The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Japanese Animation

Amanchu! Advance: Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark, On Living In The Moment

“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” –Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Preparations for the culture festival are in full swing. Futaba, Hikari, Ai and Makoto remain at school late into the night hours in order to finish their class exhibits. While Futaba and Hikari go around collecting juice boxes for use with their mural, Ai is creating tropical plants for her class. After Futaba and Hikari drop by with some gourd juice, Ai decides to buy another drink, and steps out to find a vending machine located at the top of a stairwell leading to the roof. She wistfully wishes that she could live in the moment forever, and encounters an enigmatic boy who goes by the name of Peter. He takes Ai on a dream-like journey through the school and mentions that she could stay in the moment forever should she chooses, but Mato intervenes, stating that Peter is a mischievous spirit. As the evening wears on, Ai becomes increasingly tired and dreams about Peter, where she runs into a much younger Mato and learns of Peter’s origins as an infant left behind at a shrine. Longing for companionship, Peter thus fabricated a dream-like world to be with others. Mato and Ai eventually board a large ship in the sky, and the younger Mato expresses a want to be with Peter forever before the dream ends. Shaken, Ai asks Futaba and Hikari to help her return into the dream, where she confronts Peter, declares that she’s in love with him, and subsequently helps him break free of his perceptual isolation in the dream world. Before the two part ways, Ai promises that she will remember Peter, and reawakens. She runs into Mato and explains that Peter’s spirit has left the school. They spot a cat that looks very similar to the cat seen in Ai’s dream, and following it to the local shrine, finds Mamoru Towano there. He explains that the infant was not left behind, and meeting Mato helped him to remember his dreams of old: Mamoru reveals that he is Peter, and it was thanks to Ai that he was able to recall everything. Ai leaves Mato and Mamoru to catch up, dissolving into tears. When she returns to the school with Makoto, she sees the mural that Futaba’s class had been working on, depicting Peter Pan and praises their work.

While the presence of the supernatural in Advance had remained quite ambiguous previously, by the Peter arc, it would seem that such elements have returned in full force: there is a limit to what neural science can account for in the turn of events that lead Ai to encounter the extraordinary. One could suppose that the drowsiness induced by working so late at school, coupled with the magical, uncommon atmosphere of being at school by night, and the amplification of the unknown results in unusual dreams: being in a school, one might say that Ai’s subconsciousness was able to piece together a story about Mato and Mamoru. However, this explanation fails to include how Mamoru knows about Peter and connects Ai’s involvement in his dreams through time and space, and similarly, does not include how Futaba and Hikari can appear with full control over their surroundings to assist Ai. The precise mechanism of how this works is not so easily fitted into accepted knowledge about memories and dreams, so one might simply be forced to accept that at least three of the Infinity Stones would be needed to make things possible and leave it at that. Instead, the focus of this arc, besides giving Ai a bit more time to shine in Advance, also deals predominantly with the dangers of living in the moment. In particular, after Ai wishes that the magical atmosphere of the night prior to the cultural festival would last forever, she is whisked away into a dream world where time has stood still, and one where feelings and emotions remain fixed in an unchanging status quo. The end result is an eternally wistful world where one can only wish for a future; Ai realises that the way to break this cycle is to accept that no moment can last forever, and that it is necessary to take the initiative of taking that step towards the future. In freeing Peter from his dream world, Ai also accepts that one must be mindful of the future. She is thus able to bring Mamoru and Mato together: throughout Advance, Mamoru’s growing feelings for Mato have subtly been hinted at, and it takes a push from Ai, although at her own expense, to advance things. Consequently, Ai’s arc marks the point in Advance where the narrative begins shifting towards moving forwards.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Culture festivals and staying overnight to prepare for them in the Japanese high school setting are a familiar aspect of anime: by nightfall, school grounds take on a completely different feel. Despite the lateness of the hour, everyone is hard at work, bringing life to a place that is otherwise quite deserted by the later hours of a day. In this Advance post, I’ve gone with the typical thirty images, although as a first for my Amanchu! posts, this post will not feature any screenshots that are underwater.

  • Futaba and Hikari have a reduced presence in the third quarter. Here, they are attempting to sell gourd juice; better known as lauki juice, this particular beverage has some health effects, but everyone in Amanchu! seems adverse to its taste. While said to be refreshing, bitter lauki juice has a high conceptration of cucurbitacin compounds. In moderation, these compounds can help with inflammation and cardiovascular problems, but in excess, can be result in gastrointestinal issues.

  • During my time as a middle school student, I helped with the computer science instructor’s school expos. There is indeed a bit of a magic to the school at night; a friend and I joked that we were demoing HyperCard projects, Flash Animations and HTML web pages…at night. I was very fond of helping explain to parents of newcoming students what the joys of the school’s computer courses were, and while I did not do anything of the sort for high school, in University, for my undergraduate and graduate programmes, I ended up helping my supervisor giving evening demonstrations of our lab’s work, and my last-ever full on evening presentation was a formal event celebrating my campus’ fiftieth anniversary.

  • I understand that operating at night can result in unusual phenomenon occurring. When we’re sleep deprived and exhausted, hallucinations can take place because the body begins reducing effort in processing information from external stimuli. Sensory deprivation then causes the mind to fill in the gaps with different images and sounds. Initially, when we entered this arc, I believed that science could be utilised to explain what Ai was experiencing. However, when it becomes clear that this is a shared experience (i.e. Mato is aware of what Ai sees), the scientific approach suddenly became ineffectual.

  • The manifestation known as “Peter” initially brings about questions of whether or not Ai is genuinely interested in remaining at this particular point in time forever. While we’ve seen Futaba and Hikari be challenged with a desire to let the good times roll for as long as possible, Ai had hitherto been given very little characterisation. In Amanchu!, Ai is depicted as hot-blooded, brash and occasionally violet, but also very caring and sensitive whenever romance is concerned. Through the Peter arc, one can then surmise that while Futaba and Hikari are focused on diving, Ai is dealing with her own challenges in romance.

  • Peter takes Ai on a very surreal trip through the school; jarring and quite surreal, the execution brings to mind the likes of the surreal spaces seen in ARIA. While one could enjoy Amanchu!‘s first season without having watched ARIA beforehand, Advance references numerous aspects of ARIA that make them difficult to discount. I would therefore contend that folks wondering about the supernatural, surrealist components of Advance would be well-served well to watch at least the first two seasons of ARIA and become familiarised with the lore here.

  • Mato counts Peter as a ghost, a malevolent force whose existence is to ensnare students. Peter’s supernatural nature becomes more apparent as time wears on: he seemingly phases through a wall at the top of the stairwell. The unusual composition and the merging of the supernatural with reality ties back in with Futaba’s belief that dreams and reality become more difficult to discern in youth; logical from a thematic perspective, I nonetheless found that conventional reasoning is inadequate to explain how things unfold for this story. This is nominally a deal-breaker for some viewers, but I’ve seen my share of stories requiring a willful suspension of disbelief.

  • As such, I will chalk up the experiences in Advance here to be a product of the Living Force and be done with it (hence the page quote). Of course, some individuals have tried to mask their incomprehension of the events in Advance by resorting to pseudoacademic means. One Verso Sciolto believes that the whole point of Ai’s experiences is to put “spirituality in a different perspective”. I’ve had my disagreements with this individual before, and despite their choice of name (“Verso Sciolto” is Italian for “extremely civil and pleasant, unthreatening and welcoming”), I’ve found that this individual is none of these things, being confrontational, vague and aloof. I’m not the only one who believes this is the case: they’ve been banned from a community that I frequent for arguing semantics with others. Such folk are best ignored: very little is to be gained by sparring with folk that believe themselves college professors lecturing first-year students.

  • I was tempted to count exhaustion as being the primary reason for why she begins seeing physical manifestations of Peter on the school grounds by the bonfire pyre, but from a narrative perspective, this also foreshadows Peter’s identity: Mamoru was last seen by the pyre, ensuring it was ready for the events ahead. Here, I note that this is why I don’t always write about the shows I watch immediately after I watch them; being able to reflect on what I’ve seen allows me to notice things I might’ve missed going from first impressions alone.

  • Watching Futaba and Hikari trying to distribute the juice boxes to their classmates so they may use them for an art project reminds me of an episode of the PBS series Arthur, where Binky attempts to make a Popsicle stick bridge by eating Popsicle. He’s informed that the sticks can be brought en mass at crafts stores and wonders if he wasted his time eating all of the Popsicles. In Advance, I do not believe such a shortcut exists for juice boxes, but I do note that going around and giving out juices boxes is clever: students can be refreshed, provided they do not pick up the gourd juice, and then the boxes are repurposed later.

  • While running in the halls, Ai trips and falls: Mamoru makes to catch her but fails. While these mishaps will come to serve a more important purposes later, they also have a more comedic purpose, revealing that Ai and Mio Akiyama of K-On! are not so different. This is the second time that Ai falls, and in retrospect, foreshadows Peter’s identity. While Advance has been more forward with its fanservice, nothing’s actually seen from our perspective, and this is the way I prefer it: ARIA is not known for unnecessary exposure, and it would seem out of place in Amanchu!, as well.

  • Ai later falls asleep again and enters a world that’s very nearly identical to that of her own, with the exception that older buildings are still standing, and that there’s a clear half-foot of water everywhere. This surreal environment is most familiar to ARIA veterans as the acqua alta events that Akari occasionally encounters on Aqua. These are modelled after Venice’s acqua alta (lit. “high water”), caused by the combination of high tides and strong winds. The phenomenon is never explored in ARIA, and in Advance, this is even more unusual.

  • While wandering the deserted, flooded streets, Ai runs into a much younger Mato, who’s also carrying a cat resembling President Hime M. Granzchesta of Himeya Company. Mato provides a bit of background into the phenomenon that viewers and Ai are seeing, clearing up some of the questions that might arise from a story that has become increasingly surreal with time. Advance‘s references to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan have become very overt at this point in time: while it might have been ambiguous when Peter wondered if Ai was interested in living in the moment for all eternity, entering a dream world with Mato and encountering a vast ship in the sky removed any doubts about the allusion.

  • As a child, I was minimally familiar with the story of Peter Pan and Neverland, having read it as a part of my early primary school curriculum. However, it’s been quite some time since I’ve actually read them, and the Disney interpretation is missing thematic elements, so I did some reading to familiarise myself with the original, which is considered a very well-known and famous story in the West. Dealing primarily with themes of innocence and conflicting responsibility.

