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Norway and Tiburón Island: Survivorman Ten Days, Remarks on Resilience and a Reflection Ten Years After The MCAT

“It would seem that in this survival ordeal, I’ve experienced the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.” –Les Stroud

Although Les Stroud had wrapped up Survivorman in 2008 owing to the significant physical toll associated with filming survival in extreme environments, in 2012, Stroud would embark on two survival expeditions that were larger than anything he had previously done. This series would become known as Survivorman Ten Days, and true to its title, has Stroud surviving in two new environments for ten days. In Norway, Stroud simulates how one might go about surviving if their car broke down. In the beginning, with intense wind and a wet snowfall, Stroud stays with the vehicle until his provisions are depleted. He siphons gas from the vehicle and lights a fire, then uses the car’s upholstery to fashion snowshoes before heading out into the backcountry. After a cold night in the bush, Stroud manages to find hunters’ cabins, and deer remains. Capitalising on the shelter and food, Stroud enjoys a few days here in the cabins before preparing to head downhill towards the coast. Although Stroud is put into a perilous situation as the sun begins setting, he manages to make it down before nightfall. He later explores the coast and finds a summer cottage, where he rests before preparing a massive signal fire for his recovery team. At Tiburón Island, Stroud plays the role of a sailor on a yacht who is stranded. After reaching shore, Stroud notes that water is his biggest priority and fashions a desalination device from items he found on the beach. With the still making water, Stroud then explores a nearby estuary, where he finds an extensive clam population. While Stroud enjoys a feast of clams and calamari, he determines that in order to survive, he must head inland and find water – he leaves behind the coast and travels inland. After a few days, Stroud ultimately locates a spring that provides him with fresh water, the most critical of necessities in a place as dry as a desert. Continuing on in the same vein as its predecessors, Survivorman Ten Days features Les Stroud creating an entire survival show with no camera crew or production team assisting him. This time, however, instead of the typical seven days, Survivorman Ten Days extends the survival ordeal by three more days, and while three days initially seems minor, this can add another dimension of complexity to survival, especially in the knowledge that one must plan for three more days’ worth of survival. In Survivorman Ten Days, Stroud rises to the occasion, drawing upon his extensive knowledge and experience to survive, as well as utilising every advantage in his environment to make a difficult situation manageable.

Survivorman Ten Days comes to represent a fantastic show of how having a reliable knowledge base means that, even when one is confronted with a problem they’ve never faced before, or if the problem is of a different scale than one is familiar with, applying the same principles will help one to put things in perspective, and break things down so that it is more manageable. At Tiburón Island, surviving ten days in the desert seems daunting: previously in the Kalahari, Stroud had suffered from heat stroke and very nearly had to call off his shoot for safety reasons. Here in Tiburón Island, the absence of fresh water meant survival was already going to be a difficult task. However, with the knowledge that he could obtain water in a creative fashion, Stroud chooses to construct a distilling apparatus and is able to draw potable water from the ocean, prolonging his survival and giving him a chance to take stock before making the decision on what his next steps are. Stroud had previously utilised novel methods of acquiring water in difficult situations, and acknowledges that these methods only provide one with the minimal amount of water. However, even this small amount of water helps survival, and in helping to ward off dehydration, Stroud ultimately is able to find a more substantial supply of fresh water. Similarly, in Norway, Stroud has his most difficult experience when he attempts to make his way down into the valley. Although Stroud had known there were paths leading down, the combination of slippery and damp conditions meant that, had Stroud happened onto a cliff, he would’ve lacked the means of returning back to the cabins before nightfall, and potentially putting him in harm’s way as the wet, cold conditions elevate the risk of hypothermia. Even with all of his experience in the bush, Stroud is in a perilous situation – this situation puts all of this knowhow and decision-making to the test. In the end, Stroud decides to keep going, and to his great relief, finds himself on the edge of the fjord right as night is about to fall. Despite being in a terrifying, gripping situation, Stroud remains calm and collected, doing whatever he can to stave off disaster. However, he’s also honest about it: in a voice-over, Stroud indicates that viewers can audibly hear his heartbeat, a consequence of a genuine, tangible worry about how dangerous a seemingly-simple trek down the mountain had become. When Stroud reaches the bottom of the cliff and sets up camp, viewers breathe a sigh of relief alongside him, and similarly, cannot help but smile when Stroud comes upon summer cabins. Through it all, Stroud continues to call upon everything he’s previously done to persist, endure and ultimately, make it safely down the mountain. With a bit of luck, Stroud succeeds here, and much as how his resilience and experience come together to help him find fresh drinking water in Tiburón Island, the same mindset and skillset is applied to help Stroud reach safety in the snow-covered fjords of Norway.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Survivorman Ten Days aired during July 2012, a time when I’d been fully focused on studying for the MCAT. By that point in the summer, my physics course had ended, and I walked away with an A-. My days were thus spent attending the preparation course, doing revision in my spare time and, to unwind, I divided my time between Team Fortress 2 and MicroVolts. To learn that Survivorman was continuing proved to be a huge psychological boost; I’d already been familiar with the series by then, and always found myself inspired by the teachings Stroud conveyed in his episode.

