The Infinite Zenith

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

Yuru Camp△: Review and Reflections At the Halfway Point

“When you’re this hungry, anything tastes good.” —Les Stroud, Survivorman

The Outdoors Activity Club begin preparing for their first-ever camping trip together. After attempting to create their own solution for keeping warm in the brisk autumn air using a variety of insulators, the girls end up purchasing the appropriate gear online. They decide to camp at Pine Wood in Fuefuki and after hiking uphill, stop at an onsen to relax. Quite separately, Rin passes her operator’s license exam, and sets off for a trip to Nagano, where she relaxes at a rustic restaurant and waves to the others on a real-time webcam before continuing on to her destination. While the onsen is closed, Rin nonetheless continues exploring the area, finding a spectacular view awaiting her at the top of a peak. As the evening sets in, Rin enjoys a pasta, while Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi cook curry rice at their campground. Rin and Nadeshiko share photos of the scenery that they gaze upon later in the evening. When the weekend concludes, Rin returns to her duties in the school library and wonders how to go about giving Nadeshiko a gift that she’d bought for her. She also finds a book-sized package in her bag that her mother had picked up – upon opening it, she finds a compact grill that she’d ordered prior to setting out for Nagano. Ena arrives and wonders if it’s an offering box, then suggests to Rin that she find Nadeshiko before her gift expires. However, Rin immediately finds Nadeshiko, who’d fallen asleep in the library while waiting for Rin and Ena to finish their conversation. Seeing the joy in Nadeshiko prompts Rin to invite her to give the new grill a whirl, and Nadeshiko decides to go camping at a site that Chiaki had found intriguing. They pick up the ingredients at the same store that Aoi works at, and while the precise ingredients Rin was seeking are unavailable, Nadeshiko is not particularly concerned. Meanwhile, Chiaki spends her weekend scouting out some prospective campsites and encounters an elderly gentleman who is camping. He shares some grilled meat with Chiaki, who becomes excited about the prospect of buying a cast-iron skillet. Later, Sakura drives the two to Lake Shibire: Rin and Nadeshiko go around the lake, and Rin shares with Nadeshiko some supernatural folklore surrounding the lake.

At the halfway point, Yuru Camp△ has focused on the dichotomy between Rin and Nadeshiko’s approaches towards camping. Rin’s preference for camping solo affords her with unparalleled solitude and the ability to freely control her itinerary, allowing for her to actively choose how to make the most of her adventures. By comparison, Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi, despite their relative inexperience in camping, have a fantastic time on their first run because they’re able to consult in one another and share their experiences together. These two different camps both have their unique advantages and drawbacks: Rin faces dejection and frustration when things do not go as planned, especially amidst the frigid air, while Nadeshiko and the others must ensure that they stick with one another and make decisions as a group. However, in spite of these differences, both camps see their participants making the most of things to create a wonderful memory – Rin adds her first-ever long-range trip to her list of camp sites visited, while Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi gain their first-ever camping experience under the stars. The deliberate choice to show Rin and Nadeshiko’s camps together in parallel suggest that, for all of Rin’s enjoyment of camping alone, there’s more similarities in their adventures than Rin is presently aware of. Thus, when Rin openly agrees to camp with Nadeshiko, she might initially be viewing it as a courtesy – she’s still a bit hesitant about meeting up and hanging with the Outdoor Activities Club for the present. However, seeing Nadeshiko’s boundless happiness seems to be having an impact on Rin, drawing her intrigue and leading her to slowly consider the positives about spending time with others.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Beyond the more general summer and winter classifications, sleeping bags can be broken up into four classes: Class I bags are suitable for use in the summer or in an indoors environment, while Class II sleeping bags are intended for use in late spring or early autumn. Class III sleeping bags are rated to keep users comfortable in milder conditions, and Class IV sleeping bags are necessary for cold conditions. Sleeping bags of each class further have comfort ratings (the temperature ranges that the user can reasonably expect to be comfortable) and an extreme rating denotes the temperature that the sleeping bag can prevent frostbite or hypothermia. Class IV bags can be quite pricey and overkill for what Chiaki and the others are looking to do, but upon seeing the price of a winter sleeping bag, they attempt to create their own solution, using Chiaki as a test subject.