  • Peter Pan is, in a way, meant to be viewed as a tragedy: to be stuck as a child forever is a curse, as it deprives one of the responsibilities and privileges of growing up. These particular aspects go hand-in-hand: with adulthood comes the increasing duty of contributing to society and family, as well as the freedom to pursue the things one wishes for, as well. Children, while free from many responsibilities, also lack agency.

  • Ai is minimally familiar with Futaba’s profound ability to have lucid dreams. For my part, I have full agency when I dream, although perhaps attesting to my character, I don’t do anything in my dreams that I wouldn’t do in reality. Most of my dreams are set in a largely-believable world not dissimilar to reality, but with minor differences, although there have been cases where I’ve had some incredible experiences through my dreams. With this being said, I wake up, and push the dreams out of my head because I need my mind firmly focused on what’s upcoming. This is why I don’t share my dreams with the world.

  • After reaching the airborne pirate ship, Mato and Ai breach into the ship’s interior, a portal to a Shrine on a hill. A large statue of the Cait Sith can be seen holding a bassinet where an infant sleeps, with tears from his eyes. The water the pours from the ship into the world below is therefore from the infant, who is full of sorrow for having been left behind. In his melancholy, the infant create an entire dream world with the hope of meeting others and tempering the incredible loneliness that he experiences. The sum of these meetings manifests as the young man that we see as Peter.

  • Mato’s strong choice of words to Ai about Peter in the present contradicts her actions within her dreams, where she interacts with Peter as one might treat a lover. Seeing these interactions also leads Ai to understand her own feelings. Peter represents the yearning to live in the present, so Ai seems to be drawn to her world and its people.

  • Ai reacts strongly to being unceremoniously thrown out of her dream, feeling that Peter’s fate is too sad to be left alone. She’s become very invested in what happens with Peter and Mato, but at this point, is still unaware of what it entails. Once all of the pieces come together, this arc might be seen as a bit of a love story for Ai: we recall her propensity for embarrassment where romance is concerned and also note that this love story is about falling in love with the abstract, rather than an individual.

  • Unable to let things slide, Ai recruits Futaba’s help in helping her return. It is technically possible to return to a dream and actively shape its outcomes: it requires a very strong imagination and will to execute. Thus, with Makoto watching over everyone, Futaba and Hikari help Ai out. They fall asleep with her and enter her dream world, being acutely aware that they are in a dream space.

  • Spawning brooms back in, Futaba, Ai and Hikari fly up to the airborne ship, where they keep the doors open long enough for Ai to step through the portal back to the shrine once again. After this point, Futaba and Hikari depart from the dream, leaving Ai to face Peter on her own. Futaba and Hikari return to their classmates and are not seen again until the episode’s ending.

  • While it comes out of the blue, it is no surprise that Ai openly declares that she’s love in Peter. However, rather than promising to stay with him, Ai asks him to take a step forward, waking up and crying out. Breaking this cycle of eternal longing would bring Peter what he desires, Ai reasons; her thoughts here show that Ai, while enjoying the present, is also aware that very little is to be gained by being stuck in one time period. Wanting what she feels is best for Peter is what prompts her to give this suggestion.

  • I do not believe I’ve included a screenshot of the vast airborne ship in whole. This ship is gargantuan and features elements common to pirate ships seen in fiction. I’ve never really been a big fan of pirates of the skull-and-crossbones, peg-leg variety: stories about pirates that interest me are much more modern in nature. The film Captain Phillips is an excellent instance of what I prefer my pirate stories to be, rather than things like Pirates of the Caribbean.

  • Ai’s persistence pays off, and Peter agrees to wake up and see what his future entails. In their final moments together, Ai promises to never forget about Peter. The dream world dissolves, and unlike Mitsuha and Taki in Your Name, Ai’s immediately reminded of Peter by seeing visual cues in her environment. She finds Mato and informs her that Peter’s spirit is unlikely to walk the halls of the school again. While it felt very much a dream, Mato and Ai soon spot a cat looking very much like the cat seen in Ai’s dreams. They follow him to the local shrine.

  • When they reach the shrine, Mato and Ai are disappointed to find Mamoru there. However, he reveals that he is well aware of his experiences within the dreams, recalling vividly his conversations with Mato and Ai. For him, he immediately connects the dots about Ai thanks to a very clear visual cue, and in the process, confirms that he had known Mato through his dreams, as well. From a logical perspective, one might surmise that Ai has developed a crush on Mamoru and the stressors of working late, while forgetting that Futaba and the others were doing something related to Peter Pan, resulted in her dreams, but Mamoru’s recollections immediately causes this bit of speculation to be incorrect.

  • Mamoru fills in the remaining story for Ai and Mato: the baby was recovered, having only been left there for a moment, and subsequently, grew up as everyone else did. I conclude that the supernatural is at play here, taking the form of either an anomaly of the Force or some clever use of Infinity Stones, and leave it at that. A trace of Peter’s smile is visible in Mamoru: Ai is embarrassed beyond all measure that he’d seen her pantsu, but later relents and understanding what is about to happen, excuses herself, allowing Mato and Mamoru to catch up.

  • Mamoru himself had been uncertain that Mato was really the same Mato he’d seen while dreaming, and Mato had long wondered when she closed her mind to miracles and the extraordinary. Mamoru’s long held feelings for Mato, and I’m curious to see if anything will occur now that Mato knows about Mamoru being the same Peter she’d dreamed about. What goes on in the minds of infants is presently not well characterised: babies sleep a great deal to build neural connections and learn to adapt to the different sensory inputs they have while in the world, so Advance‘s take on this might be to say that this is one possibility as to what’s happening in the minds of infants who’ve not yet learnt to communicate through a spoken language yet.

  • Makoto comforts the embarrassed and heartbroken Ai, reminding her that the school festival is a time of happiness and smiles. Having been there previously, I know that heartbreak is no joke, although as Makoto says, Ai’s best bet is to for now, be in the moment and appreciate all of the effort that she and her classmates have put into making the school’s culture festival a success. Of course, this is merely my interpretation of things, and I could be completely off-base here. If there’s another account for Ai’s reactions, I would love to hear it, since quite honestly, I’m a little unsure as to what’s happening.

  • This is the first time I’ve written about Amanchu! where diving is not featured to any capacity. However, I feel that despite the absence of descending into the ocean with specialised gear, this arc represents diving into the mind and the feelings that normally don’t come into the foreground. With the themes in Advance, I would not be surprised if the series ended up hinting at the idea that diving into the ocean is no different than dreaming: immensely magical and sometimes perplexing.

  • Here is the culmination of Futaba, Hikari and the remainder of their class’ efforts: a spectacular Peter Pan mural marking the school’s sixty first culture festival. The next I return to write about Amanchu! Advance will be the season finale in roughly three weeks, unless something occurs in Advance that merits additional posts. Upcoming posts will deal with The Division‘s Urban MDR, The Road To Battlefield V and some special posts ahead of this year’s summer solstice, so until next time, have a good one, and take it easy!

Given what we’ve seen, it is then reasonable to say that the learnings Ai has accrued will apply to Futaba and Hikari. This will in turn form the basis for the main message of Amanchu! Advance; it is likely that as the sequel gears up towards its finale, we will have the introduction of Kotori, who still has yet to formally appear in Advance, as well as Futaba going for her advanced certification and diving with Hikari by night for the first time. The anime has been headed in this direction for quite some time, and in its latest episodes, suggests that there are some phenomenon in this world that cannot be so readily justified by science and logic. In choosing this approach, Amanchu! suggests that the vastness of the world means that some things will be those that we cannot understand. This ties back in with the constant allusions to the idea that it can become difficult to separate dreams and reality, and although this can seemingly immobilise an individual, compelling the to live in the present, advancing and moving ahead become essential so one may explore the unknown and realise possibilities that otherwise remain a dream. This is what Amanchu! Advance has conveyed nine episodes into its run, and with three episodes remaining, it would appear that Advance must return to a more grounded world in order to fully convey messages of moving forwards and embracing the future. It will be interesting to see just how Advance does this, although depending on the direction that Advance chooses, I can also imagine that some members among the audience may not find the journey or outcome agreeable; with this being said, I’m definitely excited to see where things go, and will return to write about whether or not the remaining quarter did a satisfactory job with its execution.

The Real Life Camping Grounds and A Mystery Lake: An Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ Part Three

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” –George A. Moore

While this is a Yuru Camp△ post, permit me to indulge in an anecdote completely unrelated to Yuru Camp△, whose relevance will become apparent once I finish. I refer to the mockumetary series Pure Pwnage, whose unusual take on gamer culture and unique sense of humour made the series a highly memorable, timeless satire of gaming. I’ve referred to Pure Pwnage here on several occasions and have even written about the movie, which premièred in 2016. In Pure Pwnage, I’ve found a surprising depth in the series for how it handled life lessons, and another aspect that stood out is that Pure Pwnage is all-Canadian. The series predominantly features locations in Toronto, but also makes some use of locations in Montreal, Hamilton and even Calgary. The biggest query on my mind was where in Calgary FPS_Doug’s most famous scenes were shot: the streetlights seen while Doug is driving around and explaining his backstory are only found in Calgary, and the neighbourhood looked very familiar. The precise location continued to elude me, but then I realised that I could make use of a unique-looking landmark to figure things out. While Doug is driving, he passes by a school with a green, conic roof. Armed with this bit of information, the knowledge that such a school did not exist in the quadrant I am most familiar with, and Google Maps’ 3D mode, I found out that the school is called Monsignor JS Smith School, and using some additional tricks, worked out where FPS_Doug’s most infamous moment occurred. One of Pure Pwnage‘s most iconic moments was filmed in Douglasdale, a community in southeast Calgary, and it turns out that this is probably why FPS_Doug is called Doug. How is this pertinent to Yuru Camp△, one asks? The knowledge of a few basic clues, some resourcefulness and a powerful tool has allowed me to work out some of the locations behind Rin and Nadeshiko’s camping trips: unlike the previous trips, these locations proved to be more challenging to find, and without these techniques, this third and (maybe) final armchair journey post would not exist.

  • While the skies may not match up entirely between the Yuru Camp△ images and the real-world equivalent, it is clear that Yuru Camp△ has captured the moody, brown landscapes of the Nagano hills by autumn, right down to details in the road signs. Unlike many of the previous locations, however, this stretch of open road was not easy to find, since there were no major landmarks to help determine where the route was. It turns out that this is Route 194, just north of the gas station where Rin waved to the traffic camera.

