The Infinite Zenith

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Ten Years After The Dark Knight Rises: Revisiting a Batman Masterpiece and The Last Weeks of Summer

I see a beautiful city. And a brilliant people, rising from this abyss. I see the lives, for which I lay down my life – peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.

Eight years after Harvey Dent’s death, and the Batman’s vanishing, Bane kidnaps a nuclear physicist over Uzbekistan in preparations for his plans to finish Ra’s al Ghul’s work of destroying Gotham and avenging his death. Having been out of action for eight years, Bruce Wayne is unprepared for Bane’s arrival and is brutally beaten in a fistfight with Bane. Bane condemns Bruce to the same prison he was once held in, before setting in motion his plan to destroy Gotham using the fusion reactor Bruce Enterprises had been working on. Refusing to see his city die, Bruce trains relentlessly and eventually makes the jump, escaping the pit and returning to Gotham, where he forms an unlikely alliance with the cat burglar Selina Kyle, who ends up returning and killing Bane with the Batpod’s cannons. With help from Commissioner Jim Gordon, police officer Johnathan Blake and his longtime friend, Lucius Fox, Bruce manages to secure the weaponised reactor and uses the Bat to fly the core over the bay, where it detonates harmlessly. Batman is presumed dead in the aftermath, but Alfred spots Bruce and Selina while on vacation. Meanwhile, Blake resigns from the police force, receives a package from Bruce and discovers the Batcave. When The Dark Knight Rises premièred ten years earlier, it became the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight triology, which approached Batman and Bruce Wayne’s character with a then-novel position: Nolan strove to present a more realistic, human side to Batman and the duality that existed in Bruce. Although Nolan’s films are known for involving aspects of philosophy, such existential and ethical themes, into his works, he also has a talent for ensuring that his films are approachable. Here in The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan uses Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities as an allegory for messages of revolution and revival. Sydney Carton’s willingness to sacrifice himself at the guillotine is paralleled in Batman’s decision to fly the bomb out over the bay; Carton’s actions give hope that Paris will be restored, much as how restoring the Batman’s legacy through sacrifice gives Gotham new hope, especially after Dent’s accomplishments was revealed to be a sham. Similarly, in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens suggests that while revolution in and of itself is commendable, the violence surrounding it is deplorable; fighting fire with fire simply shows that the revolutionaries only perpetuate violence, and generally speaking, the mob’s actions are never justified. Nolan chooses to present this more directly: while Bane inspires a revolution in Gotham, the violence and spoils ultimately amount to nothing because Bane simply had planned to kill everyone anyways. Nolan thus adds to Dickens by suggesting that getting caught up in the pillaging and looting is counterproductive because the revolutionaries may use the mob to their own end, but otherwise never had any intentions of helping them.

While chock-full of references to A Tale of Two Cities, The Dark Knight Rises remains immensely accessible to viewers, even those who’ve never seen Batman Begins and The Dark Knight: in previous films, Nolan’s villains are highly intelligent and calculating, preferring to match wits with Batman using wits rather than physical force. Ra’s al Ghul plays on patience to advance his plan, while the Joker’s chaos and machinations mean that conventional means have no impact on him. In this way, Batman had previously counted on being a superior martial artist and support from his allies to get him close enough to his foes in order to outsmart them and play on their weaknesses (e.g. Ra’s al Ghul’s incorrect belief in Batman’s compassion, and the Joker’s belief that people are monsters by default when the chips are down) to triumph. Bane represented a new kind of villian, being both clever and apt; while the most traditional of the villains seen in the Dark Knight trilogy, Bane’s plans and actions mean that he is remarkably easy to follow, and this in turn makes The Dark Knight Rises very straightforward: it’s a film that speaks to two central messages. The first of these messages is the idea that “evil rises where [one] buried it”. During a terse conversation between Jim and Batman following Jim’s hospitalisation after falling into the sewers and encountering Bane, Jim’s remarks reveal his guilt at having allowed himself to live with the lie that Harvey Dent had stayed uncorrupted to the end; this lie had allowed Gotham to nearly completely eliminate organised crime, but the lie also came with a price. However, things had been so dark in The Dark Knight that Jim was forced to take this route, a band-aid solution, and so, when Bane appears, he finds the perfect weapon to use against Gotham. There are numerous parallels with reality in that band-aid solutions never last long-term, and in some cases, may even cause more trouble than they solve. For instance, if an app is written such that a text label displays error codes that cuts off, a band-aid solution would be to truncate the string if it exceeds a certain length. However, this doesn’t address the underlying problem: the server might be returning bad data and could potentially suffer from an exception if this isn’t dealt with server-side. The Dark Knight Rises thus indicates that the consequences of trying to bury a problem won’t cut it: the truth always gets out, and the consequences can be devastating.

While evil can fester where it is buried, evil does not exist in a vacuum, and in The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce finds the strength within himself to revive what he’d once lost. Speaking to themes of duality in A Tale of Two Cities, if evil can rise, so too can good. Trapped at the bottom of the pit, the other prisoners help Bruce to recall his old strength, and while Bruce believes that his body makes the jump, the elderly prisoner is right in that the mind drives the body. Bruce had largely acted without fear before, feeling that his aim was to overcome his fears by embracing it, but in time, he’d grown accustomed to embodying fear without understanding what it felt like. This is what Bane refers to when he remarks that “victory has defeated [Batman]”. Nolan had previously shown Bruce as striving to compartmentalise his fear and overcome it. However, operating in the absence of fear can be an impediment, as well. This is akin to stress management: in the absence of stress, one becomes complacent and lazy. Too much stress can immobilise an individual and render it impossible to act. In the middle, stress drives one to work harder and push past their doubts. Similarly, in the absence of fear, Batman fights with the expectation that his foes will fall, and so, when faced with an opponent like Bane, who is familiar with the League of Shadows’ methods, the same tricks fail, and Batman is defeated. When Bruce learns to rediscover fear again, he fights with a greater intensity, of knowing what the stakes are should he lose again. In this way, Batman and Bruce Wayne are both reborn after being thrown into the pit. Rediscovering fear acts as a form of resurrection, and the only way this was possible was because Batman and Bruce Wayne fell. Through The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan also suggests that one can improve, and be their best self, after being knocked down. This message had been alluded to in Batman Begins, but here in The Dark Knight Rises, it is explored fully. Between its accessible themes, deeper allegories and philosophical pieces, excellent choreography and a compelling soundtrack, The Dark Knight Rises is a triumphant conclusion to the Dark Knight Trilogy. Even though The Dark Knight Rises was my first Batman movie, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it acted as a fitting way of kicking off my post-MCAT summer a decade earlier.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The Dark Knight Rises opens with what has become the trilogy’s most-parodied moment: an unknown CIA agent takes custody of the masked man known as Bane, but in parodies, is ridiculed for his efforts to maintain control and keep cool. In the theatre, I had no idea of what to expect, but this scene was meant to establish that Bane is a sufficiently cunning foe that he can plan things out and maintain control of a situation flawlessly, as well as the fact that his henchmen are willing to sacrifice themselves for Bane’s cause.

  • Beyond establishing Bane’s character, the opening sequence also has Bane seize a Russian nuclear physicist, Leonid Pavel, foreshadowing Bane’s plans for the film. The use of nuclear weapons in film is an age-old plot device: their terrifying firepower and immense destructive potential have meant that fiction gravitates towards them because they immediately convey what’s at stake. In mere moments, Bane’s men takes control of the plane, kills off most of the soldiers on board and gives Bane the space he needs to secure Pavel.

  • For his role as Bane, Tom Hardy put on some 30 pounds of muscle, but what makes Hardy’s performance especially brilliant is the fact that as Bane, he’s wearing a special mask throughout the entire movie. Despite only acting with his body language, eyes and eyebrows, Hardy manages to convey emotion and intensity anyways. Unlike the Bane of the comics, this mask supplies Bane with a painkiller gas, and all of Bane’s physical feats in the film are otherwise under his own power, making him a plausible match for Batman, who, in Nolan’s trilogy, is similarly a highly experienced martial artist with prototype gear meant for the armed forces.

  • Without any of the over-the-top elements, such as Batman’s peak human conditioning, or Bane’s Venom (a sort of strength-enhancing substance), the Dark Knight trilogy is firmly grounded in reality, and Nolan uses this to explore the human side of each character that the previous films had not emphasised. Further to this, Nolan also chooses to shoot the Dark Knight trilogy in real world locations, rather than using a highly-stylised portrayal of Gotham: in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Chicago and Manhattan stand in, giving Gotham a much cleaner feeling compared to the rainy, grimy and gritty feel of the comic Gotham. 2022’s The Batman and Batman Begins are both more faithful to the originals in this regard.

  • After a congressman goes missing after Harvey Dent Day, Commissioner Jim Gordon heads off to search for him, while Bruce Wayne deals with the fact that they’d been robbed, and that his mother’s pearls have gone missing. The congressman is found, and Jim chases some of the culprits into the sewers, where he is knocked out and captured by some uncommonly well-equipped thugs. It is here that Jim runs into Bane for the first time, and viewers gain a modicum of insight into how extensive Bane’s plans must be.

  • While the internet’s parodies of the CIA plane scene abound, the YouTube channel and musical group, Auralnauts, took things one step further, using their incredibly sophisticated skill in sound engineering and video editing to create hilarious videos parodying virtually everything Bane does. In their Bane Outtakes video, they portray Bane as a heavy-savvy terrorist who’s more concerned with people’s dietary preferences and eating well, rather than blowing Gotham City to kingdom come. Seeing these parodies helped me to lighten up considerably.

  • It turns out that the fingerprints the cat burglar had lifted are used to help Bane and his men carry out a hit on the stock exchange, where they use Bruce’s fingerprints to purchase future options illegally, effectively rendering Bruce penniless. This segment of the film really got me into The Dark Knight Rises: besides the suspense conveyed throughout the entire sequence, watching Bane burst out of the stock exchange after commenting that the stock exchange is where people go to steal money from others proved to be an excellent juxtaposition that again emphasises how Bane has the brains to go with the brawn.

  • The resulting chase sequence marks Bruce’s first appearance as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, and while he’s been out of action for eight years, Batman still operates the Batpod expertly, using an EMP gun to stop one of Bane’s mercenaries before continuing on the chase. The entire way this vehicle pursuit was done is brilliant: use of the lighting from the sirens and city lights and Hans Zimmer’s crescendoing soundtrack acts to convey the intensity of things. However, this scene also acts as a stunning visual metaphor: in the dark, Batman’s weaknesses are concealed, and he’s able to take down the mercenaries and retrieve their tablet only because of a technological advantage.

  • Nolan is well known for how he uses symbolism in his films, but despite covering topics that can be highly complex and thought-provoking, Nolan does so in an approachable manner, presenting challenging questions and moral dilemmas in a way that people can readily understand. This is something I especially respect: as a university student, my supervisor constantly reiterated the importance of being able to communicate scientific concepts well, and in fact, his lab’s aims were to showcase swarm behaviours in a way that was visual.

  • My undergraduate thesis project was the task of taking the model of physical flow I’d built a year earlier and then scaling it up so that a mathematical model could be used to influence behaviours back at the agent level. In retrospect, I didn’t accomplish much with this project, since the mathematical model was doing almost all of the heavy lifting and simply fed parameters back into the agent-based model. At the undergraduate level, however, this project was deemed to be of a satisfactory difficulty, and I therefore spent the next six months building and tuning my model.

  • The thesis project was actually more about the research process, development of the project and presentation of the results, rather than the work itself, and looking back, this proved to be an incredibly enjoyable experience. Back in The Dark Knight Rises, after saving Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), Batman asks to be taken to Bane for a confrontation. Having not trained for the past eight years, Batman’s lack of physicality is apparent. Upon encountering Bane for the first time, Batman launches into a frenzied attack, but his blows deal no appreciable damage. Bane then effortlessly kicks Batman over the railing.

  • It was actually quite terrifying to see Batman getting beat so easily: although I’d not seen the previous movies, the reputation surrounding Batman is legendary. I would later watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, when Batman was at his prime. His technique here lacks the same strength and precision, speaking to how out of shape he is. While perhaps at his peak, Batman may have traded with Bane, here, he is outmatched. For the viewer’s benefit, Bane even voices as such; nothing in Batman’s arsenal, whether it be his smoke grenades or martial arts, is doing anything of note.

  • The fight ends when Bane reveals a part of his plan, which entails stealing Bruce Enterprises’ hidden armoury, before he breaks Batman’s back on his knee in an iconic moment inspired from the comics. In the aftermath, Bane has Bruce delivered to a remote prison in an ancient part of the world, and Selina disappears, hoping to get out of country before Bane carries out his plans. However, the new cop, John Blake, happens to catch her after visiting Bruce Manor and finding no-one there: Alfred has already left at this point, and Bruce is nowhere to be found. The worst that Alfred had feared has come to pass; Alfred (Michael Caine) has a much smaller role in this movie, but his moments on screen are especially poignant.

  • Although Blake is seen as a liability because he’s meticulous and dedicated, Jim quickly promotes him to a detective and has him look into the unusual comings and goings around Gotham. With a sharp mind, Blake quickly works out that the construction companies around town have been pouring concrete laced with explosives, and moreover, since the disappearance of the entire Wayne Enterprises board, Gotham’s police force have decided to go underground in an attempt to flush out the mercenaries under the guise of a training exercise.

  • Unfortunately for Blake and Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, Blake’s discovery comes way too late: during a football game, Bane sets off the explosive charges that trap the entire police force underground and isolates Gotham from the rest of the world. Without any cops, or National Guard to intervene, Bane’s plan is now able to go ahead unimpeded, and Bane himself reveals himself from the darkness. Much of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight take place at night, where darkness conceals things and make things look more intimidating than they are.

  • Still recovering from his sojourn in Gotham’s sewers, Jim continues to recover and can only watch as Bane takes control of the situation. Throughout The Dark Knight Rises, Jim is presented as being at war during peacetime, and his fellow police officers comment on how, since the events of The Dark Knight, Jim’s wife and children have left him. As a sort of coping measure, Jim immersed himself in his work and puts in strenuous hours even as other cops take it easy in the knowledge that Gotham’s organised crime engine is all but dismantled. When Bane reveals himself, his mercenaries head to the hospital to take out Jim, but Jim hasn’t lost his edge.

  • Bane and some of his mercenaries take to the football pitch and announce their plan to put the detonator of a now-primed nuclear device in the hand of, in Bane’s words, an “ordinary citizen”. He kills Pavel in full sight after the latter had converted Bruce’s fusion reactor into a neutron bomb with a ten kilometre blast radius. Although Nolan commits to realism, there are some oversights here in The Dark Knight Rises: fusion reactors are safe by definition because a fusion reaction requires very specific conditions in order to proceed, and if these conditions are removed, the reaction would fizzle out and stop. However, a fusion reaction does yield a large neutron burst, and when the right casing is picked, free neutrons from the reaction escape. Such a device should have a very low blast yield, below ten kilotons: Dr. Pavel suggests it is a four megaton device, but a blast of this size would have a fireball exceeding the irradiated area. While the weapon itself doesn’t work in concept, it prompts the existing story to a satisfactory extent.

  • Coming out into the open by day thus reminds viewers that Bane is unlike any foe that Batman has previously faced. Bane’s speeches and promises felt outlandish and ludicrous back in 2012, but it is ironic that some of the colour revolutions out there have people flocking to the cause and its leaders in the same way that Bane’s accrued a group of fanatical followers. The irony lies in the fact that Bane cares very little for those who support his cause: the very fact is that Bane doesn’t actually just hand the detonator to anyone. As Bruce quickly figures out, Bane’s likely got the detonator, and that his speech was purely metaphoric. Here, Bane announces the truth behind Harvey Dent and frees Blackgate’s prisoners, creating total chaos on Gotham as the underprivileged classes begin looting, and wealthier members of society are hunted down, beaten and killed.

  • Seeing the chaos unfold gives Bruce the motivation he needs to try and escape the pit. In his spare time, he trains to overcome his injuries and old limitations: Bane had knocked a vertebra from his spine, but one of the prison doctors replaces it, and over time, with his old discipline and will, Bruce recovers quickly. If memory serves, a half year passes, giving Bruce time to rebuild his strength. While he becomes physically strong enough to make the attempt, initially, he fails. One of the prisoners states that in order to succeed, Bruce must not mask his fear, but use it as a source of motivation.

  • I’d long seen fear as something to be overcome, set aside and compartmentalised. However, Nolan boldly shows, in The Dark Knight Rises, that fear is a powerful motivator. In order to save Gotham, Bruce must make the jump, and failing would permanently stop him from doing so. The realisation that failure is final is what gives Bruce the psychological boost he needs, to push himself further and harder than ever before. In the years after, I came to see this for myself: under the threat of failure and defeat, I found myself producing work of a standard higher than I could before.

  • The prisoners chant deshi basara, which composer Hans Zimmer has indicated to mean “rise up”. Folks fluent in Arabic state that it’s actually as تيجي بسرعة (Tījī basara’ah), which translates literally as “come quickly”. The scene with Bruce’s final jump, without the rope, was the most inspiring of the moment in the whole of The Dark Knight Rises, and when he succeeds, the music crescendos to a triumphant flourish as the prisoners cheer wildly, having witness what would’ve been a miracle. This is the turning point for Bruce Wayne: he’s found his will again, and as Ra’s al Ghul had stated, the will is everything.

  • As a gesture of compassion, Bruce throws a heavy rope into the pit, inviting the prisoners to free themselves, before making his way back to Gotham. Looking around the production notes, this particular part of the film was filmed in Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. However, the interior of the prison itself was constructed on a sound stage. With Bruce’s resolve back in full now, and the occupation of Gotham under way, the stage is set for the inevitable rematch between Batman and Bane.

  • In the six months or so that have passed, Gotham’s residents have kept their heads down while Bane’s mercenaries and Blackgate’s thugs roam the streets unchallenged. Although ordinary folks live in constant fear, and the presence of the neutron bomb prevents the remainder of America from intervening, common citizens appear to have gotten off easy, while society’s top echelon, the so-called one percent, have been harshly punished. Cillian Murphy makes a cameo here, reprising his role as Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow), and here, he acts as the judge to a kangaroo court, clearing enjoying sending out the wealthy to their deaths.

