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Sauna, Meal and A Three-Wheeler: Heya Camp△ OVA Review and Reflection

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” –Henry David Thoreau

When Rin arrives home from school one day, she finds her usual moped is gone, replaced by a Yamaha Tricity. She learns from her father that he’d taken her moped for maintenance work, and the workshop has given her a loaner. Because she had plans to camp that weekend near Hokuto, Rin decides to take the Tricity out. On the open road, she’s blown away by its handling and performance. Rin’s first destination is Enmei Hot Spring, where she soaks in the onsen before recalling a conversation she’d had with Ena earlier, who had mentioned that the trifecta of five minutes of warming up in a sauna, followed by a five-minute dip in spring water and then relaxing in the open air for five minutes has rejuvenating properties. Rin decides to give this a go, and finds that Ena was absolutely correct; she’s also left hungry by the experience, and sets off for lunch. She finds a restaurant named Takaoka and orders the tempura set, featuring a variety of tempura on rice with a side of miso soup and pickled vegetables. Lunch leaves Rin immensely satisfied, and she goes grocery shopping at Himawari Supermarket, purchasing local ingredients for her dinner. Marvelling at the Tricity’s performance, she heads off to her campground at Nyukasa JA House, a 32.5 kilometre journey. As night falls, Rin sets up camp and enjoys a delicious dinner of a bacon and eggplant and tomato sandwich with tomato soup. Under a starry sky, she reflects on the day and smiles, feeling that there is no better way to relax than by means of solo camping. Heya Camp△ had spent most of its run focused on Nadeshiko and the stamp rally that Chiaki and Aoi had put on for her, so Rin was largely absent from the proceedings, and so, in its OVA, Heya Camp△ allows viewers to follow Rin’s excellent adventure. The OVA is described as a bit of a sponsored programme with Yamaha, who wished to promote their Tricity line: a second generation was introduced in 2019 to address limitations the first generation model. Described as possessing exceptional stability and handling, but with a weaker engine for a vehicle of its size and requiring frequent maintenance, the Tricity has not seen the success Yamaha was hoping for. Rin’s experiences with the Tricity are decidedly positive: it is more powerful and stable than her own moped, and overall, the OVA presents a superbly relaxing experience.

Heya Camp△‘s OVA is an immensely peaceful experience that focuses on Rin, who had only made a few appearances during Heya Camp△ proper, and in this special episode, a sense of calm and solitude permeates the entire episode, giving viewers an experience of what constitutes as a trip that Rin considers ideal. While the Heya Camp△ OVA is prima facie a gentle journey, the OVA demonstrates Rin’s growth ever since meeting Nadeshiko: specifically, she’s become a bit more open-minded and flexible. Right out of the gates, Rin’s plans to camp are surprised with a new bike, and she decides to roll with it, immediately finding it to be a fun experience. At the onsen, Rin takes up Ena’s suggestion to try a relaxation technique and is pleasantly surprised at the outcomes, despite the painful cold of the spring water bath. When Rin goes shopping for groceries, her only criteria are that the dinner has to be light and something she can prepare without too much trouble. She ends up picking some local ingredients and using her pie iron, whips up a delicious sandwich. It’s a journey of new discoveries rolled in with the atmosphere that Rin is so fond of. While Rin indisputably enjoys the solitude and quiet of solo camping, the trip that she takes in the Heya Camp△ OVA was one that was filled with surprises, and Rin seems more able to roll with new experiences now to a greater extent than seen in Yuru Camp△. Where Heya Camp△ indicated that Nadeshiko is now more familiar with the Yamanashi area and able to take a more proactive approach in inviting Rin to accompany her and the Outdoors Activity Club, the OVA shows that Rin’s become a bit more open-minded, as well, which sets the stage for what is to come during season two of Yuru Camp△, which was formally announced back in March, shortly before Heya Camp△ concluded. Character growth corresponds with being able to explore new directions, and it will be excellent to see what new adventures awaits a group of friends brought together by their love of Mount Fuji and the outdoors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Heya Camp△‘s OVA begins with Rin returning home to find a three-wheeled bike in the place of her usual moped. When I published my talk on Yuru Camp△‘s live action adaptation and remarked that I had found the real world equivalent of Rin’s house, I stated that I would not share the location out of respect for the residents’ privacy. Since then, one Izumi Tomiyama went ahead and uploaded the location to Google Maps; Tomiyama is a local and states that the actual building was once a restaurant. Provided that visitors are respectful and only hang out on the outside without disrupting the building’s occupants, I suppose this shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Yuru Camp△ had used a fictionalised portrayal of Rin’s house, which is supposed to be closer to the town of Furuseki in Minobu. This town is a short ways northeast of the Minobu High School, which would explain why the area is portrayed as being less densely populated. The trend of inanimate objects speaking in Yuru Camp△ is one of those subtle but enjoyable aspects in the series, and makes a brief reappearance in Heya Camp△‘s OVA: after arriving home, Rin’s surprised to see a hulked-out bike in place of her usual moped, which greets her the same way pinecones and acorns do. In this OVA, viewers are also introduced to Rin’s father, Wataru Shima, who is voiced by Takahiro Sakurai, of Hibike! Euphonium‘s Taki Noboru fame.

  • As it turns out, Rin’s moped is out for maintenance, and the shop’s lent her an interim bike, Yamaha’s Tricity. Rin’s a little surprised, but otherwise decides to roll with things, continuing on with her trip as planned. Ordinarily, Rin operates a Vimo 50 moped, which has a 50 cc engine: in my area, a moped must not have an engine displacement exceeding 50 cc, and moreover, cannot exceed a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour. The Vimo would therefore be something that someone with a Class VII license could operate. In Japan, different laws allow Rin to operate the Tricity, which has a 125 cc engine displacement, although back home, this would not be permissible (she’d need a Class VI license): my province defines a motor cycle as any two or three-wheeled vehicles not meeting the definitions that constitute a moped.

  • Right out of the gates, Rin is impressed with the Tricity, whose larger engine and double front wheels confer superior performance and stability compared to her Vimo. She’s running the Aqua Blue Tricity 125, and compliments the smooth ride she’s getting out of it. Rin’s experience in Heya Camp△‘s OVA brings to mind an adventure I had last year: during the Canada Day long weekend last year, I ended up renting a hybrid for a weekend road trip: while the hybrid does not accelerate or maintain a top speed as well as a conventional vehicle, its fuel economy was incredible.

  • After the cold of the drive up from Furuseki, Rin relaxes in the warm water baths of Enmei, who advertises their baths as having a European influence. The entrance fee is 830 yen for non-locals and 460 yen for residents (who need to produce an identification card). Enmei requires that visitors bring their own towels (or else purchase them at the front desk), but soap and shampoo are provided. Visitors generally praise the onsen for its excellent value and cleanness, but some feel the maintenance could be a little better.

  • The incredibly warm and cuddly-looking smiles of Yuru Camp△ make a return in the Heya Camp△ OVA; it was Ena who suggested that Rin try a variant of the Nordic Cycle technique. Ena is Rin’s best friend and able to elicit the most interesting reactions from her. Gentle, friendly and somewhat mischievous, Ena’s also somewhat lazy, preferring not to join any clubs and enjoys staying up late, as well as sleeping in. While she genuinely enjoys the Outdoors Activity Club’s excursions, she’s not quite ready to commit to a club yet.

  • Saunas are Finnish in origin, making use of high temperatures to encourage users to perspire. In small increments, use of a sauna is excellent for cardiovascular health, since the heat causes blood vessels to dilate, reducing blood pressure and improving circulation, as well as helping stiff joints to loosen up. However, sweating profusely caused by exposure to heat can cause dehydration, and saunas warn their users to spend no more than a quarter-hour inside. Ena’s routine stipulates that Rin is to spend no more than five minutes in the sauna before switching over to the next phase.

  • Cool baths at the Enmei Hot Spring draw water from the aquifer; while an elderly lady is enjoying the brisk water, Rin immediately feels uncomfortable with the dramatic temperature differential between the sauna and cool water as a part of the Nordic Cycle: people who do this routine remark on its positive effects, as the temperatures not only impact circulation, but also prompts the contraction of different muscles and helps with skin health, as well. Experts typically recommend making a shorter cold plunge, since staying in cold water for extended periods can lower the body’s core temperature.

  • Overall, the Nordic Cycle does have its benefits, and the usual caution should be observed (e.g. individuals with hypertension should not do this activity). Ena’s variant of the Nordic Cycle adds a five minute breather in the open air, allowing the body to recover. This additional wait makes the exercise less taxing on the body, and so, after three sets of three, Rin does feel noticeably more relaxed. This first stop represents the sauna piece of the OVA’s title.

  • Heya Camp△‘s OVA has Rin dispense with her longer hairstyle, which is only really noticeable when she enters Enmei Hot Spring: normally, she puts her hair in a bun before soaking in a hot springs, and while some viewers count this change in hairstyle tantamount to sacrilege, I personally don’t really mind at all. This OVA had actually been uploaded to YouTube back in April for a day so people could check it out and was removed after a day elapsed although the OVA was heavily watermarked and deliberately capped at 480p. Discussions of the OVA have been found on Reddit and MyAnimeList’s forums, but do not cover the locations that Rin visits; the OVA’s release to BD means the time is suited for rectifying this.

  • Having spent a morning rejuvenating herself at Enmei Hot Spring per Ena’s recommendation, Rin’s worked up an appetite and sets off for lunch. While Spatio Kobuchisawa Hotel does have a Cantonese restaurant on-site, their offerings are a bit pricier. Knowing that Rin depends very heavily on Google Maps (to the point where she often forgets to apply her own judgement and comes across roadblocks as a consequence), I was able to trace down the route Rin took from Enmei to her destination: she travels along the shortest path that Google recommends, leading her to pass by this otherwise unremarkable field in en route to lunch.

  • Rin ends up having lunch at Takaoka Japanese Restaurant (高岡和食処), located about six minutes away from Enmei Hot Spring by road. Despite being quite out of the way, locals praise the restaurant for its simple but delicious food, good prices and generous portions, as well as a very relaxing atmosphere, although some visitors have noted that the wait times can be a bit long. Like Enmei Hot Spring, I ended up using the kanji on the restaurant to find its location. I admit that normally, when searching up kanji, I actually use a Chinese keyboard since it’s more intuitive for me: 高岡 means “tall ridge” when translated to Chinese.

  • Takaoka’s standard tempura set rolls for 980 yen (about 12.50 CAD) and features miso soup, pickled vegetables and a large bowl of rice along with the tempura centrepiece and tentsuyu, a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, dashi and mirin. Takaoka offers a variety of vegetable tempura in its meal: Rin digs into Japanese leaf tempura alongside eggplant, maitake and jikobo (two kinds of Japanese mushrooms), yam and pumpkin before making her way to sillago (a fish) and last but not least, the prawn tempura. During my trip to Japan three years earlier, I spent one night at Ikenotaira Hotel on the shores of Shirakabako, and dinner encompassed a variety of tempura that proved quite delicious. Here, I also was able to try fiddlehead tempura along with Japanese leaf tempura; the slightly bitter flavour offers this tempura a rather unique character.

  • Rin comments that making tempura during camping would be a bit of a hassle: while the batter is made with simple ingredients (flour, egg and water, chilled with ice cubes), it cannot be prepared ahead of time since the batter can’t be kept at low temperatures for extended periods. The process of frying it would also require a pan and oil heated to around 170-180°C, which can prove tricky to clean up in a camping scenario. Curiously enough, air-fryers can be used to make tempura, and while it may not yield the same fluffy batter as traditional oil frying would, the results look delicious. Having already seen that an air-fryer can be used to make sweet and sour pork even more delicious than those of a restaurant (the home-made approach allows me to use less batter and more meat), it is tempting to go and give some recipes out there for tempura a go.

  • Watching Rin eat her way through the tempura set brought to mind how Adam Richman enjoys a good meal when he’s not under a time constraint to finish, but it also gives insight into Rin’s personality: she eats her vegetables first and then meat, saving the shrimp tempura for last to savour it. This is, coincidentally, exactly how I eat my meals. I always eat my vegetables first before the meat, and when shellfish is available, I tend to save that for last, as well (e.g. in a surf-n’-turf, I eat the steak before the lobster). This subtle detail suggests that of everyone in Yuru Camp△, I’m the most similar to Rin, and there is truth in this comparison; beyond the order in which we prefer to eat our foods, I genuinely enjoy my alone time.

  • Rin thanks the staff at Takaoka for a delicious meal before heading off for her next stop. Local fans of Yuru Camp△ immediately visited Takaoka after the corresponding manga chapter became available a year ago, to experience the same meal that Rin experienced. Through Heya Camp△‘s OVA, the chapter is brought to life and really accentuates the peaceful atmosphere at Takaoka, as well as Rin’s enjoyment of the simple, yet delicious meal that lends itself to the gohan piece of the OVA’s title.

  • From the sounds of things, there’s been a bit of a debate on the intertubes as to whether or not Heya Camp△‘s OVA, サウナとごはんと三輪バイク, should be given as Sauna to Gohan to Miwa bike or Sauna to Gohan to Sanrin bike. The proper romanisation of 三輪 in this context is Sanrin, since the kanji is referring to Rin’s Tricity, a three-wheeled bike. In Cantonese, the jyutping for 三輪 is saam1 leon4, which is phonetically similar to sanrin. Unlike Chinese, however, Japanese kanji can have multiple pronunciations; while miwa is technically valid (and sounds a bit more adorable), it is not correct in this context.

  • By this point in time, given that I’ve found Takaoka Japanese Restaurant, and with the knowledge that Rin’s next stop is a supermarket, all I needed to do with Google Maps was look up supermarkets in the area. The first result that appears is Sunflower Supermarket (ひまわり市場, Hepburn Himawari Ichiba), and taking a closer look, this is indeed the supermarket that Rin swings by to purchase ingredients to prepare dinner with. Thus, despite lacking any background information from the characters’ dialogue or direct references in Heya Camp△, I was able to locate most of the locations Rin travels to using a simple bit of kanji and Google-fu without difficulty.

  • Rin finds Sunflower Supermarket to be very well-stocked, with a diverse array of items; besides local vegetables from the Yatsugatake Mountains (located a mere twelve kilometres north of Sunflower Supermarket) and a bewildering array of spices, Rin’s impressed with their selection of meats. She ends up buying bacon from Hakushū, a small town that was merged with Nagasaka, Sutama and Takane to create the city of Hokuto in 2004. This is why a cursory search for Hakushū will only yield results for the distillery from the area, which has retained its name. Besides a strong selection of groceries, Sunflower Supermarket sells firewood out front.