  • I will outline briefly the technique for how these lonely stretches of road are found here, and reiterate the process later – quite simply, it entails knowing roughly where Rin started, where Rin is going, and the fact that Yuru Camp△‘s attention to detail has led the girls to take the shortest path to their destinations. Taken together, this means that we can at least narrow down the route to one. Having a single path to follow means a brute force search of the spots seen in Yuru Camp△ is not as painful as it otherwise would be.

  • This is one of several paths up the mountain to the Yatsugatake-Chushin Kogen. In Japan, a Quasi-National Park is a park that is managed by nearby prefectures, rather than the federal government. Yatsugatake-Chushin Kogen is a quasi-national park designated as such in 1964, managed by the Nagano and Yamanashi prefecture governments, and has a surface area of close to forty thousand hectares: it encompasses several lava plateaus and is a popular site for skiing. The area’s volcanic origins mean that onsen are also found here.

  • Here, we are looking at an ordinary roadside turnout. According to Google Maps, Rin would’ve continued on into the mountains along route 194, turned onto route 199, and then made her way back down along route 142. She would then turn right onto the Shimo-Suwa-Okaya bypass, continued on until she reached the Takabochi Skyline route and then ascend upwards into the mountains again. The entire run is around 37.1 kilometres, and back home, this distance can be traveled in roughly a third of an hour on open road. However, the winding mountain roads and area traffic slow things down.

  • The sign here (高ボッチ鉱泉) to the Takabocchi Hot Springs indicates that it is around six kilometres out, and last I checked, this hot springs has been permanently closed. While there’s the misconception that it was closed for the season, the sign seen in Yuru Camp△ indicates that this closure is indeed permanent, otherwise, the sign would indicate that it was closed seasonally. One can empathise with Rin, who’s traveled for upwards of an hour and a half outside, where it is 2ºC: while this is warm for folks of the True North Strong™, I know that being outside for this long without proper outerwear can be quite chilly.

  • Rin busts some mad moves on her way down to the Takabocchi hot springs. Six more minutes further would have seen Rin arriving at Akanejyuku Hot Springs, which visitors report to be quite comfortable and relaxing. Akanejyuku is a ryokan, but their hot springs are open to the public; admissions for adults is 700 yen, although the site asks visitors to limit themselves to sticking around only an hour to respect the accommodations for the ryokan‘s guests. Like the hot springs at Banff, the site’s water temperature may fluctuate unexpectedly.

  • With her plans to warm her bones in the onsen dashed, Rin returns up the way she came and stops in the wide open spaces of the Takabocchi highlands, which offer a sweeping view of the Japanese Alps to the northwest. Mount Fuji is also visible in the east when visibility is good. Between May and October, dairy cows also graze up here, although since it’s November by the time Rin visits, the grasslands are now quite empty.

  • The Yuru Camp△ incarnation of this field, with its cattle, seems a mirror of what I managed to find on Google Maps, and admittedly brings to mind “Bliss”, one of the most famous Windows wallpapers of all time. Featured as the default wallpaper for Windows XP, “Bliss” depicts an open field in California’s Sonoma County and was photographed by Charles O’Rear, but the site has changed considerably in the years since the photo was taken; there’s a wineyard up here now.

  • The combination of radio transmission towers and fog gives the area a distinctly Syphon Filter-like atmosphere: this series of third-person stealth shooters were released for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles of old, and when older graphics hardware meant that fog was widely used to conceal distant objects owing to limited draw distances. The towers at Takabocchi belong to NTT DoCoMo, a phone service provider whose name is a shorthand for the phrase “do communications over the mobile network” and also is phonetically similar to the phrase dokomo (どこも, “everywhere”).

  • From this entry, it’s a short 400-metre hike to the very top of Mount Takabocchi, which is 1664 metres above sea level. The ascent is actually not too arduous, as it’s quite flat up here, and, quite dejected by how her day’s turned out, Rin decides to climb up to the summit. It’s impossible not to feel bad for Rin, who wonders if it would’ve been easier to camp closer to home. Her first-ever long-range camping trip was met with a few disappointments, but from the viewers’ perspective, her day also had its high points, as well.

  • Whether it’s the sunset or midday, the view from Mount Takabocchi is spectacular. On Rin’s walk up to the summit, the dense clouds gradually give way, and she’s afforded with a spectacular view of Lake Suwa and the valley below. The density of particulates make it difficult to discern Mount Fuji from this spot, but Rin’s rewarded with a good view of Japan’s most famous stratovolcano, as well. I remark that Lake Suwa formed the inspiration for Itomori Lake in Your Name, and while I was in the area last, I was also actively avoiding spoilers about the movie.

  • As such, I did not make the connections when my travels took me close to Lake Suwa. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my travels considerably, and it was an added bonus that I did end up in the area that partially served to inspire Your Name‘s Itomori. We presently leave Lake Suwa behind and return to Hottarakashi Camping Ground, where Nadeshiko has decided to undertake a walk under the night skies. During her walk down from the campsite, she’s visibly frightened by the dark, but nonetheless persists in her walk and is rewarded for her troubles. Visible on the left is a fruit shop.

  • This viewpoint overlooking Yamanashi offers a stunning view to match the view that Rin’s got at Takabocchi; Yuru Camp△‘s deliberate choice to pick locations with beautiful night views and juxtapose Rin’s solo camping trip with Nadeshiko’s group camping with Chiaki and Aoi show that in spite of outward differences in their chosen approaches, both ways of camping have their merits and lead to a similar destination: a sense of wonder associated with the outdoors.

  • Rin’s travels come to an end with a visit to Suwa’s Takashima Castle and a proper soak in an onsen. The original castle was built in 1592, during the Edo period but was dismantled during the Meji Restoration. The current structure was the result of a reconstruction project that finished in 1970; the rebuilt castle is not entirely accurate to its original form, but it’s nonetheless a pleasant place to visit. Besides a museum, there’s also a park that provides a good view of cherry blossoms.

  • Nadeshiko accompanies Rin on her latest camping trip; after Rin expresses a desire to test her shiny new portable grill out, she invites Nadeshiko to come with her to Lake Shibire. This time, Rin and Nadeshiko receive a ride from Sakura. At the beginning of their journey, Sakura takes a route over Toyama Bridge on the Katakajima Bypass on her way to Iitomi, where the girls pick up provisions for their camping trip.

  • Google’s directions tool provides several possible routes to reach Lake Shibire: Sakura opts to take the slightly-longer but presumably more familiar Motosu-Michi route, which brings the girls by their high school. This particular stretch of road leads up to Lake Motosu, although rather than making a right onto route 412, Sakura continues along route 300 to their destination. From the concrete barriers to the retaining wall, Yuru Camp△ has lovingly illustrated the girls’ routes; at this point in the game, it is evident that intrepid adventurers can take the very same paths in Yuru Camp△, but further to this, one would likely need to rent a vehicle to begin trekking along some of these paths.

  • Sakura takes route 414, a narrow mountain road that leads up to Lake Shibire. The guard rail and narrower road indicates that this spot is deeper in the mountains, ruling out the small valleys along the way, and so, just like that, we find our location. Again, the attention to detail in Yuru Camp△ is exceptional; inspection of the real-world and anime images find considerable similarities: the same power cables can be seen in the anime screenshot as in the image from Google Maps.

  • There is only one way up to Lake Shibire from route 414, and this is up route 409. Because route 414 is down a very narrow, winding road, one imagines it would be quite easy to miss important intersections, so it makes sense that signs indicating directions of places would be placed at said intersections to help motorists out. Thus, the sign and mirror seen here were found fairly quickly. I should note that if my links break for any reason, please let me know immediately, so I can set about replacing them!

  • As much fun as it sounds, the legend of the bull that Yuru Camp△‘s narrator explains is, unfortunately, bullshit; the lake’s name in kanji is 四尾, or “Four tails”. This is said to have originated from a legend where a four-tailed dragon god resides up here. Here is the same monolith that Rin passes by en route to their campground, although the photograph does not capture the autumnal beauty of Lake Shibire in its full glory. Here, I mention that other sources have considered Yuru Camp△‘s narrator as ‘mysterious’, but I think that the narrator is Rin’s grandfather. Encountered while Chiaki is hunting for camping spots, Rin’s grandfather is an expert camper and inspired Rin to take up camping: it is only logical that he is the one explaining to audiences what the campers are up to.

  • Nadeshiko takes a walk around Lake Shibire while Rin sets up the campfire. This particular camping trip proved to be quite entertaining for viewers: Nadeshiko’s fear of the dark means that she’s reluctant to be out and about after sunset, and she decides to make the most of things while it’s light out. Rin seems unperturbed by the dark, although when returning from the bathroom, encounters a “mysterious shadow” that she bolts from. Rin is so shaken that she decides to spend the remainder of the night in Nadeshiko’s tent, and while she does not outright say it to Nadeshiko, it’s clear that in this moment, Rin is glad that she was not camping solo.

  • Prior to the events of Yuru Camp△, Nadeshiko lived at the edge of Hamamatsu, a moderately-sized city with a population of nearly eight hundred thousand people. She mentions that she was close to Hamana Lake, so this is where I began searching. Because 3D buildings are available, it was possible to fly overhead and, even though I was applying a brute force search, it was moderately quick to locate this intersection by viewing the shoreline of the lake and then working out what landmarks below looked familiar.

  • From features seen in Yuru Camp△, I eventually found this spot, located on a bridge south of Lake Hamana, connecting an island where Nagisaen Camping Ground is located to a series of reclaimed islands. As a software developer, I believe in good documentation and good step-by-step instructions. While I am of the mind that ideas and information that is worth something should definitely be protected, simple or trivial things, such as a simple “indexed table view with a search bar” or locations of an anime are not meant to be kept behind lock-and-key.

  • Nadeshiko had long admired Mount Fuji from afar, and when her family moved to Nanbu, her first decision was to see Japan’s best mountain up close and personal. Nadeshiko recalls the drive to Nanbu from Hamamatsu, so to find this spot along Nadeshiko’s route, I decided to see how one would get from Hamamatsu to Nanbu. The returned results include the Tōmei Expressway and Shin-Tōmei Expressway, a divided highway, and the image from Yuru Camp△ depicts the freeway as cutting through a forested, mountainous area with an overpass visible in the distance. The Shin-Tōmei Expressway cuts through more forest, so I looked overhead for any intersecting routes, and eventually came across the one depicted in Yuru Camp△, which is near the Maoten Shrine. While Mount Fuji is visible from this point on a good day, it is nowhere near as prominent as seen in Yuru Camp△.