  • While they find that their homemade solution of bubble-wrap, tin-foil and cardboard is effective, it is not functional, and so, the girls relent, purchasing their sleeping bags online. With their camping trip to Fuefuki Park now a reality, Chiaki, Aoi and Nadeshiko begin preparing, purchasing supplies and provisions at a local store. Having taken a look around at other discussions on Yuru Camp△, I think it’s safe to say that this anime is universally enjoyable and agreeable: from Random Curiosity to AnimeSuki and even Tango-Victor-Tango, viewers have nothing but good things to say about this anime. There is one notable exception where one individual attempted to apply Jungian psychology to explain why Rin’s not keen on camping with others, but the reality is that the individual in question seems to have missed the bigger picture in Yuru Camp△ – the series is meant to show how people can change given the right influences.

  • Having acquired her operator’s license for a moped recently, Rin prepares to set off for Nagano. It’s the longest distance she’ll have traveled for camping, and her mother reminds her to be careful on the journey, as all parents are wont to when their children set off for great distances. In Alberta, the requirement for operating a moped is a Class VII license, and these licenses only require that one be older than 14. While attractive for their size, mopeds in Alberta are generally not the most comfortable considering the distance between things, and the fact that it’s winter here for eight months of the year.

  • As Rin discovers, driving about on a moped is remarkably chilly; I frequently joke that anyone who finds anything above -10°C “cold” to be lightweights, the truth is that continued exposure to even a mildly brisk day of around 2°C can be quite cold. The temperature is not apparent in the scenery: as Rin makes her way to Nagano, the cold that she faces is not conveyed in the environment, and the anime instead chooses to have Rin mentioning the cold often to reinforce that it is indeed thus. On my end, the cold of Yuru Camp△ requires no stretch of the imagination: during the past week, the daily temperature has not risen above -10°C, and at least 35 centimetres of snow had accumulated as a result of recent snowstorms that brought the city to its knees.

  • Nadeshiko, Aoi and Chiaki set off for Fuefuki park by train. After a grueling hike up the mountainside, Chiaki and Aoi are exhausted, but Nadeshiko remains ready to roll, running around the area in excitement in spite of having carried the most gear of anyone. While fine for an anime such as Yuru Camp△, in a survival situation, Les Stroud recommends taking it slowly and methodically for several reasons. Doing things at a measured pace prevents injury, especially when the mind is racing and therefore, not as attentive, and moving quickly increases sweat, which invites hypothermia in cold conditions.

  • After Chiaki and Aoi regain their energy, they stop at Fuefukigawa Fruit Park. This attraction was built to emphasise Yamanashi’s role in fruit production and features a large greenhouse that holds tropical fruits, as well as a fruit museum and hotel. Nadeshiko, Aoi and Chikaki enjoy ice cream at the Orchid Café, whose menu items are made with local fruits, and here, I note that the Outdoors Activity Club’s first camping trip bring to mind the sort of outdoors activities my parents are fond of: they much prefer shopping around the various shops and doing short hikes to attractions in the mountains.

  • Rin arrives at the Korobokkuru Hutte in Suwa. Located along the Venus Line road en route to Shirakaba Lake, this cottage is a cozy location that opened in 1956, and since then, has become best-known for its coffee and cheesecake, which they serve to hikers in the area. As Rin finds out, their Borsch is also excellent, if somewhat pricey. The prices of menu items at Korobokkuru Hutte are comparable to food prices at Columbia Icefields owing to the costs associated with transporting ingredients out there. Yuru Camp△ captures the rustic feel of the cottage remarkably well, and the Korobokkuru Hutte brings to mind the Lake Agnes Teahouse, located 3.5 kilometres from Lake Louise.

  • Their break over, Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko continue to their campground. Along the way, Rin sends Nadeshiko a link of her waving in front of a webcam in front of a gas station at Kirigamine, which is used to help motorists gauge road conditions before setting off for the Lake Suwa region. There are similar webcams located around Banff, and I used them to great effect when I visited the mountains a few days before the year ended. I note that the web page hosting the live footage uses Adobe Flash, and on mobile devices running stock browsers, the video stream is not visible (having tried with my iPhone 6). The installation of Flash-capable browsers onto one’s device would overcome this particular barrier, although given the nature of Yuru Camp△, it is unlikely that Nadeshiko would be using a mobile browser beyond the default one. We can therefore suppose that their website in-universe is using an HTML5 video player.