  • While Bane and his mercenaries have more or less taken complete control of Gotham, they’ve not explored every nook and cranny. This is to Bruce and Fox’s advantage: after arriving home, the pair locate the old underground saferoom where Bruce had kept spares of his Batsuit, along with other equipment that he’d previously used. When Bruce Manor had burned down in Batman Begins, while it was undergoing reconstruction, Bruce built a second saferoom to store his gear. By the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce shuts the room down.

  • The Batsuit in the Dark Knight trilogy is one of my favourite portrayals of the Batsuit in general: Fox had previously outfitted Bruce with a heavily customised Nomex suit which provided protection from blunt tools and lighter bullets but restricted his mobility. By The Dark Knight, Bruce approaches Fox with a new design, consisting of hardened kevlar plates on a titanium-dipped fiber. This suit provided a significant improvement to mobility at a cost to defense, and could not withstand gunshots from even pistol calibres at close range. In Batman v. Superman, the Batsuit Ben Affleck’s Batman wears is heavily armoured, to the point where it could even repel a pistol to the cowl at contact distance. The vulnerabilities in Nolan’s Batsuit is another sign of this trilogy’s commitment to realism, and that as Batman, Bruce Wayne must find other ways to win.

  • Since Batman had left the Bat high on the rooftops of Gotham, Bane’s mercenaries never found it, and this vehicle, a curiosity at the film’s beginning, becomes instrumental in saving Gotham. There is a sense of reassurance in knowing the Bat had been allowed to stay here all this time – as far reaching as Bane’s impact is, even he has his limitations, and subtle cues reinforce this. Here, Lower Manhattan’s financial district can be seen: the shot is north-facing, and the One World Trade Center is seen under construction.

  • Bane personally kills a special forces leader sent in to Gotham to help, and out of options, Blake decides to try and help out. Bane’s mercenaries promptly stop him. Meanwhile, Jim’s also been captured, and after a brief show trial, Crane decides to exile him. However, on the cold river ice, the Batman makes a return; after the guards are taken out, he invites Jim to light a flare that ignites a fire on the bridge tower, making the shape of the Bat-logo.

  • Bane is shocked to see this, and in this moment, the assured calm he’s held begins vanishing. Knowing the Batman will likely go for Miranda Tate, he orders his men to keep her close. Bruce had fallen for Miranda earlier on, and in the novelisation, meeting her marks the first time he’d not thought about Rachel Dawes in eight years. A major part of Bruce’s depression here in The Dark Knight Rises comes from his guilt at failing to save her and the belief that she was the person he wanted to be with in the future. The letter she’d written for Bruce would’ve been to signify that she no longer would wait for him, and this would’ve presumably led Bruce to continue being the Batman. Alfred burns the letter to spare Bruce of the pain.

  • I’m very familiar with what Bruce had been feeling: after the friend I’d wished to ask out began seeing another fellow, I felt a combination of disappointment, dejection and anger – this individual had supported me throughout my MCAT and my undergraduate thesis project, and I became convinced I might’ve had a shot. However, I channeled this frustration into a different direction, and also forced myself to re-evaluate my own values, which impacted how I approach things today. I’ve heard faint rumours that said individual, who became an expatriate in Japan, isn’t doing so well at present. Although this friend and I no longer communicate on a regular basis, if we were to chat again, I’d do my best to help her talk through things.

  • I note here that while this friend has a sizeable social media presence, support from strangers on Twitter or Twitch end up being empty words – there is no substitute for a heart-to-heart conversation from family or friends. While I wish I could do more, I’ve moved on, and it feels unwise for me to re-enter her life unexpectedly. Back in The Dark Knight Rises, after saving Jim, Batman also ends up beating down the mercenaries about to shoot Bane. Once the last of the mercenaries are cleaned up, Batman offers a suggestion to Blake – this moment was especially touching, since Batman had not, until now, ever considered the idea of someone else taking on his role. During The Dark Knight, Batman had adamantly rejected any help, but now, he imparts advice for Blake, to operate in a way to protect those around him.

  • Once the cops are freed, Batman passes a special EMP jammer to Jim, who’s tasked with putting it on the truck carrying the nuclear bomb. While Jim and a small group of allies work to locate the truck, the other cops will march on Bane’s base of operations, and they will be joined by Batman. Foley had been trying to keep his head down throughout the crisis, but spurred on my Jim’s words, and the Batman’s return, he ends up donning his dress blues and leads the cops downtown to assault Bane’s headquarters.

  • Every person seen in this scene is an extra, and in a behind-the-scenes commentary, Nolan describes how this scene was controlled chaos. Off-camera, all of the extras playing both the cops and Bane’s mercenaries are shown as sharing friendly banter – I always love the special features that accompany a movie, as it serves to show how much effort went into making things.

  • Although she’d been reluctant to help, after Bruce returns to Gotham, she agrees to take the Batpod and clear a path. Despite being relatively new to the highly-customised motorcycle, Selina wields it well, and quickly blasts a hole in the barrier. However, something compels her to go back into the heart of the fight, showing that Bruce was right about her. I’ll admit that as Selina Kyle, Anne Hathaway appears to have a natural affinity for the Batpod in a way that even the Batman didn’t: it does feel as though this vehicle was designed for her style.

  • When Batman appears for his second showdown with Bane, it marks the first time viewers see Batman in broad daylight. By no longer hiding in the shadows and operating by night, Nolan emphasises the idea that Batman and Bruce Wayne are reborn to the extent where he is no longer bound by his old limitations. In this fight, Batman fights Bane in a much more measured fashion, striking at the mask and using blocks rather than attempting to absorb Bane’s blows, before creating openings and landing hits of his own.

  • Although Bane starts the fight confident and calm, as Batman deals more damage to his mask, the painkillers no longer are delivered to Bane, and pain begins creeping in. Bane abandons his more refined fighting style for something more animalistic. Eventually, Batman is able to overcome Bane and kicks him into the hall of a building, demanding that Bane reveal the location of the trigger in one of The Dark Knight Rises‘ most hilarious moments. While this aspect of Batman is virtually unheard of, it’s probably Nolan’s way of reminding viewers that here, Bruce isn’t the old Batman, and he’s basically fighting Bane as himself, albeit kitted out in a specialised suit of armour.

  • While the fighting is going down, Blake gathers the children from the orphanage and asks them to help spread the word to evacuate in the event that the Batman cannot succeed in stopping the bomb. The Dark Knight Rises‘ climax is gripping, and I found myself rivetted to the screen on the day that I’d watched this film, precisely a decade earlier. At this point in time, my summer had really begun: I’d finished the MCAT for two days, and after taking the previous day easy by sleeping in (I don’t actually recall what else I did that day), the next day, I went to the theatre to watch The Dark Knight Rises and stopped by the bookstore to pick up some new books.

  • I had about twenty days of summer left to me after the MCAT ended, and I resolved to make the most of this time. I ended up using most of that time to spearhead an effort to get a paper published to the provincial undergraduate journal, and in my spare time, I began conceptualising what my undergraduate thesis project looked like. This allowed me to occupy the remainder of my summer in a productive manner: I subsequently lost the inclination to game, as I’d lost all of my cosmetics in MicroVolts and began attributing the game with my pre-MCAT jitters.

  • Besides getting the journal publication done and rapidly catching up with my peers on laying down the groundwork for my undergraduate thesis project, I had enough time left over to build the MG 00 Gundam Seven Swords/G, and also spent a weekend with the family out in Cranbrook a province over. After visiting the Frank Slide in the Crowsnest Pass, the first day ended in Cranbrook, where we enjoyed a steak dinner. The second day saw us drive up the Banff–Windermere Highway, stopping in Invermere for lunch before passing through Radium for home.

  • Thus, even though I “only” had twenty days of summer vacation left to me, I entered my undergraduate thesis year fully rejuvenated and refreshed. This year proved to be my strongest: after the MCAT, I developed a much more relaxed attitude about challenges, and this newfound confidence allowed me to approach exams with a sense of purpose rather than worry. It is striking as to how much time has passed since then, and in that time, The Dark Knight Rises has aged very gracefully. I ended up making a habit of watching the film every New Year’s Eve, with a glass of champagne in hand, ever since rewatching the film during the New Year’s Eve leading to 2013.

  • Although Batman defeats Bane, Miranda Tate betrays him and reveals herself as Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s. Shocked, Batman is unable to respond, but he is saved at the last second when Selina appears and blasts Bane with the Batpod’s cannons. The pair subsequently work together in an attempt to stop Talia, with Batman taking to the skies in the Bat. Meanwhile, Blake’s now reached the bridge, and he implores the guards there to open the bridge and let them across, since the nuclear device is about to go off. This moment proved to showcase some of the finest acting in a film chock-full of excellent acting.

  • The cop is so utterly gripped with fear that this is tangible in his voice and body language. In a moment of panic, he orders the bridge blown, stranding Blake and the convoy behind him. Although Gotham’s citizens and Bruce’s allies have maintained a dignified composure about them, the fear that this cop conveys must’ve reflected on the sort of fear and concern Gotham’s citizens must’ve surely felt. With this bridge down, everything now falls on Batman and Selina’s efforts to secure and stop the reactor; the original plan had been to force Talia’s convoy back to the reactor coupling in an attempt to stablise it.

  • The scene of the cop setting off the charges and blowing the bridge shows that this was filmed at the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge facing north on the East River: Roosevelt Island can be seen below. However, the location has been digitally modified: Randall’s Island cannot be seen, and Astoria appears to be cut off, although the Ravenswood Generating Station and its distinct chimneys can still be seen. The Dark Knight Rises presents Manhattan as Gotham, and it did feel curious that The Avengers, which I’d watched with friends a few months earlier, was also set in New York. The dramatically different stakes and contexts illustrate the gaps between the MCU and Dark Knight trilogy, and I remember being about as lost in The Avengers as I was in The Dark Knight Rises.

  • That is to say, I wasn’t terribly lost with either films despite having only a minimal background in both; while there’s some prerequisite information one must be familiar with in order to appreciate all of the events and references, I found both movies were well-written enough so that even someone coming in new could enjoy things. In both cases, I would be compelled to watch all of the previous movies in full. For the Dark Knight trilogy, I ended up doing this in December 2012, after I’d finished all of my finals, while for the MCU, I ended up doing a full-scale watch-through after Thor: Ragnarok came out.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that this year’s summer is rapidly dwindling: this week, I began noticing that I now need my alarm clock to wake up again, since the sun no longer illuminates my room before 0600. Having now settled in, I’ve capitalised on the time I’ve got to make use of some of my vacation days, and earlier this week, I decided to take my parents out to Cochrane, a tranquil small town located half an hour northwest of the city. Here, we explored the Cochrane Ranche park under gorgeous skies. I’ve not been back since 2017, when the Kantai Collection movie became available, and because it’d been a Monday, we more or less had the entire park to ourselves.

  • Because I’d already gone out for fried chicken pancakes, and then a Swiss Mushroom grill burger with poutine over the weekend, and because my parents were longing for a full breakfast, we ended up swinging by the A&W on the quieter west side of town. I ended up enjoying an Bacon Cheddar Uncle Burger, a heartier burger that was delicious as always. The afternoon was spent visiting Glenbow Ranch, a stunning provincial park of rolling hills and grasslands overlooking the Bow River. From this park, an eagle-eyed visitor can even spot the city center: with more or less perfect weather, we walked along the pathway until reaching Vista Pointe, whereupon we turned back. This wound up being the perfect day to wrap up my own long weekend, and I returned to work refreshed.

  • Looking back at the summer thus far, I’ve begun making some progress on some of the things I had wished to do post-move, especially with regard to getting to know the community better. Besides swinging by the bookstore on quiet weekends and enjoying sushi from the place across the way, I’ve also gotten to know a handful of the people in the area better, too. This has made lifting weights in the mornings more spirited. I’ve also capitalised on the hot summer weather to try working out of the local Starbucks with a Mango-Dragonfruit beverage: it represents a livelier environment than the quiet of my home office, and it hits me that this wouldn’t be a bad way to work if I’ve got days where my assignments are less intense. I ended up helping another patron with connecting to the free Starbucks WiFi.

  • In making use of the Bat, the final effort to stop Talia’s convoy sees Batman use the Bat’s full arsenal to try and stop the extremely heavily-armoured truck. The upgraded Tumblers give the Bat some trouble, but fortunately, Selina’s on station to blow them away, and in the end, Batman manages to destroy a Tumbler by flying some of its own guided missiles back to the sender. With the Tumblers gone, Batman trains the Bat’s rockets on the truck, and while the truck is able to resist these lower-caliber rockets, the resulting explosions create enough of a visual obstruction such that Talia crashes into the underground freeway.

  • Talia dies shortly after, and Batman decides that, with time running out (as well as the fact that Talia activated the reactor’s emergency flood protocol), there’s only one way to get rid of a bomb. He hooks the reactor to the Bat and flies off with it, but not before revealing to Jim indirectly that he’s Bruce Wayne. The revelation is a shocker, but it also gives Jim a sense of closure regarding what had happened years earlier, and everything that had transpired since. In a way, becoming the Batman and helping Jim fight the mob became Bruce’s way of expressing thanks.

  • The scene of Batman flying the reactor core out over the bay reminds me of a much more comical and light-hearted moment in Adam West’s 1966 Batman, during which Batman has a similar struggle of disposing of an active bomb and removing it from a populated area. However, with Nolan’s interpretation, things become considerably more grim and heroic: the weight of the reactor alters the Bat’s handling characteristics, forcing Batman to use the remaining missiles to blast a hole in the buildings in front of him to gain more breathing space.

  • Before taking off, Batman explains that the Bat has no auto-pilot, which led to a bit of ambiguity in this scene surrounding whether or not Batman makes it out okay. I’ve heard that some eagle-eyed viewers would’ve noticed that shadows flicker around the Batman moments before the bomb explodes, but flying over an open ocean, there shouldn’t be any shadows (presumably cast by the buildings). On this reasoning, some viewers felt that The Dark Knight Rises did an excellent job of hinting at Bruce’s survival, and moreover, one shouldn’t need an auto-pilot to fly in a straight line.

  • With the nuclear device dealt with, and the cops gaining the upper hand over the remainder of Bane’s forces, The Dark Knight Rises draws to a close – I found the film’s message about violent revolution to be a well-written one, and in it, Nolan conveys the idea that the methods Bane utilises are deplorable and untenable. At the same time, The Dark Knight Rises also indicates that modern society is one that teeters on the brink of revolution, a consequence of widening inequality.

  • Although there isn’t a Batman equivalent in the real world, Nolan reiterates that anyone can be a hero – the reason why society hasn’t folded outright despite increasing inequality and unrest is because, at least for now, the number of people committed to doing good still exceeds the number of people who desire disorder. Here, I define “doing good” to be actions with tangible consequences: donating to the local food bank and giving blood qualifies as doing good, whereas retweeting activists or trying to get a political hashtag to trend on social media does not make the cut by a longshot.

  • While Bane’s mercenaries were originally so devoted they would be willing to die for him, after Bane’s death, the remainder of the mercenaries are shown as surrendering rather than fighting to the death. This could be seen as a sign that in the absence of a charismatic leader, people would not view their cause as being so important as to lay down their life for it. Seeing this in The Dark Knight Rises creates a sense of catharsis – viewers know that with the nuclear device no longer a threat, and Bane dead, Gotham now has a fresh start. The truth about Harvey Dent is out, but so is the reality that Batman has just saved a city of 12 million.

  • Seeing the injustices of the world, and how governments become shackles prompts Blake to throw his detective’s badge into the river. While order and systems ostensibly exist to protect the people, over time, systems can and do become corrupted. The absence of any order and system is similarly undesirable, and the fact that humanity operates best somewhere in the middle, a balance of individual freedom and social responsibility, is spoken to in The Dark Knight Rises – Nolan’s genius is that in his films, he never espouses one extreme as being better over the other. Instead, in implying that there is a happy medium that people thrive under, Nolan leaves viewers to decide for themselves what works best, only enforcing the idea that extremes are bad.

  • Once the climax passes, The Dark Knight Rises enters its dénouement. Bruce Wayne is believed to be dead, and his estate is settled. The Batman becomes recognised as a symbol of hope and heroics, and Gotham begins picking itself back up. The entire scene is set to Hans Zimmer’s iconic incidental music: Zimmer creates a soundscape that constantly creates a sort of suspense and anticipation for Nolan’s movies, and because the sound is ever-present, silence becomes even more noticeable.

  • When one of Fox’s technicians tell him that the autopilot to the Bat had been fixed, he’s surprised – I imagine that Bruce was using some sort of version control, like Git, and since these repositories are reasonably secure (Git, for instance, accepts SSH keys as a means of authenticating a user prior to a commit), this was the biggest sign that Bruce is alive and well. In 2012, I was an undergraduate student, and my lab used SVN. The principals behind both are different when it comes to management, although from a user standpoint, there are similarities, and so, I transitioned over to Git from SVN without too much difficulty after entering industry.

  • At the end of The Dark Knight, Jim had smashed the Bat-Signal as a symbol of his reluctant disavowal of the Dark Knight for his “crimes”, but here, seeing the repaired Bat-Signal reminds him that even though Bruce Wayne is gone as the Batman, what the Batman stands for will now endure.

  • For me, the best part of The Dark Knight Rises was seeing Alfred enjoying his drink in Florence, and then spotting Bruce with Selina. He’d long expressed a wish for Bruce to move past Batman and live his life out. Years after my own experience with unrequited love, I’ve come to relate with the events of The Dark Knight Rises, and throughout the film, Alfred and Lucius Fox’s remarks about the women in Bruce’s life parallel remarks I’ve been given. The Dark Knight Rises suggests that Bruce was held back by the belief Rachel would wait for him, but it ultimately takes a rebirth of sorts for him to see what there had been out there, beyond the cowl and memories from eight years earlier.