  • The remainder of the locations in this post are fortunately, not so obscure: we return to the valley where Nadeshiko and the others spend their everyday lives in Yuru Camp△ here. This is Minobu station, which has been in operation since 1920. The current building dates back to 1980, and the station averages around four hundred and fifty passengers daily. From Minobu Station and the surrounding town of Minobu, the locations that Chiaki, Aoi and Nadeshiko travel along to reach the Caribou outdoors shop are easily found along route 10.

  • This crosswalk is found adjacent to Minobu Station: we are looking at a liquor store and a restaurant. A little further down the road is the confectionery store where the girls buy manju. These are apparently so good that Nadeshiko and Aoi eat their way through theirs in a heartbeat, and rush off to buy more. In their conversation, Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko wonder why the manju are overlooked amidst the other offerings in Minobu. However, since Yuru Camp△ aired, this particular shop has seen an increase in sales, and visitors find that true to what the girls experience, the manju are excellent.

  • Because talking about benches is quite dull, I will deviate from what the screenshots above yield and discuss the Caribou outdoors store: in one of my reviews, I mentioned that looking around the area does not find such a store to exist. As it turns out, the actual store that Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi visit is located in Hamamatsu. I imagine that like Glasslip, the change in location is intentionally so to facilitate the story: from the girls’ train station at Kai-Tokiwa to SWEN in Hamamatsu is a journey of at least three hours rather than the sixteen minutes it takes to get from Kai-Tokiwa to Minobu Station.

  • As we near the end of this third part of my Yuru Camp△ Armchair Journey mini-series, I will note that there might be a fourth part in the future as my schedule allows, but for now, readers will have at least three comprehensive parts to look through and explore. I will make a map available in the future, but for now, readers do have direct links to the Street View points for more obscure locations. For obvious locations like Minobu Station and its surroundings, I leave it to you, the reader, to explore around.

  • While landmarks such as Minobu Station and its surroundings are straightforwards to find, there are challenges encountered with more mundane, obscure locations. Fortunately, locating the last of these locations was not as tricky as finding that intersection in Hinamatsu: as we near the end of this post, we have one more ace-in-the-hole. Previously, we figured out where Rin and Nadeshiko’s school was, and judging from the lighting of the sky, it’s after school. So, the question then becomes “how does Nadeshiko get from school to Kai-Tokiwa Station?”, and knowing this, if we follow the shortest route from school to the train station, we have a relatively short walk that we can follow. Exploring this allows us to find the exact spot where Nadeshiko waves to a dog on a truck.

  • As we follow this route to its conclusion, we come across a bridge with a sign indicating that its maximum load is fourteen tonnes. It is here that Nadeshiko encounters a Google Street View vehicle, with its distinctive camera fixture. From the road sign and storefront, to the adjacent white apartment and street lamps, Yuru Camp△‘s attention to detail is visible again here. While her voice and message indicate excitement, Nadeshiko also seems a bit shocked that she’s encountered such an unusual vehicle here.

  • During the evening, Rin explores the area surrounding her school using a tablet. Google Maps was launched in 2005, and a mobile version for Android became available in 2008. The technology has come a very long way since then, and one of the features I make use of the most frequently is offline mode. This function is most useful when I’m in areas without a cell signal or WiFi, and today, Google Maps on tablets is immensely powerful, allowing me to explore areas in Street View as smoothly as I do on a desktop computer.

  • The surprise that Rin finds while exploring familiar streets is as much of a nice easter egg as the various Stan Lee cameos and the end credits sequences of MCU movies. The real world location is quite devoid of people, and I note here that while Yuru Camp△ is excellent in terms of details, they missed one thing in this Street View segment: Google routinely blurs out faces and license plates to preserve privacy. Nadeshiko’s face is not hidden here: while Google is reasonably thorough, they can sometimes miss things, and users are asked to report anything that they would like to be blurred. Of course, this is one case where realism is not of utmost important: a blurred Nadeshiko would destroy the joke of running into her at this crosswalk.

The backroads Rin took to Mount Takabotchi, Nadeshiko and Rin’s ride to Lake Shibire, Nadeshiko’s flashbacks to Hanamatsu, and the Google Maps locations that sees Nadeshiko encountering Google’s Street View vehicle, were far more obscure than any of the locations I had previously kept track of. There are no distinguishable landmarks, street signs or other indicators of where some of these locations are. However, there is my accumulated knowledge of how Yuru Camp△ does things: two approaches were used to find the locations showcased in this final Yuru Camp△ Armchair Journey post. The first is that the anime sees the girls take the most efficient route to get from point A to point B, and so, given that we know what the optimal route is, we can trace this route and, following it, find things that are more obscure (such as the highway Nadeshiko recalls driving down while moving to Nanbu or the sign pointing to Lake Shibire). The second is that as long as the girls are on foot, we can explore nearby areas (within a one-kilometre radius) if their starting point is known. Nadeshiko’s viewpoint of Yamanashi and the hot spring Rin initially hoped to enjoy were found in this manner. The end result of this is that I find myself highly impressed with the attention to detail that Yuru Camp△ takes in depicting not just the techniques for camping, but also the journey and paths everyone takes to their destinations. By now, it’s become clear that the only way to really enjoy these locations is if one has home field advantage, or a considerable amount of vacation time on their hands – for everyone else, I again defer to the incredible capabilities that Google Maps has conferred upon us. Short of travelling to Japan in person, this tool has offered no shortage of exploration options that will serve to deepen the audiences’ appreciation of the effort that went into making Yuru Camp△. I close with the remark that, back in Pure Pwnage‘s first season’s eighth episode, Jeremy and Doug square off again DeathStriker6666 at LANageddon in Calgary. I immediately recognised the streets and hills as being in Calgary, but for the longest time, I wondered where the location was. After attending a Japanese festival at the Bowness Community Centre, I realised that the site was the one and the same for LANageddon, bringing an answer to yet another long-standing question I’ve had about Pure Pwnage. One thing’s for sure: I highly doubt that there exists anyone else out there who’ve had the audacity to mention Yuru Camp△ and Pure Pwnage in the same sentence, much less in the same blog post.

Amanchu! Advance: Review and Reflection At The Halfway Point, and Remarks on Miracles

“I never bullshit, Pickle Man. This can only end with one of us dead, and I have never died.”
“That will be your downfall, Jaguar: not being open to new experiences.”

—Jaguar and Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

On an autumn day, Hikari runs into Kokoro, who is buying Marron Pie for her parents. She subsequently spends the afternoon with him, and they walk under the brilliant autumn foliage of a nearby park together. Meanwhile, Futaba is enjoying a cool afternoon at a café with a book, but falls asleep and has a lucid dream where she’s a witch. She takes another one of the café’s patrons into the skies with a broom and soars over town, before flying to a park, where sakura blossoms are blooming. When Futaba reawakens, she recounts her experiences with Hikari. Later during a dive using drysuits, Hikari notices that Futaba is highly motivated. Futaba panics when she finds herself unable to descend with the others, and is saved by Hikari and Mato; Mato lectures Futaba on the dangers of a rapid ascend. During lunch, the diving club meet Hikari’s younger sister, Kodama, and with encouragement from her friends, Futaba’s motivation is restored. While diving, Mato finds herself in imminent danger of injury, but is saved by the “Black Mermaid”, a gargantuan diver. He signals for them to accompany him; Mato, Hikari and Futaba accepts, so he brings them to a beautiful reef under the ocean. It turns out that the Black Mermaid is Hikari’s grandfather, who is an experienced diver. During Halloween, Futaba and Kokoro compete to earn the prize from a scavenger hunt: a kiss from Prince Hikari. Determined to win, Futaba overcomes her fears of talking to a stranger with a costume beard and pushes for the finish line, tying with Kokoro, who had his sights set on winning the giant octopus stuffed toy. Hikari and Futaba relax an exclusive spa with Mato and Ai, and later, Mato wonders when she lost sight of the magic in the world. Thus, we are at the halfway point of Amanchu! Advance, and by my admission, Amanchu! Advance is a step away from the grounded, ordinary setting of its predecessor. Fantastical escapes are explored, blurring the line between reality and fantasy: Futaba frequently alludes to this message, which is a recurring theme that we’ve seen so far.

One of the greatest joys about sequels are that they offer an opportunity for writers to present different aspects to characters that audiences have already become familiar with. In Amanchu! Advance, Hikari’s character is seen as being more prone to embarrassment: her carpe diem outlook on life has its limits, and she sometimes feels this when things cross the line. However, Futaba has received a more interesting bit of growth in Amanchu! Advance: having long regarded Hikari as a dear friend, her desire to be with Hikari has also manifested a hitherto unexpected side of her character. She’s expressing jealousy now at the prospect of someone else vying for Hikari’s attention, and similarly, has become more protective of Hikari, as well. Futaba’s drive in the scavenger hunt indicates this very strongly, as do her dreams of being the prince to Hikari’s princess. On the topic of dreams, Amanchu! Advance has also given audiences exposure to Futaba’s desires and thoughts through her dreams. While relaxing at a café, the atmosphere leads her to fall asleep. She’s well aware of being in a dream and all the more assertive for it; conjuring a broom and soaring through the skies, Futaba encourages another patron to partake, as well, expressing a confidence and assuredness that we’d previously not seen in her. In conjunction with Futaba’s allusions to the merging of boundaries between the tangible and dreams, I get the sense that Amanchu! Advance intends to convey to its audiences that magical moments are so moving they often feel unreal, and that these magic moments have profound changes, both good and bad, on individuals that experience them; it is clear that Futaba, for whatever other doubts she may possessed, has matured since meeting Hikari.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I continue to find interesting things to talk about in Amanchu! Advance, so this post will have thirty screenshots. We open with Hikari running into Kokoro. Both have their sights set on Marron Pie: having nothing to do with Hai-Furi‘s Maron, Marrons are another name for chestnuts, and in Japan, these chestnut pies are made by wrapping a light, flaky pastry around candied chestnuts. Japanese pastry shops mark this as an autumn specialty, the same way that pumpkin spice has more or less worked its way into everything when autumn rolls around in North America. While some folks find it overrated, the sweet and subtle kick of pumpkin does have a distinctly autumn taste to it.

