Yuru Camp△ Episode Zero: OVA Review and Reflection
April 1, 2018
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“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” –Plato
Aoi and Chiaki are surprised to learn that they’ve received a narrow storage space as their clubroom. Before they begin cleaning, Aoi brings out a camping magazine from the school library, and she looks through it with Chiaki, learning that camping is an expensive hobby. When Chiaki grows discouraged and shares with Aoi her wishing of going camping together with her, Aoi is moved. She crafts a makeshift cooking tripod from some of the materials in the storage room. Chiaki considers creating their own camping gear with what’s available in the room, but physical constraints make this an impractical route. She later manages to find an inexpensive tent online and makes a reservation for it when they see that it’s sold out, feeling that with a tent, their adventures can really begin. With a runtime of five minutes and seventeen seconds, the Yuru Camp△ OVA brings to mind the likes of Girls und Panzer‘s OVAs – set before Nadeshiko arrives, the OVA details the Outdoors Activity Club’s first steps from humble beginnings, giving audiences a chance to see Aoi and Chiaki’s friendship prior to the addition of the remainder of Yuru Camp△‘s cast. The OVA also illustrates that Chiaki enjoyed camping with her family as a child, and although her family was not shown during Yuru Camp△, the OVA depicts her memories of camping with her parents as a positive influence; this is what prompts Chiaki’s desire to start a club for doing outdoors activities without the rigour and intensity of another existing club.
- I realise that today is April Fools’ Day, but this post is no April Fools’ joke, and its contents are authentic. With this cleared up, we enter Yuru Camp△ discussion, where I’ve previously referred to the Outdoors Activity Club’s clubroom as the Industrial Hallway. Named after the location in The Matrix, which is characterised by an infinitely long hallway with doors in it, the Industrial Hallway itself a reference to the Long Hall in Alice in Wonderland. Unlike the Long Hall or the Industrial Hallway, the Outdoors Activity Club’s clubroom is finite, with a window looking out into the skies and no other doors, albeit a really narrow one that makes it feel like a hallway.
- Shimarin and her Dango-style hair are visible as Aoi browses through the school library, finding a camping magazine in the process. Rin has no speaking roles in the OVA and only makes a cameo appearance to reinforce the fact that this is before Rin becomes acquainted with Aoi and the others. This discussion has fifteen screenshots, since there is quite a bit to cover despite the OVA’s short length – basic computation finds that there’s a screenshot taken every 21 seconds on average, which, while high, does not beat the record set by my Warm, Winter Canada post.
- While browsing through a camping magazine, Chiaki and Aoi learn that camping gear can be very expensive, especially the high-end equipment designed for more extreme outdoors conditions. Aoi imagines Rin running faster with a knife, after they come across some pricey survival knives and wonder if there’s any difference between these knives and kitchen knives. A survival knife is built for outdoor applications (e.g. preparing traps, skinning animals and cutting through branches) and can be folded so they can be transported easily, while kitchen knives are strictly for preparing food and specialised for the task. They are not so easily transported in a backpack compared to survival knives.
- Chiaki consider several makeshift, if somewhat creative, solutions to address the fact that gear is so expensive, but she ends up feeling that they might not be feasible. She recounts to Aoi that her interest in camping was sparked by the excitement she experienced while camping with her parents during kindergarten. From enjoying food cooked outdoors to the warmth of a campfire and the expanse of dark skies, it was a memorable experience that Chiaki has longed to recreate and share with Aoi. It stands to reason that Chiaki and Aoi are very close friends.
- Aoi is moved by Chiaki’s sincerity and from her expression, is on board to help Chiaki on her quest to share the magic of camping. She bumps into some metal tubing below. While Yuru Camp△ has given Aoi and Chiaki limited characterisation, glimpses into both girls’ characters were seen: Chiaki is very enthusiastic about camping, while Aoi is more laid-back and practically-minded. Aoi is seen reigning back Chiaki’s excitement at times, a consequence of having a younger sister, and so, when dealing with her friends, has a quiet maturity about her.
- In a few moments, Aoi creates a cooking tripod, used for suspending a pot above a campfire. One of the joys about Aoi’s character is that she’s essentially K-On!‘s Yui, Mio and Mugi rolled into one: hearing Aoi talk is always so enjoyable because her lines are delivered by Aki Toyosaki, who imparts into Aoi’s voice a soft, relaxing quality. Some viewers have found it unusual that she speaks with a Kansai dialect, arguing that her speaking the Kansai dialect in Yamanashi is equivalent to hearing someone from Alberta talk with a Brooklyn accent. It’s quite amusing that these folks do not think outside the box – using the old noodle, it’s possible that the Inuyamas might have originally lived in the Kansai area before moving to Yamanashi.
- While I’m a fan of Aoi for her voice, browsing around on the interwebs, it seems that her voice and eyebrows are, curiously, not her defining characteristic. The manga depicts her as being well-endowed relative to Chiaki and Nadeshiko, but the anime kicks things up to twelfth gear. My intuition tells me that the author created Aoi to be a bit visually distinct from the others, and the anime decided to make things more visible, although speaking to the strengths of Yuru Camp△, excessive mammaries and yuri are largely absent, so Aoi’s large bust never distracts from the story beyond providing a few moments conducive of some interesting screenshots.