  • Survivorman Ten Days had come completely out of the blue, but I welcomed the news and watched episodes with enthusiasm. Unlike previous Survivorman episodes, which were set over a week, Survivorman Ten Days has Stroud surviving for three more days, but the additional three days meant that there were two episodes for each location, providing Stroud with extra time to really showcase everything. In Survivorman Director’s Commentary, Stroud had mentioned how one of the challenges in the editing phase was actually paring down footage to fit the episode’s 40-minute length.

  • This is actually similar to the problem I have in blogging: I end up with a large number of screenshots that would result in far more content than I could realistically write, and to ensure my posts are of a manageable size, I cut down the number of screenshots to a multiple of ten for easier writing. The idea of breaking posts up into parts has been suggested to me before, and this is why for some series, I do split things into parts. For discussions on movies, however, I prefer keeping everything together in a single post. In Norway, Stroud initially remains behind with his vehicle to mimic what the average traveller might do if their ride suffered from failure. With the wind gusting outside, Stroud says it’s only natural for people to want to stick with their vehicles and wait out rescue.

  • Moreover, a vehicle represents a ready-made survival shelter, and so long as one has fuel, they can take the chill out of the air readily. However, a vehicle can also become a death-trap in that, in keeping people attached to the vehicle, may create scenarios where people would rather stick with their car than walking out of a difficult situation. Because this is a Survivorman episode, Stroud mentions that it’d be possible for him to walk out of this situation, but then there’d be no episode. For this episode, Stroud’s brought some provisions with him, including a jar of peanut butter, a six pack of beer and a mandarin orange.

  • Rationing food in a survival situation can be tricky because one doesn’t have a definitive idea of how long they’ll be in survival for. For Stroud, the mandarin orange depletes after a few days, and Stroud decides to take on a more proactive approach to survival. Being trapped in a dark vehicle might mean that crews clearing the road will likely ignore it, but a roaring fire burning behind a vehicle would pique some curiosity. While Stroud doesn’t have any obvious fire-starting materials on hand, he’s never out of options.

  • Siphoning fuel from the tank, and then using the vehicle’s battery to ignite the mixture creates a very powerful flame that would certainly attract attention, but even if this doesn’t happen, it gives Stroud a significant source of warmth. Being active with the fire outside also reminds Stroud of how cramped the vehicle interior is, leading him to plan out how to head into the bush in search of more beneficial conditions. The situation Stroud finds himself in during Norway would, in retrospect, parallel my own experiences with the MCAT.

  • Stroud’s desire to stay with the car is not so different than my initial feelings about the MCAT being an unbeatable opponent. I had managed to do well in the physics course despite coming close to throwing in the towel, but after the MCAT preparation course began, the lessons gave the impression that the exam was completely unlike anything I’d faced before. However, the further I got into the course, and the more practise exams I did, the more I realised that I needed to adopt a new strategy towards handling the stress associated with the exam.

  • Stroud’s leaving the car is analogous to me embracing a new method of studying, one which entailed making use of strategically-placed breaks. Every day, after five in the afternoon, I would stop all revisions and play a few rounds of Team Fortress 2 or MicroVolts. The idea was that I would have dedicated time to study and prepare, but then I was always assured of downtime so I wouldn’t become overwhelmed on a given day. Previously, I approached exams with brute force, studying until I was confident with the materials.

  • After leaving the car, Stroud spends the night under a tree and recalls he has a portable survival stove, which he uses to boil some water. It is here that Stroud mentions how he always hits the bathroom before sleeping; any liquid in the bladder forces the body to expend energy heating it, so emptying out said bladder allows one to conserve energy and sleep better. This is a habit that I learnt from my parents as a child: the reasoning they had was that it would help me sleep through the night and not run the risk of nocturnal enuresis, but Survivorman shows that there’s more than one reason to hit the bathroom before sleeping.