  • The girls visit Hottarakashi onsen, whose name approximates to “left alone hot springs” for the fact that beyond the basic facilities, there are minimal staff and amenities at the site. There are two major hot springs here: Aocchi and Kocchi – the girls bathe in Kocchi, which have a head-on view of Mount Fuji. Before we get to the scenery that Yuru Camp△ is famous for, I’ll leave readers with a view of another sort that some will find entertaining.

  • The view from Hottarakashi onsen is nothing short of spectacular; overlooking the countryside northeast of Kofu, the geothermal waters form what comes close to being an infinity pool. Late in 2017, I was considering taking a soak in the Upper Hot Springs of Banff, but I’ve heard that in winter, the water sources can occasionally become depleted, forcing the installation to make use of municipal water. Coupled with the temperature differential, I decided against doing so at the last minute, and it turned out to have been a wise decision on the whole, given how the entire day was frigid and snowy. Instead, I sat down to a hearty brunch and then foolishly drove the Icefields Parkway amidst a winter storm.

  • While taking in the warm waters, Aoi remarks that she’s disinclined to leave, and this brings about the challenge I brought up earlier – I’ve long wondered how bathing in onsen work in winter, since getting out of the warm water and becoming exposed to the frigid outdoor air would be extremely painful…for you. Therefore, I have a request for readers: if you’ve been to the onsen or hot springs by winter, what’s the trick for not freezing to death while moving from the warm waters back into the locker room in an outdoor hot springs? Once this particular issue is dealt with, I may give the Upper Hot Springs of Banff a shot during the winter, although I’ll be careful to only go when the skies are fair and the temperature not unreasonably cold.

  • Having long anticipated an onsen visit of her own, Rin finds the one she was looking for to be shut down, and when she reaches Mount Takabocchi, the skies have clouded over, covering the land in a fog. For a few moments, Rin wishes that she’d gone somewhere closer to home. She stops by the Yatsugatake Chuushin-kogen farm here, where cattle roam during the summer and decides to make the 400 metre walk to the summit of Mount Takabocchi. It is here that I am strongly reminded of that day where I decided to hit the national parks during a winter snowfall.

  • While the heavy snowfall obscured all the usual scenery at Peyto and Bow Lake, in the dead of winter, both lakes were free from any other visitors. The entire area was completely silent, and when I closed my eyes, the complete lack of sound was a magical experience that gave the sense that the world was hibernating. That’s an experience I’m not likely to get again, so in retrospective, maybe that trip was not a total waste of fuel, even if I have very few photos to show for it. As Rin continues her hike, the sun breaks through the clouds just in time for the evening to set in, and she’s treated to a wonderful view of Lake Suwa (the basis for Itomori Lake in Your Name) and Matsumoto.

  • Under the setting sun, Rin prepares her first-ever camp dinner made from scratch, a pasta with bacon, onion, asparagus and shimeji (a mushroom). In conjunction with spaghetti, sliced cheese, some water and milk, Rin seasons her dinner with black pepper and parsley. The end result is a piping hot pasta perfect for the brisk autumn evening, and Rin savours her dinner, sharing the results with Nadeshiko. The narrator reminds viewers that using thin noodles is easier, as the lower pressure at high altitudes corresponds with a lower boiling point in water, reducing the temperature meals cook at. While Rin prefers to travel light with her equipment, I’ve read that a cast-iron skillet is a versatile cooking utensil for campers: pancakes and campfire nachos are just a few of the possible recipes.

  • Back at Pine Wood campground, Nadeshiko and the others have settled in, having set up their campfire and received a free 10-litre supply of water. The site is around a klick from the hot springs where they’d soaked earlier, and the owner’s easygoing, friendly nature is a mirror of Pine Wood’s real-world counterpart. The special fire bundle that Chiaki sets up here is known as a Swedish Torch or Canadian Candle, developed by the Swedes during the Thirty-Year War. As Chiaki mentions, it’s efficient, quick to set up and burns off the ground, allowing it to be set up even if the ground is wet. I’ve largely seen examples making use of heavier-gauge wire to prevent the bundle from falling apart, much to Chiaki’s surprise.