- Seeing that it is possible to improvise, Chiaki proposes making use of the various objects in the storeroom to help create camping gear, cleaning out the storeroom in the process. Throughout Yuru Camp△‘s first half, Chiaki continues to devise solutions that, while somewhat effective, are also impractical. This is best evidenced by the use of various insulators to keep warm in place of a properly-outfitted sleeping bag; while Chiaki notes that it works, it would also be quite difficult to use the bathroom had they actually used such a solution whilst camping.
- While Chiaki and Aoi are clearly unfamiliar with camping this early in the game, their spirit is admirable, and I mention that outdoorsmen like Les Stroud improvise frequently, making use of conventional objects in unconventional manners in order to survive. Some notable examples include him using car insulation and seats to fashion a rudimentary pair of snowshoes in Norway and making a desalination apparatus from parts he finds on the beach on Tiburon Island. While Stroud is usually disappointed with the appearance of junk everywhere he goes, no matter how remote, he also makes considerable use of it to help in his survival, reasoning that he should always be bettering his situation, and that making things also helps keep boredom away (which could be lethal in a survival situation).
- Now is the winter of Chiaki and Aoi’s disco tent: in their imagination, a gust of wind eliminates their hardwork, snuffing out their campfire and blowing away the table into Chiaki’s face. Aoi is knocked over like a statue and begins crying. It’s a heart-wrenchingly adorable moment: bonus points are awarded to this scene for depicting Aoi as a rigid-body object. It’s a very clever play on the phrase “now is the winter of our discontent”, which is from Shakespeare’s Richard III, describing Richard as a man who abhors himself and the world he’s in. Phonetically similar to “disco tent”, the phrase has been parodied, and Yuru Camp△ has taken it one step further, having Chiaki and Aoi suffer when they create a disco tent.
- Chiaki falls to her knees after accepting that improvisation has its limits. Later, Aoi and Chiaki will take on part-time jobs to provide funds for the Outdoor Activities Club’s excursions, making it possible to acquire some entry-level gear for camping that the girls put to good use. However, I find that their improvisation early on helps them in developing a survival mindset; while not in the same survival situations as Les Stroud, being open-minded allows Chiaki and Aoi to roll with a situation as things happen. They impart the benefits of this approach to Rin later on in Yuru Camp△.
- While browsing on her phone, Chiaki finds an incredibly inexpensive tent: retailing for a mere 980 Yen (11.90 CAD), it turns out I was wrong about the tent being on a sale. With this being said, I have seen some tents sell for as little as 21.99 CAD (ODOLAND 2-person tent), and at the time of writing, there’s a tent, the Gigatent Cooper, which is going for 18.99 CAD. Some of the seemingly-unrealistic things in Yuru Camp△ are in fact possible, evidence that the author has taken the effort of doing the research before putting things into the manga.
- At the end of the day, Chiaki and Aoi have cleared out the former storeroom, putting themselves one step closer to consolidating it as their clubroom. By the time Nadeshiko arrives, the room is filled with texts and magazines on camping, along with some basic camping implements. There’s also a blackboard with a drawing of what I can consider to be Adventure Time‘s Jake the Dog. Voiced by John DiMaggio, Jake sounds identical to Futurama‘s Bender, and his best moments are downright hilarious.
- While reserving the tent for the present, Chiaki will eventually buy the tent. With one thing down, she takes a breather with Aoi in the OVA’s final moments, feeling that they’re one step closer to camping, but one thing leads to another, and soon, autumn descends upon them. Writing for the Yuru Camp△ OVA also reminded me of some of the challenges I faced while writing the Girls und Panzer OVAs years back: as short OVAs with many interesting moments, it was difficult to find something meaningful to talk about for each of the moments in my figure captions.
- We’re now into April, and after a dinner at a Chinese restaurant, the evening is setting in. With this post in the books, I think I’ve covered off everything that can be reasonably discussed for the whole of Yuru Camp△. March has been a bit mad for posts, and moving ahead into the spring season, I have plans to watch Amanchu! Advance, as well as Comic Girls, Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online and Gundam Build Divers – of these shows, I will watch a few episodes before deciding how often I’d like to write about them.
To see the Outdoors Activity Club come so far in the space of a few months is most uplifting – when Chiaki and Aoi first started the club, all they had was a storeroom, some magazines and a reservation for a basic 980-yen tent. All beginnings are difficult; for Chiaki and Aoi, besides initially lacking the resources to carry out a camping trip, the club is also short on members and an advisor. It is only with Nadeshiko’s arrival and eventual roping in of Ena and Rin into their adventures that Chiaki and Aoi’s visions of the Outdoors Activity Club were realised. By showing things at the very beginning, audiences thus appreciate Nadeshiko, Rin and Ena’s friendship with Chiaki and Aoi further, elevating the sense of warmth that this group of friends have developed in their time spent camping together. Its short runtime notwithstanding, the Yuru Camp△ OVA is a pleasant addition to Yuru Camp△ for accentuating the adventures and experiences that Chiaki and Aoi will later have with Nadeshiko, Rin and Ena.