  • Rin remarks that Sunflower Supermarket looks like a great place to shop for camping provisions, and further to this, has a great atmosphere. It would appear that Rin’s never been to Sunflower before, given her remarks. A panning shot of the interior shows that it would be a great shop for locals, selling a combination of everyday necessities as well as unique locale wares. While most supermarkets have a similar layout, smaller ones often have products that can’t be found at larger ones, and I imagine this is one of the joys of living in a smaller town with access to the freshest agricultural products.

  • Rin’s final stop for the day is her campsite. This was the only location I couldn’t locate with the techniques I described earlier, but fortunately, I was able to track down the official page from Yamaha, which verifies that all of the locations I found line up, and moreover, provides the location of the campground Rin visits. Rin’s journey ends at Mount Nyukasa, and upon finding a special map of the area, it turns out that there’s a very obscure camp ground at Mount Nyukasa, called the Nyukasa JA House. The location is not marked on Google Maps, but fortunately, Google Street View does have reach out here; upon inspection, the still seen in the OVA lines up with what Street View shows.

  • The Heya Camp△ OVA is of a superb animation quality, and enjoying the BD version is the optimal way of really taking in the visuals. The only quibble I have with the OVA is that there are a few places where Rin’s helmet visor, from a distance, takes on an opaque character that makes it resemble the modified helmet with the blast shield that Luke used in A New Hope to train his Jedi reflexes. Naturally, the visor isn’t actually opaque, and this is just a level-of-detail design to simplify the animation. After Rin arrives at the campsite, she sets up camp and goes about making dinner.

  • Darkness has set in by the time Rin’s good to go: with her tent set up and a warm campfire to sit by, Rin messages Ena, remarking that she’s rather enjoyed the Nordic Cycle at the sauna, but isn’t still quite feeling fully rejuvenated yet. The exchanges between Ena and Rin show a more spirited side to Rin’s character; while she’s typically stoic and not outwardly expressive, her monologues show that Rin does have the words for what she’s feeling despite not having a lot to say. Through her text messages, viewers can see that Rin is playful and has her own sense of humour.

  • The time has come for Rin to begin preparing a simple but delicious dinner of tomato soup and a grilled bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich with onion, eggplant and pickled jalapeños. She uses the pie iron she’d used to grill a pork bun during her unexpected solo camp trip during Yuru Camp△, when Nadeshiko caught a cold, which leaving Rin to do an impromptu trip. Since then, Rin’s evidently looked up more recipes to see what can be made with the pie iron: besides sandwiches, one can also make pizza, quesadillas, omelettes and even waffles with a pie iron. Like a cast iron pot, pie irons should to be seasoned before they can be used: besides providing rust-proofing, this also helps to create a non-stick coating.

  • Heya Camp△‘s OVA shows the result of Rin’s effort in vivid detail: Rin’s homemade BLT and soup combo look delicious. Since the global health crisis’s impacts became increasingly felt, there’s been an uptick of creative recipes being published to help people at home craft delicious and uplifting meals. Good food has been touted as helping people to get through these times, and strong morale, coupled with the slowly declining number of new cases is encouraging. For me, creative cooking means being able to do things like a peanut butter French toast (which was so rich that I ended up feeling that all day), as well as shrimp wor wonton with broccoli and cilantro that was remarkably refreshing thanks to how much flavour the soup picked up.

  • For its simplicity, the sandwich is probably one of the biggest innovations in gastronomy since humanity discovered how to preserve food, allowing one to experience a smorgasbord of flavours in every bite: Rin’s sandwich would create a flavour explosion from the savory bacon, crisp onions, refreshing tomatos and a bite from jalapeño from one mouthful. The name “sandwich” is British in origin, and the story is that John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, was an avid card player and frequently requested that his meat be placed between two pieces of bread so he could continue playing cards without leaving a mess. Those who played cards with him began “ordering the same as Sandwich”, and became a colloquial way to refer to what had once been known simply as “bread and meat”.

  • While Ena’s Nordic Cycle may not have left Rin feeling fully content, a fully day’s worth of solo activities, rounded off with a delicious dinner, does leave Rin rejuvenated in full. In spending a fully day with Rin, Heya Camp△‘s OVA serves one more critical purpose: it shows how quiet Yuru Camp△ would be had it purely followed Rin and her solo camping adventures. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, although it should be clear that a full-season of this would grow dull quickly, even for the biggest Shimarin fans. With the addition of Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi, Yuru Camp△ takes on a much more energetic feeling. A noisy, rambunctious group of campers being Yuru Camp△‘s pure focus would similarly lose its pizzazz, and this is where the genius of Yuru Camp△ becomes apparent: the simultaneous presentation of group camping and solo camping in different combinations keeps things fresh, creating both exciting and calm moments.

  • As Rin settles down for the evening and enjoys the solitude of a quiet night under a starry sky, I take a quiet moment to reflect on this post and remark that I am rather surprised that it was as lengthy as it was: it was an immensely fun exercise to locate all of the places that Rin stopped along for her solo trip using the Tricity, using nothing more than the kanji from the frames depicting each area. The end result is thirty screenshots worth of material to present to readers, and I hope that the reader had fun with this post as much as I enjoyed looking up and presenting the details about each spot; it feels like I did a virtual tour of the Hokuto for myself right alongside Rin.

  • It should be unsurprising that Heya Camp△‘s OVA scores a well-deserved A+ (4.0 of 4.0, or 9,5 of 10), same as the series proper; the amount of detail that went into showing Rin’s adventure with the Tricity is evident, and while Yamaha might’ve sponsored the OVA to have Rin speak to the Tricity’s capabilities, the OVA itself is never too brazen in being an advertisement for the Tricity. The end result is a clever incorporation of Yamaha’s promotion of their latest Tricity model into an OVA that shows what a flawless solo camping trip looks like for Rin. The OVA is very much a must-watch for anyone who enjoyed Heya Camp and are looking for something to tide them over while awaiting Yuru Camp△‘s second season.

Throughout Yuru Camp△, the girls have only camped during the autumn and winter; Rin had previously stated that this is her favourite time of year because the cooler weather means fewer crowds and a lack of insects. Similarly, since Nadeshiko met Rin, she’d been so excited about camping that she immediately began camping with Chiaki and Aoi in the Outdoors Activity Club during winter, becoming familiar with the specifics behind winter camping, from bringing a good camping pad to keep warm and appreciating the importance of dressing in layers, having the right sleeping bags and carrying a few warmers. Yuru Camp△ was a great success in portraying winter camping, as well as the journey it took get Rin to consent with camping with Nadeshiko and the others during Christmas. As such, the realm of summer camping is territory that Yuru Camp△ has yet to explore, and with the first season concluding with Rin and Nadeshiko meeting one another at Koan Campground by Lake Motosu by spring, the second season will pick off where things left off with the first season: Nadeshiko and the Outdoors Activity Club are doubtlessly open-minded and have no qualms with camping by summer, so it will likely take some effort to convince Rin of doing the same with them, and along the way, both Rin and the Outdoors Activity Club will share new experiences, with a few new characters in tow as well. With Yuru Camp△‘s second season set to air in January 2021, excitement for the series is building despite the fact that the second season is still a half-year away. Fortunately, with Heya Camp△ breaking things up, the wait does not feel to be an inordinate one, and given how consistent Yuru Camp△ and Heya Camp△ have been, it should be apparent that the second season will be an absolute joy to watch.

Yuru Camp△: Review and Reflections on the Live Action Adaptation, or, Les Stroud’s Survivorman meets Adam Richman’s Man v. Food

“各位,而家唔係唔係冇電,又唔係真人登台,係打劫。” –九叔, 半斤八兩

2018’s Yuru Camp△ proved to be a fantastic hit, following the camping adventures of the stoic Rin Shima and energetic Nadeshiko Kagamihama as their mutual love for the scenery surrounding Mount Fuji gradually leads Rin to be more open to camping with others, as well as developing Nadeshiko’s own love for camping. After a fateful meeting at Koan Campground on the shores of Lake Motosu when Nadeshiko found herelf lost, Rin helps her to call home, and earns Nadeshiko’s gratitude. Nadeshiko falls in love with camping and joins her high school’s Outdoors Activity Club, befriending Chiaki Ōgaki and Aoi “Inuko” Inuyama and accompanies them on several adventures. Even though Rin is reluctant to camp with Nadeshiko at first, she begins to accept Nadeshiko and shares in her adventures with her, as well as the Outdoors Activity Club. After inviting Nadeshiko to try out her new portable grill at Lake Shibire and receiving help from Chiaki on her latest solo excursion, Rin agrees to join Nadeshiko and the Outdoors Activity Club on a Christmas camping trip, coming to appreciate that camping with others has its own merits. Originally adapted from Afro’s manga, Yuru Camp△‘s animated adaptation became a runaway success, and besides a second season that is to air in the winter of 2021, Yuru Camp△ also received a live-action adaptation, featuring Haruka Fukuhara as Rin, Yuno Ōhara as Nadeshiko, Momoko Tanabe as Chiaki, Yumena Yanai as Aoi and Sara Shida as Ena Saitō. Announced in November 2019, this television drama aired from January to April this year, and is a largely faithful retelling of the events in Yuru Camp△. It marks the first time I’ve watched a J-drama front to back: Yuru Camp△‘s short length and premise meant I had no difficulty in following the live-action drama’s events, and before long, I’d finished all twelve episodes. The drama acts as an enjoyable bridge between Heya Camp△ and the long-awaited second season, treading upon familiar ground with a fresh new perspective and the extra dimension that live actions offer.

The question of how effectively a live-action adaptation of Yuru Camp△ can capture the atmosphere of the anime is likely the first thing on all viewers’ minds, and the answer to this might be a disappointment for some. In general, the highly exaggerated mannerisms and expressions that characters of an anime exhibit are a deliberate choice, to accentuate a certain emotion or manner effectively to the viewer. This is done because in the two-dimensional medium, nuances in communication are lost. Without things like body language and subtle facial expressions to convey how someone is feeling, anime employs highly visceral means of capturing and conveying those same emotions. For instance, someone with an open posture and focused eye contact on a speaker indicates they are paying full attention, excited about the topic at hand, but this is trickier to capture with anime, so an anime must therefore use wild gestures to capture the same. However, translating the gestures and mannerisms of anime characters into a live-action comes across as being jarring: Yuru Camp△‘s live action adaptation chooses to have Rin, Nadeshiko et al. act similarly to their anime counterparts, and the result is that the girls come across as overacting. Nadeshiko feels even more excitable than her anime counterpart, and even the stoic Rin feels highly expressive. The end result is that anime mannerisms appear strange, exaggerated in real life; because real people have more subtle cues in body language that speak to how they are feeling, porting the anime’s manner into to the live action Yuru Camp△ creates a far more rambunctious environment than was present in Yuru Camp△. The other aspect that the live action drama does not capture from the anime is the incidental music: Yuru Camp△‘s anime adaptation, with a soundtrack from Akiyuki Tateyama, features a section of pieces with a distinct Celtic influence that universally captures the grandeur and wonder of the outdoors. By comparison, the drama’s music is much more mundane and does not illustrate the joys that Rin, Nadeshiko and the others experience in their adventures to the same extent. Consequently, the drama’s soundscape feels subdued by comparison; the anime’s soundtrack created an outdoors feel with its use of the Irish instruments and whistling, which figured in scenes ranging from the panoramas of a campsite to more ordinary moments at school.  Those same moments are not as majestic within the drama.

While it appears that I’ve rattled off a large list of detractors about the live action adaptation of Yuru Camp△, the reality is that the live action has more positives than negatives, and typically, I prefer dealing with the negatives first. The live action drama, on virtue of being set in the real world, offers a new-found sense of realism that exceeds that of even the anime’s. By taking viewers to the real world locations the anime portrayed, Yuru Camp△‘s drama reinforces the feel that everything that happens in the series is something that viewers can experience and enjoy for themselves. The anime had done a spectacular job of portraying real world locations, but this portrayal is a highly idealised one: in a manner of speaking, the anime can be said to make each spot look more impressive than it appears in reality. However, the live action drama presents each location precisely as it appears in real life, and so, the true beauty and splendour of every site is captured without embellishment or modification. This serves to really bring out the sights and sounds that the girls see when visiting each location, bringing to mind the places Les Stroud visits throughout the course of Survivorman. For instance, at Lake Shibire, Yuru Camp△‘s anime presents it as an idyllic spot with autumn colours worthy of a painting, set under the blue sky of a fading autumn’s day. In the live action, however, it is a cloudy day, and the trees are more subdued in colour. However, the reflection of the surrounding forests and mountains in the lake itself is far more vivid: the beauty of Lake Shibire lies not in the autumn colours, but also the lake and its quiet surroundings, perfect for grilling meat under on a brisk day. Yuru Camp△‘s drama adheres to authenticity to an even greater extent than the anime did: whereas Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi visit the fictional Caribou outdoors shop in the anime, visiting by train because that store was near Minobu’s old town, the real world equivalent, Swen, is actually located in Hamamatsu, Nadeshiko’s hometown, which is about 143 kilometres from Minobu Station. By comparison, the live action adaptation takes Chiaki, Aoi and Nadeshiko to Outings Products Elk; located in Kofu, Outings Products Elk is a more manageable 48.8 kilometres from Minobu Station. In reality, it takes around two and a half hours to arrive by train, so it was a very nice touch to have Sakura drive the girls here. Besides capturing the true aesthetics and beauty of the different locations the girls visit, Yuru Camp△‘s live action adaptation also holds one major edge over the anime in its portrayal of food. Owing to the lack of specularity in anime, the glisten of sauces and rich colours on food are not usually captured as effectively; food is a key part of Yuru Camp△, and while the anime had done a strong job with depicting food, the drama holds the clear advantage in presentation. Close-ups of the food in Yuru Camp△‘s drama show the details of every dish, and the girls, especially Rin, enjoy camping food with the same enthusiasm that Adam Richman digs into a dish in Man v. Food to capture their taste. From the spicy gyoza nabe Nadeshiko cooks for Rin at Fumotoppara, the grilled chicken skewers and jambalaya at Shibireko, to the hōtō that Chiaki cooks and the top-grade sukiyaki that Aoi prepares for everyone at the Christmas camp, seeing the girls eating in Yuru Camp△‘s live action adaptation succeeds in conveying the flavour of every dish, even more so than the anime. The live action adaptation evidently has its strengths, and showcases different aspects of Yuru Camp△ relative to the anime adaptation.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the live action Yuru Camp△ drama, Haruka Fukuhara plays Rin: an actress, Fukuhara has had roles in television shows and movies, but she also performs some voice work, playing secondary characters in After the Rain and Hello World. Yuru Camp△’s drama replicates the appearances of each character very similarly for the most part, and Fukuhara plays Rin well. I believe this post is the internet’s first and only complete English-language discussion of the drama. While there are a few YouTube videos here and there, as well as a few posts on Reddit, but these are packed with vociferous reactions and obscure memes, making them quite jarring to watch. I use science to take out the memes, leaving readers with what they come for. Before I continue, I’ll briefly explain how this post suddenly consumed the remainder of April.