  • While my dislike of the winter and snow is no secret, I will concede that there is a beauty in a snow-covered landscape under semi-overcast skies. This appreciation is doubled if I don’t have to travel anywhere, and during the past couple of years, I worked from home during the winter. Snowstorms stopped being an irritant, and there is a sort of coziness associated with waking up to a fresh snowfall. Knowing that my commute is a 15-second walk to my desk increases the charm. Back in Survivorman Ten Days, Stroud’s managed to find hunter’s cabins, complete with a wood stove and bed.

  • The situation improves even further after Stroud spots a deer carcass left over from hunters: while all of the meat one would normally eat is gone, Stroud finds that the hunters have left behind the heart, liver, lungs, and a bunch of fat, plus a bit of meat. Although such moments appear contrived, Stroud has encountered hunter’s remains on many occasions previously, and even in Survivorman, during the Alaska episode, Stroud has found a partially-eaten fish that an eagle dropped and later enjoys a fish dinner after cooking it. On the first night, Stroud prepares a broth for himself: as he states, eating too much at once would overwhelm his digestive system and cause all sorts of problems.

  • Having enjoyed deer broth and a little bit of meat the previous evening, Stroud begins preparing the remainder of the deer remains for consumption and gives viewers a close-up of the deer. Besides the entire deer liver, Stroud’s pleasantly surprised to find the entire heart is also present. The heart of an animal tastes especially rich and beefy because it is the hardest-working muscle. The day had begun with some sunshine, but soon, the clouds roll back in and create an overcast sky. Despite this, Stroud’s in fine spirits, since shelter and food are now taken care of.

  • Because Stroud had been trapped in a car for two days, he ends up cooking his meal outdoors. The cabins come stocked with matches, but to conserve on limited resources, Stroud uses duct-tape as a fire-starter here, and in a few moments, his fire’s hot enough for him to begin cooking the deer. Imagery of cooking the meat over an open fire is par the course for enjoying the great outdoors, but in a survival situation, every bit counts. Stroud previously mentioned in Alaska that boiling the meat would be the best way to get all of the nutrients out, and here in Norway, he applies this approach to the deer meet, boiling things up to create a highly nourishing, if unphotogenic, meal.

  • The psychological boost of being able to eat, and sleep in a warm bed, proves to be a pivotal moment. The renewed energy Stroud gains from food and sleep allows him to plan out the final leg of his journey, but it also results in intense and vivid dreams that can play on the psyche. Survivorman Ten Days uses some very unusual footage here to convey this: a time lapse of the Norwegian Winter is played while Stroud gives a voice-over, creating a very chilling and surreal feeling. I’ve never quite understood how such footage was obtained, and if Stroud were to ever do Norway for Director’s Commentary, I would likely ask how this was filmed.

  • With a chance to re-evaluate his situation, Stroud determines it’s time to head down the cliffs for the coast, reasoning that now’s the time to do so: if he stayed in the cabins, he’d eventually run out of deer. However, what was supposed to be a simple hike down the mountain becomes one of the most challenging things he’d ever done. The combination of slippery rocks, snowfall and the constant threat of running into a cliff, meant that Stroud was more nervous than usual, and at one point during this trek, one can hear his heartbeat from the camera, speaking to how worried he was.

  • To the viewers’ great relief, Stroud does make it down the mountain okay, and he swiftly sets up camp before lighting a fire. As miserable as being soaked during cold, wet weather is, Stroud has, at the very least, reached the bottom without being stuck: his worst fear was that he ended up at a cliff, and as exhausted as he was, he would’ve had no way of heading back up the mountain and reaching the shelter of the cabins before nightfall. Hypothermia was the biggest risk here, and here at the bottom of the cliff, it’s still a very real risk, but Stroud is afforded the reassurance that the cliffs are behind him.

  • The next morning, Stroud continues on with exploring the coast: he stops to take a drink and finds some rosehips. However, the next find is a truly game-changing one – a summer home on the coast. Stroud’s fortunes completely turn around, and after a frigid night on the mountainside, he’s now able to take shelter in a cozy cabin. Stroud mentions that breaking in for shelter is something that should only be done in a survival situation – although breaking and entering remains illegal, the law states such an action would not be counted as an offense in a situation where such an action was necessary to avoid personal death or injury, and provided that one leaves no sign that an offense was committed.