  • The optimism The Dark Knight Rises demonstrates here made the film’s ending decidedly positive, a fitting and decisive conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy and shows how the combination of time and experience allows one to open back up – even it takes a great deal of time, the important thing is to allow this healing process to take place at once’s own pace. The sum of the messages in The Dark Knight Rises makes for an exceptional movie, and although the film might be ten years old, it has aged remarkably well, just like K-On! The Movie. The themes are still relevant, the action sequences hold up very well, and the execution makes the story timeless.

  • Because of the film’s ability to speak to so many topics so effectively, and because the film easily withstands the test of time, I count The Dark Knight Rises to be a masterpiece of a movie. I’m not alone in this stance, and I’d hazard a guess that the reason why so many enjoy The Dark Knight Rises is because Nolan is able to hit so many points in a way that works for different people; in fact, I’d expect readers to tell me that they’ll have enjoyed this movie for completely different reasons, and drew completely different conclusions than I did. This speaks to strength of the writing in this film, which ends with Blake taking up the mantle of the Dark Knight, and with both this film and my reflections at a close, it’s time for me to take a break from blogging for a bit and finally begin looking at submissions for Jon’s Creative Showcase.

The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic film, raising the bar for what a superhero film could convey well beyond providing thrilling action sequences: The Dark Knight Rises is thought-provoking, inspiring and emotional. In fact, after finishing The Dark Knight Rises, I later would watch Iron Man 3 and wonder why Aldrich Killian’s motivations felt so shallow compared to those of Bane – in fact, it did feel as though villains of other films suddenly became superficial, and for a time, I found myself with a decreased enjoyment for Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. This subsequently dissipated after I watched Captain America: Civil War; the MCU’s films are fine, and speak to a different set of ideas than do Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The experience I had resulting from The Dark Knight Rises is a phase that some consumers of fiction go through: after watching something especially well-done, expectations are raised, and going into another film with a different director can often alter one’s enjoyment of things. Unlike the Dark Knight trilogy, the MCU is a long-running series whose greatest strength lies in how well-connected the stories are, and the masterful use of humour. It is therefore unsurprising that the aesthetic, tenour and end messages differ so dramatically, and failing to appreciate this is why the me of a decade earlier initially was more reluctant to watch MCU films. Fortunately, an open mind allowed me to turn around, and in the years subsequent, I would come to greatly enjoy the MCU for what it succeeded in presenting. However, not everyone follows this path: for instance, shortly after K-On! The Movie became available to international audiences, Reckoner of Behind the Nihon Review was quick to dismiss K-On! The Movie as being “disingenuous” and “false advertising” for not delivering the same level of though-provoking content as his favourite work, Ergo Proxy. Such a mindset precludes one from broadening their perspectives; had I remained stuck on that path, I would’ve never been open to enjoying things like Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War and Endgame. However, I am ultimately glad to have seen The Dark Knight Rises because it represented a unique experience. My enjoyment of this movie led me to watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and help me appreciate different interpretations of the Batman, whether it was Ben Affleck or Robert Pattinson’s portrayals (Pattinson proved a solid detective Batman, Affleck captures Batman’s physicality and resourcefulness, but for me, Christian Bale is the best Bruce Wayne hands down) – it goes without saying that an open mind allows one to have the most complete experience, and in taking such a method, also deepens one’s understanding and enjoyment of a work (or genre) by appreciating different interpretations and perspectives of things.

Yuru Camp△ 2 Live Action Adaptation: Whole-Series Review and Reflections

“There’s no WiFi in the mountains, but you’ll find no better connection.”

Worried about Chiaki and the others, Minami drives over to Misaki Camping Grounds at Lake Yamanaka and is relieved to see everyone’s alright. She reminds the girls about the importance of letting others know of their travel plans, before partaking in food and drink with the Iidas and Outdoor Activities Club. Later, Nadeshiko asks Rin about solo camping, having been inspired by Rin’s remarks at Hamanatsu. Rin offers five critical suggestions, and encouraged, Nadeshiko heads over to Fujikawa’s Nodayama Health Green Space Park. Meanwhile, since Rin has a break of her own, she decides to visit the Hayakawa valley, where she runs into Sakura. While Nadeshiko enjoys shigureyaki, Rin and Sakura share a conversation before parting ways. However, Rin eventually grows worried about Nadeshiko after noticing she’d not received any new messages. She heads over to Nodayama Health Green Space Park and finds Nadeshiko’s been doing well; Nadeshiko had decided to try roasting vegetables over charcoal and befriended two children. Relieved, Rin prepares to head back and runs into Sakura, who had the same idea. They head off for dinner and allow Nadeshiko to enjoy her solo camping. Later, the Outdoor Activities Club prepare for a trip to Izu Peninsula on suggestion from Minami, who’d been itching to go and give the Iidas a visit. Readers familiar with Yuru Camp△ 2 will need no reintroduction to the events from the drama’s second half, which are largely faithful to Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s adventures from the original series. While Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama covers familiar stories from a new perspective, the decision to conclude the drama’s second season with the Outdoor Activities Club gearing up for Izu following Nadeshiko’s solo camp adventure dramatically alters the story’s flow, and with it, the central messages. Whereas the Yuru Camp△ 2‘s second season had been about gratitude and appreciation owing to where the ending occurred, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama presents a different perspective on things.

By having the series wrap up with Nadeshiko’s solo camping adventure, and the Outdoor Activities Club preparing for their trip to Izu, the live-action drama for Yuru Camp△ 2‘s places an emphasis on the idea that being open to approaching one’s interests from new directions opens one up to the joys of their own preferred modes of enjoying something. In other words, Nadeshiko’s favourite way to camp is with a group of friends. When she enters a campground on her own, however, rather than sharing Rin’s experience with solo camping, she is able to befriend some children and ends up enjoying a meal with them. This is Nadeshiko’s own brand of camping; solo camping ultimately confers a completely different experience for Nadeshiko, who rolls with things with her typical manner. Unsurprisingly, even on her own, Nadeshiko’s camping entails meeting people and having fun with folks of different backgrounds, mirroring her extroverted personality and natural ease in speaking with people around her. Even when she’s on her own, Nadeshiko is so engrossed in her world, so busy having fun that those around her cannot help but desire to get in on the fun, as well. Yuru Camp△ 2 had done a particularly good job of showing this, but in the drama, the decision to have Nadeshiko’s solo camping adventure wrap up the travel means that for viewers, the focus is on the fact that Nadeshiko has come a long way as a camper and is now familiar enough such that she can go on her own adventures if she so wishes. The implications this has on Nadeshiko’s skill as a camper is one of reassurance: as she and the Outdoor Activities Club go on increasingly exciting adventures, viewers can be confident that Nadeshiko knows enough to keep out of trouble and have the best time possible. Changing where the series wraps up changes the emphasis, and while the message in the drama might not be at the same scale as what was seen in the anime, it remains an important theme for Yuru Camp△ as a while; having the drama focus on this thus provides viewers with a slightly different perspective on the same story to appreciate how Rin’s influence on Nadeshiko is a decidedly positive one: much as how Nadeshiko’s fun with the Outdoor Activities Club convinces Rin to try group camping, Rin’s contemplative solo adventures encourages Nadeshiko to see what camping alone is like.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena found themselves in trouble after being unprepared for the cold at Lake Yamanaka. Continuing on from that point, a serendipitous meeting with the Iidas save the three from trouble. When Minami arrives, she imagines that the three are caught up in some sort of racket upon seeing their tents deserted; like the manga, this vision entails shadowy, cloaked figures surrounding the three and chanting T A B L E C L O T H. While Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama differs from the anime considerably, some elements from the manga are faithfully reproduced.

  • Par the course for Yuru Camp△ 2, closeups of food are always welcome: the anime already does an exceptional job of rendering food, but there’s nothing quite like the glisten of fat and the sparkle of juice from a given dish’s real world equivalent that only live action works can capture. Nabe is indeed perfect for a cold winter’s night, and for me, it’s a bit of a New Year’s Eve tradition to enjoy homemade nabe (which I know best as 打邊爐). I am reminded of the fact that a Chinese bistro near my place actually does individual-sized hot pot, and while I prefer their sizzling plate meals, I should at least try their hot pot at least once.

  • I’d love to try kiritanpo at one point, as well: it hails from the Akita prefecture, and the rice is pounded into a tube shape for consumption after being roasted over an open fire. I imagine that cooking over an open fire would impart a slightly smoky outdoorsy taste to things, which drives my interest to see what kiritanpo is like. The closest Cantonese equivalents I can think of is 糯米饭 (jyutping no6 mai5 faan6), a delicious sticky rice with shiitake mushroom, 臘腸 (jyutping laap6 coeng2), sometimes chicken and a healthy helping of soy sauce, or zongzi, which is sticky rice and a variety of toppings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

  • As with the anime and manga, Chiaki, Ena, Aoi and Minami spend the night in Minami’s vehicle, and the next morning, Ena awakens to a gorgeous sunrise before whipping up some tempura for breakfast. Whereas Yuru Camp△ 2‘s anime overlaid the end credits over the breakfast scene, the live-action drama chooses to showcase the cooking and enjoyment of fish tempura in all of its glory. This had been a scene I’d been looking forwards to watching animated after reading it in the manga, and I’d been a touch disappointed that the presentation of breakfast in the anime had precluded screenshots. Because there was no equivalent frame in the anime, I’ve chosen to skip over the moment in this post, but readers have my word the tempura looks delicious.

  • After putting so much mileage on her moped, Rin decides to give it a good cleaning to get all of the accumulated dirt and grime off its body. Because the pacing in the live action drama and anime differ so dramatically, the live action is actually able to present moments from the manga that were not shown in the anime: in one of the drama’s post-credits scenes, Rin has a nightmare in which her bike takes on Hermes’ traits from Kino’s Journey and asks to hang with Rin inside her tent, where it’s warmer. The differences in what Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama presents is why I conclude that the old debate between source material and adaptation is irrelevant.

  • To gain the most complete experience, one simply needs an open mind and check everything out, or at the very least, allow others to enjoy things differently. Back in Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live-action drama, Nadeshiko and Ena pray to Rin, feeling her to have transcended into being a deity of safe travels. The idea that Rin’s portable grill is an offertory box makes a return, a clever reference to the first season, and one surmises that Rin’s particularly fond of this little grill if she’s bringing it to school with her. Eventually, Ena heads off, and Nadeshiko is able to ask her about solo camping. Once Rin shares with Nadeshiko five essential elements (tell someone where one’s going, keep an eye on the forecast, pick a site with cellular reception, research a campsite’s facilities and plan to do an activity of some sort), Nadeshiko is geared up for her first-ever solo camping trip, inspired by Rin’s words back when they were at Hamamatsu.

  • While Nadeshiko travels south for Fujinomiya, Rin heads deep into the mountains for Akasawa, about seventeen kilometres from Motosu. By road, it’d take Rin about twenty-five or so minutes to make the drive here from her place, and upon thinking about this, I grow a little envious because this happens to be how long my commute is. I’ve now been back to the office for two weeks now, having gotten both doses, and while it’s been great to work in a focused environment where I have a dual monitor setup again, the office remains quite quiet.

  • In fact, I’ve been feeling a little down of late: work’s been keeping me busy, but the fact was that the whole of July saw the skies over my province covered with a noxious layer of forest fire smoke. There’s no end in sight for the unnaturally hot weather and lack of rainfall even as we enter August, so it looks like the forest fires all around are going to continue burning: having seen footage of the fires, I ended up making a donation to the fire recovery efforts the province over. The smoke and dry weather is demoralising, but it is nothing compared to the tragedy these wildfires are causing, so I figured any help I could give would hopefully be of use.

  • The weather during this long weekend is looking a great deal like it did last year, except it’ll be a lot smokier and hazier. I vividly recall the decision to explore Blackrock Depths in World of Warcraft on my private server then. The heat of this dungeon was particularly visceral for my decision, and the temperatures this long weekend have proven to be what they’d been last summer. This stands in contrast with the brisk spring morning Rin gets to enjoy: like the anime, Rin comes across the Shimizu-ya Café, asks whether it’s open and then in minutes, finds herself seated at their kotatsu.

  • Rin begins to melt from the warmth of the kotatsu, feeling the cafe to  The anime has Rin’s entire head becoming round whenever she grows comfortable, and more so than Yuru Camp△, the second season really showed Rin’s adorable side. There is an Amanchu and ARIA-like character to these moments; in both series, penned by Kozue Amano, individuals take on a distinct art style when flustered or surprised, unique to their character. Yuru Camp△ appears to have inherited some of these traits, as well: although nowhere near as noticeable as Amano’s style, it is visible enough to denote to viewers how a character is feeling in a given moment.

  • The live action version is able to capture the same feelings without use of the same exaggerated facial expressions, using timing to convey Rin’s feeling of comfort. However, thinking about warmth now is to make things a little uncomfortable; the hot weather back home is a world apart from the cool of Akasawa, and while mamemochi and amazuki would be bliss on a brisk spring day, my thoughts turn towards that of an ice-cool lemonade or freshly-cut watermelon. While such days usually invite hikes or walks, the smoke from forest fires across the country has left the skies a noxious orange-brown.

  • While Rin relaxes at a quite mountain café, Nadeshiko kicks off her Fujinomiya adventure. The sheer amount of gear she’s carrying is even more apparent in the live-action; it is impressive that Nadeshiko is able to move as swiftly as she does despite carrying upwards of what must be forty to fifty pounds of camping gear with her. Here, she stops by Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha Shrine to pray for a safe and fun trip. I’ve covered most of the major locations in Yuru Camp△ 2 in an earlier post, so folks looking to learn a little more about Yuru Camp△ 2‘s locations can do so, and this leaves me free to focus more on the moments, as well as the composition of each scene.

  • When Nadeshiko notices the pleasant smell of yakisoba wafting from Fujinomiya Yakisoba Antenna Shop, a place near Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha Shrine, she is tempted to stop and have lunch here. There is a great deal of visual clutter in this scene; the anime frames Nadeshiko so she’s quite visible, whereas in the live action drama, the moment is presented so that Nadeshiko blends in with the crowd. The anime always tries to ensure the main characters are distinct from the background, but the drama consciously places the characters as a part of each scene to create a more natural moment.

  • For this discussion, I’ve skipped over the part where Ena invites Chiaki, Nadeshiko, and Aoi over to check out Chikuwa’s doggie-tent and cook up sausages. Rin arrives later and runs into Ena’s father, who seems to be a bit of a trickster: there were no equivalent moments in the anime, and therefore, no corresponding comparison screenshots, but I enjoyed the divergence all the same, since it demonstrated that the Yuru Camp△ drama had enough creativity to fill in the holes resulting from minor changes to the order of events. The observant reader will note that in my original location hunt, I wasn’t able to find this spot owing to a lack of patience, but this time, armed with the Oculus Quest and a bit of determination, I was able to locate the little policeman statue Rin passes by on her way deeper into the mountains.

  • Rin subsequently spots Sakura’s Nissan Rasheen and decides to tail her for a bit before she’s burned by a stray notification from Nadeshiko. The difference in framing between the drama and anime creates a different feeling; the anime indicates Rin’s discomfort with tailing Sakura by means of facial expressions, but since Harka Fukuhara can’t be reasonably expected to change her eyes, her feelings within the live action needed to be conveyed differently. Framing Rin’s smallness in the environment does the trick here.

  • Watching the chef at Okonomishokudō Itō whip up their legendary gomuku shigureyaki in the live action drama was every bit as enjoyable as the anime, and a side-by-side comparison shows just how faithful the anime is to real life – it is clear that the staff had actually gone to this restaurant in Fujinomiya and watched the chef cook it: this unique dish combines the crispy fried noodles of yakisoba with the savoury bacon, shrimp, mushrooms and fried egg of okonomiyaki. Nadeshiko becomes antsy watching the dish being made.

  • While a tough-looking sort of fellow, Yuru Camp△ shows the chef smiling at Nadeshiko’s expression of pure joy. In the live-action drama, the chef is kindly looking and reassures Nadeshiko her meal will be ready in a few moments. One aspect of the Yuru Camp△ drama I was particularly impressed with was that the secondary characters managing campsites and running restaurants and shops were surprisingly close to their anime appearances. One wonders if Yuru Camp△‘s drama ended up just featuring the actual staff at these restaurants and shops, and similarly, it is possible that the secondary characters in the manga were based on their real-world counterparts (albeit modified slightly to avoid issues surrounding likeness).

  • Sakura and Rin share a somewhat awkward meeting, but the instant Rin recalls that Nadeshiko had mentioned Sakura as a fan of Moped’s Journey, Sakura’s demeanour immediately changes. She becomes a lot livelier, and surprises Rin with her energy. Sakura is portrayed by Yurina Yanagi, and as with the rest of the characters, Yanagi is styled so she closely resembles her anime counterpart. Here, I will note that I was mistaken about Moped’s Journey being an in-universe equivalent of Kino’s Journey – it turns out Sakura is referring to the Gentsuki no Tabi, a Japanese reality show that I would liken as being similar to Rick Steves’ Europe or Great European Railway Journeys, albeit done on a Super Cub rather than by rail or other modes of transport.

  • While Nadeshiko tucks in to the shigureyaki, I’ll share a story; I’ve had okonomiyaki at a local Japanese culture festival some five years earlier while checking things out and while it was tasty, it was in Osaka’s Kansai International Airport where I had authentic Japanese okonomiyaki while awaiting a flight to Hong Kong. This okonomiyaki blew me out of the water and was the dish I’d been longing to have ever since watching Tamayura. In a hilarious turn of events, my brother was resolute on finding a good yakisoba joint, having been inspired by Mugi’s love of yakisoba in K-On!. After lunch was over, we linked up and boarded our flight. To my surprise, Your Name was playing, so I immediately set about watching the movie en route to Hong Kong.