  • The reason for this post requiring more time to write was two-fold. The first is that I felt it worthwhile to include an inset screenshot of the corresponding moment from Yuru Camp△‘s anime, and therefore, it took a bit of time to ensure that I got an appropriate moment to include, and then create these modified screenshots which showcase the moments side-by-side. Each screenshot thus shows the live action scene in conjunction with the equivalent moment within the anime as an inset. The job isn’t perfect, but I’ve done my best to ensure that the inset images are placed to maximise visibility: there is no pattern to their positioning whatsoever.

  • The second reason is that there’s a bit of material to cover, and I felt that sixty screenshots would be appropriate to ensure I could cover everything to a suitable extent. Even then, there are many moments that I won’t have the space to go over. Sleeping Nadeshiko by the faculties looked hilarious in the anime, and in the live action version, things look a little more ridiculous. With this in mind, it’s certainly not hygienic, and in real life, one would question seeing such a sight.

  • When Yuru Camp△ first aired, I likened the anime to Survivorman for how detailed the series was in explaining techniques for starting campfires, setting tents up and the like. The anime had Rin’s grandfather providing the narration, while in the live action drama, the cast would act out skits that portray how to do certain things. It’s certainly a novel way to keep viewers engaged, and since Rin’s grandfather only has a limited appearance in the drama, this approach also lessens the need for a narrator.

  • Upon seeing Yuru Camp△’s first episode in live action, I wondered how they would handle certain of things, like Nadeshiko tripping on the chain that cordons off the road down to the Koan Camping Grounds off Route 709. It turns out that the live action is a little more tactful, and doesn’t portray what happens next. The first episode had me impressed at just how faithful the series would be towards the original Yuru Camp△, and while there are some changes throughout, the overall thematic elements aren’t changed.

  • In reality, Motosu High School is located nine minutes from Kai-Tokiwa Station, but stands empty. Thanks to Yuru Camp△, the site has seen a surge in visits from fans of the series, and is now counted as a tourist attraction. The anime took some creative liberties with the school’s layout, but the narrow storeroom that the Outdoors Activity Club uses is indeed a part of the school. The anime had Chiaki encounter Nadeshiko looking through the clubroom, but in the live action, both Aoi and Chiaki are present.

  • After accidentally snapping one of the poles on their 900 Yen (11.72 CAD) tent, Ena appears to help the Outdoor Activities Club out, resulting in a similar moment of joy. However, in the drama, Nadeshiko does not run into the window as she did in the anime: such an action would speak poorly to her character. Instead of running into the window, Nadeshiko appears in the library moments later, surprising Rin. The drama makes minor changes to the characters’ actions, improving them in some cases.

  • Rin’s view of Mount Fuji from Fumotoppara in both the anime and drama is a million-yen one. During my trip to Japan three years earlier, I had been in the Yamanashi region, but Mount Fuji was largely obscured by cloud cover. On a clear day, the view really is spectacular, and it’s easy to see why Mount Fuji is the most iconic of all the mountains in Japan, with its distinct shape. There are no equivalents over on this side of the world, and I believe the only other mountain out there with an iconic appearance is the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.

  • In an earlier post where I compared Yuru Camp△‘s campground and locations with some of their real-world equivalents, I exclusively used Google Maps and Street View to illustrate how faithful the anime had been to the real world. The live action drama has no trouble with its locations, and promptly returns to the same spots seen in the anime: here, Rin photographs a barn at Fumotoppara while out a walk. In the anime, the barn’s door cover is closed, while in the drama, it’s been rolled back.

  • Rin begins to wish she hadn’t been quite so cold to Nadeshiko, and begins to hear Nadeshiko calling her name out. When Rin opens her eyes, she sees Nadeshiko carrying a basket of ingredients and a blanket, set to prepare a camping meal of a calibre that Rin had never made before. Previously, on her solo outings, Rin carried simpler fare like cup noodles, preferring to spend most of her time in a quiet environment. Meeting with Nadeshiko changes her view of camping, and initially, this change manifests as a desire to try more sophisticated (but still manageable) dishes.

  • The spicy gyoza nabe that Nadeshiko prepares appears absolutely delicious, and the real-world version captures the spices readily: gyoza are Japanese dumplings that are, compared to the Chinese jiaozi (餃子), smaller and made with a thinner wrapper. Nadeshiko’s recipe calls for sesame oil, miso, Chili, chicken stock, cabbage, green onions, garlic chives, White Button mushrooms and tofu, as well as some bean sprouts.

  • Nadeshiko’s love for gyoza foreshadows her origins as a resident of Hamamatsu: Shizuoka vies with Tochigi prefecture as the leading consumers of gyoza in Japan, and in these prefectures, the dish is so popular that unconventional fillings, like shrimp, can also be found. Watching Nadeshiko and Rin enjoying their dinner as the evening wears on in the live action was particularly fun, bringing to mind Adam Richman’s early Man v. Food episodes where he would visit two restaurants in a city for some authentic local eats before squaring off against that city’s challenge.

  • I’ve long felt that Man v. Food could’ve been just as fun without the eating challenges, and while shows like You Gotta Eat Here! and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives showcase excellent foods all around (including Calgary’s very own Big T’s BBQ), there’s a magic about Adam Richman and the way he expresses his enjoyment of food that other food show hosts can’t replicate. It is therefore high praise when I say that Yuru Camp△‘s drama captures the taste of food as effectively as Richman does in Man v. Food.

  • I remember Man v. Food best for accompanying me nearly eight summers ago: when I was stating down the MCAT, to cope with the stresses, I would crack frequent jokes about the challenge the MCAT presented in the context of Adam Richman’s stylised portrayal of his food challenges. While this seems a childish practise, being able to make light of a difficult situation is a vital skill in keeping morale and focus up, and this is something Les Stroud supports, as well. With frequently allusions to Man v. Food and Survivorman, the comparisons I draw between these shows and Yuru Camp△ demonstrates the extent of my enjoyment of the series.

  • Yuru Camp△‘s live action uses the library at Motosu High School, but unlike the anime, where the lights are usually switched off, the drama’s library is more brightly lit and inviting. I imagine that for the live action, the producers obtained permission to use parts of the school during their filming. Previously, the old Motosu High School stood empty as a haikyo until Yuru Camp△ brought the site back to life as a tourist attraction.

  • One aspect that I was particularly impressed with was how closely the drama’s actresses matched their anime counterparts: Yuno Ōhara does capture the energy and warmth that Nadeshiko projects, and similarly, Momoko Tanabe does an excellent job with Chiaki in both manner and facial expressions. On the other hand, Aoi is a bit of an interesting character, and while Yumena Yanai does speak with a light Kansai accent as Aoi, her drama counterpart lacks Aki Toyosaki’s soft voice and a propensity towards bad jokes.

  • While viewers have long known that Yuru Camp△ had been modelled after the real world, seeing the drama take the Outdoor Activities Club to the actual locations themselves really drives home the idea that everything seen in Yuru Camp△ could be done in reality. During my trip to Japan three years ago, my itinerary actually took me very close to the locations of Yuru Camp△, and this was a particularly enjoyable visit precisely because so much of it was spent in the countryside. While I get that Tokyo is the home of pretty much everything that’s cool in Japan, there is much character in the smaller cities, towns and inaka.

  • After spending a full day in Yamanashi, I travelled up to Nagano down the same route that Rin took, although unlike Rin, my destination was actually Shirakabako, where there are several resort hotels. I’ve opted to draw a comparison here between what is essentially the corresponding moments between the anime and drama where Rin stops behind another vehicle at an intersection. Rin rides a Yamaha Vino Classic, a moped with an 49 cc engine and impressive theoretical range of 248 kilometres. Because of its engine size, the Vino Classic is classified as a moped, and in my jurisdiction, only requires a Class VII license to operate. Motorcycles, on the other hand, require a special Class VI, while most motor vehicles require a Class V.

  • While the climb up to Fuefukigawa Fruit Park leaves Chiaki and Aoi exhausted, Nadeshiko has energy to spare, and asks the others to take a self-portrait with her before she runs around the open plaza at the park’s entrance. One small detail I noticed in the anime, is that Aoi’s eyebrows are so prominent that they show up through any headgear she’s sporting. This naturally cannot be replicated in real life, but the drama does have Aoi wearing the same hat as she did in the anime, as a nice touch.

  • Even though Rin is fond of her solo camping trips, Yuru Camp△ portrays her as being fond of keeping in touch with others on her travels: Rin may have coldly rejected Nadeshiko’s invitation earlier, but in general, she’s never bothered whenever Nadeshiko exchanges messages with her. One touch about Yuru Camp△ that was subtle, but clever, is that Rin gets to know Nadeshiko (and later, Chiaki) better through exchanging messages on their phones. Rin’s messages with Ena serve as the baseline for how Rin interacts with people she’s familiar with; while her early messages with Nadeshiko are a bit more formal, over time, the exchanges become more spirited.

  • Despite being utterly wasted from the walk up to Fuefuki Fruits Garden, Chiaki and Aoi get a second wind when they learn of the ice cream shop inside the visitor centre. The drama has the girls leaving their stuff behind to indicate how excited they are, whereas in the anime, Chiaki and Aoi have the presence of mind to take their stuff with them. Since the drama does not have the same facial expressions the anime does, it falls to other visual methods of conveying the energy that the girls have.

  • At Korobokkuru Hutte, a small restaurant with rustic outdoors decor, Rin stops for a lunch of her own: a borscht combo that warms her right up. Korobokkuru Hutte’s borscht is 羅宋湯 (jyutping lo4 sung3 tong1, literally “Russian Soup”), or Chinese borscht, which is made from tomato, cabbage, onion and beef broth. This dish is so named because of its origins in Harbin, which is located close to the Russian border. It’s an excellent soup, being flavourful and warming, but unlike true Ukrainian borscht, Chinese borscht does not have any beets in it. Hong Kong restaurants serve this as an appetiser, where the sour and spicy soup helps to kick off the meal. At Korobokkuru Hutte, their borscht set costs 1300 yen and comes with bread, as well as a drink of choice – the borscht itself includes succulent chunks of beef, making it a hearty meal perfect for the cold of Nagano.

  • The last time I wrote about the Kirigamine webcam for Yuru Camp△, Flash was on the way out, and these days, most browsers will warn visitors that their Flash plugin is blocked. Nadeshiko and the others manage to catch Rin waving to them here in the drama, just like in the anime, although I note that attempting to do this in reality would very likely need an Android phone: Steve Jobs was very adamant about Flash never coming to iOS devices, citing bloat and security concerns, and the superior HTML5 has since superseded flash in most applications. I imagine that the prefectural government will need to update their site if fans of Yuru Camp△ are to be able to view their webcam on any smartphone, just as Nadeshiko, Aoi and Chiaki do.

  • While Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko enjoy the warm waters of the onsen at Hottarakashi, which is a little further up the hill, Rin struggles with the cold of Nagano’s Kirigamine Highlands. Yuru Camp△ shows Rin as being relatively new to the idea of ad hoc travel: whereas her solo camping excursions previously took her to a campsite, where she would set up and then take it easy for the remainder of a day, she begins to be more inquisitive and travel around more after securing her moped license. However, on multiple occasions, Rin fails to recall that many attractions, open during the summer, are now closed for the winter, and so, when things don’t turn out to be as expected, she lacks a backup plan of sorts. However, when Rin learns to improvise, she comes to appreciate the joys that accompany maintaining an open mind.

  • Because they plan on having a substantial cook-out later with the ingredients they’ve brought, the Outdoors Activity Club refrains from having a full lunch, but are still tempted by the onsen eggs: these are essentially fried soft-boiled eggs, but cooked within the waters of an onsen that give them a distinct, custard-like taste. They’re traditionally served with soy sauce, but Hottarakashi Onsen has a deep-fried version: fried soft-boiled eggs aren’t too tricky to make, but the unique combination of boiling them in onsen water ahead of time would impart a completely different taste.

  • Yuru Camp△ represents the sweet spot between watching Adam Richman struggle to finish some gigantic burger or burrito for a food challenge, and watching Les Stroud hunting for wild edibles while in the bush: unlike Survivorman, Rin and the others have access to delicious food for camping that is enjoyable to watch, and the show focuses on the enjoyment of just the right amount of food, unlike Man v. Food. Here, Rin enjoys a bacon-vegetable pasta with a white cream sauce: she notes its the first time she’s had something so fancy while camping, and savours every moment of it. In the anime, the narrator explains that the advantage of this recipe is that nothing goes to waste, and with a little bit of preparation ahead of time, yields a delicious pasta that leaves very little mess.

  • By comparison, the Outdoors Activity Club enjoy a full-on curry together. Even when camping, the recipes Nadeshiko uses is more sophisticated than what I typically cook: for me, a good curry involves either chicken or beef, potatoes, carrots and onions. This is the simplest curry to make: one only need to cook the meats, then separately, boil the potatoes, carrots and onions, and mix in everything with the curry. However, Nadeshiko’s recipe adds okra and eggplant as well: eggplant can work out of the box, but with okra, since it produces mucilage, has a slimy texture if not prepared properly. The trick here would be to soak it in vinegar for half an hour before cooking it, or else cook it separately at higher temperatures and then use the cooked okra in the dish of choice.

  • The point of showing a side-by-side comparison of Rin and Nadeshiko’s camping adventure was to accentuate that, despite their differences in camping preferences, the outcome is the same; both get to experience something wonderful, and for the viewer, it means that Rin eventually deciding to accept a group camping invitation isn’t too far off. It’s one of the best scenes in all of Yuru Camp△, and while the drama does a solid job of creating the scene, the superimposing of the two campers, side-by-side is not done. The impact of the scene, while still present in the drama, is not quite as profound as in the anime, though.

  • The differences between the anime and drama are noticeable, and it’s not a 1:1 adaptation, but overall, I would say that most of the gripes I have are to be knit-picking to an unfair extent. In case it was not clear, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the live-action version of Yuru Camp△ – once I got started into the series, I began looking forwards to it each week. The page quote, taken from Sam Hui’s 1976 movie, The Private Eyes, was prompted by my initial reaction to learning that there was a live action version of Yuru Camp△. In The Private Eyes, during the climactic robbery scene at the theatre, villain Uncle Nine (Shih Kien) declares that they’re stopping a movie the patrons are watching, not because there’s a power outage or because they’re switching to a live-action show, but because it’s going to be a robbery. Yuru Camp△‘s live action drama, on the other hand, can be considered to be the “真人登台” (jyutping zan1 jan4 dang1 toi4, “live acting on stage”) that Uncle Nine is referring to.