  • Rin relaxes with a book on UFOs as the evening sets in. While I’m quite skeptical of the paranormal, I admit that I do have a fondness for stories surrounding cryptids, UFO sightings and ghosts (provided that it’s all text). It’s a subtle bit of foreshadowing as to what goes down later, especially when taken in conjunction with Nadeshiko expressing discomfort at the thought of walking through a darkening forest.

  • Nadeshiko prepares campfire curry and rice for Chiaki and Aoi. Like Rin’s dinner, which turned out quite nice, Chiaki, Aoi and Nadeshiko savour their curry while overlooking the Kofu basin below. Made with the bog-standard pork, potatoes, carrots, garlic and onions, Nadeshiko adds orka and eggplant to liven her recipe up. It is evident that Yuru Camp△ will continue on with its spectacular depiction of food: besides curry, Nadeshiko, Aoi and Chiaki enjoy fried whole eggs at the Hottarakashi hot springs earlier. These are a specialty cooked in the onsen waters, allowing the egg whites to coagulate while leaving the yolk solid. When deep fried, the eggs take on a new dimension in taste that would likely impress even the likes of Man v. Food‘s Adam Richman.

  • As noted previously, every Yuru Camp△ post that I write will feature at least one image of the girls by nightfall, sitting beside a campfire or electric torch. When the girls turn in, they realise that their tent is only really able to comfortably fit two, and Nadeshiko draws the short straw in a game of rock paper scissors. It turns out that Nadeshiko’s rather afraid of the dark, and to take her mind off things, she messages Rin. who recounts her day’s adventure to Nadeshiko. Their conversation soon turns towards the night view, and Nadeshiko decides to share the view over the Kofu valley with Rin.

  • More often than not, night photos turn out blurry because of a low shutter speed, which results in minute hand shaking propagating into the image. To mitigate this, it is recommended that one use a tripod and reduce the exposure. There are some apps out there that also assist with taking night photography. With an iPhone 6, I’ve found that these simple tricks will suffice in capturing a reasonable-quality image: I usually crop and scale my images down for publishing, so they appear acceptable. After Nadeshiko captures her image, she sends it to Rin, whose mild irritation at being awoken turns to amazement when she sees Nadeshiko’s photograph.

  • Rin subsequently gets back up, hikes up Mount Takabocchi again and takes a photograph of her own, overlooking Lake Suwa. Suwa is visible on the far side of the lake, with Okaya in the foreground. Mount Fuji is just visible on the left hand side of the image. As the crow flies, Rin’s around 106 kilometres from the summit at her current position. She sends this photograph back to Nadeshiko as thanks for sharing.

  • With a distance of some seventy plus kilometers (as the mole digs) separating Rin and Nadeshiko, the two nonetheless feel as though they are camping together. The imagery in this moment makes this abundantly clear, and while perhaps a testament to how technology can connect individuals together over vast distances, the parallel camping trips of the fourth and fifth episodes were really intended to show that despite their different preferences (Rin’s enjoyment of being alone to Nadeshiko’s love for being with others), the two’s adventures are similar in the sort of experience that they confer upon each respective character.

  • After Ena finds Rin in the library, she notices Rin wearing all smiles while daydreaming about the possibilities that have opened with her new compact camping grill. The compact camping grill that Rin purchased is a Showa Press A-4 Boy, which retails for 12000 Yen (140 CAD). Its stainless steel construction and design makes it quick to assemble and disassemble, giving it durability on top of portability. While Rin intends to use it as a means of grilling meat, the A-4 Boy’s top grate can be removed, allowing it to be be used as a portable campfire container, as well.

  • Despite having reservations about finding Nadeshiko and meeting the rowdy bunch that is the Outdoors Activity Club, Rin finds Nadeshiko in the library and gives her the souvenirs from her own trip. Nadeshiko notices the compact grill, and mistakes it for an offerings box. After Rin gives her the rundown of its function, she invites Nadeshiko to a cookout, and when Nadeshiko ups it to a camping trip, Rin accepts.