  • It soon becomes clear that besides their enjoyment of solo adventures, Rin and Sakura also care greatly about Nadeshiko. To their pleasure, both Rin and Sakura receive a message from Nadeshiko, indicating she’d arrived at Fujikawa Station and, having done her shopping, is ready to head to her campsite. While Yuru Camp△ mainly had Sakura act as Nadeshiko’s driver, Yuru Camp△ 2 would expand her role more greatly and show that she’s quite similar to Rin, which in turn would explain why Rin would come around with Nadeshiko; from regarding her as a nuisance of sorts in the first season, to being worried about her well being by season two, it becomes clear that Nadeshiko also helped Rin to have new experiences, and for this, Rin is grateful.

  • Onsen scenes in the Yuru Camp△ drama are much more disciplined than their anime counterparts, and for this reason, I would count the drama as being a bit more family-friendly than the anime, where the studio has no qualms about showing how stacked Sakura, Minami and Aoi are. I imagine that because of the optical properties of water in real life, certain considerations (e.g. camera angles) needed to be considered in order to ensure the onsen sequences were appropriate for all viewers; in a given anime, artists can alter the opacity of water at will and side-step the challenges that real life imposes.

  • Back at Fujikawa, Nadeshiko’s begun her ascent to Nodayama Health Green Space Park, and like the anime, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama has Nadeshiko enjoying the scenery on her way to the top. The side-by-side comparison emphasises just how much attention was paid to detail within the anime: the through-arch visible here is a part of a pipeline, and a paper mill can be clearly spotted in the city below for both the anime and live-action. Nadeshiko worries that admiring the view here would diminish it, and covers her eyes before proceeding with her hike to the summit.

  • Upon arrival at Nodayama Health Green Space Park, Nadeshiko realises she more or less has the entire place to herself and sets about exploring the facilities, saying hello to the other group (a small family) and prepares her campsite. Like Rin, Nadeshiko makes the mistake of damaging one of her pegs in the anime, but experiences nothing of the sort in the live-action: she’s ready to go in no time at all as a result of her experience with the Outdoor Activities Club.

  • Earlier, Rin had mentioned that unlike group camping, solo camping requires one to find something to occupy her time. While I’m not a camper myself, I do appreciate how to fill my time up when I’m on my own: exploring places is something I’ve always been fond of doing when on my own, and wandering trails or pathways is a fantastic way of losing an entire afternoon. This is not unlike something Rin would do, whereas Nadeshiko sees solo camping time as a chance to experiment with different recipes. She decides to go with a simple foil-roast to see which vegetables would be good to pick, and has brought everything from tomatoes and yams, to carrots and potatoes.

  • Curiosity leads Sakura to wonder what preparing bear paw would be like, but the process is as complex as brewing a batch of felix felicis, and upon hearing the fact that the ingredients need to be stewed for several hours before one can even begin removing the hair off the paw, after which the paw must be stewed again, Sakura decides to go for a simpler deer meat. Compared to beef, deer is leaner and has a gamier taste to it; folks count it as being tastier than beef when properly prepared. On game meats, my personal favourite is probably moose or elk; several years back, I had a cookout with the extended family as thanks for having helped with a project, and on the menu was grilled elk and moose. It’s not often I have the two, so I can’t really say which one I prefer over the other, but I do know that game meats like these are extremely delicious.

  • Finding the tunnel Rin is stopped by proved to be a fun exercise; while I’d initially thought it was a mountain pass and looked on the eastern side of the Haya river, I ended up spotting a few tips in the surroundings and concluded that Rin was still in the river valley, near a bridge of sorts. This lead me to search the bridges on the Haya river: by narrowing the size of the search area, I eventually found the spot. I’ve heard that some folks who specialise in anime location hunts flat-out refuse to share their techniques and addresses/coordinates of the locations in things like Yuru Camp△ 2.

  • I’ve never been one to believe in acting like this towards readers: while keeping some locations undisclosed makes sense if they’re residential areas or in private spots (thereby preventing visitors from disrupting the locals), the places in anime like Yuru Camp△ 2 are attractions or otherwise unremarkable, and there should be no problems in showing people where they are. This is why I always aim to share the location of different scenes from the anime via Google Street View, allowing readers to gain an idea of where everything is. This is helped greatly by the fact I have Wander of Oculus Quest, where having full immersion in the space really helps from a spatial standpoint.

  • For completeness’ sake, I ended up buying Yuru CampΔ: Virtual Camp‘s Fumoto Campsite chapter a few days ago. Like Lake Motosu, Fumoto Campsite impresses from an aesthetic perspective; Gemdrop’s games completely capture the look and feel that defines Yuru CampΔ. This time around, there are several hints to suggest that the VR experiences presented occur some time after the first season, since Rin and Nadeshiko reference their first-ever camping trip together at Fumoto Campsite. Both Yuru CampΔ: Virtual Camp experiences capture an entire day’s worth of camping and feature conversations that give insight into how Rin and Nadeshiko’s friendship grows over time, and at Fumoto, players see things from Rin’s perspective.

  • Having now had a chance to play both Yuru CampΔ: Virtual Camp chapters, there are some minor things I noticed. Firstly, some translations of the Japanese into English aren’t 1:1, but this doesn’t detract from the overall experience. Similarly, there’s no anti-aliasing, and some elements (like shadows) look quite jagged, but overall, both games look very good. At Fumoto Camp, embers from the campfire and steam effects demonstrate good use of particle systems. One aspect I was fond of was the fact that Rin can spot a shooting star; the night skies look quite gentle, and I definitely see myself returning to enjoy the night scenery in the future using the game’s viewer mode.

  • Altogether, Yuru CampΔ: Virtual Camp was worth the cost of admissions. Both together cost around 48 CAD before tax, and while offering much less content compared to something like DOOM Eternal (which I got for 40 CAD, including The Ancient Gods DLC), the offset is that it allows VR headset owners to really immerse themselves in Yuru CampΔ‘s two most iconic campgrounds. While Nadeshiko enjoys a roast tomato here, I’ll share with viewers the Swiss Melt Dogs I made for lunch earlier today. I ended up trying them with both Dijon mustard and BBQ sauce, both of which conferred a great experience. The natural flavours of the Swiss cheese and white mushrooms complement one another nicely, and next time, I’ll give the onions a little bit more flavour by sautéing them with some brown sugar and a sprig of Worcestershire sauce.

  • After Nadeshiko invites the two children to try her cooking, the older sister is impressed that something like roasted vegetables could taste so good and takes on a newfound interest in camping. Even in her solo adventures, Nadeshiko has a knack for meeting new people and sharing her joy with them. This is an integral part of Nadeshiko’s character, and back during Yuru Camp△, Rin notes that Nadeshiko has a talent for making anything look tasty. Ayano echoes this sentiment in season two, attesting to how Nadeshiko’s got Adam Richman’s skill for really selling food. Even more so than heading her own outdoor equipment company, Nadeshiko feels like she’d excel as the host of a travel show about local eats.

  • After making the lengthy drive from Villa Amehata to Nadeshiko’s campsite (62 kilometres, requiring around an hour and a half’s drive), Rin is relieved to see Nadeshiko is well. Earlier, Rin had begun to grow extremely concerned after realising Nadeshiko hadn’t sent a single message since arriving at Fujikawa Station, and worried that the worst had happened, she sets off to check up on Nadeshiko. It turns out her fears were unfounded, but Rin herself suffers a shock when Sakura shows up, as well. The anime is able to utilise exaggerated facial expressions to convey Rin’s panic, but both drama and anime alike has Rin crying out in terror in a squeaky manner that leads the two children wonder if it’s a deer or similar.

  • It turns out that Sakura had been similarly worried about Nadeshiko and drove a similar distance to check up on her. This really accentuates the similarities between Rin and Sakura. This moment was particularly touching; despite rarely spending any time together, Rin and Sakura get along just fine and share a mutual love of quiet time that is balanced out by the energy Nadeshiko brings into both their lives.

  • Since Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama ended its main story with Rin and Sakura checking up on Nadeshiko, the resulting theme in the drama differs from what the anime and manga conveyed: the drama speaks to the joys resulting from enjoying one’s hobby from a different perspective. Yuru Camp△‘s first season had Rin slowly come around to the idea that group camping had its merits, so in Yuru Camp△ 2, it makes sense that Nadeshiko, who started her camping journey with a group, would become curious to see what solo camping was like.

  • Watching Rin and Sakura together was remarkably heart-warming; fans have long seen the similarities between the two, and having now established that both share a mutual respect for one another, as well as the commonality of being worried about the carefree and happy-go-lucky Nadeshiko, it is possible that with the upcoming Yuru Camp△: The Movie, one could see the largest camping trip the Outdoor Activities Club goes on; perhaps Ayano will join them, and the large group means that Sakura might be asked to help drive people around, too.

  • If this were to be the case, it would be most appropriate for Yuru Camp△: The Movie; the series has been steadily expanding the scope and scale of the Outdoor Activities Club’s adventures, so it makes sense that the film would take things to the next level. Here, after Rin and Sakura receive a message from Nadeshiko, who’s found a spot where she’s got a single bar of reception, Sakura decides to treat Rin to dinner. One of the key visuals for Yuru Camp△ 2 had Rin and Sakura eating okonomiyaki together during the evening. I imagine this is Okonomishokudō Itō, the same restaurant Sakura had suggested to Nadeshiko earlier, and while I would’ve loved to have seen this happen, I imagine that the suggestion to eat dinner together alone demonstrates the closeness that’s developed between the two to a sufficient extent.

  • Whereas the live action drama cannot have access to the same array of facial expressions as the anime or manga might, the actresses do a fantastic job of conveying the emotions seen in the anime and manga. Here, Ena smugly points out that she knows of Rin’s excursion to check up on Nadeshiko. Rin is left speechless, confident that she’d never told anyone of this side trip. The anime adaptation of Yuru Camp△ 2 shows how this came to be in a post-credits sequence, and the drama has this as a part of the main storyline: while out at a convenience store, Nadeshiko’s mother runs into Rin and shares the story.

  • Rin looks shocked in the drama at this revelation, whereas in the anime, her head becomes rounded and she pouts. I’d always been fond of this scene; while Rin might be a stoic character, she is quite expressive in her own right, and as Yuru Camp△ 2 wore on, this became increasingly apparent. Haruka Fukuhara’s portrayal of Rin is spot-on throughout the live-action drama: she is faithful to Rin’s characterisation, and the fact that the characters so closely resemble their fictional counterparts serve to remind viewers that the events of Yuru Camp△ could very well happen for real.

  • With the Izu trip now a reality, Minami and the Outdoor Activities Club begin laying down the groundwork for their largest trip yet. Unlike the anime, Rin is absent from the proceedings, a consequence of the changes the drama made, but I imagine that the drama will similarly show that it won’t take much effort to convince Rin to accompany the Outdoor Activities Club on their trip. Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama closes off with the Outdoor Activities Club and Rin heading home together ahead of the Izu trip, signifying that this group of friends is now at a point where they’re ready to travel together.

  • The drama ends at what corresponds roughly to the halfway point in Yuru Camp△ 2‘s ninth episode. I’m not sure if the ongoing global health crisis may have affected principal photography of the Izu segment, but I do hope that viewers will have a chance to see the Izu trip in the live-action format, too: Yuru Camp△ 2 had indicated that the food and destinations were next level, and consequently, I had been especially excited to see the alfonsino burger and shellfish fried rice that the Izu Peninsula saw. Having said this, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama nonetheless picks a good place to conclude for the present: I will be returning later this month to write about the second Yuru Camp△ 2 OVA which I imagine will be the last bit of Yuru Camp△ I write for, at least until Yuru Camp△ : The Movie in 2022.

Because this dramatic change in where the series wraps up, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama tells the same story over a longer timeframe compared to the anime. In spite of this, however, the drama never seems to drag on, and when spaces are introduced, elements from the manga are utilised to fill in the void. The tablecloth scene from the manga, so noticeably absent in the anime, makes a comeback as Minami imagines that the worst has happened to Chiaki and the others on the shores of Lake Yamanaka, as does a scene where Chiaki becomes excited to pick up inexpensive firewood for the Outdoor Activities Club’s stockpile, only to learn that all supplies are out by the time she arrives. The drama also has an all-new scene where Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi swing by Ena’s place to check out Chikuwa’s doggy-tent and fry up sausages together: this moment is unique to the drama and not seen in either the anime or manga. Despite the changes, however, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live-action drama continues to successfully capture the look-and-feel of Yuru Camp△ during its runtime. I certainly enjoyed this series and what it adds to Yuru Camp△; a slight change in the execution led me to see the series from a different angle, and for me, this is a reminder that the old debate between source and adaptation materials is a largely irrelevant one. Various perspectives on a work allow one to fully appreciate what the creators thought to be important, and it is by appreciating both source and adaptations that one gains the most complete experience. Similarly, because Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live-action drama ends with the preparations and anticipation for the Izu Peninsula trip, I’m left wondering if there will be an adaptation of the Izu trip: the anime had portrayed Izu with a high degree of precision, and admittedly, I had been hoping to see the delicious alfonsino burger everyone enjoys on their first day. For now, I have no news of whether or not a continuation of the drama is in the works, but if it turns out such a continuation is going to be made, I’d have no objection to picking things up and seeing how the live action drama chooses to adapt one of Yuru Camp△ 2‘s biggest adventures yet.

1337 Posts, and Yuru Camp△ 2 Live Action Adaptation: Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“Plan for what it is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.” –Sun Tzu

Rin spends time with Nadeshiko and Ayano in Hamamatsu before heading back home with her grandfather. Nadeshiko ends up taking a part time job to pick up the gas lamp she’d longed for, and Chiaki spends some time seasoning her new cast iron skillet, as well as removing the lacquer from a wooden bowl. She later plans out a camping trip at Lake Yamanaka with Ena and Aoi (Nadeshiko and Rin are busy with work). After picking up some gear from Mont Bell and swinging by an onsen, the group head towards their campground at the eastern edge of Lake Yamanaka. They meet a young woman and her corgi, but after settling down for some drinks, they realise the temperature’s plummeting quickly, and moreover, they’ve not prepared at all for the cold night ahead. This is where Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama after six episodes, coinciding roughly with where Chiaki, Aoi and Ena end up at Yuru Camp△ 2‘s halfway point. By now, it is apparent that Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action has taken several liberties with the order of events and progression: Chiaki preparing a cast iron skillet and wooden bowl originally during the first season prior to exams. However, speaking to the finesse of the writing, the Yuru Camp△ 2 drama never skips a beat, and changes in the events are smoothly integrated with the original timeline to create a very smooth story that stands of its own accord. In its execution, the Yuru Camp△ 2 live action shows how even with substantial modifications to the storyline, by virtue of omission or altering when it occurs, some stories can still flow elegantly. The end result is that I half expect there to be a few more surprises in store for the Yuru Camp△ 2 drama’s second half; seeing these differences (sometimes subtle, and othertimes obvious) has made the live-action adaptation engaging in its own right. While we might be retreading a familiar stories, minor variations keep the experience quite fresh.

In retrospect, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s first half is initially quite similar to the first season in that it covers the experience surrounding local camping, of visiting spots reachable by mass transit or moped. However, the combination of new locations explored and new lessons learnt add depth to the adventures; Nadeshiko is now close enough to get an honest answer from Rin about why solo camping has its own joys, and while the first season’s winter camping had been all fun and games, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena’s lack of research into the nighttime lows at Lake Yamanaka remind viewers of the importance of being properly prepared. The second season’s first half thus speaks to the idea that while the Outdoor Activities Club had become familiar with camping, there were a few things they needed to be made aware of before they could go on larger-scale outings. Having Chiaki, Aoi and Ena learn the importance of research and letting people know of their plans is vital for safety’s sake, and once this lesson is applied, viewers can rest assured that the characters are aware of the procedure to keep safe on their adventures. The messages are consistent across both the live action adaptation and the anime; this is, after all, a central part of the series, and disparities between the two notwithstanding, both the anime and drama do an outstanding job of conveying their messages across. One of the things I did notice about the live-action drama was that, while the episodes seem to space things out more, things never seemed to drag on. This is the mark of an engaging series – camping is a fun activity many partake in, but Yuru Camp△‘s uncommonly powerful presentation has encouraged people to take it up for themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about the Yuru Camp△ live action drama was about a month and a half ago; attesting to how busy things’ve been, I’ve only been able to catch up on the live action recently, having spent almost all of my time finishing up Cold WarSuper CubYakunara Mug Cup Mo and Gundam SEED. Fortunately, shows don’t go anywhere, and so, I was able to pick up with the drama right where’d I had left off last.

  • Having the drama around meant my Yuru Camp△ withdrawal isn’t quite as severe as I initially imagined: I’ve long been impressed with how faithful the live-action adaptation was to events in the anime. Filming this second season can’t have been easy, especially since many of the events were related to phenomenon around the New Year’s timeframe, and in order to keep things authentic, the producers would’ve had to do most of their principal photography in winter. The end results, however, speak for themselves.

  • One of these days, I’d love to watch or read about a behind-the-scenes of how Yuru Camp△‘s drama was filmed: besides showing things like set design, I’m very fond of outtake reels and the like. A well-done movie or TV show is totally immersive, and with strong acting, it becomes easy to forget that we’re watching women and men completely embracing their roles to bring a certain world and its story to life. Being able to watch moments where actors and actresses flub a line or burst out laughing reminds us of the effort that goes into making these show come to life.

  • I did not cover this in my original post, nor did I feature this moment in any location hunt: Hamanakoo Bridge is located immediately north of Nagisaen Camping Ground at the western edge of Hamamatsu, and in both the anime and drama, the observation tower from Hamanako Garden Park can be seen. The lighting in the drama suggests a warmer day than the anime, but being Canadian, I’ve been around the block long enough to know that one cannot reliably ascertain ambient temperatures visually.

  • While waiting for Shizuhana to open, Rin is shocked that there are so many people here to buy strawberry daifuku so early in the day. Like the anime, Rin finds herself hoping that there’ll be enough to go around, since she’s only looking to grab a few for Nadeshiko, and all of the other customers are interested in buying large numbers at a time. The uptick in recent reviews for this confectionary store suggests that more locals are beginning to go out and about; traffic back home certainly has increased of late, and my provincial government have opened things up for people in my cohort to take their second vaccination.