  • This B-roll shot of the sun rising over the fjord is one I’m especially fond of – the B-roll footage in Survivorman has always been fun to watch even though the focus in the series is on survival. Such moments are typically shot before Stroud actually begins survival, and per Stroud’s commentary, is actually the most ordinary part of a Survivorman shoot in that it’s the one part where there’s a camera crew. After looking around the summer cabin, Stroud finds a key that allows him to enter. He immediately sets about seeing what other food might be available to him, and manages to locate some seaweed, blue mussels and potatoes.

  • I did a bit of looking around and found that the summer cabin Stroud comes across towards the end of the Norway trip is called Tingastad, which is located near Sogndal Airport. Looking around at satellite imagery of the area, one can even find the hunter’s cabins located higher up on the mountain, which are located a mere 1.29 kilometres from the airport. Although this shows that Stroud could’ve walked out at any time, the whole point of Survivorman is to show what happens if one were in trouble, and being somewhat close to civilisation is important in case things do go south.

  • In the end, Stroud creates a large signal fire for the purpose of letting the rescue boat know of his location. An effective fire doesn’t need large flames, but rather, smoke, and to do this, one needs to burn oily substances like birch bark. The boat eventually notices him and picks up him, bringing the first of the Survivorman Ten Days episodes to a close. Although Norway represents one of the most difficult of Stroud’s expeditions yet, I was thoroughly impressed with how he continued to draw on existing knowledge and push towards bettering his situation even when things looked grim.

  • This was the sort of mindset that I would carry with me into the MCAT – I found that at the heart of all difficult, seemingly-insurmountable problems, is a collection of smaller problems which, when attended to properly, can be handled individually. The important lesson learnt here is to always be mindful of the basics, and understand how the basics can be applied towards dealing with much bigger challenges. In fact, it is fair to say that failure results if one allows a large problem to overwhelm them to the point where they forget the basics.

  • I’ve now transitioned over to the Tiburón Island episodes, which sees Stroud travel to a desert island in Mexico. Here, the weather is the polar opposite of what it’d been in Norway: snow-covered trees and foggy fjords are replaced with rocky beaches and blue skies as far as the eye can see. Stroud faces a completely different set of problems here, with water being the chiefest of his problems. In Norway, Stroud could ingest snow to replenish his water, so hydration was never a problem, but here at Tiburón Island, there’s no freshwater nearby. Stroud does down a mouthful of ocean water to restore electrolytes, but for this trip, he carries enough water to last a few days.

  • As such, the immediate concern is making his water supply last while he works out where to get more water. One of my favourite Survivorman moments happens here – after finding a large bucket on the beach, Stroud crafts a handmade desalination still. The idea is simple enough: boiling salt water will create steam that evaporates, and this steam, when condensing back into a liquid form, will yield fresh, drinkable water. Although simple in principle, desalination at scale is an incredibly expensive process because of how much energy it takes to boil water.

  • Stroud’s handmade still yields about two cups of water a day; while it’s not enough to stave off dehydration and requires that Stroud continuously tops off the fire to ensure he can boil the water, it does allow him to extend the lifespan of his existing water supply. Stroud names techniques of this as a MacGyverism, of creatively using whatever materials in his environment to fashion tools and equipment that can be helpful in survival. Once the desalination still is fashioned, Stroud turns his attention next to exploring the beach and nearby estuary.

  • Although Stroud was hoping to find a flounder at the estuary, he ends up digging up a fair number of clams. In a survival situation, Stroud notes that having a food source he can easily gather is a huge advantage (in his words, there’s nothing worse than expending energy to travel a mile, only to find enough food for a half-mile walk). The clamming technique Stroud describes here is something I’ve previously commented on in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, and I was impressed the latter echoes Stroud’s sentiments about leaving the smaller clams so their population isn’t decimated.

  • I am particularly fond of the Tiburón Island episodes because they’re set under sunny skies, and while survival out here is no less difficult than in Norway, having blue skies conveys a sense of calm: things don’t feel quite as urgent or deadly as they did in Norway, and these episodes would come to remind me of those days when the MCAT seemed like a manageable exam, when revision was going well and I felt more confident in being ready to handle the exam.