  • While denied a trip to the onsen in her way to Nagano, Rin manages to find one at a later time, and also buys a souvenir for Nadeshiko, who eats the souvenir buns with zeal once Rin gifts them to her. Here, Rin’s portable grill is visible: both Ena and Nadeshiko wonder if it’s an offertory box (colloquially, a “poor box”), which is a stab how Rin’s highly specialised gear is obscure enough so that its function is not immediately apparent to common folk. This other perspective of the library in the drama, when compared to the anime, shows the differences in lighting, and again, the library of the drama feels much more inviting than its counterpart in the anime.

  • Rin invites Nadeshiko to go camping and try out the new portable grill; this trip takes them to the shores of Lake Shibire, and it’s a bit of a distance, so Sakura will be driving the two. In using a real-world location for Rin’s house, the drama also shows that in Yuru Camp△‘s anime, the Shima residence has been fictionalised: the forest is thicker, and there are fewer other houses around. In the interest of not having droves of Yuru Camp△ fans show up at the real world location and potentially hassling the residents, I’ve elected not to disclose where Rin’s house was filmed in this discussion despite having found the location. I’ve seen discussions on Reddit where some folks from Japan have attempted to find Rin’s house and were unsuccessful in doing so: I note that location hunting is a bit of a talent, and that even residents can have trouble identifying things shot in their area. For instance, Pure Pwnage filmed the infamous FPS_Doug segment in a community in the south of my city, but because I don’t go to the south, I didn’t recognise the neighbourhood.

  • While shopping for meat to cook during their camping trip, Rin discovers that the Selva in Minobu does not have all the exotic cuts she was looking for on account of it being winter: of pork jowl, ribs, kalbi (Korean beef short-ribs), horumon (offal of pork and beef) and other specialty cuts, only the kalbi and ribs are available. In the anime, Rin breaks down, while in the drama, she retains a bit more composure but still looks on the verge of tears. Nadeshiko’s quick thinking sorts things out: the store still has chicken and pork skewers, which go great on a grill.

  • Upon arriving at Lake Shibire, the fellow managing the campsite provides instructions for reaching the actual campgrounds across the lake. Nadeshiko had picked the site out on recommendation from Chiaki, who wanted to check the site out on account of its mysteries. The anime has the narrator explaining the story of a phantom bull that sometimes appears on the lake shores, while in the drama, Rin takes the responsibility of recounting this legend.

  • After setting up camp, Nadeshiko goes exploring while Rin warms up her binchotan coals; these coals are named after Bicchuya Chozaemon, a charcoal (tan) maker who lived in Wakayama during the 1600s. Using Ubame oak in his area, which is tougher and having a smaller grain than other trees, the charcoal he produced burned much more cleanly and for longer than standard charcoal. However, it is also tougher to light because of the charcoal’s composition, and so, Rin finds herself lacking the materials to generate a heat long enough to light them. Fortunately, Nadeshiko’s just met some friendly people, and gets some help in lighting the charcoal from a fellow camper.

  • Binchotan requires at least 25 minutes to fully light, and after that, require around an hour to reach a maximum temperature of 370℃. Rin remarks that food cooked over binchotan tastes better, and there is a fact in this point: because binchotan burns with less smoke than regular charcoal, it leaves a very subtle flavour on food grilled over it that a learned palette can distinguish. This is why Rin was so excited about grilling over her new grill, and in the end, even conventional chicken and pork skewers taste amazing. She decides to share some, along with Nadeshiko’s nabe, with the campers who’d helped them, and receive jambalaya for their troubles.

  • Thus, by camping with Nadeshiko, Rin sees first-hand how rolling with the punches can result in an experience that is enjoyable. Every camping trip in Yuru Camp△ serves a purpose: Koan was where Rin and Nadeshiko first met, Fumotoppara gave Rin a chance to know the real Nadeshiko better, Fuefuki/Nagano was a chance for Rin to see how much the two had in common despite their different personalities through electronic messaging (which allows Rin a modicum of solitude while at once still discovering more about Nadeshiko), and Shibireko gives Rin a look at Nadeshiko’s “play-it-by-ear” style.

  • As evening sets in, Rin and Nadeshiko prepare to turn in. Nadeshiko is still worried about the phantom bull, but ironically, it is Rin who ends up crashing in Nadeshiko’s tent after coming face-to-face with the “bull” (actually Minami Toba, one of the campers they’d encountered earlier). I stand by my old assertion that prior to meeting Nadeshiko, Rin is very much someone who doesn’t have a mind for handling the unexpected, and when problems look like they’re outside of her scope, she tends to panic. This is something that gradually dissipates as she spends more time with Nadeshiko.

  • Yuru Camp△ had Chiaki and Aoi spend a half-episode seasoning a cast-iron skillet and removing the varnish from a wooden bowl for use with hot foods, but the drama skips over this segment entirely: Chiaki and Aoi invite Ena to camp with them for Christmas after exams, and then with Nadeshiko, head straight to Outings Products Elk to check out sleeping pads. This was one of the best changes in Yuru Camp△‘s drama: there is no outdoors product store in Minobu, and Caribou is based off Sven in Hamamatsu. However, it is named after Outings Products Elk in Kofu, and the drama takes the care of having Sakura drive them here, rather than taking the train, because of how far away it is from Minobu and Nambu.

  • When Nadeshiko learns of the price of the gas lamp, she covers her eyes in shock and remarks she’s just looking for now. In one of those rare moments, Nadeshiko’s actions in the anime translate into real life rather elegantly, and the drama’s portrayal of the scene is just as adorable as it was in the anime. If memory serves, the prices are a bit different between the anime and drama: the anime gave the Coleman gas lamp as costing 4690 Yen (61.52 CAD), but in the drama, it’s 5980 Yen (78.44 CAD). This is a ways pricier than the Coleman models available at my local outdoors shop; an equivalent propane lamp from Coleman costs around 50 CAD.

  • Rin actually had another trip planned with Nadeshiko, a sign of the closing distance between the two, but when Nadeshiko catches a cold, Rin is left to travel on her own. She shifts up her itinerary completely, and right out of the gates, runs into problems when her planned route is closed. Fortunately, even though Nadeshiko might be sick, she’s on the mend, and Chiaki decides to visit her, both keeping her company and watching Nadeshiko message Rin, which gives her a better idea of what Shimarin is like. Their guidance and support of Rin helps her to have an amazing time, as well as making it feel as though they were there with her.

  • With her pride as a Yamanashi girl at stake, Chiaki ends up making enough hōtō for the entire Kagamihama family: she had brought some over as a get-well gift for Nadeshiko, but when the entire family shows up, she realises that she can’t just do some basic recipe. One thing that I found surprising about hōtō is that one needn’t quench the noodles with cold water after boiling it: in Chinese noodle soup, I do this to to immediately halt the cooking process and cool the noodles so they don’t cook any further and become a soggy mess. As it turns out, the starch on the hōtō is there to thicken the broth. The entire family enjoy Chiaki’s recipe, much to her relief, and Sakura asks her for the recipe. It’s a fun scene that captures the Kagamihama family’s atmosphere – everyone is easygoing except for Sakura, but even then, she’s still kind-hearted.

  • While Chiaki’s whipped up delicious hōtō for Nadeshiko and her family, Rin is settling in to a soak at Hayataro Onsen overlooking the Minami Alps in Komagane. This onsen is named after an area legend and is renowned for its seamless integration with nature. With odourless water, Hayataro Onsen is popular amongst those looking to refresh their skin, and the drama portrayal makes it doubly clear that these hot springs are beautiful: the lighting in the real onsen gives the baths an even warmer and more inviting feel than that of the anime.

  • After Rin leaves the baths, Nadeshiko and Chiaki have an adorable fight about what Rin should have for lunch: both agree that she should eat something specific to the area, but there are two specialties. As it turns out, there’s a sauce katsu and udon combo that lets Rin have best of both worlds for a mere 1000 yen. After a delicious meal, Rin falls asleep in the canteen and finds herself late for the next leg of her journey. Things rapidly look to go south when the fastest route to her campsite appears blocked, and ultimately, it is Chiaki who walks Rin through what to do next.

  • By having Chiaki provide assistance to Rin during this time, it gives Chiaki a chance to interact with Rin and bring Rin closer to the Outdoor Activities Club itself; until now, Rin had largely conversed and spent time with Nadeshiko, but is otherwise unfamiliar with Chiaki and Aoi. Chiaki’s help shows Rin that Nadeshiko is in a club with friendly and warm people – despite being very boisterous and fond of posturing, Chiaki does genuinely care for those around her and will do her best to help them. Rin is ultimately very grateful for the help: she makes it to the campsite on time, checks in and prepares a simple but delicious dinner of fried pork bun with the tea she’d gotten from some hikers earlier.

  • While Rin initially declines Chikai’s invitation to camp with the Outdoors Activity Club at Christmas, she comes around after giving it some thought: being with Nadeshiko has made her more aware of being mindful of others, and recalling Chiaki’s kindness earlier, she decides that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to hang out with the others. When things get tricky, Chiaki prefers to do voice calls over messaging: hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the line was much more reassuring for Rin when she was trying to traverse the road, and similarly, a voice inviting her to camp ends up being more effective.

  • While the Outdoors Activity Club had been sharing an advisor with the more involved Hiking Club, there was a limit on how much time that instructor could spend on both clubs. With Minami Toba formally arriving as a teacher, she’s made the advisor of the Outdoors Activity Club; Minami is initially reluctant to do anything that might cut away from her free time, but upon learning that Chiaki and the others are fairly independent, she relents. Both the anime and drama present her as being a graceful-looking individual with a not-so-secret love for drinking.

  • We’ve come to it at last: Yuru Camp△‘s anime and live-action adaptation open the girls’ Christmas camp at the Asagiri YMCA Global Eco Village, with a shot of Chiaki and Aoi running up and down the open plains in sheer joy as they marvel at how much space there is. Whereas the anime has Chiaki tripping on Aoi’s foot and then rolling a ways down the hillside, the drama has Chiaki falling on her own and coming to a stop immediately, saving her some face.

  • Since Chiaki and Aoi have arrived so early, they’ve already gone ahead and checked in. Thinking she’d been the first to arrive, Rin makes to check in but aren’t able to find the others anywhere, so she begins setting up her gear. Nadeshiko arrives shortly after, and Rin decides to make some s’mores, a camping confectionery with North American origins: these treats are a simple combination of graham crackers with chocolate and marshmallow melted in between, and the earliest recipe for the “Some More” was published in 1920. They’ve become quite popular for being very tasty despite their simple preparation, and over time, “Some More” eventually became contracted as s’more.

  • Since they’d arrived so early, Chiaki and Aoi walked to the Makaino Farm Resort café, which is located a mere 641 metres from the YMCA Global Eco Village building. After linking up with Chiaki and Aoi, Rin buys firewood as a thanks to Aoi for providing the bulk of dinner, and makes to carry them back on her moped, but leaves one bundle behind because she’s hit her capacity, leaving Chiaki to carry the remaining bundle an estimated 850 metres.

  • Asagiri’s YMCA Global Eco Village was the campsite whose location was most difficult ascertain, since there’s also another YMCA Global Eco Village some ten kilometres north of the one the girls camp at. Fortunately, Ena has no trouble finding the others: her arrival is preceded by Chikuwa’s arrival. Ena’s dog, Chikuwa, is a long-haired chihuahua. In the anime, Chikuwa has brown and white fur, but for the live-action drama, she’s got white fur. Chihuahuas are small dogs that have a large presence, and they’re excellent companions, being relatively easy to train and willing to accompany their owners. There is a bit of a deviation here between the anime and drama: the former has Chiaki breaking out a Frisbee once she and Aoi arrive, while the drama has Nadeshiko encounter Rin’s grandfather.

  • However, there are more similarities than differences, and in both the drama and anime for Yuru Camp△, the girls swing by to admire Ena’s winter-capable sleeping bag before heading off to check out Rin’s gear. Being kitted out for extremely cold conditions, Ena’s sleeping bag cost 45000 Yen (588.47 CAD): while pricey, to put things in perspective the average winter sleeping bag will cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of 600 CAD.

  • The day draws to a close, and the sun begins setting over the Asagiri Plateau, blanketing Mount Fuji in a red light. This phenomenon is best seen during the autumn months, when a setting sun and cloudless sky creates the perfect conditions for scattering red light. Because of the colours in the drama, I feel that a reddish-orange filter was instead used to create the same effect, since the entire scene, and not just Mount Fuji, are cast in a reddish light.

  • The time has finally come for dinner preparations to begin, and Aoi begins to make dinner using the fancy meat she’d won from the raffle. The anime has Aoi and the others cooking after the sun has set, whereas in the drama, there is still a bit of light. Yuru Camp△‘s anime starts the dinner party a little earlier in the eleventh episode, while the drama has Aoi begin cooking in the finale. The difference is that in the anime, the girls spend a bit more time relaxing as well, whereas in the drama, they hit the hay shortly after enjoying the onsen.

  • The special that Aoi’s got in mind is a Kansai-style sukiyaki, where she adds a bit of beef fat to the pot and lightly heats the meat with soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Subsequently, shiitakeenoki, green onions, fried tofu, shiritaki noodles, and greens are thrown in. The resulting sukiyaki is then brought to a gentle boil and eaten with egg. Rin finds herself in food heaven: she describes food as well as Adam Richman does, and while she’s a lot quieter about enjoying her food, both anime and drama show that she’s greatly enjoying every bite. Nadeshiko and Chiaki, on the other hand, are as energetic as Adam Richman, but do not share is eloquence in conveying the quality of their food.

  • With the remaining meat, Aoi whips up a Western-style tomato pasta with fried onion and basil in the same pot that was used to make the sukiyaki, resulting in a flavour explosion that fuses together the richness of the sukiyaki with a kick from the tomatoes. Yuru Camp△ really emphasises that good food is a massive morale booster, bringing warmth to a cold night; the effects of food cannot be understated, and in Survivorman, Les Stroud notes that being able to eat something nice increases one’s will to survive. Of late, I’ve been watching Les Stroud do live commentary of his old episodes, and for me, the #QuarantineLife means getting to go a little fancier with home cooking, such as two recent dishes: an All-Canadian Spaghetti with bacon, white mushroom and an Alfredo sauce, and a savoury sticky rice with Chinese sausage and shiitake topped with fresh green onion.

  • The beef that Aoi brings to Christmas camping is the same sort of beef that I use with another home recipe: after frying the beef in a bit of olive oil, Korean BBQ sauce is added alongside shallots and enotake mushrooms. Back in Yuru Camp△, because it’s Christmas, everyone is decked out in Santa Claus outfits, as well, with the exception of Rin. Subsequently, everyone swings by the onsen to warm up before preparing to turn in for the night. The anime had an entertaining sequence where Nadeshiko images herself to have devised a rocket-propelled tent, but in the drama, this is noticeably absent.