  • It suddenly strikes me that none of the bloggers whom I’m in regular correspondence with, are writing about Amanchu! Advance. I’d love to hear other perspectives on this show, even if Amanchu! Advance might not be the most conducive towards discussions. While Futaba and another patron enjoy their books, hot beverage and sweets, I look back a few evenings, when I finally tried out the Louisanna-style fried chicken from a new place in the area. Their chicken is very crunchy and flavourful, fried differently from the place I normally go, and the cajun fries have a bit of a kick to them. The best surprise were their biscuits, which are moist and buttery.

  • The page quote for Amanchu! Advance thus comes from the notion of being open to new experiences, albeit one made in jest. In general, being open-minded leads to unexpected surprises, and here, Futaba encourages the other patron to fly with her. Futaba is enjoying tea at the Izukogen Rose Terrace café. With its unusual architecture, this cafe is well-regarded in both its atmosphere and menu: locals recommend it as a place to drop by if one is in search of a short breather while exploring the numerous museums in the area.

  • The events of Amanchu! Advance and Amanchu are set in the coastal town of Itō. With a population of sixty-nine thousand, most of the locations of Amanchu! are set in and around Itō, although unsurprisingly, some creative liberties have been taken to ensure that the locations of Amanchu! work with the story. Having said this, this aerial depiction of Itō is largely faithful to the real-world incarnation; Nagisa Park is visible in the image.

  • In her dreams, Futaba has the same grace and charm as Flying Witch‘s Makoto Kowata: she smoothly mounts her broom and takes flight using the same approach as seen in Flying Witch where she channels her magic into the broom. I invite readers to check out my old talk on Flying Witch; aired some two years ago, I greatly enjoyed Flying Witch, and readers will have noticed that I have a particular fondness for slice-of-life anime defined by a highly cathartic atmosphere. I’ve stated this previously: my enjoyment in these shows come from simply being able to watch them in the moment, and I note that I am never on the lookout for themes or analysis while watching a show.

  • While my posts on these anime predominantly feature thematic elements and the like, I only consider these elements once I’ve decided to sit down and write these posts. Back in Amanchu! Advance, Hikari and Kokoro stroll through an area with red leaves. Kokoro, being only eleven, is a ways younger than the other characters, and his dynamics with Hikari are endearing. He swings between wanting to hang with Hikari and wanting to avoid her at the same time for the latter’s indefatigable spirit.

  • The young patron that Futaba befriends is Kotori Misaki, who is Kokoro’s sister. She has yet to be formally introduced to the cast, and is voiced by none other than Ai Kakuma (Brave Witches‘ Hikari Karibuchi): characters in anime are not introduced on a whim, and so, I expect that Kotori will meet up with the main cast in due course.

  • A brilliant sunset marks the end of the day: in Japan, sunsets and sunrises come very early. While in Japan last year, the sun began setting as early as 16:00 JST, and it would already be fully up, equivalent to around 08:00 MDT when I woke up at 06:00 JST. I’m a morning person through and through, but waking up to see the sunrise, which is at a reasonable time back home, would be unfeasible for even me. When the sun sets at home, I usually am not treated to such a vivid experience as seen in Amanchu! Advance, either: the most beautiful of sunsets usually occur in late October and early November, when chinook clouds are illuminated by the last light of day.

  • The legend of the Jet-Black Mermaid is a story that Mato tells her students: this story is local to Amanchu! Advance and won’t be found anywhere else. Mato describes a beautiful and mysterious entity that roams the oceans, helping divers in need out, moving at quick speeds and also is willing to take them to Ryūgū-jō, a mystical underwater palace that is home to the Dragon God, Ryūjin. While an interesting story, Mato remarks that it is little more than a mere myth, and the diving club thus begins their day’s activities.

  • While underwater, Futaba experiences a curious phenomenon when Hikari, Makoto and Ai blow rings of air. I am reminded of folks who can make smoke rings. This is a technique that requires practise, and experienced individuals can create faster or slower moving rings, as well. Having said this, because I am a non-smoker, this is not something I will practise or take up any time soon. The most impressive smoke rings I’ve seen in any context goes to The Lord of The Rings‘ Gandalf The Grey, who created an entire smoke galleon in The Fellowship of The Ring.

  • After failing to modify her buoyancy before descending, Futaba finds herself being pulled upwards and risks decompression sickness, informally known as the bends. This is caused by a reduced pressure causing dissolved gases to come out of solution, creating bubbles in the bloodstream. Because these bubbles can form in any part of the body, the effects can be lethal. This is why Mato gives Futaba a stern lecture: the effects of the bends are not trivial.

  • While Futaba is a bit disheartened that she got a bit cocky, conversation with her friends allows her to regroup. Futaba is presented as being someone who’s quite hard on herself and doubtful, and while she still occasionally succumbs, it is clear that her friendships have given her a newfound confidence. Mindful of her errors, Futaba learns from her mistakes more rapidly now and seems less bothered by the weight of her errors.

  • While manga readers will be familiar with Kodama, Hikari’s younger sister, it came as a surprise to me that Kodama was introduced this late in the game. She’s the opposite of Hikari, being reserved and feeling that Hikari’s boundless enthusiasm is a liability. Despite her not being an active diver, she’s familiar with the basics. The two are as different as night and day, and Kodama thanks the others for looking after Hikari.

  • Hikari and Futaba prepare to enter the water. When Futaba expresses doubt at performing a back roll entry, Hikari suggests the giant stride. One of my impediments is that I cannot tumble at all, so when I was younger, the rolling entry into water was something I never could execute for swimming classes. The stride dive is usually employed when one is on a larger vessel, while the back roll is used if one is on a small boat or RHIB.

  • Yesterday, I went ahead and watched Avengers: Infinity War at a local cinema before returning home to a dinner of roast beef and peppercorn gravy and cheesy mashed potatoes with bacon and sour cream. This particular theatre has fancy, comfortable reclining chairs, and the film itself was superb. Like Girls und Panzer Der Film and Strike Witches The Movie, this is an experience that requires some knowledge of the previous entries in the film. It was a thrill to see all of the MCU characters bounce off one another, and despite being darker than some of the other MCU films, Infinity War does have its humourous moments, such as when Stark and Strange clash. References to earlier films are also made, and it is this a priori knowledge that makes some of the moments more enjoyable. The film is the first part of two, and the latter releases next May.

  • This is about as far as I’ll go in talking about Infinity War: my readers, who may or may not be fans of the MCU, are likely hear about my thoughts on anime, so I’ll return the discussion to Amanchu! Advance, where Mato’s just been rescued from a nasty bump to her dome by a gargantuan diver whose proportions defy normalcy. After this mysterious diver saves Mato, he invites Mato, Hikari and Futaba. With Mato’s story about the Jet-Black Mermaid still fresh on their minds, the girls accept the new diver’s invitation.

  • Swimming at a speed much faster than previously thought possible, the massive diver takes Mato, Futaba and Hikari into a beautiful coral reef under the ocean. While not Ryūgū-jō, this area is beautiful, being populated by colourful corals and schools of fish. With its vivid colours and volumetric lighting, Amanchu! Advnace has gone the full ten yards in creating a scene that captures the majesty and wonder of the oceans.

  • The result is a truly magical moment that stands amongst the miracles that Akari, Aika and Alice encounter on Aqua: Amanchu! Advance manages to accomplish this without any supernatural or otherworldly forces. Initially, the mysterious black-clad diver’s identity is not known, but his benevolent actions and calming presence is reminiscent of ARIA‘s Cait Sith, who appears to Akari occasionally and is considered to act as a spiritual guardian of sorts for Aqua. However, in the absence of supernatural, it is not particularly rational to consider this diver as Amanchu! Advance‘s equivalent of the Cait Sith. Instead, subtle bits of foreshadowing hint at who this diver is.

  • As it turns out, the diver is Hikari’s grandfather; he’s a big guy for you. The clue I refer to is the vast towel that Kodama brings to Kino, which the others immediately find curious for its dimensions. Despite his build, Hikari’s grandfather is evidently a skilful diver.

  • During a Halloween festival of sorts, Futaba dresses up in a vivid red dress and finds the scene surrounding her so unreal that she has to convince herself that it is not a dream. She and Hikari enjoy the festival, later running into Kokoro. When Hikari heads off to buy some drinks, an uncomfortable silence arises between the two, but the pair nonetheless draw a crowd.

  • While walking around the Halloween festival, Hikari and the others run into Ai and Makoto, who are handling a scavenger hunt. No one’s shown up, and Ai wonders if they’ll need to up the ante for prizes. The group brainstorm some prizes, landing on “a kiss from the prince (Hikari)”: this draws the interest of a little girl, and word spreads, hauling in a large group of participants. Feeling that Hikari is threatened, Futaba decides to join the scavenger hunt and win it to protect her. Kokoro can be seen here in a lilac cat costume, and he joins because the original prize caught his eye.

  • The scavenger hunt’s participants quickly hit impediments that slow them down for good. Kokoro’s assignment is to find a handkerchief, which he considers straightforwards, but he’s scared off by the principal and decides to ask a lady instead. His plan backfires when the woman asks him what kind of trick he might play on her should she decline his request, but the outcome later suggests that he managed to overcome his fear.

  • Futaba initially has trouble finding the courage asking a man dressed as a kangaroo for his beard, but like Kokoro, succeeds. It was unexpectedly adorable to watch Futaba squeal in panic when her prize was so near and simultaneously so far: we recall that she’s voiced by Ai Kayano (Chisaki Hiradaira in Nagi no AsakuraGirls und Panzer‘s Saori Takabe and Mocha Hoto in GochiUsa), who excels at gentle voices.

  • The conclusion of the scavenger hunt is a thrilling one, and it ends up a draw between Futaba and Kokoro, when Kokoro trips and ends up in Futaba’s arms. This outcome was not particularly unexpected, and from a narrative perspective, is done to indicate that both Futaba and Kokoro were motivated by their own, non-intersecting reasons for winning.

  • Futaba began Amanchu! with a graceful but distant expression that gradually shifted to one of wonder, warmth and happiness when she met Hikari. I believe this is my first time seeing Futaba wear such an expression on her face, when she remarks to Kokoro that she’s not about to let anyone steal Hikari from her. The afternoon soon gives way to evening, and after receiving a kiss from Hikari, Futaba declares that she’d like to be Hikari’s prince.