  • I ended up getting my second shot yesterday, and once the vaccine does its thing within two weeks, it means I’ll have an acceptable level of protection against the virus. This doesn’t mean I’m in the clear yet (I’ll probably still carry a mask and hand sanitiser around for a ways after), but having the peace of mind that the most severe symptoms will be prevented is most welcome. At some point in the near future, once case numbers are consistently low, I do look forwards to returning to my favourite poutine joint this side of the world.

  • This moment is why Haruka Fukuhara is paid the big bucks to play Rin: Fukuhara’s portrayal of Rin’s reaction to the insane price of unagi is priceless, being even more amusing than her “eyes fall to the ground in shock” in the anime. Moments like these accentuate the greatest difference between anime and real life; whereas actresses and actors have the advantage of facial cues and body language, anime need to work twice as hard in order to convey the same feelings. Yuru Camp△ has no trouble with this in its anime incarnation, so it was especially fun to see how certain moments were conveyed in real life.

  • Yuno Ōhara herself is no slouch in bringing Nadeshiko’s mannerisms to life, either: Nadeshiko covers her eyes whenever something frightens or surprises her, and this is adorable. Ōhara even nails the facial expressions. The act of watching unagi being prepared is a little much for Nadeshiko, and while I’ve never had a problem with seeing the guts and whatnot from preparing fresh meat, I do appreciate that some people can become uncomfortable with it (Les Stroud mentions this in the opening disclaimer for Survivorman episodes and occasionally cuts away some scenes where he’s preparing something he’d caught).

  • Whereas the anime had Nadeshiko’s grandmother and Rin tugging on her cheeks, the drama has Ayano do so instead. Like Rin’s place, Nadeshiko’s grandmother’s home is not precisely placed; in real life, an empty lot occupies the spot where Nadeshiko’s grandmother’s house is supposed to be located. Instead, the drama uses a building located a hundred and thirty-three metres to the east as the location for exterior shots, and I imagine that interior shots are filmed either on a sound stage or at an undisclosed location.

  • Prior to Nadeshiko’s departure, Ayano had encouraged her to pick up something new, and in the half-year or so since Nadeshiko moved to Yamanashi, she’d picked up camping, to Ayano’s joy. Here, she and Nadeshiko both learn the reason behind Rin’s preferences for solo camping. It was here that Yuru Camp△ really struck a resonant chord with viewers; most anime would opt to emphasise that there’s joy to be had in groups, but Yuru Camp△ ended up saying that people can enjoy solo activities as well, which comes with its own set of merits. Rather than attempt to leave viewers with only one message, Yuru Camp△ therefore suggests that there is no right or wrong way to approach a hobby so long as one is doing so safely.

  • Back home in Yamanashi, Chiaki relives Rin, Nadeshiko and Aoi’s travels in food form, but since the curry requires preparation to enjoy, she stows it away for later use. We’re now back in Motosu, and it’s a welcome return to the school grounds, which had sat empty until Yuru Camp△ popularised the site anew. When I first heard about the drama via social media, I’d only been tangentially interested, but after trailers began appearing, and I noticed that the Outdoor Activities Club’s clubroom at Motosu High School was actually based off the real-world location, I immediately wished to check the drama out for myself.

  • Classic scenes like Nadeshiko acting as a makeshift pole make a return in Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action, right down to the facial expressions. It initially feels a little mean-spirited to suddenly spring a game of scissors-stone-cloth to determine who should be the pole, especially in the knowledge that Chiaki and Aoi have known one another for a long time and roughly know what to expect. Nadeshiko eventually swaps herself out for an easel, and remarks that if Chiaki needs her as a pole again, she’ll have to charge her an hourly rate for such a service.

  • With the money she’d earned from work, Ena ends up buying a dog-sized tent for Chikuwa that costs as much as any tent for people. The price is consistent with what I’ve found for North American equivalents, and camping with dogs does require an extra bit of research to ensure good times – some campgrounds are more dog friendly than others, and it’s probably worth ensuring one’s dog is up to speed on their vaccinations. For now, however, the winter cold means that it’s probably not the best idea to bring Chikuwa out to camp, and Rin is left to wish that she could see Chikuwa and his little tent in person.

  • After her contract with the post office comes to a close, Nadeshiko laments that all of the part time jobs suitable for secondary schools are located in Kofu a ways to the north. I absolutely sympathise with how Nadeshiko feels about things: in my corner of the world, most technology-related jobs are for oil and gas companies, and a majority of the mobile development jobs are either out west or east. However, changing circumstances means that more companies are okay with hiring remote workers, and there may come a future where I’ll have to grow accustomed to working remotely. I joke that so long as I have a computer, power supply and internet connection, I could work anywhere in the world, although in Nadeshiko’s case, practical constraints mean that she’s limited to whatever is available in the Minobu/Nambu area.

  • Sakura comes through one day – she invites Nadeshiko out to dinner at a local soba restaurant that serves a delicious ebi tempura and remarks that they’re hiring, but because they’d only just opened the position, there were no ads in the local classified. For the first time, Nadeshiko is even more excited about the job than she is about the meal she’s about to enjoy, and Sakura asks her to at least have dinner before getting psyched about being able to work hard and earn some coin.

  • With her first paycheque from the soba restaurant, Nadeshiko finally has enough money to pick up the gas lamp she’d long adored. The anime had Nadeshiko trip on a shoebox and nearly drop her new purchase, but the live-action sees her toss the box into the air out of excitement. This minor change did feel a little disingenuous to Nadeshiko’s character – she’d grown quite a bit since the series began, and however excited Nadeshiko might be about the new gas lamp, she’d also realise the effort it took to get here. Fortunately, one of the store’s clerks are on hand to help out. He makes a stunning catch worthy of the Calgary Stampeders and cheers alongside the others.

  • Back home, Nadeshiko lights the gas lamp for her parents. While Nadeshiko had taken a liking to the lamp owing to its appearance, Yuru Camp△ also has it become a tangible representation of Nadeshiko’s maturity. From getting lost on a bike shortly after moving to Yamanashi, to taking up camping and learning the ins and outs, as well as picking up a job so she can pursue camping more throughly, the milestone of earning enough to buy said gas lamp was the surest sign that for us viewers, we needn’t worry about Nadeshiko, since she has the resolve and drive to make discoveries on her own and ask for help when needed.

  • Having this confidence in Nadeshiko thus opens Yuru Camp△ up for new adventures of a much larger scale, and further driving this point home, Nadeshiko’s decision to gift Sakura a reusable hand-warmer shows that, while she may be ditzy and a glutton who lives in the present, she’s also kind and very aware of those around her. The anime and English-language materials don’t say anything about how old Sakura is, but having picked up the Yuru Camp△ official guidebook back in 2019, I ended up learning that Sakura is a university student.

  • The biggest surprise for me about Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama was that, after Nadeshiko buys her gas lamp, the story switches over to Chiaki and Aoi discussing fancy camping implements; over the weekend, Chiaki had managed to pick up a cast iron skillet and wooden bowl, plus a small table cloth and rack that can be used as a makeshift table. This particular story was a part of Yuru Camp△‘s first season, where Chikai totally procrastinates for her exams by taking some time to season the skillet and remove the lacquer from the bowl. While jarring, the drama ends up fitting things seamlessly into the second season, portraying Chiaki’s exercise as preparations for their next camping trip and also foreshadowing the group that will go camping next.

  • The Yuru Camp△ live action adaptation’s first season had omitted this altogether so everything could be fit into the season, but I’m glad that Yuru Camp△ 2 found a way to incorporate it back in – the segments where Chiaki, Aoi and Ena go through how to properly season cast iron cookware and prepare wooden bowls for holding hot food are reminiscent of the step-by-step processes seen in something like MythBusters, turning a prima facie boring process into an instructive and engaging one. Of course, not shown in the live-action is Aki Toyosaki’s adorable scream of pain when she accidentally comes into contact with the hot skillet: Yumena Yanai’s portrayal of Aoi, while still faithful, lacks the same good-natured antics that Toyosaki brings to the table.

  • With the weekend here, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena set off for their first-ever camping adventure without Nadeshiko: she and Rin were scheduled for work this weekend. Their trip opens at Mount Fuji Station in Fujiyoshida, reachable from Minobu by taking a train into Kofu and then switching over to the bus that takes them to the station. While the drama frames the shot from a different angle, the same energy and excitement from the anime is conveyed – I imagine that the choice to frame the shot this way was also to show how large the world is, foreshadowing what would happen on Chiaki, Aoi and Ena’s Lake Yamanaka trip.

  • The scene of Chiaki slipping and falling on ice at Mount Fuji Station was omitted in the drama: instead of creating a situation that leads Ena to snap a photo of Aoi trying to keep Chiaki from falling, she simply feels the need to sneeze and has the sneeze fail. For some inexplicable reason, sneezes feel very satisfying, so when a sneeze “dies”, it can be accompanied with a strange feeling of frustration.

  • While Chiaki is quite pleased with herself for having secured an inexpensive transit option, the sparse schedule means that the trio must sprint off to catch their bus, lest they’re stuck waiting for another hour for the next ride. Public transit in Japan remains more accessible than anything I’m familiar with back home; the sprawl of Canadian urban design means that infrastructure costs more per capita, and simply put, it costs more to run bus lines when there are fewer riders, causing the price of tickets to rise. In Hong Kong, for instance, the price to ride the tram from North Point to Central is 2.60 HKD, or 42 cents. However, back home, an adult transit ticket costs 3.50 CAD and is only valid for 90 minutes.

  • I’ve long been a proponent of higher-density developments that make things more accessible in the absence of a car; this stands in stark contrast with home developers’ insistence that the 2400-square-foot home is good enough for everyone, and indeed, their resistance to building differently is astounding. A few years ago, my city’s mayor was involved in a lawsuit after suggesting that he would push to increase density and increase the costs for home developers to construct single-family subdivisions. The case was settled out of court, and while the city has plans for sustainable growth, the reality is that I’ll probably continue to see McMansions pop up at the edge of town in the years to come, and will probably need to resign myself to the fact that my city isn’t going to be walkable for a while yet.

  • Chiaki gloats about how nice it feels to go relax while others are working, a clever callback to the idea that she’s still a little salty about having spent the whole of her winter break working. Rather than mean-spirited, however, this moment feels hilarious and speaks to Chiaki’s love for hanging out. The group’s first destination is Montbell, an outdoors store even larger than Kofu’s Elk. Whereas the anime had presented Montbell as a larger Caribou branch, the live-action adaptation shows Montbell in its original glory, right down to the giant stuffed bear at the front of the store.

  • These stuffed bears are exactly what I was referring to while writing about Yuru Camp△ 2‘s fifth episode a few months earlier; the anime had substituted a giant caribou for the bear, and in the manga (as well as one of the Heya Camp△ segments), Aoi is seen to have developed a great fondness for Caribou-kun: after buying the entire plushie, she takes him on camping trips. These giant stuffed animals are a common sight in Banff, and today, being Canada Day, is a time where I spend time with family hanging out in the mountains.

  • This year, we’ve chosen to have a quieter day at home to deal with some household stuff: the temperatures today are expected to top out at 36°C, and it’s been this hot all week on account of the persistent heat dome that’s settled over our area. It’s certainly a far cry from Yuru Camp△ and its wintery conditions; at Mont Bell, where Chiaki attempts to determine what the best option she has for a lightweight hammock with a frame is. After performing a dance of sorts for the clerk, the clerk has just the thing. The anime kept this a surprise for viewers, while the drama simply shows the solution for Chiaki: two low chairs.

  • After their purchases are completed, Ena receives a set of pictures of Chikuwa enjoying his new doggy-tent immensely. This immediately leads Aoi and Chiaki to melt, and then wonder how on earth Chikiwa could be sending the photos himself. It is shown Ena’s father is taking and sending the photos, which was a very clever way of showing the cordial relationship Ena has with her family. In the anime, Ena is never shown as receiving the photos and therefore can be surmised to have taken them before they’d set out for Lake Yamanaka.

  • With an ambient temperature of 1.4°C, Aoi, Ena and Chiaki struggle to leave the onsen. It had been Ena who’d suggested to Rin that she try the Nordic Cycle out during Heya Camp△‘s OVA, suggesting that it’s good for circulation; presumably, after feeling particularly invigourated after leaving the waters and stepping into the brisk winter air, Ena felt it might be something Rin would probably like. This is what led me to surmise that Rin’s weekend trip was probably set after the events at Lake Yamanaka, but before their trip to Izu.

  • Whether it is the drama or anime, Yuru Camp△ has always excelled with its portrayal of enjoying the small moments in life. After unwinding in the onsen, Chiaki, Ena and Aoi enjoy ice creams prior to their next destination. I’ve always had a fondness for Japanese soft-serve: the ice cream out here tends to be very hard and is much cooler, whereas in Japan, their ice cream is creamier and smoother. Moreover, soft-serve ice cream has a lower fat content and is served at a slightly higher temperature, reducing instances of brain-freeze.

  • Chiaki melts into the floor from comfort, prompting Aoi to try and wake her up before she falls asleep, which would set them back on their schedule (this had happened on the Outdoor Activities Club’s first trip to Fuefuki), and with the bus routes as infrequent as they are, this could prove challenging. However, Aoi’s problems are doubled when Ena does the same. The humour of Yuru Camp△ translates well into reality, and Aoi’s frustration is apparent as she tries to get her friends going.

  • Nadeshiko’s expertise with nabe is what allows the Outdoor Activities Club to experience great-tasting hot pot while camping. A bit of ingenuity and substituting out ingredients that are easier to transport and prepare means that the original recipe’s flavours are largely retained, without demanding additional preparation or storage constraints while out on the campgrounds.

  • After one more bus ride, Ena, Aoi and Chiaki finally arrive at Misaki Camping Ground on the eastern edge of Lake Yamanaka. The drama takes the time to show how beautiful the area is, and again, it is apparent that the producers used drone footage to shoot scenes over the lake itself. Drones have definitely allowed producers, both with high and low budgets, to shoot some fantastic footage; Les Stroud began using drones in his later seasons, and with the technology become increasingly inexpensive, he even encouraged his drone operators to go for style, since if a drone was wrecked, he’d simply buy another one.

  • I found that the manager at Misaki Camping Ground resembles Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai, and the itself moment quite hilarious; while it might be disappointing to Chiaki, Aoi and Ena, there are practical reasons for disallowing campers to set up their tents on the cape itself. While Yuru Camp△ had presented camp ground managers as being quite friendly and polite, here at Misaki Camping Ground, there did seem to be a bit of tension here which again, foreshadows the fact that Lake Yamanaka offers a sort of challenge that previous camping grounds did not.

  • I also ended up purchasing Yuru CampΔ: Virtual Camp for the Oculus Quest today; developed by Gemdrop, I’ve been eying the games since they launched earlier this year. There’s one set at Lake Motosu and one at Fumoto Campsite, retailing for 25 CAD each, so I figured I’d start by playing as Nadeshiko on the shores of Lake Motosu and then return at a later time to give Fumoto a shot, if Lake Motosu impressed. As it turns out, the VR experience is quite compelling; while it isn’t physically demanding as something like SUPERHOT VR, the scenery and character models are well rendered. One thing that became very apparent is that Rin’s character model is absolutely tiny; her height is given as being 144 cm (even smaller than K-On!‘s Azu-nyan, who’s 150 cm).

  • Yuru CampΔ: Virtual Camp shows that a part of the anime experience can indeed be faithfully reproduced in the VR environment, and I wouldn’t mind giving the Fumoto Campsite version a go, as well. Players can navigate between the different scenarios quite easily, but also choose to just lose themselves at a given time of day and admire the scenery. One thing I particularly liked is the fact that Nadeshiko can call out to Rin with her signature Rin-chan~! as the sun is setting, and while the story itself is quite short, I do see myself returning to chill on the shores of Lake Motosu in the future. Having said this, capturing footage from the Oculus Quest is a bit tricky, so it’ll be an experience I can’t readily write about here.

  • While pitching one’s tent may be prohibited on the cape, there’s nothing that says one can’t set up their chairs here and kick back. Chiaki thus goes about setting up a fancy drink, a hot buttered rum, for everyone. The girls’ phones don’t appear to be a problem at this point in the drama; the anime and manga had the phones run out of juice from the cold, which complicates things. Fortunately, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena have a guardian angel in the form of Rin: unlike the others, she knows that Lake Yamanaka can get cold from its elevation, so she eventually becomes worried about the three.

  • Choko and her owner show up after the hot buttered rums are prepared in the drama; here, Chiaki wonders if the Corgi is Nadeshiko manifesting in spirit form. This was originally present in the manga, but was never mentioned in the anime, so seeing it return in the drama was a pleasant touch. After giving Choko pats, they turn back to their drinks, only to find that in the short time Choko was occupying their attention, everything’s frozen solid. As the temperatures cool, Chiaki realises they’re in trouble unless they do something immediately to turn their situation around.

  • While the anime really drove up the stakes by having the group only realise their situation after the sun had set, there’s still a little light in the drama when Chaiki runs off to the nearest convenience store for some heavy-duty warmers while Aoi and Ena attempt to get firewood, only to spot the manager leaving for the day. Such a moment would be quite suspenseful, but since most viewers would undoubtedly be watching the drama after seeing the anime and/or having read the manga, what happens next isn’t too much of a concern. This post has been a fun one to write for, and I’ll be returning at some point in the future to wrap up Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama. In the meantime, it’s time to catch up on Higurashi SOTSU‘s first two episodes, then spend the next little bit wrapping up talks for Gundam SEED86 EIGHTY-SIX and Higehiro before delving into the summer season’s shows: I only have plans to write about The Aquatope on White Sand and Magia Record at present, with the idea being that a lighter blogging schedule hopefully translates to being able to play more DOOM Eternal.