  • As the night sets in and the air cools, Rin and the Outdoors Activity Club wrap themselves in blankets to keep warm. The characters of the drama are more disciplined than their anime counterparts, hitting the hay shortly after, while in the anime, Chiaki breaks out a tablet and introduces everyone to the joys of Netflix. What is consistant are the blankets and hot cocoa: Yuru Camp△ popularised Nadeshiko’s love of using blankets to keep warm whilst sitting around the fire and it’s become something that’s now synonymous with comfort.

  • As dawn breaks, Rin and Nadeshiko get up to help prepare an all-Japanese breakfast for the others to enjoy. Consisting of grilled salmon and natto on rice with a miso soup, it’s a nutritious and hearty start to the day. Of the items I’ve seen, natto remains the one food I’m reluctant to try: I’ve heard it’s a bit of an acquired taste, and while exposure to it could convince me to come around (for instance, I’ve become much more fond of oysters in recent years), for the time being, it’s the one Japanese food I’m not terribly accustomed to.

  • The Outdoors Activity Club, Rin and Ena enjoy breakfast under a swift sunrise, and then subsequently pack up their gear and head home for the remainder of their Christmas break. Yuru Camp△‘s anime had Nadeshiko meeting Rin at Lake Motosu by spring, whereas in the drama, Rin takes off for an unknown destination, and Nadeshiko is admiring her newly-bought, hard-earned camping gear, ready to make use of it on the Outdoors Activity Club’s next adventure. This is where the second season, set to begin in January 2021, will kick off, and I’m most excited to see what directions Yuru Camp△ will go in.

  • Whether it’s the drama or anime, Yuru Camp△ concludes in an immensely enjoyable and satisfying manner, definitely worth the watch. With the drama in the books, this brings one of the longest posts I’ve written in a while to its end (this post spans some eight thousand and fifty seven words). Because of the global health crisis and its impact on all aspects of everyday life, the spring anime season has essentially ground to a halt for me, so in the upcoming month, I will be focusing on the sizeable backlog of shows I’ve accumulated. Bofuri and Nekopara are two shows I plan on looking at, along with an older anime called Sketchbook. Besides catching up on older shows for the remainder of the spring season, KonoSuba‘s movie, and Hello World, are also on the horizon.

When everything is said and done, the live action adaptation of Yuru Camp△ acts as a wonderful companion to the anime and original manga. While the flow of events may differ slightly from the anime, and the characterisation is a little over-the-top, Yuru Camp△‘s drama retains all of the joys seen in the original series, bringing out a different side to the series in its portrayal of locations and the wonderful camping cuisine Nadeshiko and the others bring to the table. The drama also replicates the smaller details seen in the anime extremely well. The girls use the same camping implements that were seen in the anime, and the drama also goes through the pains of ensuring that the actresses playing Rin, Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Ena and instructor Toba resemble their anime counterparts (with the exception that Aoi’s actress only vaguely resembles her in manner and appearance). Ena does make “bear hair” out of Rin’s bun, and Sakura drives a Nissan Rasheen of the same make and colour as she did in the anime. The SMS conversations that Rin and the others exchange are faithful to the originals, as well. Altogether, while perhaps not possessing the same fluffiness as the anime, there is a magic in Yuru Camp△‘s drama that makes the series worth watching: the drama accentuates different aspects of the series and brings them to light, augmenting one’s appreciation of the work that went into making Yuru Camp△ as a whole. It’s relatively straightforward to recommend the Yuru Camp△ drama to anyone who enjoyed Yuru Camp△ and is suffering from withdrawal now that Heya Camp△ is done; until the second season airs in 2021, the Yuru Camp△ drama represents the latest addition to the franchise and provides a different, but superbly enjoyable experience for fans of the series.

Kirakira Special Issue: An Examination of Critical Perspectives on Slice-of-Life Anime and A Case Study In Negativity Directed Towards Koisuru Asteroid

“我係一個練武之人,遇到不公義嘅事情,我一定要企出來。呢個就係我哋學武嘅初心。” –葉問, 葉問4: 完結篇

Whereas anime of the slice-of-life genre are ostensibly intended to be series that encourage relaxation and warmth for viewers, these series seem frequently find themselves to be at the centre of a disproportionate amount of criticisms. Against slice-of-life anime, it is argued that anime of this genre are “bland”, “mediocre” and represent “wasted potential” – this has been the case since the days of K-On!, and admittedly, such perspectives of an anime cannot be considered to be useful owing to their presentation. A decade earlier, it was “in” to be critical of series like K-On! using pedantic prose and uncommon vocabulary to intimidate readers into accepting their opinion as indisputable fact (i.e. “it sounds smart, therefore the writer must be correct”): this effort was spearheaded by various blogs such as Behind the Nihon’s Sorrow-kun and Anime History’s Kaioshin-sama. In these early days, the vehement words of a vociferous minority came to shape the K-On! franchise unfairly. I’ve long believed that people should be free to enjoy whatever series they choose to, so the persistent belief that one has the “authority” to dictate what others can and cannot watch is ludicrous. Doga Kobo’s adaptation of Koisuru Asteroid became the latest series to fall under the scrutiny of those who felt that the series did not live up to expectations, and perhaps unsurprisingly, those critical of Koisuru Asteroid employed the same techniques in tearing the series down. In particular, MyAnimeList’s “A_Painting” wrote a review (more of a diatribe) in the same manner as the bitter criticisms towards series like K-On! of old. Having previously made sport of those K-On! critics, in this post, I will look at whether or not the new generation of criticism towards Koisuru Asteroid has the same spirited approach as its predecessors and see if the approaches of old have found new life in A_Painting’s review, as well as whether or not the new generation of reviews are of a sufficient calibre to persuade viewers to skip over Koisuru Asteroid as Sorrow-kun and Kaioshin-sama had attempted to do with K-On! ten years previously.

CGDCT anime often receive undeserved flack for being regurgitated tropefests without substance merely appealing to the base emotions of escapist fanatics. I’ve always thought that’s bullshit. There are many shows in the genre that elevate themselves above their contemporaries with palpable if idealized human relationships, relatable themes, great character animation and heartwarming character moments. Simply put, they make for some of the most enjoyable shows around and I deemed those categorically disavowing the worth of the genre as ignorant pricks. But honestly? I think they might have a point this time.

The aim of any review is to provide its reader with an idea of whether or not the work in question is worthwhile for them. As such, a useful review is one that speaks strictly to the quality of a given work and not waste the reader’s time with irrelevant anecdotes. A_Painting’s review opens by disparaging those who dislike the genre and putting them down, before proceeding to assert that those who dislike the genre might be right with Koisuru Asteroid. Out of the gates, A_Painting sounds indecisive, falling upon the opinions of others to validate their own stance. This first paragraph also sets the patronising tone for the remainder of their review through the choice of vocabulary. In general, reviews should be accessible and not demand one have an undergraduate degree in English or a dictionary on hand to understand: an inclination towards a sesquipedalian writing style is usually indicative of those who seek to intimidate rather than convey, and because A_painting mixes more complex vocabulary with a conversational tone, the resulting review ends up sounding very inconsistent in tone and therefore, indecisive, uncertain of its aims. I also remark that it appears that, at least at the time of writing, that complaining about tropes seems to be quite in at the moment, but this is akin to complaining that all burgers consist of the same basic patty and buns at their core.

Many of the plot elements of Koisuru Asteroid are oddly reminiscent of other shows in the genre: be it childhood friends who reunite, the promise they’ve made, the central character duo of the reserved, quiet girl and the outgoing genki girl—it’s all things you have already seen done better a dozen times if you so much as have a passing interest in the daily shenanigans of cute anime girls. It would be easy to argue that these tropes exist for a reason, that they are tried and true ways of telling such a story, but I disagree. It was never this basic construct of tropes that made these shows as enjoyable as they were. What it did was facilitate the actual meat of these stories. And exactly that is where this show is lacking: it merely goes through the ropes of being a CGDCT show, but it never justifies its existence outside of that. To illustrate my point, let me give you a few examples:

A_painting reduces Koisuru Asteroid to being about a fateful reunion for the sake of fulfilling a promise that is superficially done. However, this reduction is a gross underrepresentation of Koisuru Asteroid, which is about the journey of discovery that Ao and Mira take together: their promise brings them together on a path of discovery. While initially motivated by astronomy, Ao and Mira end up learning about and enjoying geology, cartography and meteorology as a result of their shared goals. Thus, while their reason for studying astronomy began with a seemingly-superficial childhood promise, it actually sets them down a path towards appreciating multidisciplinary approaches, in turn helping them within their own discipline. The point of Koisuru Asteroid, its main theme, is about the importance of being multidisciplinary. With this in mind, Koisuru Asteroid is easily more than the sum of its components, the so-called tropes that are common to slice-of-life anime, and the claim that the anime cannot “[justify] its existence” is evidently false.

In Yuru Camp, we have the same central character dynamic, but Rin is accepted as she is: an introvert that needs some alone time once in a while. And, as is indicative of their true friendship, she is given that space, enriching the show with scenes of tranquility and quietude whenever she is alone, contrasting with the energetic and fun get-togethers the characters have throughout the show. Never does Koisuru Asteroid, a show all about girls gazing at stars and the galaxies, capture the same heart-stirring feeling of Rin and Nadeshiko both looking at the same night sky, miles apart but closer than ever. Instead it opts for protagonists seemingly joined at the hip, with nothing of interest to offer other than what their two lines of characterization allow them to.

The premise of Yuru Camp△ lay with Rin opening up over time to Nadeshiko; Koisuru Asteroid would need to have the same premise in order for this comparison to be useful, but having noted that Koisuru Asteroid is about learning and the importance of multidisciplinary approaches in the sciences, the comparison simply doesn’t hold. Ao and Mira are already connected, and face different obstacles in learning the techniques and walking the path to find an asteroid. As an aside, the side-by-side scene, where Rin and Nadeshiko were looking at the same skies despite being separated by the distance between their camping trips, was intended to highlight the similarities between the two and foreshadow this similarity as how the distance between two different campers and mindset lessened.

In Yama no Susume, the two protagonists are also childhood friends bound together by a promise and reunited after years of being apart. But in that show, the activity of mountain climbing actively ties into Aoi’s character arc. There are trials they have to overcome and they are incrementally working towards a goal, making their journeys both relaxing and engaging. In Koisuru Asteroid, the characters clearly communicate that they love astronomy and they obviously are smitten by the sight of the starry skies, but never does it feel like there is anything to get engaged in. They may or may not find an asteroid, and whether they will is entirely up to chance. This leads to the structure of the show not being streamlined and purposeful, but rather an amalgamation of anime tropes like hot springs and beaches that is hardly incorporated into their daily activities (much unlike resting after a day of mountain climbing).

Yama no Susume‘s main theme over the course of its three seasons was about the gradual process one takes towards climbing to the top of one’s problems and doubts to overcome them, and that this is a journey one should take at their own pace. I concede that Koisuru Asteroid bears some similarities, but these are superficial. I disagree that Koisuru Asteroid‘s interpretation was lacking in purpose and clarity. The engagement in Yama no Susume was augmented by the series providing relevant advice on hiking and mountain climbing, from techniques to reduce injury while walking over difficult ground, to dressing appropriate for the unpredictable weather in mountainous terrain. Koisuru Asteroid fosters a similar level of engagement and relatability by augmenting scenes with relevant information from the real world. Things like the proper procedure for setting up a telescope, or explaining the differences between the types of asteroids based on composition, show that Koisuru Asteroid painstakingly researches its details to ensure that Mira and Ao’s journey is not only plausible, but attainable even in the real world. Science is prominent in Koisuru Asteroid (even during beach and hot springs sequences) for a reason: to reiterate that the girls’ love for the sciences is never too far from their thoughts. Finally, the assertion that finding an asteroid “is entirely up to chance” is a gross oversimplification of the sciences: while there is a probability component involved, A_Painting has just dismissed the fact that astronomers have established procedures and sophisticated equipment which dramatically improves their ability to detect new objects. Saying Ao and Mira’s entire dream is purely luck-based, without mention of the techniques and materials involved, is to ignore a core tenant of Koisuru Asteroid: that knowledge and learning is key in the path to reaching a dream.

Other shows like Girls’ Last Tour capitalize on the wistful feeling of their setting, setting themselves apart through atmosphere and aesthetic. And while Koisuru Asteroid flirts with similar happenstances from time to time, the overall product feels so fabricated, so far removed from anything human, that all we’re left with is an unremarkable, uncreative[sic] husk of a project. From the characters to the structure of the narrative to the oleaginous shoujo-ai elements, Koisuru Asteroid is an anime designed to appeal to a certain subset of the community that has become so infatuated with the better entries in the genre that they will take literally anything that aims to do the same as the above shows did. The girls aren’t acting lovey-dovey with each other with a background of a palpable human relationship, it’s because that’s what this target demographic wants to see—no matter how superficial it is. And therein lies the show’s core conceit: CGDCT shows don’t just appeal to these kinds of otaku. Others like Yuru Camp have broken into the mainstream exactly because they broke away from fabricated tropes, merely using them as a springboard. This show is not what the fans want, and it certainly is not what they need.

Having seen Girls’ Last Tour some years previously and revisited it again more recently: the setting in Girls’ Last Tour was deliberately desolate to convey the idea that Chito and Yū had one another despite the apocalypse that unfolded in their world, speaking to the strength of intellectual curiosity and resilience in people. Both Girls’ Last Tour and Koisuru Asteroid share this in common: the determination and motivation that Ao and Mira have in their pursuit of mastering astronomy to find an asteroid is evident, and paralleled in each of Mikage, Mari, Mai, Chikage and Yū’s passion for their respective fields. Each character brings something unique to the table for Mira and Ao to learn from, fuelling their own knowledge and allowing them to be more capable than before. Because of the sincerity that each character demonstrates, calling Koisuru Asteroid an “uncreative [sic] husk of a project” is to be disingenuous: Koisuru Asteroid has been about the sciences, first and foremost, and this aspect permeates every aspect of the anime. It is deliberate, well-chosen, creatively integrated and in fact, rather than possessing “oleaginous shoujo-ai elements”, the yuri elements are secondary in the series. It is therefore lazy to dismiss Koisuru Asteroid as simply retreading old tropes (itself a tired and ineffectual argument) when the anime plainly offers more than yuri: it does not take a genuine love of the sciences to appreciate what Koisuru Asteroid offers its viewers.

I do not recommend this show, whether you are a fan of the genre or not. It did more to invalidate the genre’s prevalence than any other entry I have seen so far. It lacks the heart and soul of what makes cute girls so endearing, for it isn’t the character designs we fall in love with, but the characters’ journeys. Do not waste your time on this superficial emulation of something you can get better anywhere else. And if you were thinking about watching this to bridge the wait until the Yuru Camp sequels come out, please just watch something else. I mean it.

