, it is on the banks of the Hagii River that that Ena and Nadeshiko break for lunch. It becomes clear that even Ena’s getting excited about camping, and she’s been considering buying some gear for herself, even if she hasn’t officially joined the Outdoors Activity Club yet. While Ena and Nadeshiko enjoy their lunch here in Yuru Camp△ 2, I’ll share a moment where I enjoyed my first homemade burger of the year, topped with the works and a side of yam fries. Yuru Camp△ had always excelled in its presentation of food and the subsequent enjoyment; even something as simple as instant noodles is special, something to be savoured.

  • The iconic text message exchanges make a welcome return in Yuru Camp△ 2, as Chiaki, Aoi, Nadeshiko, Ena and even Rin discuss their plans for the remainder of the Winter Break. Ena has the most laid-back plans, intending to sleep in and do a shrine visit before hitting the malls, while Aoi is headed for Takehara (home of Tamayura). Nadeshiko is returning to Hamamatsu to visit family, and Rin intends to do solo camping in Shizuoka. Chiaki feels shafted, but is happy that her friends are all willing to buy her souvenirs. Her manager reprimands her for getting distracted while at work.

  • Because Rin is unfamiliar with Shizuoka, she checks with her father on spots to visit. Her mother, on the other hand, is worried that the New Years crowds may make the roads more dangerous, so Rin promises to take the road less travelled. With her criteria to see an ocean sunrise and the promise of being able to visit Mitsuke-Tenjin Shrine, Rin sets off on her adventure. I will, of course, take a look at Rin’s points of interest as she visits them (i.e. in a future post).

  • En route to her destination, Rin runs into Nadeshiko and greets her. After their adventures together, Rin’s certainly become more cordial with Nadeshiko, coming to appreciate the energy and joy that she brings with her. The dynamic between Rin and Nadeshiko is a brilliant metaphor between introverted and extroverted personalities: while both have preferences for quiet and bustling events, respectively, there is also a middle ground where introverts appreciate the energy extroverts bring, while extroverts may pick up something worthwhile from an introvert. These traits are not mutually exclusive, and it is commonly accepted that people tend to fall along a spectrum.

  • As Yuru Camp△ 2 proceeds, I thus look forwards to seeing what sorts of themes and life lessons are presented alongside the camping and adventures everyone shares together. As Rin prepares to head for her destination, in a clever callback to the first season and her first-ever camping trip, Nadeshiko gives Rin a package of instant curry noodles, symbolising both how Nadeshiko’s become more learned about camping, and to suggest that whatever happens on Rin’s trip, she’s got backup available to her and is no longer alone even when she’s solo camping. This is a very reassuring feeling to have.

  • As the sun rises, Rin heads south down Route 10, past the Nanbu Utsubuna New Yamazaki Daily Store. A quick glance around the area shows the radio tower seen in one of the stills, and locating this spot was relatively straightforward: inspection of the road sign marked “Nambu Brg. East” was all it took. I am greatly looking forwards to seeing the remainder of Yuru Camp△ 2 unfold this season, and while it might be a foregone conclusion to state that I am going to enjoy this series without question, the part I am most excited about is being able to not only enjoy all of the episodes, but also look up and research all of the details that went into every location and point of interest.

Last season saw me simultaneously write about GochiUsa: BLOOM and Strike Witches: Road to Berlin in an episodic fashion. Whether or not I delivered consistently interesting and helpful posts is something that is left as an exercise for the reader to look at; what I did discover was that episodic posts require a bit of thought that is quite different than my usual format. Each episode’s contribution to the series and small details that may enhance the viewer’s experience ended up being my focus, and while assuredly fun to write for, episodic posts are also very time consuming. This season, Yuru Camp△ 2 and Non Non Biyori Nonstop are airing – both series have had excellent predecessors and could be written about episodically. However, owing to the time commitment, I can only do one series this time around, and Yuru Camp△ 2 has earned this coveted spot. I will be writing about Yuru Camp△ 2 on a weekly basis, and cover Non Non Biyori Nonstop in the quarterly format – Yuru Camp△ 2 will offer quite a bit of discussion on outdoors techniques, survival knowledge, location hunts and the like, all of which would be interesting to read about and share with readers. This time around, my schedule means that I won’t likely be able to consistently write about the episodes on the same day as the broadcast: Yuru Camp△ talks involve a bit more reading and research, so to ensure the accuracy of what I mention, I would like to take additional time to ensure that future posts are as informative and correct as possible. Consequently, instead of rushing posts out on Thursdays after work each week, I will instead strive to have the posts done the day after at the latest, giving me additional time to look things up before writing about them: posts for Yuru Camp△ 2 will come out either Thursdays or Fridays. There’s definitely a relaxing and enjoyable journey ahead in Yuru Camp△ 2, and with this first episode setting the stage for the season, next week will see Rin’s travels to Shizuoka.