  • The pacing of Tiburón Island meant that Stroud spends his first few days checking out what the nearby area has to offer, and by chance, he encounters a dead squid floating on the beachside. He decides to bring it back with him, and after cutting the grippers off, proceeds to cook it over an open fire. In a voice-over, Stroud admits that he’d never prepared squid before, so here, he ended up cutting away a lot more than he needed to for safety’s sake, but if he’d come in with more background, he could’ve gotten more from the squid. This is a recurring theme in Survivorman – it’s better to err on the side of caution if uncertain, but over time, experience allows one to survive more effectively

  • It was immensely satisfying to see the desalination still do its magic for Stroud: beyond the effort of building the still, fetching the water and topping the firewood off, Stroud now has a reliable means of getting access to water. Watching Stroud get water always instills in me an inclination to get some water of my own. I’ve never understood why people dislike water and would eschew it, and while I prefer to take my water filtered and boiled, I have no qualms with water so long as it quenches my thirst when appropriate.

  • Stroud’s approach of mobile, proactive survival means taking advantage of good times to make things better. With the clams in the estuary as a known, reliable food source, he’s able to explore other options. He fashions a makeshift spear here, along with shinguards, to explore the area for fish and defend against stingrays that may be trapped. Although his fishing expedition is unsuccessful, Stroud finds some oysters that he deems worth eating. This move proves to be a poor choice, since the oysters subsequently knock Stroud out of the game.

  • While stomach problems at any time are difficult, stomach problems during a survival situation would be debilitating. Stroud mentions that during survival, one shouldn’t take any chances, and aim to minimise their problems one by one. This is sound advice, and while Stroud does his best to adhere, speaking to the complexity of survival, even a veteran like Les Stroud can occasionally make a mistake. Far from invalidating Stroud, moments like these serve to remind viewers that even experts aren’t infallible, and it makes Stroud more human.

  • After Stroud recovers, he begins to travel inland in search of water. Tiburón Island represents an interesting conundrum in that the areas with food are close to the shore, where there’s no water, and where there’s fresh water, there’s no access to food. In previous Survivorman episodes, Stroud’s mentioned that travelling great distances during a survival situation is immensely difficult, and we recall earlier that even in Norway, when he’d been about a mile or so from the airport, the lack of food and rest means that travelling even a kilometre can be challenging.

  • Before heading inland, Stroud writes a message in a bottle and hucks the bottle into the ocean. Ocean currents mean that eventually, the bottle will end up on a shore somewhere, although I’ve not heard of anyone who managed to find the specific bottle Stroud threw into the water. This bit of imagery is a stereotype that is at least as old as that of the cartoon depicting a desert island several metres across, with a single palm tree on it. This depiction originates from gag comics published to The New Yorker in the 1930s and became the mid-20th century’s equivalent of a meme, which annoyed readers and editors enough so that they implemented a ban on publication of desert islands. The ideas endured into the newspaper comics of the 1980s and 1990s – The Far Side is especially fond of these gags, although I find The Far Side vapid and uninspired.

  • In general, I’ve found newspaper comics have become increasingly irrelevant and out-of-touch with reality: Blondie, The Meaning of Lila and Between Friends, for instance, present office culture in an antiquated, unrelatable fashion. Back in Survivorman Ten Days, Stroud makes use of his gear to continue boiling water, and he’s also brought clams with him, providing a food source as he treks further inland. Once in the desert itself, Stroud’s back in terrain similar to his survival trips to Arizona, Utah, the Kalahari and even the Australian outback. Each desert in the world represents a different kind of survival challenge, but all deserts share in common the same problem Stroud must address: the need for water. Bringing the desalination still inland is a good idea, allowing Stroud to to continue making water.

  • The last of the Survivorman Ten Days episodes aired on July 21, 2012 – at this point in the summer a decade earlier, K-On! The Movie had just seen its home release, and I had finished writing my review of the film. In those days, my blog wasn’t well-known, and reviews were mainly more for myself rather than readers. By the time July ended and August arrived, and after I wrote the last of the full-length practise exams, I began rolling back on my revision efforts. Previously, I spent most of my days studying, but once two weeks were left to the exam, I only studied for about four hours each day.

  • As I entered the final few days to the exam, I stopped studying outright – besides gaming, this blog’s archives showed that I also spent time blogging. The idea behind this was that an extra day or two wouldn’t likely make any difference and may even increase stress. On the morning of the exam, I remember re-watching Gundam Unicorn‘s fifth episode to psyche myself up for the MCAT itself. After a light lunch, I headed out into the afternoon, and steeled myself for a difficult war of attrition. However, as difficult as the MCAT had appeared, in retrospect, I had prepared adequately. Besides the preparation course, and spending hours doing drills, my friends also had determined it would be helpful to study together.