A_Painting dislikes Koisuru Asteroid because the series recycles tropes from other series and does not enchant as well as the other series that they had mentioned. The review concludes by begging the reader to accept their opinion as fact and skip over Koisuru Asteroid. This diminishes the review’s credibility; an effective reviewer does not need to resort to this because their review convinces the reader on its own merits. After finishing A_Painting’s review, I am left with the distinct impression that this review ultimately took readers on an unnecessarily long ride towards the conclusion that “I didn’t like it, because it didn’t measure up to shows I watched previously”. While the conclusion is valid (everyone is permitted to hold their own opinions), the approach leaves much to be desired. A_Painting’s comparisons are only loosely related to the argument at hand, and an inconsistent voice diminishes the strength of the position. Furthermore, as a reader, I have no obligation to accept A_Painting as the authority, in spite of what the review itself expects of me. Because A_Painting’s review does not have the same arrogance or authoritative tone that Sorrow-kun and Kaioshin-sama once demonstrated with K-On!, I find that the new generation of negativity towards slice-of-life like Koisuru Asteroid lacks the potency that critics of the last generation possessed.  I am doubtful that a few negative reviews will be the deciding factor in whether or not people will pick up Koisuru Asteroid the same way the hate on K-On! once dissuaded prospective viewers from ever giving the series a chance.

Additional Remarks

  • I’ve deliberately timed this post to line up a month after Koisuru Asteroid‘s finale aired. This time of year brings back memories: a long time ago, I used to be a TA as a part of my graduate studies, and in this role, grading assignments were among one of my tasks. The easiest assignments to grade were those that worked out of the box and produced the expected results, or were missing enough components as to be non-functional. The tough assignments were those where the student made a modicum of effort towards a solution but did not function as expected. This would require that I go through the assignment line-by-line and see what was missing to assess the grade; this took a bit of time, so I would save them for last.

  • A_Painting’s review falls into the category of being those assignments that needed a closer look, and while I’ve just spent this talk exploring why I feel all of their points to be ineffectual, I also feel it fair to cover what A_Painting would need to consider in order for for me to regard the more negative points surrounding Koisuru Asteroid to be more relevant. My first gripe about A_Painting’s review lies in the fact that it opens by disparaging people who disagree with their stance on slice-of-life. While secondary schools often teach their students to open an essay in several ways, with use of a sarcastic or attention-grabbing sentence being one of them, this standard of writing comes across as being childish and immature.

  • For the papers I wrote in university, I almost always opened with the motivation behind why something was worth considering, and for any oral presentations, I started with my thesis statement: presenting the facts and its application to catch the audience’s attention works because it sets the stage for the core of the presentation (i.e. “this is what I think, and next, I’ll explain the why”). On this blog, I provide a brief summary to catch readers up, and then immediately delve into the main point of my post, which is typically what I think a series was aiming to accomplish. Sarcastic remarks that insult portions of the reader base, while eye-grabbing, serve to irritate the reader and may render them hostile towards points being made.

  • A_Painting’s main issue with Koisuru Asteroid is with Mira and Ao’s characterisation and journey, which they imply to be generic and uninteresting. Rather than comparing Mira and Ao to Yuru Camp△‘s Rin and Nadeshiko, or Yama no Susume‘s Aoi and Hinata, I would have preferred to hear why Ao and Mira were uninteresting characters in the context of their own series. What could’ve the anime done better? How would Chikage, Mari and Mai figure into the interactions between Mira and Ao, and would an increased emphasis on astronomy help with things? Besides keeping things consistent, minimising comparisons with other series helps one to avoid the fallacy of false analogies.

  • While Koisuru Asteroid‘s focus was on astronomy, the anime covers ground well outside the realm of astronomy. Despite there being a bullet-proof justification for this (the study of asteroids also requires a similar skill set in geology, charting their trajectories and mapping them involves techniques from cartography, and optical astronomy is weather dependent, so meteorology is important), the anime can appear to be all over the place. Focusing Koisuru Asteroid purely on astronomy in a vacuum might allow the series to really look at astronomy in depth, but it would also diminish the idea that science is increasingly multidisciplinary.

  • Koisuru Asteroid will disappoint anyone looking for a pure yuri series, as well as those hoping to completely avoid yuri. Some have argued the series fell short in the Koisuru part of Koisuru Asteroid, and A_Painting feels that there is an inordinate amount of yuri that adds nothing to the story. Series like these are unlikely to satisfy everyone, and for me, I ignore yuri as being a mere token in Koisuru Asteroid, since it has no bearing on motivating Ao and Mira far more effectively than a genuine love and passion for astronomy alone could yield. Similarly, the yuri that was present was used as a point of comedy, eliciting a few laughs here and there but otherwise did not interfere with Koisuru Asteroid‘s main theme.

  • I find that it is not sufficient to say that other series did the characters better, because their thoughts on what Koisuru Asteroid could’ve done better are never shown. Making comparisons is a valid form of critique, but care should be taken to ensure that the context is clear: Yuru Camp△ or Yama no Susume, while excellent series in their own right, should not be requisite background knowledge to understand why Koisuru Asteroid was not a good series for A_Painting.

  • The onsen and beach episodes of Koisuru Asteroid are actually unique for being able to weave the sciences into something normally associated with rest and relaxation. Koisuru Asteroid may not integrate downtime as seamlessly as Yuru Camp△ and Yama no Susume, but this downtime still advances the characters’ love for sciences effectively, showing their devotion to their chosen areas of interest where characters normally goof around.

  • Overall, if I had any further suggestions to offer to A_Painting, the first of these would be to keep it accessible. While I personally enjoy a formal voice with a bit of spicier vocabulary thrown in, I also take care to ensure that my writing is not outright inaccessible. Typically, I throw in a sentence that explains my thoughts so the meaning of a given word is apparent through the context, and my gold standard is that if one needs a dictionary to read anything I write, I’ve become ineffective in trying to say something. This is why I prefer common words (“peaceful” over “quietude”, “excessive” over “oleaginous”): I get that thesauruses are fun, but so is ensuring something remains readable and clear, and if I need to scratch the itch of showing off my fabulous vocabulary, I typically build up the context first so the meaning of a word can be inferred from what I’ve just said: the goal isn’t to show off all of the fancy words know, it’s to ensure that my point is clearly understood.

  • Next, A_Painting’s review gives a score of 4 out of 10. The ten-point scale is an arbitrary measure of quality in an anime, in that scores between 1 and 5 invariably mean the same thing. This is why I prefer a letter grade system. Either something was terrible (F), passable (D), satisfactory (C), good (B) or great (A), and then I am spared the effort to explain why a work merits a 3 of 10 rather than a 1 of 10. Because of MyAnimeList’s setup, my natural inclination is to ask A_Painting, what about Koisuru Asteroid madeit a 4 of 10 rather than a 1 or 2? The extra points imply something (e.g. the music, artwork or scientific details present) was worthwhile, and A_Painting’s review would have benefited from explaining this out in some detail.

  • The other suggestion I have is to be more tactful in closing things off. Egregiously calling a series a “waste of time” and telling others not to watch something because it did not not satisfy their own expectations is unlikely to leave the reader convinced. Instead of telling others how to think and what to do, a good review will note that a series has failed to entertain them for the reasons specified, but then also note that there may be a set of viewers who may enjoy it (there are exceptions, and some works, like, Glasslip, are so lacking that it can be tricky to think of a suitable audience).

  • My final remark to A_Painting is to try writing some positive reviews, as well: negative reviews are by definition harder to write in that, while easier to rant about what a series doesn’t do well, it is much more difficult to remain fair and convince others of one’s perspective. A positive review for a series that isn’t revolutionary or world-changing will force the reviewer to also consider what could’ve been done better, and striking a balance between gushing and being fair helps one to develop a style that can be applied towards negative reviews. Tearing down is trivially easy, requiring no skill and naught more than a chip on one’s shoulder, so being able to critique without ranting and criticise while keeping the bigger picture in mind is a skill that not all reviewers can cultivate.

  • A_Painting’s review of Koisuru Asteroid, assuming a similar rubric I used to grade programming assignments, would earn a C- (5.5 of ten), which is still a passing grade. I got the gist of what was being said, so that is an acceptable amount of effort. Elsewhere on MyAnimeList’s forums, the criticisms of Koisuru Asteroid do not even merit a D grade; single sentences calling the series “bland”, “boring” and “mediocre” form the bulk of discussion about the series.

  • “Bland” and “mediocre” are buzzwords taken straight from Behind the Nihon Review’s playbook – these words have somehow become universally accepted as the harshest criticisms one can throw at a slice-of-life work, and those who wield them seem to operate under the entitled belief that saying this about a given slice-of-life series automatically gives their opinion credibility. As it stands, without a proper justification, those words are meaningless on their own. In particular, describing a show as “mediocre” is to be misleading: the common definition of mediocre itself appears to be a contradiction, being taken to mean “average, adequate” and “low quality, poor” simultaneously.

  • As it turns out, “mediocrity” has a very specific use case: its original definition is something that is neither good or bad, but not average, either. Average is a mathematical construct with the implication that it represents a true “middle” in a data set. When people say something is “mediocre”, then, they are saying something is not consistently good, bad or average. This is a very roundabout way of describing inconsistency, and a competent writer can express this in a much more direct manner. As it stands, only an unskilled writer would use “mediocre” to describe something as “unremarkable”: when the word is used (if at all), it should be used to indicate “inconsistency”.

  • Meanwhile, the word “bland” just doesn’t roll off the tongue well, and the word itself is overused in the realm of reviews: when I see this word thrown around anywhere, I gain the impression that the speaker was unable to articulate themselves fully and are falling back on a meme to express themselves, rather than taking the effort to look back and what they were saying and elaborate more on their intentions. Similarly with the word “mediocre”, I see usage of “bland” being used in writing as an example of being an appeal to authority fallacy: imitating the style of Sorrow-kun won’t help enhance a good argument further, and it won’t make a weak argument true, either.

  • The standards for what constitutes a good review at MyAnimeList seems quite arbitrary, and other prolific reviewers have praised A_Painting’s review as being “quick, intelligent, and very readable…succinctly [summarising] its issues; Like [A_Painting] said, its[sic] an amalgamation of genre trappings with little substance”. The self-congratulatory tone of MyAnimeList’s reviewer community is one of the reasons why I do not count reviews posted here being anything approaching useful. The up-vote system, which denotes how “helpful” reviews are, are similarly meaningless. Fortunately, MyAnimeList’s users are aware of the shortcomings of their system. One user notes that the disproportionately high “helpful” ratings of poorly-written reviews come from being the first to write something.

  • The key to having a large number of highly up-voted reviews, then, appears to be a fanatical dedication to being the first to tear down something, which increases said review’s visibility but otherwise says nothing of the review’s actual quality. MyAnimeList appears to be a community of excesses, and outside of the reviews, forum discussions are similarly lacking: at least a handful of people characterised “the astronomy/geology [as being a] just barely relevant twist” in Koisuru Asteorid, and that the anime “doesn’t make its main subjects of astronomy and earth sciences very appealing”. The adverse reaction to the sciences in Koisuru Asteroid has implication that anime fans who strongly dislike Koisuru Asteroid lack intellectual curiosity and respect for the scientific method.

  • The page quote is sourced from Ip Man 4: The Finale, and translated, gives “I am a practitioner of martial arts. When I encounter injustice, I must stand up (and fight). This is what it means to be a martial artist”. In this context, I am standing up for Koisuru Asteroid, a series that does have genuine heart and an earnestness that makes the series worthwhile. To watch closed-minded people tear it down was something I wasn’t going to stand for, and while I typically turn a blind eye to the capers at MyAnimeList, the attitudes towards Koisuru Asteroid were callous enough to prompt me to step up. This post is a reminder that there are those who have enjoyed this series, and we are more than capable of justifying this enjoyment.

  • The takeaway message of this post is a simple one: criticisms of Koisuru Asteroid are untenable, and in the long term, those with an open mind and a positive attitude will end up happier for it. I never understood the need to tear down a series with the intent of stopping others from enjoying it, and would be curious to hear from those who hold a perspective contrary to my own. It is also my hope that I’ve reasonably countered some of the more negative stances on the show to demonstrate there are justifications for why people did enjoy Koisuru Asteroid. With this one in the books, I do not believe I’ll be writing about Koisuru Asteroid again in the foreseeable future, at least until any sort of continuation is announced, and I return to the regularly scheduled programming, with a talk on KonoSuba‘s second OVA on the immediate horizon.

The outcome of reading through and detailing A_Painting’s review of Koisuru Asteroid should make one thing apparent: writing an effective critical or negative review of a series takes some effort and a modicum of skill. A useful negative review exists to explain why expectations were not fulfilled, based on the show itself, without needing to draw more comparisons to other series than necessary, does not insult the reader (or certain portions of the audience) that they are trying to convince, fairly details why expectations were not met and does not beg the reader to accept the review as fact. So, one invariably asks, can I produce an instance of a useful critical review? The answer to this is yes: some time ago, I wrote about how Stella no Mahou lacked magic in spite of its title. I drew upon New Game!, an anime which had a very similar premise, and gave a succinct account of what New Game! accomplished that was missing in Stella no Mahou. I concluded that I was unhappy with Stella no Mahou because the path to Tamaki’s accomplishments were fraught with challenges that did not contribute to her growth, and the supporting cast never gave her the support that she needed. In the end, the achievements Tamaki did experience felt small, diminished by setbacks that overshadowed the joys of putting out a game. In my review, however, I also sought out some positives about the series (the moments that do show teamwork are heartwarming to watch, and I believe I also praised the consistently good artwork), as well as noting that while I did not like it, the series may work for others. This is what it means to write a fair critical review: instead of vehemently tearing down a series, one must apply the same critical thinking to properly express what fell through, and what one was expecting. In addition, a fair reviewer must also see why there are some who like the series, as well as work out who may enjoy the work. In a positive review, one similarly can look at what could further augment a work, and determine what kind of viewers may not find things so enjoyable. Finally, a good reviewer respects the reader’s agency and will never tell readers what to do: this is why I typically only remark on whether or not a series has my recommendation, leaving it to the reader to make their own choices.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM: Remarks on A Third Season in That Wood-Framed Town

“I think perfect objectivity is an unrealistic goal; fairness, however, is not.” –Michael Pollan

The return of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? is doubtlessly welcome news: the third season will be titled BLOOM and be a direct continuation of the second season, with the episodes airing in October 2020. With the announcement of season three to GochiUsa (BLOOM for brevity from here on out), the series is venturing into territory seldom tread by Manga Time Kirara adaptations. BLOOM illustrates the high popularity of GochiUsa, and season three is set to adapt the fifth volume, plus chapters from the sixth volume, as well. This is territory that Manga Time Kirara series rarely ventures into: K-On! and Kiniro Mosaic, despite their popularity, has only had two seasons so far, and while there is sufficient material for a third season for both series, neither series did end up getting a third season. K-On! eventually received a movie featuring an all-new storyline as a sendoff for the series, and Kiniro Mosaic is set to receive a movie, as well. While movies are excellent in capturing stories at a much larger scale, as K-On! The Movie demonstrates, films also have their limitations, forcing the narrative to follow a more linear and structured progression to fit within the movie’s runtime. Conversely, the episodic nature of a TV series provides a considerable amount of freedom, and this is the sort of freedom that is appropriate for a series like GochiUsa, whose core appeal lies in its ability to depict snapshots in each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo’s daily lives. Being one part adorable, and one part touching story about the wonders of friendship, GochiUsa has seen success as a combination of its fantastical setting and captivating characters. With a third full season, BLOOM is given the time and space it needs to bring the fifth and sixth volumes of manga to life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The announcement for GochiUsa BLOOM was made a few weeks back, and it gives a concrete launch date for the third season: October 2020. This means that the first episode will probably be aired closer to Canadian Thanksgiving, just as season two did back in 2015. I’ve already gone over what arcs and volumes BLOOM will adapt during my old talk on Sing For You back during the previous Thanksgiving, and it should be the case that BLOOM will pick up during the summer months.