  • Rin outlines her desire to grill with a high-carbon wood to maximise flavour, and while she initially planned to buy a wide array of pork cuts and short ribs, the winter season means that the supermarket doesn’t have her preferred cuts available. Nadeshiko, on the other hand, is blown away by what the supermarket does have, and so, suggests yakitori and kebabs to Rin, who accepts the idea. Here, the contrasting personalities of Rin and Nadeshiko are brought to light: like myself, Rin like sticking to a set of plans, while Nadeshiko is a free spirit who goes with the flow. These conflicting personality types end up complementing one another; free spirits like Nadeshiko allow rigid-minded folks to loosen up a little, and organised people like Rin encourage others to be themselves more organised.

  • Rin and Nadeshiko run into Aoi while paying for their groceries. A glance at the grocery store that they visit shows that it is the Selva Food Garden in Minobu, thirty minutes north of Nanbu, where Nadeshiko lives. This grocery store is a part of a small chain in the Yamanashi area that prides itself for using locally sourced produce and close ties with the community. The choice to have Aoi work here seems to suggest this, and here, I note that although we’re at the halfway point in Yuru Camp△, very little of Aoi’s personality has been presented insofar. I’m hoping that future episodes rectify this.

  • At this point in November where I am, the autumn leaves have long fallen off the tree branches. Standing on the banks of Lake Shibire, the autumn leaves are especially pleasant-looking.  The equivalent time of year where the trees are looking their best during autumn in Cowtown is usually mid to late September, and depending on the temperature, early October. Of course, it’s February now; it’s my least favourite month of the year on account of being the coldest, greyest and most miserable all-around. The flipside of all this is that the bitter cold makes food taste better, and yesterday, as the second snowstorm to hit the area began, I enjoyed cuts of lamb sauteéd with onions, enokitake and Korean hot sauce.

  • As it turns out Nadeshiko’s interest in coming here is a result of the Outdoor Activities Club wanting to scout out the area, having heard many rumours and myths about it. Located at the heart of Shibireko Prefectural Natural Park, the lake is about 320 metres across. After reaching Lake Shibire, the two check in and make the walk to Shibireko Ryuunso Camping Ground. A quiet site, visitors note that walking the distance with a great deal of gear can be quite cumbersome, even with the provided carts, and the high altitude makes the place quite cold, but the scenery and tranquility are well worth it.

  • Sakura is the opposite of Nadeshiko, being calm and composed. With the exception of the first episode, she’s definitely presented as a kind older sibling who is willing to drive her younger sister around to places. I suppose now is a good time as any to note that Sakura is voiced by Marina Inoue, who has previously performed as Valkyria Chronicles‘ Alicia Melchiott and Laura Bodewig of Infinite Stratos. She orders a chai tea here and takes in the autumn scenery of Lake Shibire.

  • While walking around the lake to reach their campsite, Rin casually shares with Nadeshiko a story about a “Ghost Cow”, which I’m almost certain is a reference to the urban legend of the same name, causing Nadeshiko to face-plant into the ground. With this episode, we’ve reached the halfway point of Yuru Camp△, who is maintaining its title as the most relaxing anime of the season. I will return when we pass the nine-episode mark in a few weeks to write about what adventures Rin, Nadeshiko and the others go on next, so for now, that’s pretty much it for Yuru Camp△. Upcoming posts will deal with Slow Start and A Place Further Than The Universe.

While it is not immediately apparent, the act of sharing their adventures allows Rin to feel some of that closeness to the Outdoors Activity Club’s members, even if Rin herself is not ready to be with them just yet. The slow pacing in Yuru Camp△ works to the anime’s advantage; the portrayal of one journey from enjoyment of activities alone to enjoyment of activities with others is allowed to progress at a very natural pacing. Yuru Camp△ is reasonably expected to see Rin making small steps towards sharing her hobby, time and knowledge with the others; the upcoming episode will see Rin spending time with Nadeshiko on her initiative: up until now, Nadeshiko’s been driving things forward and actively spending time with Rin, so it is quite welcoming to see Rin taking charge, as it signifies the beginning of her journey towards the camping trip seen in Yuru Camp△‘s opening. Yuru Camp△‘s journey will culminate here to illustrate just how much of an impact Nadeshiko has on Rin, and so, now that we are halfway through Yuru Camp△, it will be very interesting to see what sparks the events that really open Rin up to the prospect of camping with Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi, as well as what leads Ena to join in with the others, as well. Yuru Camp△ has maintained its consistently solid visuals and music, so it is indubitable that each upcoming episode will be immensely relaxing and satisfying to watch.

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