I’ll briefly stop here to note that with this talk on where I stand with Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama with six of twelve episodes in the books, I’ve reached yet another milestone with this blog: thirteen hundred and thirty seven posts. This number is significant and is a callback to the earlier days of the internet – originally, 1337 was a numerical spelling of the term “elite” and had been associated with the hacker subculture, denoting formidable skill and knowledge in the area. The substitution of numbers in some spellings spilled over to the world of gaming, and eventually, 1337 became an adjective for “awesome”. That I’ve written 1337 posts over the past nine-and-a-half years has spoken to two things: the first is that having an awesome reader base, one that provides honest feedback, shares recollections and sets me straight if should I step out of line, has been most encouraging. Without you, the readers, I’m certain this blog and the various misadventures I’ve been on over the years, would’ve never endured for as long as it did. The second is that in the journey of life, there’s always something worth sharing: Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action adaptation is one of them, and I’m certainly having fun writing for these posts and whipping up the images comparing and contrasting a given moment in the drama with its counterpart in the anime. At the end of the day, this is what blogging boils down to – it’s a matter of having fun writing what we write about, and knowing that even if a post has helped one individual’s day in some way, whether it’s answer any questions the reader had about something or giving them something to smile about, the post has accomplished its goal. Similarly, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama consistently puts a smile on my face, and while the series has finished airing, I am a little behind on things, so I’ll aim to continue watching this one and write about my final impressions once that’s in the books.

Yuru Camp△ 2 Live Action Adaptation: Review and Reflections on the Opening Special

“Celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings.” –Jonathan Lockwood Huie

While the conclusion of Yuru Camp△ 2 doubtlessly left viewers with a bit of melancholy once it ended, the live action drama has thankfully filled in the void, revisiting the events of Yuru Camp△ 2 in the live-action setting. The second season for Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama was announced in November 2020, and began airing back in April. Before the drama’s new season began airing, however, a special episode was released. This episode summarises events from the first season and portrays Rin’s solo camping adventures in Omaezaki and the coastal regions of Shizuoka, as well as Nadeshiko’s part-time job at the local post office and the Outdoor Activities Club’s New Year sunrise misadventures together. Yuru Camp△‘s drama had been well-received amongst both Japanese and foreign viewers: this series captures the spirit of the anime and brings it to life in a different medium, and speaking to how well both the manga and anime were made, the transition into the real world does not impede Yuru Camp△ in any way. The characters are faithful to their original counterparts in personality and appearance, the real-world settings look even more stunning, and the food is more enticing than what was seen in the anime. The positive reception to Yuru Camp△‘s live action drama is therefore unsurprising, and with the first season as the precedent, it became clear that the drama would be of a similar quality and aesthetic. The announcement of a special episode initially proved unexpected, and early in the live action drama of Yuru Camp△ 2‘s second season, I skipped over this special. I assumed it would be a recap of the first season and so, my journey started when the series proper began airing on Prime. I was therefore surprised to see Rin already in Hamamatsu waiting for Nadeshiko to show up. Evidently, I jumped the gun, and hastened to back up a little, starting the journey properly as Rin embarks on her last solo camping trip of the year while the Outdoor Activities Club have their own fun in trying to catch a pair of New Year sunrises.

Having already covered the themes, symbolism and motifs of Yuru Camp△ 2 ad nauseam in my episodic posts for the anime, there prima facie seems to be little incentive to go back and write about the live action drama again, especially given that the drama follows the anime and manga’s events very closely. However, the different formats mean that the aesthetics between Yuru Camp△ 2‘s anime and live action drama become apparent, altering the look-and-feel of every different scene. Yuru Camp△ 2‘s anime had crafted an infinitely peaceful and relaxing setting, using a gentle colour palette and reduced saturation to ease viewers into every moment, whether it be Rin’s introspective solo camping moments or the rowdy adventures that follow Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena. In the live action, colours and scenes are sharper, accentuating the mood of each scene. Rin’s calm experiences are ever more relaxing, while the Outdoor Activities Club’s travels become more rambunctious: together with the fact that the drama is presenting the actual scenery and food everyone enjoys, it creates an unparalleled sense of immersion. If the anime had been about conveying a sense of tranquility and a reminder to appreciate the smaller moments, the drama demonstrates to viewers that what Rin, Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena experience is very much a reality, awaiting the viewer’s decision to go and give things a go for themselves. The dramatically different aesthetic in the drama do not degrade themes and messages from the original anime or manga, and as such, for being able to show viewers what things might really look like were one to follow in Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s footsteps while simultaneously being respectful to the original, the Yuru Camp△ drama was very well received amongst viewers. Season two looks no different, and the beginning of a familiar journey from a fresh perspective is off to a solid start.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A few days ago, a reader commented on Haruka Fukuhara’s excellent portrayal of Rin: Fukuhara does indeed capture Rin’s personality very well, right down to the facial expressions and mannerisms that Nao Tōyama brings to the table when voicing Rin. Altogether, I was very impressed with how closely Yuru Camp△‘s drama characters resembled their anime counterparts: minus the hair colours, and the fact that Nadeshiko usually wears hair in twin-tails, the character designs in the drama are solid.

  • The second season had been prefaced by a 40-minute special that covers moments from the second half of the second season’s first episode before segueing into events from the second episode. Here, Ena and Nadeshiko sit down to lunch together between their shifts at the Minobu Post Office. When Yuru Camp△ 2 aired, I immediately set about trying to locate Minobu Post Office for my location hunts. The Yuru Camp△ drama uses real-life locations precisely as they are, and where the anime and manga could fake locations, the drama must instead find a suitable counterpart.

  • I’d felt bad for Chiaki when she was faced with a heavy work schedule while her friends got some time to themselves, and in the live action, this feeling was amplified thanks to Momoko Tanabe’s spot-on acting. Chiaki lacks the fluffy and warm air that Rin and Nadeshiko convey, and instead, acts as the excitable, energetic club president similarly to Ritsu had been the club president in K-On!. Archetypes in anime are unavoidable, but I’ve never really held it against a series if their respective equivalents for Yui, Mio, Ritsu, Tsumugi and Azusa were obvious: character traits aren’t the sole determinant of whether or not a slice-of-life anime will succeed.

  • While Rin had intended to visit Izu, the prospect of New Year’s crowds leads her to stand down. Her mother suggests Omaezaki and Iwata in lieu of Izu: besides safer driving, Rin’s mother is also hoping that Rin might be able to swing by a special tea shop in the mountains just south of Kakegawa. With her destinations locked in, Rin prepares to head from home out to Shizuoka, a lengthy 126-kilometre long drive. The site of Rin’s house in the live-action drama was posted to Google Maps about a year ago by some enthusiastic fans of the series, although out of respect for the residents, I submitted a report about the inappropriate listing shortly after finding out.

  • Google only got around to processing my report a few weeks earlier, and the location of Rin’s house in the drama has now been stricken from Google Maps. I get that the Japanese fans who created the listing will probably be a trifle disappointed, but especially with current circumstance, hassling a private residence isn’t the best idea at this moment. Back in Yuru Camp△, Fukuhara’s joyous expression is breathtaking, even if it only happens within her mind’s eye: Yuru Camp△ 2 had Rin imagine expressing pure joy at seeing the ocean, but in the anime, Rin’s expression is a little more ambiguous. In the live action, subtle cues like the shape of Fukuhara’s eyes helps one to more readily ascertain that the ocean is positively making Rin happy.

  • Rin was shown as arriving in Cape Omaezaki to check out the lighthouse by mid-morning in the anime, but the lighting in the drama suggests that the scene was filmed early morning. I wonder when the principal photography for the second season was shot: while most of the scenes involve Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club, there are some scenes that feature crowds (most notably, when Rin is buying strawberry daifuku in Kanzanji and later, when Nadeshiko visits an okonomiyaki place in Fujinomiya).

  • Both the anime and drama has Rin swing by Kimikura Teahouse to pick up some tea for her mother. In my post for the anime and location hunt posts, I wasn’t able to actually go inside the teahouse for comparison. The live action drama allows me to remedy this, and it becomes clear that the anime did indeed take the pain of replicating Kimikura’s interior and uniforms accurately. Here, a member of the staff greets Rin, and she recognises Rin from a few months earlier, when they’d met at Yashajin Pass.

  • Like Rin, I’m a complete novice to Japanese tea: she ultimately ends up asking the clerk for a recommendation. On my end, I am better versed in Chinese and other teas: my favourite tea is probably Tieguanyin, an oolong tea that Cantonese restaurants commonly serve. It’s got a mild but distinct flavour that makes it particularly quenching (great for when eating at Guangdong restaurants whose fares are often explosively flavourful). By comparison, my family in Hong Kong prefers Pu’er tea, which has a much stronger taste. Typically, I prefer a good cup of Moroccan mint tea or ginger tea when Chinese teas are not available.

  • Whereas Rin only learns about her mother giving her an additional 1000 Yen to enjoy the café at Kimikura after having made her initial purchase in the anime, here in the drama, Rin finds out as soon as she phones home to inquire about the tea. Instead, Rin struggles to decide whether or not she should live in the moment or put the extra money towards her camping fee. In the end, Rin caves and ends up ordering the tea set. I imagine this was meant to also incorporate the moment in Yuru Camp△ 2‘s anime, where Rin ultimately gives in to temptation and orders a pizza slice from the food truck at Ryuyokaiyo Koen Campground.

  • After Kimikura, Rin heads for Mitsuke Tenjin Shrine in the hopes of meeting Shippeitaro III, a fox-like dog who defeats monkey spirits per Japanese færie tales. Upon arriving, she decides to make this her New Year’s Visit, as well, and prays for another peaceful year. Unfortunately, it turns out that Shippeitaro III had already passed on, and in a moment of contemplation, Rin phones Ena and asks about how Chikuwa is doing. One aspect of Yuru Camp△ that I never noticed during the first season was the fact that Chikuwa is a long-haired Chihuahua – his breed is not explicitly mentioned early on. However, there were hints that Chikuwa is a Chihuahua; he dislikes the cold and loves to burrow in blankets.

  • The founder of the company I’d previously worked for has a long-haired Chihuahua, and back before the pandemic hit, we’d spend a half hour of our day talking her out on a walk with the entire team: our office building had been dog friendly, and having a long-haired Chihuahua around every day was such a morale booster. If I were running into challenges with auto-layout or the Stripe SDK, I could always take a five minute breather, cuddle with the Chihuahua and then return to my desk fully refreshed. This Chihuahua was a mixed-breed and therefore larger than a purebred Chihuahua, but was still a small dog by all definitions. In spite of this, she was always energetic and loved getting petted, occasionally approaching my and my coworkers’ desks and pawing our chairs for pats.

  • Throughout Yuru Camp△, it is shown that dogs have a considerable presence, and despite not having a dog herself, Rin is very much a dog person (the drama shows her as having a shiba inu sticker on her phone case). Rin goes out of her way to pet the dogs she runs into and visit shrines with a dog deity, Nadeshiko waves to dogs on her way to school, and Aoi comments on how Nadeshiko’s enthusiasm is puppy-like.

  • While finding Ryuyokaiyo Koen Campground proved to be a straightforward task, Google Street View doesn’t have coverage down here, and so, during my location hunt, I wasn’t able to simply walk up to the campground and obtain images for the post through Street View alone. Having said this, the drama again demonstrates the original manga and anime’s faithfulness to reality. Everything from terminology to procedure and prices are properly captured – it is unsurprising that interest in camping has increased since Yuru Camp△ aired: with the series’ detailed instructions in camping and the availability of information on the internet, interested parties can purchase the basic gear and look up how to get set up, beginning their own adventure, without too much hassle.

  • Rin swiftly sets up camp and turns her attention to preparing her New Year’s Eve meal; here in the drama, she doesn’t take a brief walk around the campground and take in its sights with the same enthusiasm as the anime presents. Instead, she immediately begins setting up her campfire and evening meal. Previously, I’d commented on how the mannerisms seen in the anime did not necessarily translate so elegantly into real life, where exaggerated actions would feel out of place in a drama and perhaps be more appropriate for a stage play. It’s a bit early to tell, but with this special kicking off the second season, it does seem like the drama has decided to dial some things back a smidgen to make things fit with real life a little better.

  • Rin ends up striking a pose with her blade before beginning the process of creating a feather stick in a drama, as a clever callback to the first season. Shortly after Yuru Camp△‘s drama began airing last year, YouTubers immediately created videos comparing and contrasting the live-action series with the anime, and reception to the series was very positive on the whole. Were I to do video reviews, I would probably be inclined to do things like a Survivorman: Director’s Commentary, with me as an inset, and the events I’m talking about on the larger video. However, as a blog post, I’ll keep to my current format, which has worked rather well for me: the Survivorman: Director’s Commentary series from last year is what inspired me to take this approach for writing about the Yuru Camp△ live action series.

  • Rin’s New Year’s Eve meal looks even more delicious in real life: this simple soba recipe calls for nameko mushrooms, scallions, seaweed, a slice of fried fish and egg, topped with a sprig of shichimi pepper, which is a blend of seven spices that has a citrusy, nutty flavour accompanying the heat that chili peppers bring. Rin enjoys her meal immensely, wrapping up what was an exciting year in style. Yuru Camp△ excels in showing how even something like a bowl of soba can be livened up, and putting in the effort to prepare the food makes it all the more enjoyable. It therefore goes without saying that morale and good food go hand-in-hand: occasionally treating oneself with foods that aren’t commonly eaten is a fantastic way of breaking up the routine, and surprises can sometimes be quite nice.

  • This past weekend, we figured it would be nice to pick up some southern fried chicken for dinner, but since our usual place didn’t have any white meat, we ended up with all dark meat quarter chicken pieces. This wasn’t any sort of impediment: dark meat is tastier, and their gravy was as good as we remember. Today, we used the last of the chicken burgers with a side of yam fries for our afternoon meal and I’ll note here that, having had homemade burgers for the better part of a year, I’ve become a little spoiled by how fresh the ingredients are compared to conventional burgers. Yuru Camp△‘s emphasis on homemade food is therefore not without merit – the girls often shop for ingredients right before heading to their campsite, and even Rin, who usually prepares parts of her meal ahead of time so things can be put together easily at the campsite, uses fresh ingredients. The level of effort that went into preparing the food for Yuru Camp△‘s drama is respectable and shows how this effort contributes greatly to food enjoyment.

  • The surest sign that Rin’s accepted Nadeshiko as a friend occurs when the two are exchanging messages: Rin smiles as she considers how typically, she’d stop camping after January, but having met Nadeshiko and her boundless energy, Rin supposes that the new year is going to be action-packed. This moment set Yuru Camp△ 2 down a path towards the message it wished to convey: the first season had been about open-mindedness, and the second season was about how the act of saying “thank you” can manifest in different ways to really let people know what they feel about the memories they share together.

  • While Nadeshiko’s got work the next morning, Chiaki and Aoi meet with Minami in order to go check out the New Year’s sunrise ahead of Aoi taking off for Takayama. She drives a first-generation Suzuki Hustler, an SUV-crossover classified as an ultra-mini. Japan has a large market for these compact vehicles (ultra-minis command a third of the market share in Japan) owing to their dimensions and affordability, but these vehicles are much less successful overseas: North Americans are fond of larger cars for offering more leg room and more powerful engines, so these smaller vehicles are less popular, feeling comparatively cramped and under-powered for long road trips. Of course, for shorter drives of less than two hours, smaller vehicles are perfectly comfortable.

  • Observant readers familiar with my previous Yuru Camp△ drama post will have noticed that I’ve continued with the picture-in-picture this time around. Despite being a time-consuming process, it was very entertaining to compare and contrast equivalent moments between the anime and drama, allowing me to really highlight similarities and differences between the two. It becomes clear that the drama cannot always capture the moments in areas where the anime excels, such as when Akari jams a snowball up Chiaki’s shirt, although I will remark that Momoko Tanabe does an exceptional job of capturing Chiaki’s character: Chiaki is the most expressive and dramatic of anyone in Yuru Camp△, and I can’t imagine that this was an easy role.

  • While Aoi is played by Yumena Yanai, Akari is played by Aina Nishizawa. I was impressed how the producers cast someone who had looked similar enough to Yanai for the role; Yuru Camp△ has shown that Aoi and Akari are similar in appearance save their eye colours (Aoi’s eyes are green, and Akari’s are blue), to the point where Chiaki calls her chibi-Inuko. Yuru Camp△ doesn’t give Akari’s age, but her mannerisms are consistent with someone who’s eight or nine. Conversely, in the drama, Akari looks around ten or eleven: her actress is, after all, twelve. Mischievous and fond of pranks as Aoi is, Akari’s presence was greatly expanded in Yuru Camp△ 2.

  • Originally, I hadn’t been planning on writing about the second Yuru Camp△ live action drama this early, but after I found myself ahead of schedule with my other posts, I figured that I might as well get the party started now while I’ve got the time, afforded by a long weekend. While the weather on Saturday had been pleasant, yesterday and today had been cold and rainy, perfect for staying in and taking it easy. As soon as this post is done, I’ll turn my attention to finalising the set of screenshots for my final Modern Warfare 2: Remastered post, as gear up for a Terrible Anime Challenge talk on last year’s Kanojo, Okarishimasu, which I’ve got some thoughts about, and kick off Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War: news of Higurashi: Sotsu has reached my ears, and that means I need to write about Higurashi: Gou, as well as the unusual connection that I’ve found Higurashi and Black Ops to share.

  • The yomogi that Aoi, Akari and Chiaki buy at the summit of Mount Minobu look even tastier than they did in the anime. The way the yomogi are grilled here reminds me of shioyaki, the practise of skewering a fish and then grilled over charcoals via indirect heat: hitting the fish with an open flame would cause the juices to evaporate, resulting in a very dry final product, and the same holds true of yomogi, where keeping them around a bed of charcoals on skewers would render them pleasantly warm, making them perfect for a chilly New Year’s morning.

  • While doing her morning rounds, Nadeshiko receives messages from Rin and Chiaki, sharing their sunrises. While she might not be there to see them for herself, it warms Nadeshiko’s heart that she’s still connected to her friends and their adventures. In this opening episode, Nadeshiko doesn’t have too much screen time: she’s played by Yuno Ohara, who captures Nadeshiko’s spirited personality very well.