  • I’ve been enjoying Amanchu! Advanced considerably thus far, but even in a series as cathartic and laid-back as Amanchu!, it seems the deep places of the internet can still find criticisms to level against this series. In this case, accusations of discrimination against Amanchu!‘s author, Kozue Amano have been made because some entitled, ill-read individuals on Reddit cannot differentiate between different kinds of friendships. I’m normally accepting of Reddit discussions since they tend to be useful, but some parts of their anime community are about as credible and useful as that of /a/, which is to say, their discussions are a load of bollocks. Having said this, if there are people reading this who think that Redditors and /a/ have value, however negligible, then by all means, make it known to me. I welcome it.

  • I’ve also heard that one chapter of Amanchu! is controversial, and having taken a look, I can say with total confidence that this is a gross overreaction. The chapter in question might be adapted into Amanchu! Advance, and while I think nothing of it, the lesser parts of the internet apparently find it to be srs bsns. Quite personally, I hope they adapt this chapter into Amanchu! Advance so viewers can make of things for themselves, rather than leaving it to the sensitive and narrow-minded folk out there to shape perceptions on things. Here in Amanchu! Advance, Hikari and Futaba share a dance in one of Futaba’s dreams.

  • Enjoying their fancy spa experience, Futaba and Hikari share another moment of joy following Futaba’s recounting of her dream to Hikari. Lucid dreams were mentioned in this post, but I’ve not mentioned them in too much detail until now: these dreams are defined as when the individual is aware of their being in a dream and may be able to exert varying degrees of control over how things unfold. A few people I know, both in real life and among my fellow bloggers have such dreams – I am a bit envious, since the most amount of control I can exert in my dreams is to exfiltrate when I feel a situation is unfair or dangerous. Beyond this, my dreams are very mundane and ordinary for the most part; I’ve flown on a couch over my home town and duelled a Balrog of Morgoth once, but more common are dreams where I’m involved in my daily routine or treading familiar ground.

  • Outside, Mato walks about. Hearing the conversation that Futaba and Hikari share leads her to wonder when she stopped looking around the world for the magical and began viewing it in more practical, mundane terms. The presence of a routine tends to do that: adults tend to be a lot more boring in this regard.

  • With this final screenshot of Mato looking over a cluster of Jack’o-Lanterns, my talk for Amanchu! Advance after the halfway point draws to a close. We’re nearing the halfway point of May, and having another Amanchu! post in the books, the third and final part of my Yuru Camp△ Armchair Journey series will be completed in the near future. We’re also closing on the release dates for Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai and Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?: Dear My Sister – I intend to write about Dear My Sister as soon as it becomes available, and will be saving Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai for June. Finally, Gundam: The Origin‘s sixth and final instalment still needs to be watched and written about, so there is that to look forwards to, as well.

The past three episodes of Amanchu! Advance leading us to the halfway point have moved the series in a direction where it feels more like ARIA; magical moments are more common and suggest that miracles can be found in life’s smallest details. This is a welcome step for Amanchu! Advance, giving the show the chance to portray characters outside of their activities as divers. In doing so, Amanchu! Advance reiterates to viewers that while diving might be what brought people together, people (and not diving) are ultimately at the forefront of everything in Amanchu! Advance. Slow and calming in its pacing, Amanchu! Advance has shown that in spite of its presentation, there are definitely things worth considering. The anime continues to impress with its visual quality, and the music has also taken a step forwards, playing a more visible role in setting the emotional tenor for a moment. The sum of these elements come together to create an atmosphere not unlike that of ARIA, and even though Amanchu! is set in the real world, with a different premise and aims, the similarities between the two series in terms of atmosphere are evident. As we move into Amanchu! Advance‘s second half, I expect that audiences will continue to see different aspects for the characters that give them a more credible feel and make the show increasingly enjoyable. I further speculate that Amanchu! Advance will advance in a direction that sees Futaba working hard for, and earning her advanced diver certification. The rationale for this is that Amanchu! Advance‘s tile, in incorporating the word “Advance” to signify both the act of moving forwards and a higher level of knowledge, is leading Futaba down a path where she is able to do both and mature further as a person.

The Real Life Camping Grounds and Two Campers’ Views: An Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ Part Two

“Life is a journey, and if you fall in love with the journey, you will be in love forever.” –Peter Hagerty

Yuru Camp△‘s first episode set the precedence for what to expect with respect to attention to detail and atmosphere, so when the anime continued into its run, it was hardly surprising that the locations depicted were highly faithful to their real-world counterparts. As the anime moved ahead, Rin undertakes a camping trip at Fumotoppara. Her solitude is soon interrupted by Nadeshiko, who’s asked Sakura to help drive her there. With a host of ingredients in tow, Nadeshiko makes a fantastic dinner for Rin as a thank you for earlier. Later, Nadeshiko formally joins with the Outdoors Activity Club and takes a camping trip together with Chiaki and Aoi at. Their adventures happen in parallel with Rin, who takes a solo journey out to Kirigamine Highland in Nagano prefecture with her shiny new bike. Like Rin’s journey to Koan, details in both trips are rendered with exceptional precision, to the point where one could follow the girls’ travels in a near-flawless manner and experience what they did with naught more than a set of coordinates representing the routes they took. Similar to the last post, I will be making use of Google Maps’ Street View utility – all of the screenshots shown here are openly available on Google Maps. The landmarks, such as train stations and the Fuefukigawa Fruit Park, are trivially easy to find. My approach in tracking down Rin’s route through Nagano is a bit more involved but still straightforwards: because Yuru Camp△ takes the time to show highway signs, it becomes possible to work out which route the sign is found on and what intersections it might be near. With this one, a range of locations between the second and forth episodes are found, illustrating the exceptional details Yuru Camp△ places into illustrating the locations the girls travel through and to.

  • Rin travels along a small road off Route 139 leading to Fumotoppara Campground. The Google Street View team evidently has come later in the year: the leaves have already fallen from the many of the trees, making the distant hills and plains more visible than in Yuru Camp△.

  • This view is taken some 15 kilometres away, as the mole digs, from the quiet country road Rin is travelling on: we are looking east along Route 803 towards the bridge that Nadeshiko was crossing in the first episode. From Nadeshiko making a request to the point where she touches down at Fumotoppara, every step in Yuru Camp△ is presented. This is one of the reasons why I count Yuru Camp△ worthy of the mantle “Survivorman The Anime” – Les Stroud is very meticulous and methodical in his survival advice, similar to how things are done in Yuru Camp△.

  • While Sakura was seen giving Nadeshiko a (admittedly adorable) physical beating in the first episode, her willingness to drive her all the way out to Fumotoppara from Nanbu is a strong indicator of the warm bond that the two siblings have. A large mountain range separates the two locations – the road distance is a hair over 40 kilometres, and owing to speed limits, it takes around an hour to go around the mountains.

  • The Fuji River is visible down Route 10 here: in both the anime and real-world images, the green guardrails lining the road and a train tunnel to the right, are visible. With a total length of 128 kilometers, the Fuji River features several dams along its run for generating power, and downstream, the bridge where the Tōkaidō Shinkansen crosses the Fuji River, with Mount Fuji visible in the background, is one of Japan’s most iconic views. When I first looked at my itinerary to Japan more than a year ago, I thought I would be going south through Shizuoka, but my travels brought me to Yamanashi and Nagano.

  • The turn here is located along Route 469 near the Hachiman Shrine between the Toshima and Inako station. The mountains in Japan are by no means formidable compared to the likes of the giants that characterise the Canadian Rockies, but nonetheless represent barriers to travel. Tracing the route that Sakura takes to Asagiri Plateau shows that she’s taking the most efficient route possible. This is logical from a production perspective, as well – the art crews are unlikely to be impressed if their route is all over the place, and it is more economical to simply follow a route and render choice points along the way.

  • This stretch of road is quite near Asagiri Plateau: owing to the narrow lanes, the speed limit here is 50 kilometres per hour. It is located around 21.6 kilometres (thirty-six minutes) away from the point illustrated in the earlier set of screenshots: the times and distances returned by Google Maps indicates that a speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour is the norm. While this seems very slow, having driven on narrow mountain roads, I can say with confidence that these lower speed limits are intentionally so for the drivers’ safety: while in Banff National Park, the narrow, winding roads to some features are such that I feel uncomfortable going any faster than 30 kilometres per hour.

  • While Google Maps passed this area in November, the area has dense foliage. By comparison, the anime incarnation of this area shows a much sparser foliage, making Mount Fuji more visible. Careful inspection of the images also show that along the guard rails of Route 139, those tall grasses are visible in both the anime and real-world screenshots, suggesting that, even if I’m not precisely where Nadeshiko and Sakura pass by, I must be close. The choice of colours in Yuru Camp△ suggest a much chillier, drier day.

  • As evening sets in, Sakura and Nadeshiko finally reach the parking lot at Fumotoppara. This wide open expanse is a far cry from the cozier spaces of Koan Campground at Lake Motosu: with an elevation of some eight hundred metres above sea level, the region east of Mount Fuji consists of a large amount of pasture land. This is quite suitable for dairy farming, and during Yuru Camp△‘s final camping trip, Chiaki and Aoi enjoy ice cream from a local producer.

  • The Outdoor Activities Club’s first camping trip takes them to Hottarakashi Campground. Minobu Station to Yamanashi Station is around an hour and sixteen minutes by train, and from here, the girls have a bit of an uphill walk to reach their campsite: it’s 4.1 kilometres out, and while this can be walked very quickly, Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko are also carrying a nontrivial amount of gear for their trip. As such, when the girls reach the uphill portion of their walk, they tire very quickly.

  • The bridge over Fuefuki River is less than two hundred metres from Yamanashi Station, and true to its real-world counterpart, has a railing that is reproduced faithfully. The smokestacks visible in the Yuru Camp△ screenshot are not found in the real-world equivalent: this series of warehouse and storage tanks belong to the Japan Carbon Co. Ltd: they have a manufacturing plant in Yamanashi.

  • Nadeshiko’s boundless energy stands in stark contrast with Aoi and Chiaki, who slowly haul their gear up the mountain. During this trip, Nadeshiko is also carrying an entire rice cooker. This road is located off a right turn on Route 140: maps mark this as “Fruit park Entrance”, and the street lamps here are fruit-themed, as seen in their distinct red housings. One interesting thing in Japan is that their streets don’t have names: districts in Japan are divided into blocks, and while unintuitive for us gweilos, the system is actually similar to the Military Grid Reference System that NATO militaries use.