  • From there, the seasons will return us back to autumn and winter, bringing things full circle once more. It speaks volumes to how rapidly the quality in GochiUsa‘s run improved with time: the first season was an introduction to the town and the characters, and the second season capitalised on the viewer’s familiarity with the characters to give them more opportunities to spend time with one another in different circumstances, creating gentle humour that helped everyone grow, as well. By Dear My Sister and Sing For You, the impact of Cocoa’s arrival in town become very apparent, especially for Chino.

  • BLOOM looks to take the series in a direction the series had not previously explored; while the school setting is a staple of Manga Time Kirara series, GochiUsa has spent surprisingly little time in school, preferring to portray the characters on out-of-school activities. One of the biggest things the series needs to answer, then, is how Cocoa and Chiya are as students, specifically in relation to how they impact their classmates; we’ve seen the two amongst their friends outside of classes, and BLOOM will take everyone back to school for at least a few episodes as Cocoa and Chiya take on a bigger role in helping their culture festival preparations out.

  • With the arrival of summer (a distant concept at the time of writing), it’ll be interesting to see how Cocoa and the others devise solutions of keeping cool. The basic Rabbit House uniform looks like it is better suited for any month that isn’t summer, and Cocoa has previously expressed an interest in making alternate uniforms for Rabbit House before. If memory serves, Cocoa is wearing the same yukata here as she did in Dear My Sister, whereas Rize and Chino sport one of a different design.

  • GochiUsa makes extensive use of funny faces to convey the ludicrousness of a moment or intensity of emotion, and over the course of the previous two seasons, viewers have had the chance to see characters act in different ways that might be seen as contrary to their usual selves. BLOOM looks to feature even expressiveness in its characters: I’ve never seen Rize sport such an expression before, and here, she’s reacting to an episode of Phantom Thief Lapin after the girls decide to do a Netflix party. Rize eventually gets into things to an unexpected extent, showing yet another side to her character.

  • I won’t discuss too much of season three as far as specifics go; besides having already made an estimate of what will happen in the Sing For You post, knowing what happens is actually not as critical as seeing how BLOOM will play out. For folks who’ve already read the manga, what matters more in an anime adaptation is whether or not the latter can bring the former to life. Since anime has the additional advantage of sound and motion, it can bring out the emotional tenour and mood of a given moment to accentuate the authors’ intents even more effectively when done right.

  • GochiUsa has traditionally excelled in this category: the manga is a joy to read, but watching the voice actors, animators, artists and sound engineers give the series life as an anime is to experience GochiUsa in dimension even the manga cannot capture. This was the mindset I had going into The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: I’d already read enough of the manga to know what was happening, and so, I assessed that series based on how well it brought the anime to life as I wrote about it, leaving my overall impressions of the original manga for the finale.

  • As I recall, I was one of the few people who thought positively of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: I already rather enjoyed the base story shown in the manga, and the anime improved over time with respect to its technical aspects. GochiUsa does not have that same problem, being almost universally acclaimed by readers and viewers alike. It is difficult to gauge what makes slice-of-life work (or fail) for different people, but for me, the strong point in GochiUsa is its setting. The wood-framed town creates a unique atmosphere that sets Cocoa, Chino and the others in a relaxing, yet unique world where adventures, large and small, can be found around every corner, if one seeks it.

  • Encourage Films (of Isekai Cheat Magician fame) is to take over from Production dóA for BLOOM, and if the preview trailers are done by them, then I have no doubts the third season will at least match the quality of those seen in Dear My Sister and Sing For You. I admit that I am very excited to be writing about GochiUsa again: slice-of-life can be tricky to write for, and when GochiUsa‘s second season aired five years ago, no blog picked it up for the simple reason that their authors were unaccustomed to writing about series where nothing dramatic, part of a larger narrative, happens.

  • Conversely, because I approach anime like GochiUsa from a less conventional approach, I ended up finding ways to convey what each episode contributed to the series and what I was thinking as things progressed. It turned out to be most enjoyable, and I hope that folks do have a chance to give BLOOM a shot once it begins airing this Thanksgiving. I intend to write about BLOOM on an episodic basis once October rolls around, and with this, my final post for March draws to a close. Coming up next will be a talk on Hibike! Euphonium: Chikai no Finale. I’ve been waiting for this one since last April, and a year later, I finally have a chance to share my thoughts on the next installment to Kumiko’s story, as well as address a few lingering questions left over from the Liz and the Blue Bird days. I aim to have that post out for April, and then wrap up Magia Record, alongside my thoughts for KonoSuba‘s first season.

It is therefore wonderful to hear that GochiUsa will be adapted into a third season. However, even for a self-proclaimed slice-of-life connoisseur like myself, someone who greatly enjoys slice-of-life series for the relaxing and enchanting atmosphere they bring to the table, expectations for this series are going to be quite high, and BLOOM will need to work especially hard to continue keeping fans engaged, given that the second season and specials continued to raise the bar for what could be explored and portrayed in this world. In short, BLOOM needs to do something new. Fortunately, it looks like the fifth and sixth volumes have some tricks up their sleeve: we’ve only ever explored a small segment of the GochiUsa world, and similarly, focus has been predominantly on the main cast. Looking ahead, Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates will play a larger role than in previous seasons, and similarly, the different seasons will allow for Cocoa, Chino and company to see different events and festivities around town that were not previously shown. The significance for showing new events and new faces in a familiar setting is two-fold: the wood-framed town that Cocoa’s spent more than a year in now feels more life-like than ever, and this in turn accentuates the themes that GochiUsa emphasise. Consequently, BLOOM is going to have large shoes to fill, and this time, with Encourage Films taking the helm from Production dóA, one must also have a little bit of leniency as a new studio works on a series with a very-defined aesthetic and established reputation. This means there will need to be at least one pair of eyes on things to ensure that BLOOM is fairly, and justly presented – my eyes. I am looking forwards to writing about GochiUsa BLOOM on an episodic basis come October, and I am especially curious to see if it is possible for me to simultaneously write for two series in an episodic fashion; Strike Witches‘ third season, Road to Berlin, is also airing come October 2020.

Connected Cosmos: Joys of the Multidisciplinary Approach and Methods in Koisuru Asteroid’s Finale, A Whole-Series Review and Recommendation for Asteroid in Love

“Everyone has something they love and something they’re talented at, a world unique to them. If you’re all by yourself, you only have your world; but when you’re connected to others, the possibilities spread out endlessly before you.” –Mira Konohata

With a beautiful day ahead, Mira and Ao spend the morning learning about asteroids with Asuka and Shiho. Their instructor explains that asteroids are undifferentiated and can be broadly separated out as having either a chondrite, stony or metallic composition. It is here that Mira and Ao realise that the skills from their peers in the geology segment of the Earth Sciences Club would be valuable for understanding the early solar system. The day passes quickly, and night sets in. This time, the evening skies are clear, and the girls enjoy time star gazing together while the staff get the telescope and computer systems ready. As the evening wears on, the girls identify an object of interest, but it turns out this was an existing object. While Mira and the others are somewhat disappointed, the astronomer reminds the girls that science is also about laying the groundwork for future discoveries. Motivated by the fact that their efforts during their time in the Shining Star Challenge will help future students and scientists alike, the girls turn their efforts towards their final presentation, where they share their experiences and learnings. Mira and Ao say their farewells to Asuka and Shiho, promising to meet again one day for astronomy. After one final group photo, Mira and Ao head home with Yuki. When they return to school, they share their experiences with the Earth Sciences Club, as well as Mari and Mikage, who are on break from university. Stargazing together, the Earth Sciences Club’s current members and alumni reminisce on just how far everyone’s come: Chikage’s begun to appreciate astronomy more, and Yū has opened up to the others, appreciating the joys of collaboration. Mira mentions that her experiences have shown her beyond any doubt that astronomy, geology and all other sciences are multi-disciplinary, requiring the expertise and skill set of individuals from different backgrounds in order for any meaningful discoveries and advances to be made. With her and Ao’s experiences together in the Earth Sciences Club and the Shining Star Challenge, Mira promises to one day discover a new asteroid and name it after Ao, together with everyone.

The final quarter, and especially the finale, to Koisuru Asteroid, concludes the anime’s main theme about the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration in the sciences. Throughout Koisuru Asteroid, Mira and Ao, despite their devotion to astronomy, are given a hitherto unexpected, but not unwelcome chance, to learn about materials outside of their discipline. The original arrangements of merging the geology and astronomy clubs together, initially a curse, ended up being a blessing which opened Mira’s perspective to what multidisciplinary collaboration is, and in doing so, paved the way for her appreciation of geology, which in turn changes how she approaches astronomy and ultimately, succeed in being accepted into the Shining Star Challenge. The Shining Star Challenge is ultimately what reaffirms Mira and Ao’s commitment to their dream: it is here that they learn professional techniques first-hand and have access to knowledge from experts in the field. By using a large telescope to photograph the skies and analysing the resulting images with the same software professionals do, the key contribution of Mira and Ao’s participation in the Shining Star Challenge is that it suddenly places what was once a very distant and remote dream, into a realm that now not only seems feasible, but within arm’s reach. Even beyond the discovery of new Near-Earth Objects, the study of the asteroids themselves is a very involved field that requires an understanding of geology: the Mira at Koisuru Asteroid‘s conclusion appreciates that asteroids are not merely something of interest to astronomers, and that geologists take an interest in them because of the insights they offer into the early solar system and its formation. As Mira best puts it, no scientific discipline is an island, and it is only through cooperation and collaboration that the truly significant and wonderful discoveries are made.

Aside from presenting multidisciplinary approaches in a highly relaxing and inviting environment, Koisuru Asteroid‘s other major draw is its commitment to striking a fine balance between what’s realistic for Ao and Mira to experience, as well as what is necessary for the anime to convey its messages clearly. When improperly done, realism impedes the thematic elements and flow within a story, detracting from the message that the author aimed to communicate. In Koisuru Asteroid, realism serves to augment the message: notions of disappointment, perseverance, resourcefulness and adaptiveness accompany most everything Mira and the others do. Bad timing, poor weather, ill preparations and miscommunication drive each of Mira, Ao, Mai, Mari, Mikage, Chikage and Yū to explore creative new solutions for one another’s sake. By placing setbacks in the girls’ paths, rather than giving them a clear shot at their objective, Koisuru Asteroid is able to show the sort of mindset that each of the girls in the Earth Sciences Club will need to realise their own future aspirations. Beyond appropriately conveying real-world limitations and setbacks, the other aspect of realism that Koisuru Asteroid nails is the presentation of astronomical and geological information. Every single fact presented is correct, true to its real-world equivalent, and moreover, is communicated in a very clear manner. Much as how Mira excels with scientific communication, Koisuru Asteroid does an excellent job of conveying complex ideas in an approachable fashion. From the sky photography techniques used to detect celestial bodies, to the use of an equatorial mount on a telescope, Koisuru Asteroid is as much of an educational experience as much as it is an entertaining one. The use of real-world techniques and equipment also has one additional knock-on effect: it shows the viewers that Mira and Ao’s dream of discovering an asteroid together is a feasible one, and given that these two have begun their journey, folks watching Koisuru Asteroid, likely with dreams and goals of their own, can also achieve them.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Ao and Mira’s moods in the morning are as fine as the skies themselves, and it is with optimism that the girls go forth into their final day of the Shining Star Challenge. For this finale post, I’ve opted to go with thirty screenshots over the usual twenty, as there is quite a bit of territory to cover with the last episode of Koisuru Asteroid. I will be going through the different bits of astronomy and geology in the finale, as well as covering off some final thoughts about this series.

  • Shortly before breakfast, the astronomers lead Mira and the others through some fundamentals about asteroids; while reading back a passage on asteroids, Mira’s stomach betrays her hunger, prompting the astronomers to call in a break for breakfast. Here, they are discussing the composition of asteroids – asteroids can be classified into three groups based on their compositions. The C-type (chondrite) asteroids are made up of silicates or carbon, S-type (stony) are a combination of silicates and nickle-iron, and M-type (metallic) have a predominantly nickle-iron composition.

  • Because different materials have different reflective properties, it is possible to determine an asteroid’s composition based on spectral analysis: C-type asteroids are usually very dark and reflect little light, while M-type asteroids reflect more light. As it stands, M-type asteroids are the most visible, but are also the rarest, whereas C-type asteroids are relatively common but much trickier to spot owing to how dark they are. Each of the three types have several subgroups depending on the classification schema (Tholen and SMASS are the two major systems), but that is outside the scope of discussions in Koisuru Asteroid. An interesting fact about C-type asteroids is that they are among the most primitive of the objects in the solar system, and their composition gives a great deal of insight into the makeup of the debris disk surrounding a younger sun.

  • The Ishigaki Astronomical Observatory is located on the western edge of Ishigaki Island, and this is the darkest location that Mira and Ao have ever stargazed under: with an SQM of 21.60 mag./arc sec² (corresponding to a Class 4 on the Bortle Dark Sky Index, perfect conditions where magnitude 6.0-6.5 stars are visible to the naked eye). Here, the Milky Way would be visible, and more complex structures can be seen with the naked eye. Besides a sky richer in stars than they’d previously seen, Ao, Mira, Asuka and Shiho also spot a meteor. Ao and Mira immediately make a wish, and although the wish is left unsaid, it is implied that both are hoping for the fulfilment of their childhood promise.