  • The advantage about real life is that one can capture stunning shots with a drone: anime require highly-skilled animators to capture the same effect, and in Yuru Camp△ 2, the sunrise at Fukude Beach was presented by panning across a wide-angle shot of the scene at ground level. The drama, on the other hand, has the camera flying over the beach towards the ocean. While traditional gear is doubtlessly used in Yuru Camp△‘s filming, I imagine that drones are also used: even mid-range models can equip solid cameras now, allowing for shots that would otherwise require a helicopter to be obtained.

  • I would be quite curious to watch the behind-the-scenes for Yuru Camp△ 2‘s drama to see how things are shot and set up. It feels like that principal photography and edits would require a majority of the time for producing Yuru Camp△, since the series doesn’t require anything like special effects or elaborate costumes on account of its setting. I imagine that anything shot at the old Motosu High School would’ve required props to be assembled and the presence of extras to give the site a more realistic feeling, but beyond this, Yuru Camp△ doesn’t look like it’d require a massive budget to film, certainly not anything approaching what WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier needed.

  • After taking in the Mount Minobu sunrise, Chiaki offers the suggestion that it might be possible to get a second New Year’s sunrise out of the day: because of Mount Fuji’s elevation, the sun doesn’t rise up above the summit for a few minutes. Photographs do indicate that being able to see a Diamond Fuji would be breathtaking, although a quick glance at the topology and road maps of the area suggest that making the drive from Mount Minobu to a suitable observation point could be quite tricky.

  • Whereas Aoi and Akari are content to give Chiaki a dirty look for having gotten the Diamond Fuji time incorrect here in the drama, in the anime, they proceeded to immediately hammer Chiaki with snowballs, and I found Akari’s use of a bowling-ball sized snowball hilarious. Since there’s only a dusting of snow on the ground here, it would’ve felt out of place to have Aoi and Akari suddenly conjure snowballs out of nowhere. I’ve never really been a stickler for 1:1 faithfulness, and always will assess adaptations based on how well they work on their own, so minor details like these aren’t a concern for me.

  • After seeing the first sunrise of the year, Rin settles down for the morning and prepares to head home. Rin’s rush for kohaku manjū and subsequent enjoyment of a pizza slice is noticeably absent in the Yuru Camp△ drama: should the drama take a route that allows the characters to act a little more naturally, I’d be completely okay with this. In the first season, everyone behaved similarly to their anime counterparts, and while this worked in the anime, in real life, it feels a little more exaggerated. Dialing back a handful of these moments would work to Yuru Camp△ 2‘s favour.

  • Rin is shocked to learn that a snowfall in the Minobu Valley is preventing her from returning home, and the funds she had, originally intended to last two days, will now need to be extended somewhat. With the special done, I’ll return to look at the adventures covered at the series’ halfway point at some point in the future. The drama is every bit as enjoyable as the anime and offers a different perspective on familiar events, making it a worthwhile experience for me.

Entering Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama, my only expectations for the series will be that it continues to portray camping eats as it did in the first season: Yuru Camp△ 2 gets everything right, but there are limitations to how effectively anime can render food. The contrast in colours and textures on well-crafted dish in real life are unparalleled, and this was where the live action adaptation stood out from the anime. Because Yuru Camp△ 2 had an emphasis on food, to an even greater extent than its predecessor, it would be most enjoyable (and perhaps hunger-inducing) to see all of these foods in the real world. Beyond the food, I am very much looking forwards to seeing how Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama brings the events of the second season to life: the first drama had done a phenomenal job in mirroring the camping excursions at Lake Motosu, Koan, Lake Shibire and Fuefuki, to name a few, so I am definitely excited to see new locations (especially the geospots at Izu) brought to life. Finally, while Yuru Camp△‘s drama is typically faithful in reproducing the order of events from the anime and manga, the series has also previously made minor adjustments to fit things a little better, so I am interested to see how any changes to things like locations will be helpful for folks who wish to visit these same places in the future. At present, I do have plans to write about Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live action drama once I’ve hit the halfway point, as well as after the finale airs: while I’ve already covered everything from a thematic point of view, there’s a unique charm about the drama, and I’m certain that there will be enough things to say about it as to warrant a few extra posts.

K-On! Come With Me!!: A Review and Reflection of the 2011 Live Action Concert At the Ten Year Anniversary

Even if you fail, try to add it up
‘Cause a bigger answer will come to you
Whatever that happens to be
If we’re together, we’ve got nothing to fear!

–Come With Me

On a Sunday afternoon ten years earlier, Saitama Super Arena hosted the largest K-On! event the franchise had organised. Titled Come with Me!!, the event was a celebration of K-On!‘s successes, seeing live-action performances of the series’ most well-known works from members of Houkago Tea Time. Aki Toyosaki, Satomi Satō, Yōko Hisaka, Minako Kotobuki and Ayana Taketatsu stepped onto the stage to thunderous applause, welcoming the audience with GO! GO! Maniac before introducing themselves. Each of the cast then performed their lead character songs (Oh My Gitah!, Seishun Vibration, Drumming Shining My Life, Diary wa Fortessimo and Over the Starlight). After Taketatsu performed her song, director Naoko Yamada then made an appearance, announcing that K-On! The Movie would be premièring in theatres on December 3. Madoka Yonezawa (Ui), Chika Fujitō (Nodoka) and Yoriko Nagata (Jun) continued on with their performance before things transitioned over to a stage play, where Toyosaki, Satō, Hisaka and Kotobuki reprised their characters’ roles; because the clubroom at their school is undergoing maintenance work, the girls need a place to practise, and they find themselves in an unexplored area of school (Saitama Super Arena itself. After the initial shock wore off, Houkago Tea Time performed several new pieces (Ichigo Parfait ga Tomaranai, Tokimeki Sugar, Honey Sweet Tea Time), along with one of K-On!‘s most iconic songs (Gohan wa Okazu) on a central stage. As their performance draws to a close, members of Death Devil took to the stage and put on a different kind of show that mirrors the sort of music Sawako and her band would’ve played while they were in the light music club. When Houkago Tea Time return to the stage, they sat down to discuss differences in musicianship and how the different Japanese scripts can impact perceptions of whether or not something is cute: it turns out that the gentle curvature of Hiragana script gives the words a gentler feel, compared to the harsher, more angular appearance of Katanana script (for instance, “Keion” in Hiragana,けいおん, has a friendlier appearance than the Katakana ケイオン). The members of Death Devil suggested that Houkago Tea Time continue to work hard and do as they’ve always done – Houkago Tea Time returned to the stage and performed the centrepiece songs of K-On!‘s second season (Pure Pure Heart, U&I and Tenshi ni Furetta Yo!, along with an encore performance of Fuwa Fuwa Time). Come with Me!! entered its closing acts subsequently, with the cast reflecting on their incredible experiences as a part of the K-On! franchise. The audience is treated to a final performance of Come with Me!!, the song that lends itself to the concert’s name.

With a runtime of three hours and thirty-five minutes, Come with Me!! would hit the shelves on August 10, just shy of a half-year after the concert ended. Through this home release, the concert’s events would be immortalised. Even though there is no substitute for attending in-person, the home release edition captured the emotional tenour and vigour of the atmosphere at the concert. Throughout the concert, Toyosaki and her co-leads frequently allude to how much practise it took to prepare for the event: to ensure every song was memorable, the team would’ve rehearsed tirelessly to nail each and every song, step and line. The actresses even learned the fundamentals behind their respective characters’ chosen instruments so that they could put on a compelling performance (it is understandable that the actual instrumentation was done by professional guitarists, bassist, drummers and pianists). While Toyosaki, Hisaka et al. are no professional musicians, their efforts paid off: where they played with the instruments, it genuinely felt that Houkago Tea Time was on the stage. When they were purely singing, their songs absolutely conveyed the manner and style of their respective characters, bringing Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Mugi and Azusa to life. The energy and spunk everyone had was a major factor in keeping the viewer’s attention throughout the entire concert, and despite the runtime length, Come with Me!! never felt for a second that it was dragging on: there were surprises around every corner, and the combination of live music, a miniature stage play and a chance to listen to the voice actresses and staff share their experiences contributed to a very heartfelt and sincere presentation that unequivocally demonstrated the sort of impact that K-On! had during the height of its popularity. This love for K-On! was apparent: besides the cast’s powerhouse performance, the sell-out crowd also indicated what K-On! meant to many. Nowhere was this more apparent than towards the concert’s end – Satō was fighting back tears while singing Tenshi ni Furetta Yo!, and both she, and (Azusa) teared up during their final speech to the audience. Ironically, despite promising not to cry, Hisaka wound out breaking into full tears. The audience, in turn, cheered enthusiastically and could be heard shouting encouragement to everyone before, during and after performances. Through Come with Me!!, the mutual respect and love that everyone shares for the K-On! franchise, the staff working on it, was plainly visible.

Come with Me!!! was a tour de force performance that served to emphasise the process behind K-On!.This concert served to highlight the sort of effort that went into the production of K-On!: the series’ incredible success during 2009 and 2010 had been the result of Kyoto Animation, Naoko Yamada and each of the voice actress’ diligence, persistence and skills, all of which came together to a polished and meaningful final product. Overseas viewers, however, are limited to what they see in the final product: we don’t see the people behind the work, and consequently, without having seen any of this, it would’ve been easy to dismiss K-On!‘s success as undeserved, warranting nothing more than a vitriol-filled blog post telling people not to watch this series. Come with Me!!, on the other hand, made it apparent as to what went into the creation of K-On! – when immersed in a crowd who shares the staff’s love of K-On!, it becomes impossible not to be appreciative of the effort each of Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki and Taketatsu put into making the series compelling. Everyone’s speeches really drove home the sort of passion that led everyone to put in their best for K-On!, whether it was voicing the different characters, singing or stepping out onto a stage in front of thirty-five thousand fans. That Come with Me!! was performed to a sold-out crowd at Saitama Super Arena speaks to the sheer scope of the impact K-On! had on its viewers: it is no easy feat to draw out thirty-five thousand people, including families, each of whom has found sufficient emotional impact in a series such that they would attend a concert and cheer on the staff that made a tangible impact in their lives. This is a thought that definitely crossed each of Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki and Taketatsu’s minds: looking out from the stage to a sea of applause and glow-sticks really would’ve it tangible as to how far-reaching K-On! had been.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Per the title card, Come With Me!! was held on February 20, 2011 at the Saitama Super Arena, a massive stadium and venue capable of housing 37 000 people. Doors to the event opened at 1400 JST, and the event formally began at 1600, running until 1900 on a Sunday. Tickets cost 7800 Yen (93.49 CAD in 2011) per person, and the event had been announced in October 2010, a month after K-On!‘s second season had finished airing. The BD released in August 2011, giving viewers a 1080i picture and Linear PCM 5.1 audio: while not possessing the same visual fidelity as progressive scanning (motion blur was a bit more noticeable), the final result is still more than watchable. Before K-On!‘s leads take to the stage, audiences would’ve seen a sakura tree adorning the projection screens.

  • I believe that this post marks the first time a full discussion of Come With Me!! has been had anywhere since the BD released: live action events aren’t usually in the realm of things that anime bloggers typically write about, and while Come With Me!! was probably one of the largest anime events of its time, it was not large enough to make waves amongst the English-speaking blogging community. As such, no posts about Come With Me!! exist. At the ten year anniversary, the time has come to rectify this, and here, Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki and Taketatsu finally make an appearance to kick things off. The concert opened with a live performance of the opening song, Go! Go! Maniac, a high-intensity piece. The opening songs for K-On! have always been spirited pieces, energetic and at times, a little hard on the ears.

  • Conversely, Hisaka is the lead singer for the ending songs, which have a more mature, rock-like feel to them. I’ve always been fond of Hisaka’s performance as Mio – there’s a certain sexiness about her delivery of Mio’s lyrics and lines. After Go! Go! Maniac, Listen!! is the next song viewers would’ve been treated to. Altogether, Come With Me!! features a total of twenty seven songs. The first two songs act as a bit of a precedence for the remainder of the concert, and it speaks to the voice actress’ stamina that they were able to sustain such an energetic manner for the whole of the 185-minute performance: even concerts with stars like Sam Hui and Alan Tam only ran for two-and-a-half hours.

  • With the two opening songs in the books, Toyosaki and the others introduce themselves to the audience, marvelling at the size of Saitama Super Arena’s audience. With over double the capacity of Yokohama Arena, which hosted Let’s Go! (the first K-On! concert), Saitama Super Arena would’ve been an impressive sight. Let’s Go! took place on December 30, 2009 to an audience of around 15000, and tickets to the two-and-a-half hour event went for around 6825 Yen (81.97 CAD). The BDs became available precisely six months later, on June 30, 2010. The big anime bloggers of the day did write about this one, praising the event as a fantastic opportunity for the voice actresses of K-On! to really show their viewers what they’ve got, and the event was also where the announcement for K-On!! was made.

  • With the introductions done, Aki Toyosaki wastes no time in switching over to a red outfit for her live performance of Oh My Gitah!, Yui’s character song that acts as a love letter for her cherished Les Paul guitar. Throughout the whole of K-On!!, Yui treats her guitar as though it is sentient, and in Toyosaki’s performance of Yui’s song, it is clear as to how deep this love of music and her partner-in-arms is. I’m not an expert in music theory, style or history, so I can’t speak to the style of this song, but Yui’s character song uses a very similar instrumentation to the incidental pieces seen in Man v. Food, whenever Adam Richman is exploring the local eateries prior to his challenge. This creates a very personalised feeling, and I imagine that this is what the composers were going for when writing Oh my Gitah!.

  • Since Mio’s instrument is a bass, it is fitting that her character song, Seishun Vibration, makes extensive use of the low notes of a bass guitar. Of everyone in Houkago Tea Time, it is a badly-kept secret that I’m most fond of Mio and her voice – Seishun Vibration is then, unsurprisingly, my favourite of the character songs. The lyrics are bold, reflective of the two sides to Mio: while Mio normally presents a very shy and reserved face for the world, she also has a more aggressive and forward personality that shows up when she’s in the presence of those she’s comfortable around. Seishun Vibration is purposeful, and the perfect song for driving along a highway through the mountains. During her performance, Hisaka brings back Mio’s infamous moe moe kyun move, a callback to the first season.

  • Admittedly, while Satomi Satō is a highly skilled voice actress (evidenced by her numerous roles in a range of anime), her character song for Ritsu came across as being very bombastic and noisy. I’ve never really been a fan of her character song, Drumming Shining My Life. With this being said, of everyone, Satō definitely spent the most effort replicating Ritsu’s voice for Come With Me!!: of the characters in K-On!, she and Yui have the most unique voices. On her image album, Ritsu also has a second song, À la carte, Evening Sky, that is slower-paced and more relaxing in nature, speaking to another side of Ritsu’s character.

  • Minako Kotobuki’s Diary wa Fortessimo is a fun-filled song, being my second favourite of the character songs. There’s always been an earnestness about the song I’ve enjoyed, and coupled with Kotobuki’s singing voice, I found this character song brings to life Tsumugi’s view of things around Houkago Tea Time. Bouncy, cheerful and whimsical, I really liked Kotobuki’s performance, and of everyone, she seems the most at ease with performing, dancing happily during the song’s instrumental interlude (her movement feels crisper and more purposeful than the others).

  • Ayana Taketatsu’s performance of Azusa’s character song has a spunk to it, mirroring Azusa’s traits. Character songs are written to give insight into an individual’s defining attributes, and beyond the lyrics, the way a song sounds can speak volumes about a character well beyond what was seen in the anime. In K-On!, character songs allow listeners to peer into the minds of the characters and ascertain how they really feel about certain things: Azusa has always attempted to present herself as a beacon of reason and focus in a band whose senior members are prone to distraction, but despite the lax attitude Houkago Tea Time takes towards music, Azusa has come to appreciate them all the same and promises to support them as best as she can.

  • With Houkago Tea Time done their character songs, Asami Sanada steps onto the stage to address the audience. Sanada’s been a longtime voice actress before beginning K-On!, starting her career in 1999, and has played a variety of roles. As Sawako, Sanada presents her with a sweet, gentle voice befitting of a teacher. Of course, when the chips are down, her voice takes on a much rougher tone, attesting to her skills. K-On!, both in its anime and manga incarnation, has Sawako change appearance depending on whether she’s the teacher everyone knows and loves, or the punk rocker with a fondness for metal: Sanada is able to present both sides of Sawako’s personality without skipping a beat.

  • This was probably one of the major highlights of Come With Me!!: Naoko Yamada stepping onto the stage herself to greet the audience and drop the biggest bit of news since K-On!‘s second season. That a film had been in the works had been known for quite some time, but with director Yamada on stage to personally announce that the film was releasing on December 3, 2011, the audience went wild, especially with the revelation that this film would feature all-new content. The K-On! manga was still ongoing at the time, but the film had an original story set during the second season’s timeframe. Looking back, I would’ve liked to have seen K-On!‘s remaining manga volumes (College and High School) receive anime adaptations, but I imagine that Yamada had intended the second season to act as the decisive close on Houkago Tea Time’s journey.

  • Once the big announcement was made, Madoka Yonezawa stepped onto the stage to perform Ui’s character song. Ui’s songs have always been a joy to listen to, and Yonezawa does a fantastic job as K-On!‘s Ui: the ever-dependable and reliable younger sister, Ui is only seen doting on Yui the way a loving grandparent might. Her character song suggests that, despite her own prodigious skills, the one thing she longs for most is to follow in Yui’s example and find something that she can totally immerse herself in. Ui does end up inheriting Yui’s role as a guitarist in the manga, joining the light music club and performing alongside Azusa, Jun and several new members.