  • While I leave readers to again enjoy the similarites between Yuru Camp△ and real life, I continue on from the point before. Use of a system similar to the MGRS eliminates ambiguity: back in Canada, if I say “5th Street and 4th Avenue”, because of the way this works, I could be referring to different intersection. To solve this, I would need to specify which 5th Street and 4th Avenue I’m referring to (e.g. 5th Street East and 4th Avenue North). Another minor detail about Japanese addresses is that they start with a coarse granularity and work their way down, while addresses most of my readers are familiar with will start with a fine granularity and work their way up.

  • After an ardous climb that leaves Chiaki and Aoi exhausted, the girls reach the park at the base of Fuefuki Fruit Park. Nadeshiko has energy to spare and runs around like a cheerful puppy, and while the Street View has not provided readers with the same view of Mount Fuji that Yuru Camp△ does, on a clear day, the summit of the stratovolcano is just visible over the other mountains in the distance.

  • The Fuefukigawa Fruit Museum consists of three large glass domes. One acts as a greenhouse and houses a variety of tropical fruits, the second is a combined restaurant, fruit shop and book store, and the third is an enclosed open space that occasionally hosts performances. For folks in this area, the museum is definitely worth visiting: for one, it’s free admissions, and the area also provides a spectacular view of the Yamanashi valley below. The domes are open between 09:00 and 17:00, and the gardens and parks surrounding these are always open. I will be covering Nadeshiko and the others’ camping experience at Hottarakashi in a later post.

  • We hop over some 46.25 kilometres (as the mole digs) to a spot on Route 17: Rin passes by this point on her way to the Kirigamine Highland. For both anime and real-world images, some greenhouses are visible here. I passed through this region last year while travelling from Lake Kawaguchi to the Shirakabako Hotel on the shores of Lake Shirakaba last year: rather than Route 17, I was on the Chuo Expressway. Unlike the Outdoor Activities Club’s camp, whose locations are not only walkable, but also trivially easy to locate, Rin’s route is a bit more obscure. Locating it by brute force would take forever, and this is time I don’t have, especially considering that I did not pass along this road, but fortunately, there is a trick.

  • We recall that in my previous Yuru Camp△ armchair journey, I mentioned that the total accuracy in signs between the anime and real-world incarnations would be useful. With this sign, we know that Rin is taking Route 17 and is coming up on an intersection for the Yatsugatake-Echo Line (八ヶ岳工コーライン on the sign). With this, we can precisely pin down where Rin is, and from here, it becomes reasonably straightforwards to trace Rin’s path as she travels into the Kirigamine Highlands.

  • Moving along Route 17, one can see all of the intersections Rin stops at: she’s following a car with a dog in it for a considerable distance, and I feel that a some of the Manga Time Kirara series seem to have animal motifs for their characters. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?‘s characters resemble bunnies, while Kiniro Mosaic and K-On! characters are kitten-like. In Yuru Camp△, puppies seem to be the motif.

  • We are very nearly at the end of this post, and I will take some time to explain the rationale behind these posts. While looking around for information, I found another series of similar posts that dealt with the real-world locations of Yuru Camp△. While similarly detailed as the content here, the difference between my posts and theirs is that theirs uses small 320 by 140 images. My story with location hunt posts begins in 2012, when I was given a request to translate and make accessible a series of location posts for CLANNADKanon and The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi. Originally formatted in SHIFT-JIS, the pages were indecipherable in some browsers and featured tiny images that made comparison difficult.

  • I am forgiving of the old SHIFT-JIS sites because years back, broadband was just becoming commonplace and bandwidth was still expensive. However, it is now 2018: 2007 called and want their 320 by 140 images back. These images are too small to be comfortably viewed on a phone and are too fuzzy to appreciate on a desktop browser – I know that some folks are protective of their content, but we exist in an age where some things exist to be shared. Since the screenshots of Yuru Camp△ and the corresponding locations in Google Maps are publicly accessible, I see no reason that anyone should play the gatekeeper for freely available content. As such, this series of posts will feature screenshots in a proper resolution.

  • While I’m a bit lazy to link the screenshots directly, folks interested in checking the locations out for themselves can always click on the links to do so, and I am willing to send out links to the full-resolution screenshots if there is demand for them. Returning the party to Yuru Camp△, we’ve reached the Kirigamine Highlands, and here, Rin stops in front of the Chaplin Restaurant, which visitors have remarked to have a good view and reasonable service. However, Rin’s destination is a smaller inn to the back, known as the Korobokkuru Hutte. This inn is not reachable via Street View, but by this point in time, I should have no troubles in convincing readers that Korobokkuru Hutte is also faithful to its real-world counterpart.

  • Up here on the Kirigamine Highlands, it feels distinctly like the open plains around Southern Alberta’s foothills. Shorty after the episode aired, I popped up here for myself and located the very same traffic webcam that Rin is waving from. Because I knew where Korobokkuru Hutte was, I reasoned out Rin’s path of travel and found a gas station facility further to the west. I’ve mentioned this in the earlier post, but for folks who don’t like clicking on links back to another page on this blog, here is the location in Google Maps. In my talk at Yuru Camp△‘s halfway point, I noted that the webcam Rin waved at is real and has a website providing real-time footage. However, because it is powered by Flash, readers will have to give Flash permission to run in order to see anything.

  • iOS devices will not run Flash unless jailbroken, and Android devices need some tinkering with to run Flash, so if you’re running stock iOS, that link to the webcam won’t work. I left my talk at Yuru Camp△‘s halfway point on the conclusion that in Yuru Camp△, either Flash is more secure and mobile phones allow Flash to run natively or Nadeshiko has 1337 phone customisation skills. This brings my second part of the Yuru Camp△ armchair journey to a close, and looking ahead, there is to be one more part in this mini-series. This final post should be out before May is over, but for now, my attention has turned towards Amanchu! Advance and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, which has turned out surprisingly engaging. As well, with Battlefield 1‘s latest weapons crate update, and some of my latest experiences, I will also be looking to share that with readers in the very near future.

Thanks to remarks from Yuru Camp△‘s author, Afro, and a bit of Google-fu, Rin’s second campground is quickly pinned down, along with the location of Korobokkuru Hutte, a small restaurant that Rin stopped at en route to her campground in Nagano and the route the Outdoors Activity Club take on their way to Pine Wood campground, including Fuefukigawa Fruit Park and Hottarakashi onsen. To be able to trace these routes means that fans can experience both Rin and the Outdoors Activity Club’s travels in full, down to the exact same dishes and food items that the girls enjoy on their adventures. With this in mind, the Outdoors Activity Club’s trip to Pine Wood is the easier of the two to replicate for visitors: Yamanashi station up to the campground is around a 4.7 kilometre walk. With an elevation gain of 371 metres, the walk can be completed in around 50 minutes at a moderate pace. By comparison, Rin’s travels from Minobu to Korobokkuru Hutte is around 102 minutes and spans 108 kilometres: the shorter route has a toll, so it follows that Rin will be going the long way around. Unless one has their own transportation, following in Rin’s footsteps would be rather more difficult. Consequently, if individuals were interested in retracing the adventures of Yuru Camp△, I imagine that a greater number of recollections for Nadeshiko and her friends’ path would exist. However, this should not dissuade inquisitive individuals from checking Rin’s journey to Nagano if their resources allow for it – as I’ve mentioned in the first part of this Armchair Tour of Yuru Camp△, if you’ve got adventures to share about your visit, I would love to hear about it!

A Thousand Yen View of Mount Fuji: An Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ Part One

“I’ve been camping and stuff, but if you left me in the woods I’d probably just curl up and cry until someone found me.” —Norman Reedus

When I watched Yuru Camp△‘s first episode, it was a cold January evening, and I had just returned home after a warming, hearty dinner of beef short ribs and Andouille Sausage, fried green tomatoes and yam fries with cornbread. Entering Yuru Camp△, my expectations of the anime was limited to that it would depict camping amongst a group of friends, and that campgrounds surrounding Mount Fuji would be prominent. However, as the first episode began rolling, it became clear that Yuru Camp△ was vying for the title of “Survivorman The Anime” – its exceptional attention paid to details in camping is evident in step-by-step instructions of how tents are set up and how one can use pinecones as a fire starter simultaneously provides viewers with useful information about camping, all the while presenting Rin and the others’ camping trips as pleasant experiences. The details in Yuru Camp△ are such that one’s curiosity is piqued, and after some Google-Fu, I learned that the locations of Yuru Camp△ were inspired by real-world locations. Faithfully rendered, this adds a sense of realism and immersion into the anime, and moreover, with the sophistication that Google Maps offered, it became clear that it was possible to trace the very route Rin took on her way to Lake Motosu. This forms the motivation for this mini-series of posts, collectively titled “An Armchair Journey Yuru Camp△“: in this mini-series, I will be exploring some of the locations visited in Yuru Camp△ and matching them up with their real world equivalents. Unlike previous posts, where photographs were provided by intrepid readers, this time, I will be making exclusive use of Google Maps and Street View to match locations seen in Yuru Camp△ to real locations.

  • Yuru Camp△ opens with Rin cycling along Route 300 (Motosu-michi). The real-world location images are sourced from Google Maps’ Street View, and dated to November 2017. Appropriately, the leaves in the area are yellowing as Autumn sets in: I imagine that the Google Maps incarnation is somewhat later than when Rin set off for Lake Motosu, as there is more greenery in Yuru Camp△ than there is in the real-world equivalents. To kick things off, folks interested in exploring this stretch of highway may do so here.

  • Yuru Camp△ sees Rin and Nadeshiko biking around a great deal in the beginning. Rin’s bike ride from Minobu up to Lake Motosu and Koan Campground sees her ascend some 700 metres in elevation: Koan Campground is around 938 metres above sea level. While 700 metres is a considerable gain in elevation, involving a lengthy uphill climb with a bike, how hard it is to actually ascend a hill is dependent on several factors.

  • Rin makes the ascent look easy, and I remark that there’s also a psychological component in biking: once one has done a route before and know what to expect, they become more efficient at choosing when to expend energy and when to take a “slow and steady” approach. Having biked extensively, I usually prefer taking hills one stroke at a time to conserve on energy. Other factors in Rin’s biking is that her folding bike is a world apart from my mountain bike, being much lighter.

  • Rin reaches the Nakanokura Tunnel here, a section spanning some 558 metres. Yuru Camp△ depicts there being a sign on the tunnel’s western end, but nosing around, I was unable to find the sign on this side of the tunnel. I remark here that because Yuru Camp△ has a great deal of scenery, duplicate screenshots from my other posts might be a very real possibility. In general, I try not to have duplicate screenshots where possible, but the exception is for location hunt posts.