  • As Shiho, Asuka, Mira and Ao unwind under the warm night skies of Ishigaki, they’ve also set up a tripod for some astrophotography. My astronomy guides, written in the early 2000s, accommodate for both film and CCD cameras, but the techniques remain similar enough for the basic camera-on-a-tripod setup: a good camera can take stunning pictures of the constellations and fair pictures of Milky Way on its own. Terrance Dickinson and Alan Dyer’s The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide recommends using a 50 mm lens set to f2 or f2.8, and then taking a 15 second exposure for a basic shot of the night sky: longer exposures will create star trails, which is a different kind of nighttime image taken by deliberately leaving the shutter open.

  • While the artwork and animation in Koisuru Asteroid are unimpressive, being simplistic and minimal compared to other anime of its genre: Machikado Mazoku‘s visuals are more polished and detailed, and against the likes of GochiUsaKoisuru Asteroid looks positively second-rate. With more detailed artwork, Koisuru Asteroid would have really been able to capture the beauty of the sciences that Mira and Ao see to the audiences. However, it speaks volumes to the strength of the characters and story in Koisuru Asteroid that even with lesser visuals, the anime was as engaging and captivating as it was.

  • With excellent weather conditions all around, the time has come for Mira et al. to put their learnings from the previous night to practise. After collecting the first image and comparing them, they find a faint-looking object on the edge of the screen that blinks out light from the stars over a few frames, and more importantly, does not appear to have been an object catalogued previously. Excitement mounts – Mira, Ao, Shiho and Asuka appear to have found a previously-unidentified asteroid.

  • The scientific method, however, commands a vigourous and thorough investigation of all possible outcomes, and the astronomers let the girls know that more photographs are needed to confirm whether or not the object being tracked was previously known. There’s only enough time left in the evening for one more shot: each photograph takes half an hour, and the girls still have their final presentations to prepare. Faced with making a choice between selecting a different sector of the sky to work with or photographing the same site twice to ascertain the new object’s identity, the girls decide to verify their findings and take another short of the same area of the sky.

  • To everyone’s disappointment, the second image, coupled with a database query of known objects in the sky, find that the object of interest turns out to have been already identified. This is a common enough occurrence in asteroid detection that the astronomers themselves don’t think much of it, but the girls are visibly dejected by this revelation: Mira’s expression says it all. However, setbacks are temporary, and Mira’s spirits soon lift after listening to the astronomer explain the importance of tracking known objects, as well: it allows for researchers to determine their trajectories with a greater certainty.

  • Thus, Mira and the others set themselves on completing their final presentation for the Shining Stars Challenge, which acts as a summary of their findings and expresses what everyone got out of their experiences. The girls pull an all-nighter to wrap up this presentation, and in the end, the results are worth it. Here, I note that during my entire career as a student, I’ve never once done an all-nighter to finish anything. The reason I dislike all-nighters are because lack of sleep corresponds directly with making mistakes, which creates a positive feedback loop of frustration and errors. In Mira, Shiho and Asuka’s case, however, this was an allocated time for them, so they make the most of it and come out with a completed presentation come morning.

  • While Ao is only an observer, she nonetheless helps to provide photographs and the detailed notes that she’d taken to assist the others. With the work behind them, Mira and the others prepare to get some shut-eye, but Shiho, feeling that there’s a bit of private time now, expresses a strong desire to get to know Ao better. In a way, Shiho shares some commonalities with Moe, and Ao’s reaction is adorable. The placement of lighting in this scene (Ao is brightly lit, and Shiho is in the shadows) serves to accentuate how uncomfortable Ao is with the situation (done purely for comedy, of course).

  • During the presentation, Mira, Asuka and Shiho summarise all of the learnings during the course of the Shining Stars Challenger. In a voice-over, Mira notes that in the end, no one made any novel discoveries. This was to be expected – the odds of being able to discover anything in the space of two nights is astronomically slim, and as the professional astronomer notes, a lot of it also comes down to luck, being in the right place at the right time. Such an example can be found in David H. Levy, an amateur astronomer with a doctorate in English literature. He’s credited with discovering no fewer than twenty-two comets (some in conjunction with professional astronomers Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker) and a host of minor planets from a combination of skilful observation and being in the right place at the right time.

  • With the Shining Star Challenge in the books, Mira and Ao prepare to part ways with Asuka and Shiho. In the short span of two days, Ao and Mira have made new friends, and already make plans to get together again in the future. The girls decide to take a group photo before they depart for separate destinations: Yuki and Hayakawa suggests taking a photo at a very special spot to them. In this moment, each of Asuka, Ao, Shiho and Mira have their phones in hand, and all of them look to be variations of the iPhone 8 or similar.

  • Yuki and Hayakawa suggest taking their group photo at a very special spot: the same one that they’d taken after completing their Shining Star Challenge some years previously. The choice of location shows that through generations of students, some things remain constant. Ao, Asuka, Mira and Shiho thus jump into the air to a stunning sunset, creating one final memory of a priceless experience.

  • On the flight back home, Ao and Mira share a conversation while Yuki dozes, reflecting on their experiences with people from all diciplines and how fun that was. The reason why I’m a proponent of multidisciplinary approaches is precisely because of the potential for collaboration and cooperation. Having majored in a multidisciplinary faculty in my undergraduate program, I saw first-hand how different skill sets are needed to solve complex problems, and even now, I attribute my unusual problem-solving methodologies a consequence of having done a combination of medical and computer sciences.

  • Back home, Mira immediately calls Misa and provides her with an update on things. A digital photo frame in the foreground indicates the dynamic that Misa and Mira share: both are on good terms with one another and share an amicable relationship. Even though Misa has not had a significant presence in Koisuru Asteroid, being focused on her own goals, she still supports Mira as best as she can. I vaguely recall mentioning that Misa is voiced by Mai Fuchigami, and the differences between her performance as Misa and Miho are night and day. Girls und Panzer represented Fuchigami’s breakout role, and since then, she’s played a range of more significant characters in a variety of anime.

  • Mira and Ao receive a warm welcome after returning to the Earth Science Club’s clubroom: everyone is present, including alumni and even members from the Newspaper Club have arrived to greet them, having previously been promised some sweets from Okinawa to try out and also curious to hear more about the Shining Star Challenge for the school newspaper. Such an article would be a great boost for the school, showcasing the achievements of its students in the sciences: Mira and Ao’s achievements are nothing to sneeze at, showing exemplary initiative in pursuing one’s dreams.

  • While Koisuru Asteroid might be more rudimentary with respect to its artwork and animation, the series has not failed to make appropriate use of lighting, through time of day and weather conditions, to capture a specific mood or atmosphere. Ao and Mira’s return to the clubroom is set under the gentle pink glow of an early evening, creating a sense of nostalgia and the ending of one journey. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan similarly used these colours to mark the end of one status quo at the series’ very beginning. While oranges and crimsons are more associated with sunsets, pink is a much more gentle colour that signifies the end of one path, and the beginning of another.

  • Moe had been absent for the whole of the penultimate episode, but she comes back in full force in the finale, bearing freshly-baked goods from the Suzuya bakery and hugging Mikage after she expresses that she’s missed the Suzuya’s baked goods. Despite the presence of the snacks Mira and Ao brought back from Okinawa, the Suzuya baked goods are eaten with great enthusiasm. Afterwards, Moe and Megu prepare to head off: Megu is given a vial of star-sand from Okinawa. Named after their characteristic shape, Okinawa’s star-sand is formed by Foraminifera, who build star-shaped shells. Because shells of larger Foraminifera react to environmental conditions rapidly and have a wide geographical distributions, they make for great index fossils (fossils that are only found in one time span).

  • While Mai, Chikage and Yū initially felt that Ao’s sudden decision to follow Mira to Okinawa was a selfish, uncalculated one, seeing Mira and Ao recount their experiences has unequivocally shifted their perspectives: hearing that Ao had been of a great help to Mira, the other girls are reminded that Mira and Ao are inseparable. It is certainly the case that having Ao with her in Okinawa was of a great help to Mira, who, despite her open and cheerful disposition, can be burdened by setbacks at times. Having Ao around doubtlessly helped her to regain her spirits on the morning after their first night had been clouded out.

  • The time has finally come to plug in their digital camera and check out all of the photos that were taken over the course of the Shining Star Challenge. The actual camera is a Fujifilm X100F Brown: this is an unexpectedly fancy camera for the Earth Sciences Club and features a 24.3 megapixel X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor. Besides boasting some of the best hardware of 2018, the girls are running the model with a brown leather siding, as well. The camera has a surprisingly small number of photos, but all of them are excellent, including the night shot the girls had taken on the observatory’s roof with a tripod, and a pair of images portraying the girls jumping under a swift sunset: with its incredible features, it is unsurprising that the camera could take such nice images. The girls also hear from Asuka, who’s managed to attend a concert featuring her favourite idol.

  • For old times’ sake, the girls prepare to head off to the roof and stargaze. Yuki’s already gone ahead and grabbed the key to the roof. I’ve had a chance to listen to Koisuru Asteroid‘s soundtrack in full now: the music covers a broad spectrum of moods and feelings, from the comedic to the melancholic, from the every day to the extraordinary. My favourite of the tracks are 旅立ち (Hepburn tabidachi, “Departure” or “To set off (on a journey)”) and 優しく (Hepburn yasahiku, “Gently”). Besides the thirty-two instrumental pieces, there are also five vocal songs, one each for the Earth Science Club’s original members.

  • By this point in time, Mira’s become proficient with setting up a telescope, and it’s ready in no time at all for use. I note that I’ve been remarkably positive about Koisuru Asteroid, and it appears that these positive sentiments are shared by a fair number of viewers, as well. The leading criticism of the series is that it’s “boring”: from a certain point of view, staring at the ground and staring at the sky can be quite dull, especially if one isn’t into all of the underlying sciences in Koisuru Asteroid. For me, the reason why Koisuru Asteroid works so well is precisely because for me, it is watching a NOVA special in anime form. With this in mind, “boring” is a weak criticism, and I expect people to put in a bit more effort in explaining themselves if they were bored at any point (a simple “the subject is not something I’m interested in” is already leaps and bounds ahead).

  • Because I’ve always held an interest in astronomy and geology as a hobby (I partake in amateur astronomy with binoculars and took a course on it in university for my own amusement), it was especially fun for me to experience an anime that covered topics that I would normally read about in a book. These interests are not universally shared, and so, I understand why the premise of Koisuru Asteroid to be dull for some viewers. This is compounded by the fact that Moe provides most of the koi in Koisuru Asteroid: beyond a few minor moments, yuri in Koisuru Asteroid is completely overshadowed by Ao and Mira’s promise, as well as the sciences.

  • Koisuru Asteroid established immediately that it would be more keen on providing more about the sciences than it was about what the community refers to as “subtext”, and while this wasn’t a problem for me, I can appreciate that there are some who entered the series with the expectations that such subtext would constitute a much larger part of the narrative. This disconnect could also be responsible for the series’ comparatively poor reception by some: not every viewer entered the anime with an inquisitive drive and intellectual curiosity to learn more about the stars above and the earth below, and it is not reasonable to demand this of viewers.

  • People are entitled to their opinions, and I don’t object to those who disliked Koisuru Asteroid. What I will say, however, is that people should be making their own decisions on whether or not this series is worth watching, and a handful of highly up-voted negative reviews don’t speak to the quality of Koisuru Asteroid. I’ve said this before: I never presume to tell others what to think, and for Koisuru Asteroid, I will let my readers to decide which is worth giving more weight to: open-mindedness, fairness and positivity, or criticism, bias and negativity.

  • Back in Koisuru Asteroid itself, as Mira and Ao watch the others stargaze, they begin reminiscing on all of the memories they’ve created together with the Earth Sciences Club over the past year and some; the final few moments of the finale are devoted to a montage of some of the most memorable moments in the series. When I look back, there were some moments that I’m almost positive were not shown in the anime proper, so either they did occur and I’ve forgotten about them, or Koisuru Asteroid is trying to convey the idea that good memories can be numerous to the point where one cannot easily recall all of them.

  • The commemorative photo that Yuki takes for Shiho, Mira, Asuka and Ao captures the emotional tenour in one critical milestone for Mira and Ao; besides providing the opportunity to learn and explore asteroid discovery from professionals, the Shining Star Challenge also led Mira and Ao towards forming new friendships. A photograph is worth a thousand words, and if there were any moments in Koisuru Asteroid that depicts the sum of the themes and motifs of the series, this would be it: at the end of the day, science is by the people, for the people.

  • Thus, upon finishing the finale, it felt fitting to have Mira herself be featured as the quote for this post. Always having a good sense with words, Mira’s able to capture moments very precisely in a few lines. With this, Koisuru Asteroid draws to a close precisely the same way it began, with a new promise being made as Mira and Ao realise how far they’ve come, but also how much more that remains to be done towards fulfilling their promise. The choice of camera angles shows exactly this, portraying the girls looking upon the night sky with the same positioning and letter-boxing to reinforce the parallels.

  • Altogether, Koisuru Asteroid earns an A+ (a perfect 4.0 of 4.0, or a 9.5 of ten): a superbly enjoyable series, Koisuru Asteroid only loses out on being a masterpiece (a full ten of ten) because it did not change my world-view to a considerable extent (my criteria for a masterpiece). I had already deeply enjoyed astronomy and geology previously, and I’ve always been driven by learning about new stuff (this is mandatory for any iOS developer), so Koisuru Asteroid served to remind me of what I love doing, rather than changing the way I looked at the world. With this in mind, I enjoyed Koisuru Asteroid very much, and with this, I bring this talk of my first anime of the new decade to a close.

From their early days as a newly-minted club whose members only nominally got along, to realising that everyone shared more in common than their interests in astronomy or geology and the subsequent adventures they share together, Mira and the Earth Sciences Club give Koisuru Asteroid heart. With an authentic, genuine and sincere presentation, Koisuru Asteroid touches on the romanticism in the pursuit of one’s dreams, the importance of collaboration, and the value of one’s experiences during its twelve episode run. While it may not be the most gorgeous-looking anime out there in terms of art or animation, Koisuru Asteroid more than makes up for this with its heart-warming story, immensely likeable characters and plenty of geology and astronomy knowledge, made accessible to viewers, scattered throughout the anime. The sum of what Koisuru Asteroid does well far exceeds the limitations in artwork and animation: I have no trouble recommending Koisuru Asteroid to anyone who is keen on slice-of-life series or is curious to watch an anime with a well-executed scientific component. The final topic to consider is whether or not Koisuru Asteroid will get a continuation, and the resulting answer should not be too surprising: the anime adapts the manga’s first two volumes, and there currently are a total of three volumes that are available. As such, it is definitely possible that we could see a second season of Koisuru Asteroid in the future as the manga advances; even though Koisuru Asteroid‘s anime ends on a high note, I certainly would love to see what lies ahead for Mira, Ao and the Earth Sciences Club that has come a very long way from humble beginnings and what began with a promise under the night skies.