  • Jun’s character song falls into the same category as Ritsu’s and Azusa’s: of the character songs available, I never really got into her song quite to the same extent that I did for Mio, Tsumugi and Ui’s songs. As one of the secondary characters, Jun’s in Azusa’s year and is classmates with Ui, as well. Yoriko Nagata’s performance of Junjou Bomber is, in person, much livelier than it was as pure audio, and speaks to the fact that Jun admires Mio greatly. While joining the Jazz Band owing to poor first impressions of the light music club, Jun comes around and joins in their final year, longing to do the things that Azusa does.

  • Rounding out the character song performances is Chika Fujitō’s Nodoka: Jump is an upbeat and optimistic-sounding song that mirrors Nodoka’s enjoyment of her time as a high school student, where, in the process of encouraging those around her to be their best (especially Ritsu and her propensity to forget important logistics, such as paperwork), she also found herself being pulled along by those around her into the future. Fujitō plays Nodoka with a calm sense of assuredness. Both mature and dependable, Nodoka handles most trouble by listening, although she can be stubborn in some cases, as well. Jump’s composition has a very warm, summer-like feel it it, with the instrumentation and tone conveying an image of a beautiful day of blue skies and sunshine.

  • Once the character songs are done, the lights go out, and a small skit is presented for the viewers’ benefit: when their clubroom undergoes maintenance work, akin to a similar situation in the second season, Houkago Tea Time go in search of a new place to practise, coming across a strange portal in their school’s basement that seemingly leads straight to Saitama Super Arena. Come With Me!! thus enters its next phase, and as Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki and Taketatsu step onto a central stage in the arena, the lights come back on.

  • For the next performance, Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki and Taketatsu pick up their instruments and, after spurring on their respective segments of the audience, step right into Houkago Tea Time’s new songs. Ichigo Parfait ga Tomaranai (Strawberry Parfaits are Unstoppable), Tokimeki Sugar (Heart-throbbing Sugar) and Honey Sweet time were released on a special album back in October 2010, having never been performed in K-On! proper. Each of these songs have a unique zeal to them, with Toyosaki, Hisaka and Kotobuki respectively leading the vocals.

  • While these three songs were never seen in K-On!, it becomes apparent that they still have the distinct Houkago Tea Time sound and correspondingly saccharine lyrics. Reading through the lyrics’ English translations, the lyrics would probably be quite tricky to get into a good-sounding song owing to the way syllables work, although I imagine that even if successful, the songs could sound quite unusual. Having said this, the songs sound fine in Japanese, and I’ve long held that compared to contemporary pop music, K-On!‘s miles ahead of anything we currently have.

  • Seeing the camera pulled back really gives a sense of scale at Saitama Super Arena: there is a sea of people surrounding the stage. Moments like these really accentuate the fact that K-On! was an incredibly popular series in Japan, and the fact is that the show was able to draw thirty thousand plus people to a live event. While K-On! also became popular amongst foreign viewers, who similarly appreciated the warm themes and atmosphere taken by K-On!, after its run in 2009, there was a great deal of discussion on whether or not the series was great for storytelling or other technical reasons.

  • K-On! excels not because of anything groundbreaking, but because of its sincerity about things like appreciation and friendship. The simple themes, coupled with Kyoto Animation’s technical excellence and amazing voice work from the cast meant that K-On! hit all of the right notes. Seeing something like Come With Me!! really makes tangible the amount of effort that went into making the series a success – behind every character is a human being, each with a story, and so, for viewers, a part of the enjoyment (both for K-On! and for Come With Me!!) comes from being able to see for myself the effort that goes into making something.

  • The final song that Houkago Tea Time plays on this centre stage is Gohan wa Okazu, an iconic K-On! song that, despite its hokey lyrics about how rice is a staple that is essential for all meals, is so well composed and catchy that it is immediately recognisable, the same way classics like Staying Alive, Go Your Own Way, The Hustle, Baker Street and countless other songs are immediately recognisable just by listening to their opening riffs. Gohan wa Okazu typifies the sort of music that Houkago Tea Time perform: between Mio’s flowery and soppy lyrics, or the simple, direct approach Yui takes in her songs, Houkago Tea Time’s music is by no means complicated, but expert composition renders each song immensely enjoyable.

  • Insofar, Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki and Taketatsu have been miming the act of playing their instruments; singing and playing instruments simultaneously is remarkably challenging, and these Houkago Tea Time songs still have decently complex instrumentation. To allow the cast to focus on singing, a part of their concert uses pre-recorded instrumentals. This is completely understandable, and from an enjoyment perspective, it never diminishes from the experience – having the instrumental tracks pre-recorded also leaves the cast free to interact with the audience and drive up engagement, as each of Toyosaki et al. do when they ask their respective sections to cheer them on.

  • Once Houkago Tea Time wraps up their centre-stage presentation, Death Devil steps in to perform Maddy Candy and LOVE. Unlike Houkago Tea Time, Death Devil specialises in speed metal: Sawako is easily swayed by her heart, and took up an increasingly wild approach to music to impress a guy in her year. Their music is intense, sounding nothing like the kawaii style that Houkago Tea Time is known for. While I’ve never been quite as excited by their music as I am about Houkago Tea Time’s songs, Death Devil is technically more bold and creative: speed metal, after all, eventually gave rise to the power metal genre which I am fond of.

  • Come With Me!! has the cast do a minor stage play of sorts, where they discuss the nature of musicianship and how image can be impacted by the type of script used. This was one of the topics that we covered in my introductory Japanese class – I took this course in my third year, after I’d finished watching K-On!, and my instructor remarked that the Hiragana script is the first script that children learn, being at the core of the Japanese language. Between this and the fact that Hiragana uses gentle curves, it creates a very cute looking script compared to the angular Katakana and intimidating kanji scripts. Recalling this brings back a great deal of memories: I had just come from a summer of building a renal flow model using the Bullet Physics engine in Objective-C, and this work was interspersed by me really getting back into anime, including Sora no WotoBreak BladeIka Musume! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

  • Lucky☆Star had jump-started my interest in Kyoto Animation’s works, which led me to K-On!, and this was the anime that brought me back from the brink of destruction. When Come With Me!! was performing, my semester would’ve been really kicking into high gear: in organic chemistry, I would’ve been covering alkene and alkyne reactions (halogenation, epoxidation, dihydroxylation and others), while data structures II would’ve seen the introduction of Red-Black trees and AVL trees, which are self-balancing and mitigate the problem of where worse-case data insertion creates a linked list, which slows down searches. Better minds than mine might fare better in the unique combination that was data structures and organic chemistry: I came to a razor’s edge of failing both, and it was ultimately K-On! that helped me to regroup and survive.

  • It is for this reason that even a decade later, I still continue to watch anime of this sort: when times get difficult, losing myself in another world for 24 minutes helps me to regain perspective of things. Thus, when I watched Come With Me!!, I was immediately reminded of what K-On! meant to me personally. Towards the final act, Houkago Tea Time return to the main stage and pick up instruments, playing live in front of the audience. While perhaps without the same finesse as a professional musician, Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki and Taketatsu nonetheless put on an admirable showing, and the songs they perform remain faithful to the originals.

  • Hisaka’s Pure Pure Heart first showed up in K-On!‘s second season in Tea Party. The band had no previous performance with this song, and a glance at the lyrics shows that it would’ve been Mio who wrote the lyrics. Mio’s lyrics are typically more wistful and poetic than Yui’s, more resembling those to a contemporary pop song, but there is a sincerity about them that most songs today lack. It is a little surprising that ten plus years have now elapsed since Houkago Tea Time’s songs were first written and performed – back then, I enjoyed them above the popular music of its time, and today, the music remains every bit as enjoyable as it was back then.

  • During the performance, the camera pulls back and gives a glimpse of the venue, along with the folks in attendance. The cameras show happy concert-goers of all walks of life, and their enthusiasm could be felt even from behind a monitor. Prior to the concert, local media interviewed some of the attendees, but an unscrupulous anime blog, which I will only identify by its orange triangle logo, took selected clips from this broadcast to make the assertion that the attendees were “creepy”. This site has long held a reputation for misrepresenting things and taking information out of context, and their “article” on Come With Me!! comes across as being a sour grapes response to the concert above all else.

  • Back in Come With Me!!, once Hisaka is done with Pure Pure Heart, the next song is U & I. This is probably one of my personal favourites in the series: Yui had written it after Ui had fallen ill while looking after her, and Yui quickly realised that appreciation became more pronounced when someone she’d taken for granted was (briefly) taken away. K-On! had, earlier that episode, also shown Houkago Tea Time realising how much their clubroom meant to them. When Yui sees the parallels, inspiration for her song comes almost immediately, and the result is a song that I found even more iconic than Fuwa Fuwa Time. U & I comes second only to Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!. This song was a graduation gift to Azusa, and of all the songs in K-On!, brims with three years’ worth of emotion.

  • It is no joke when I remark that Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! is the culmination of everything that K-On! represents. This one song contains all of the themes throughout the series, and it is therefore unsurprising that many regard it as the opus magnum for all of Houkago Tea Time’s songs. During Come With Me!!, Houkago Tea Time’s performance of the song evidently brought back a great many memories amongst the cast: Toyosaki and Hisaka are able to keep it together, but for Satō, emotion threatens to overwhelm her, and she very nearly breaks out crying when singing one of Ritsu’s lines during the song. Her voice audibly breaks for a moment, and this little detail alone made clear what Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! meant to not just Satō, but everyone on the cast, staff and the entire audience.

  • Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! is what ended up leading me to watch K-On!: the combination of Lucky☆Star driving my reignited interest in anime, and my happenstance coming across a K-On! parody of Gundam 00, and out of curiosity, I picked up all of the vocal songs. While I was unsuccessful in finding the song used in the parody, one song stood out far above the rest: Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!. After doing a search, I realised that it would be necessary to go through the whole of K-On! to see the proper context for this song, and so, in late March, after finishing Lucky☆Star, I began watching the series. I finished the series in early May, right as the summer research began, and during my days at the lab, I would build out my models while listening to K-On! music.

  • Towards the end of the concert, encore pieces are performed along with the second season’s opening and ending songs (Utauyo!! MIRACLE and No Thank You!): Fuwa Fuwa Time, Cagayake! GIRLS and Don’t Say Lazy make a return. Fuwa Fuwa Time is Houkago Tea Time’s first song, and for this, the cast play their instruments along with singing. For the remainder of the songs, it’s back to using a pre-recorded instrument track. The preparations that went into this would’ve been gruelling; while I’ve not touched an instrument for over a decade now, I still have memories of what it took to put on a performance as a member of the concert and jazz bands back in middle school. Come With Me!! is the culmination of Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki, Taketatsu, Sanada, Yonezawa, Nagata and Fujitō’s combined efforts, along with the musicians, choreographers and support staff.

  • For audiences, seeing iconic songs from their favourite show brought to life would’ve certainly been an incredible experience: for three hours and thirty-five minutes, it’s a full immersion into the world of K-On!, and while the home release is able to convey these feelings to viewers, there is no substitute for being there in person. For Japanese attendees, a drive, few train rides or perhaps accommodations at the hotels near Saitama Super Arena would’ve been all that was necessary to see this concert, but for overseas viewers, the only way to check this one out would’ve been to await the home release, which was six months later (in August 2011). I believe that by this time, I would’ve been well into my renal flow model and had begun investigating tricks for using collision masks to mimic semi-permeable membranes.

  • With all of the encore songs finished, everyone returns once more to sing the Sakura High School song – it does feel a bit like a graduation ceremony, even though the song was originally used to welcome new students during the opening of the second season. The way Come With Me!! is structured is logical and flows well, combining the different aspects of K-On! into a part concert, part stage play: it is a true-to-life K-On! experience, and fully brings the second season to a proper end. K-On! The Movie would not have gotten the same treatment, and despite overwhelmingly positive reception, would also mark the end of the animated series. The manga, on the other hand, continued running for an extra year as Yui and the others become university students, while Azusa inherits the light music club’s presidency and strives to make it as memorable for her juniors as Yui and the others had done for her.

  • Come With Me!! is the last song in the concert: everyone returns to the stage once more to sing together. While not exactly the strongest of the songs in K-On!, its lyrics do speak to the sort of carefree and inquisitive nature of everyone in K-On!. Once the final song comes to a close, everyone shares their final thoughts and thank yous with the thirty thousand plus viewers. It is an emotional close to the concert, and during the closing speeches, Taketatsu, Satō and Hisaka openly weep as they thank everyone for their continued support.

  • It is not lost on me that, three years after this concert took place, I would actually have the chance to participate in a similar event (albeit on a much smaller scale). This event was The Giant Walkthrough Brain, and my involvement here was leading the implementation of the Unity 3D visualisations that would accompany the project. In this way, my role in The Giant Walkthrough Brain would’ve been equivalent to the team that built the set and managed the audio-visual component of this performance. A part of The Giant Walkthrough Brain involved us developers walking out onto the stage as the credits rolled, and there was definitely a sense of pride to know that I helped to build something that hundreds of people would enjoy.

  • This is, at least for me, why I chose the path of iOS developer despite the fact that it’s fraught with difficulties and challenges (least of all, the fact that Swift itself changes every year, and things become deprecated all the time). To be able to work on products that hundreds to thousands of people use is a humbling thing, and in this sense, being able to gather all of my users into a one room and know that I helped make something easier for every single person I can see would be moving. Taketatsu begins crying during her speech: the cast had jokingly remarked that they’d do their best to keep it together, and while Toyosaki and Kotobuki are able to do keep smiling as they speak, Hisaka, Taketatsu and Satō’s emotions cause them to struggle in expressing how deep their gratitude is.

  • For me, seeing their tears was as effective of a thank you as any well-given speech, and I found myself feeling these same emotions. In a bit of irony, how each of Toyosaki, Hisaka, Satō, Kotobuki and Taketatsu ended up giving their thank yous mirrors their characters. Yui is someone who lives in the moment and is able to have fun without being distracted, while Tsumugi is ever composed and similarly lives in the moment, albeit with a sort of grace that Yui lacks. Ritsu would be more similar to Yui and Tsumugi in this regard, but she’s been known to have a more emotional side to her, as well. For Mio and Azusa, the most serious of the group, these two are always mindful of those around them.

  • How I came upon Come With Me!! is a bit of a simple story: shortly after finishing K-On!, I fell in love with the musical style and sincerity that the series’ music embodied, and took an interest to the character songs. Each album had the characters’ respective voice actress singing their songs, plus a version of Come With Me!!. While looking this up for Mio, I stumbled across the segment of Hisaka performing this song live in the Come With Me!! event, and ended up reading more about the concert. However, the three-hour-and-thirty-five-minute long runtime was admittedly daunting, and I never did get around to watching the concert in full until earlier this year. K-On! returned back into my life when I decided to revisit the K-On! mod for Left 4 Dead 2,, which led me to fall in love with Houkago Tea Time’s music anew. Realising that the ten-year anniversary to Come With Me!! was near, I decided to bite the bullet, buckle down and watch the concert in full.

  • The end result was a rediscovery of why K-On! had been so enjoyable for me, as well as what the series had done for getting me through a very difficult segment of my life as an undergraduate student. K-On! might have finished for the present, but its impact on slice-of-life anime cannot be overstated – 2014’s Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? carries a very similar aesthetic and style, a love of sweets and life lessons, and similarly found immense popularity after its run. The series has hosted several concerts with music from the series, in the form of Tea Party Events. During the second season, the character song albums all featured the song Welcome!, which, similarly to Come With Me!!, features the characters singing a common song. In this way, GochiUsa is today’s K-On!, but unlike K-On!, whose popularity divided the community, GochiUsa is nearly universally acclaimed: once people acclimatised to the fact that K-On!-like shows were not here to dominate the market, but instead, complement it, reception to the genre and aesthetic thawed considerably.

  • Overall, Come With Me!! represents the apex of what is possible with K-On!, being an essential experience for anyone who counts themselves to be a fan of K-On!. Ten years after the live event at Saitama Super Arena, the memories continue to live on in the hearts of fans, and it is saying something that even now, K-On! still positively impacts fans and writers alike: messages of appreciation and gratitude make K-On! a particularly warm series, and Come With Me!! makes it abundantly clear that a considerable amount of effort went into making K-On! a success. This concert is something that I hope fans of the series will have a chance to check out, as it provides a different view of what this effort entails, and what the rewards for this effort are.

While Toyosaki and her K-On! co-stars were speaking about the impact K-On! had on each of their lives, I was sleeping and awaiting that day’s training at the karate club I’m a part of. At the time, I was deep into the winter term of my second undergraduate year: this term would prove to be the most difficult time I had faced in university, and I had been losing resolve. My peers fared little better, dropping out of data structures outright and resolving to take it again later. As organic chemistry and data structures became increasingly involved, I ended up dropping another course – because I had been intent on trying to maintain satisfactory performance in these programme requirements, I ended up neglecting one of my options entirely and wound up on the edge of failing. K-On! had been on my watch list for quite some time, and serendipitously, I had begun watching it right as April began, when it seemed that I would be suspended from my degree for unsatisfactory performance. The easygoing, heart-warming events of K-On! thus became something to look forwards to as each day drew to a close, and I ended up putting in my fullest efforts to stave off annihilation by day, watching K-On! every evening before turning in. Seeing the camaraderie in K-On! led me to accept a group-study invite from my friends in the health science programme, and I ended up helping to organise a study session for data structures so we could pass the exams together. By the time I finished K-On!, it was early May: thanks to the group study sessions, I ended up doing well enough on my exams to stay in satisfactory standing, and further learnt that I was offered an undergraduate scholarship to conduct summer research. I subsequently developed a keen enjoyment of the music in K-On!, and listened to the songs from all of their albums while implementing and testing my model of renal fluid flow in Objective-C. During Come with Me!!, the voice actresses spoke of people whose lives were transformed by their series. While Toyosaki and the others are highly unlikely to ever hear my own story of how K-On! changed my life, sharing this with readers is to demonstrate that K-On! did indeed have a tangible, positive impact on many people, including myself. The Come with Me!! concert served to reiterate this, and beyond being an indisputable success, also paved the way for K-On! The Movie, which acts as a sentimental, heart-warming and sincere finale to a series that would ultimately influence how slice-of-life shows of the present are adapted and presented to viewers.