  • There’s a thrill about biking through a tunnel, but this is also a dangerous task if one lacks proper tail and head lights on their bikes. In Canada, the minimum requirements are that bikes must be equipped with both a tail and front reflector. More serious cyclists will use LED lights to increase their visibility. While noticeable in the other screenshots, slight differences in perspectives are visible between the anime screenshots and images taken from the real world.

  • Once Rin reaches the eastern end of the tunnel, it’s only a stone’s throw to the Koan Campground. After viewing the first episode and realising the extent that Yuru Camp△ has gone to reproduce the actual locations, I began contemplating a mini-series of posts to be titled “An Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△“: there is no substitute for actually being somewhere, but technology has become sufficiently sophisticated such that it is possible for one to explore some locations in the comfort of home to get an idea of what a location might look like.

  • Rin exits Nakanokura tunnel here, and true to the same spot in reality, there is another sign specifying the tunnel’s name and length. Visible above the tunnel is a sign that indicates the tunnel is a no-stopping zone, and the speed limit is fifty kilometers per hour. The speed limits in Japan aren’t too radically different than they are in Canada: they default to 60 kilometers per hour unless otherwise posted (it’s 50 kilometers per hour in Alberta).

  • The signs seen in Yuru Camp△ are identical to their real-world counterparts, and so, it is actually a reasonably straightforwards task to map out how the girls get to their campgrounds in later episodes. The first episode has Rin coming up from Route 300 eastward, and the anime depicts the last 1.5 kilometre leg of her journey to the Koan Campground, making it trivially easy to trace her path, but the implications of the high detail means that for the later episodes, it would be similarly straightforwards to follow the girls’ paths as they embark on their travels with a very high precision.

  • Third largest of the Fuji Five Lakes in surface area and the deepest, Lake Motosu has a maximum depth of 121.6 meters. Sharing the same surface elevation as Lake Shoji and Sai, geologic evidence suggests that these three lakes were a single lake prior to Mount Fuji’s eruptions in 864-868 AD. Presently, Lake Motosu is, along with the other Fuji Five Lakes, popular as a sightseeing and vacation destination. While Mount Fuji in Yuru Camp△ is obscured by clouds in the same manner that I saw when I was in Japan last, the Street View version shows Mount Fuji under much more favourable viewing conditions.

  • As noted in my first Yuru Camp△ talk, this public restroom is a bit of a walk from Lake Motosu’s shore. One thing in Japan that takes some getting used to is the fact that their standard “Western” style toilets are as complicated as the cockpit of an air superiority interceptor. For my part, I did not use any of the complex functions with Japanese toilets: my only requirements for a fully-functional toilet is that it can flush.

  • Details, right down to the facade of the public bathrooms, are rendered in great detail. While one cannot reasonably expect to find a Sleeping Nadeshiko™ here if they were to visit for real, a look at the terrain surrounding Lake Motosu and the fact that Nadeshiko’s home, some forty kilometres away in Nanbu would explain why the normally-energetic Nadeshiko is now bushed: new to the area, she’s cycling in uncharted roads and therefore, lacks the same psychological readiness that Rin has. With this being said, I’ve never seen anyone sleep like this in a public space, although I do concede that there is an adorable element in seeing Sleeping Nadeshiko™.

  • A mountain visible in Yuru Camp△ on Lake Motosu’s opposite shore is visible in the real-world equivalent. Now is a good time as any to explain the title of this post: it is inspired by Nadeshiko and her wish to check out Mount Fuji for herself, after being inspired by the design seen on the current iteration of the Japanese 1000-yen bill, which began issuing in 2004. The presentation of Mount Fuji on this note, the lowest paper denomination of Japanese currency is can be seen on Koan Campground’s official website and is adapted from a photograph taken by Kōyō Okada, a renowned photographer.

  • Koan Lodge’s main building is where Rin goes to check in and pay for admissions to the Koan campground. According to their official website, the base cost is 600 yen for adults (7 CAD at the time of writing), and there are additional fees for assistance in setting a tent up and parking. For children, the cost is a mere 300 yen. The site does not rent camping equipment, and availability is on a first-come-first-serve basis. Cabins are also available, with a six-person cabin beginning at 17280 yen per night (208 CAD). From Koan Lodge’s main building, it’s straightforwards to find the public washrooms and the chain gate leading down to Koan campground.

  • It’s been a year since I last visited Japan, and a year ago today, my tour brought me to the Yamanashi region. While the weather was exceedingly pleasant, clouds continued to obscure views of Mount Fuji, and I was denied the view of the stratovolcano’s flat summit. However, what I could see of Mount Fuji was majestic. We had yakiniku and explored a small village surrounding the Oshino Hakkai, then ascended the south face of the mountain to the Fujinomiya Fifth Station for an up-close-and-personal view of Japan’s most iconic mountain. The day concluded with a lengthy ride to the Shirakaba Hotel, at the eastern edge of the Kirigamine Highlands.

  • Further Google-fu finds that for folks interested in travelling to Lake Motosu from Tokyo, the number of options are limited: only one bus route exists. Departing from Shinjuku, this option costs 2200 yen (25.86 CAD), and the ride is around two-and-a-half hours. The bus does not stop close to the Koan Campground’s main building, so there’s a bit of a walk to actually reach the site.

  • In this post, I’ve opted to provide simple links to the equivalent spots on Google Maps so you, the reader, can explore them for yourself if you so wish. Rin’s journey and camping at Koan Campground occur in a relatively small region, so all of the spots seen in Yuru Camp△‘s first episode are very easy to locate once a few waypoints are known. As Rin’s journey broadens in scope, and the anime’s travels extend to encompass Nadeshiko and the Outdoors Activity Club’s adventures, the amount of surface area to explore in Google Maps will increase considerably. I put together a map shortly after finishing Yuru Camp△ and will share this in a later post.

  • Observant folks will notice a corner of Nadeshiko’s pink jacket in the anime image: she’s moved. Her story is a hilariously piteous: after tiring out from biking all the way from Nanbu, she fell asleep, missed the scenery and awoke when it was dark. The first episode of Yuru Camp△ shows that for her stoic, taciturn manner and love for reading about the occult, Rin frightens surprisingly easy. Once she calms down, she helps Nadeshiko out and learns more about her, all the while leading Nadeshiko to see a peaceful and spectacular view of Mount Fuji under a full moon.

  • Sakura arrives to pick up Nadeshiko, coming from the same direction that Rin took earlier. She’s pulled up and parked at a space adjacent to the Minobu Information Center, which is the log cabin just visible above the black Toyota Matrix in the real-world photo. A glance at the maps shows that, as nice as the location was, it would have been around eighteen kilometers from Lake Kawaguchi, which was the last stop of the day when I was visiting the Yamanashi area a year ago.

  • From Lake Kawaguchi, the fastest way to get to the Minobu Information Center is actually down route 139, which takes visitors through the infamous Aokigahara, which is a particularly dense, pristine forest stretching between Lake Motosu and Lake Saiko. Satellite imagery shows an uncommonly thick forest which makes navigation very difficult. Aokigahara which is best known as the “Suicide Forest”: owing to its dense growth, it can be very easy to become disoriented, and some unfortunate individuals have chosen to make this their final destination in past years. It would be hilarious to see the Outdoors Activity Club attempt camping Aokigahara in the way that only Yuru Camp△ can present, but in reality, camping in the forest is a difficult task: the terrain is not well suited for camping, and as far as I can tell, there are no sanctioned campsites here.

  • Yuru Camp△‘s first episode concludes with Nadeshiko riding a bike through the Nanbu area. She’s biking over the Fuji river here: Nanbu (南部, literally “South Area”) is a small town of around 8600 and has no secondary schools. Details, such as the guardrails, are faithfully reproduced, although evident from the screenshots, the weather in Yuru Camp△ is rather nicer than the moodier skies seen in the Google Maps image. This particular bridge is located at the heart of Nanbu along route 803, facing east.

  • Because Nanbu has no secondary schools, Nadeshiko’s commute to school is a lengthy one: she must bike to Utsubuna Station, then take the train up to Kai-Tokiwa station and disembark here before setting off on a 770-metre uphill walk to her high school. The train stations along the Minobu line are older: Kai-Tokiwa station opened in December 1972, and the iteration of Utsubuna Station seen here opened in March 1967. The Minobu line itself runs for around 88.4 kilometers, and along its run, there are 39 stations.

  • Close inspection of the town in the valley below shows that Yuru Camp△‘s incarnation is much less developed, less densely-built than the real world equivalent. The great distances separating the locations of Yuru Camp△ are apparent in the first episode alone, and even attempting to cover off the areas seen in the first episode alone would require a vehicle to do effectively: mass transit would be quite slow out here.

  • In both the anime and real-world images, a corner of the high school is visible. Having taken a look around the area, the high school is not named on the maps. Closer inspection in Street View will find that there is indeed a school here. This school is out of the way, so I’ve provided a link here to this location for easier exploration. This brings the first part of my “Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△” to a close, and looking ahead, I see at least two other parts in this mini-series. I did remark that May seemed to be a quieter month, so I’d figured that I should roll on this series before things get more busy in the future.

With the camping facilities and Lake Motosu so readily located, Yuru Camp△ made it apparent that all of its locations would be based on their real-world equivalents. The manga further explains details of each locale, providing yet another excellent resource for folks: I’ve heard that camping attendance has surged since Yuru Camp△‘s airing, attesting to the sort of excitement and inspiration that anime can generate amongst its viewers. In Yuru Camp△, every step is so vividly rendered that one would, with the appropriate equipment and some basic outdoorsman know-how, be more than capable of following Rin’s footsteps in recreating her solo camping experience. While this is very tempting, for folks outside of Japan, such a trip would also be prohibitively expensive: from a value perspective, it simply is not worth flying over to Japan for the singular purpose of camping at Lake Motosu. Having said this, I will be exploring some other locations that Nadeshiko and Rin camp at in the very near future: with a few more locations in mind, if there are any folks out there who wind up flying over to Japan and camping at a variety of the sites seen in Yuru Camp△, I would certainly love to hear your stories and adventures. In the meantime, for folks whose thoughts for this trip are still in the consideration phase, I invite you to look around on Google Maps for yourself: I will be posting a more complete map when this mini-series of posts end, but for now, I’ve chosen to kick things off with a link to the Street View around Lake Motosu as a starting point.