  • On top of this, I managed my stress by budgeting out time to game and watch various shows – besides Survivorman, I also watched Man v. Food extensively. Seeing Adam Richman taking on food challenges allowed me to approach the MCAT with humour: I likened my own exam experience to Richman and particularly tough moments, even joking that I hoped to avoid the same situation that Richman experienced at Munchies 420 in Saratosa, Florida. There, the mystery challenge proved so diabolical, it gave him the hiccoughs within one bite. I would later learn that this was no laughing matter, as the staff at Munchies 420 had emptied an entire bottle of ghost chilli extract into his wings for kicks.

  • However, watching Richman prevail over his challenges proved inspirational, and it was pleasant to see him stoically accept defeat. Besides Man v. Food, I also ended up making my way through CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~Tari TariPapaKiki and Kokoro Connect during the summer. Dealing with the MCAT did leave me with a newfound way of managing stress, and I became more able to make light of my situations. This led me to continue to crack jokes about things like my undergraduate defense, conference presentations, seminars and graduate defense later down the line.

  • After several days of pushing through the desert, Stroud finally finds a pond with a large amount of rainwater. He fills an entire bottle with it and revels in this fact. With water now dealt with, Stroud is now confident he can continue to survive in the area, and the episode draws to a close. For me, I prepared to step out and face down my foe, one I’d spent several months preparing for, at this point in time a decade earlier, and while I did not know it at the time, I would indeed rise to the occasion. Survivorman played a significant role in making this possible, and even now, I attribute my mindset and path to the things I learnt while watching the show.

  • With this, I’ve now done a full recollection of the days leading up to the MCAT, and readers are now assured of the fact that I likely won’t mention these stories again, having written about them to the depth I’d wished to. Once the MCAT was done, I spent my weekend unwinding and watched The Dark Knight Rises – this was a fantastic movie that I do wish to do justice to, and to this end, I will be writing about the film on short order. The movie has aged very well; in fact, it’s aged as gracefully as K-On! The Movie, and even though I’ve rewatched The Dark Knight Rises with the same frequency that I have for K-On! The Movie, I find myself impressed each and every time.

While I have not experienced things to the same level that is seen in Survivorman, much less Survivorman Ten Days, the MCAT that I’d written a decade earlier is an analogous situation. On this day ten years ago, I wrote the exam itself, and although I would love to say the exam was a straightforward and smooth experience, my own exam day was anything but. After a light lunch, I arrived at the exam venue, and was surprised to find the building holding a sweltering 30°C (86°F). Moreover, one of the exam invigilators had stood at the door, saying that they were half an hour behind schedule. As it turns out, the building had suffered from an HVAC malfunction, causing both the power and air circulation to fail. I sat down and meditated until we were called into the exam room. The building’s technicians were still working on getting the fans back up, so it remained blisteringly hot as I sat down to the physical sciences section. Within a few minutes, I developed a cramp in my stomach. However, as the exam began, I had no choice but to weather on: I leafed through the questions, determined that the third problem set was something I could do, and set about writing the exam. When the time for the first section ended, I rushed out the door and immediately hit the facilities. The stomach pains subsided, and I wrote the remaining sections in relative comfort: the temperatures remained high, but at least the cramps were gone, allowing me to focus on the task at hand. All concern and doubt was dampened as I recalled the materials I reviewed, the strategies I was provided with, and days spent studying with friends at the medical campus’ small group rooms. The exam ended four hours later, and I stepped out into the evening, seeing the setting sun cast a warm, golden light on the landscape. After most exams, a part of me worries about the outcome, but with this MCAT, I felt as though I’d put in my best possible effort. I joined my family to a dinner at my favourite Chinese bistro in town, before sleeping the best sleep I’d had all summer. Like Les Stroud and Survivorman Ten Days, beating the MCAT became a matter of psychological resilience, and setting aside the “what-ifs” to deal with whatever was in front of me in that moment. Much as how Stroud focused on getting down the mountain despite the setting sun, I focused on solving each question without any thought to what happened post exam. While I saw numerous concepts on the exam that I certainly didn’t review during practise, they’d been similar enough in principal to materials I’d already seen, and I fell back on existing knowledge to reason through those questions. I didn’t learn of the end result for my MCAT until a month later, but the final score, a 35T (518), speaks volumes to the efficacy of these methods. The numerous parallels between my own experiences, and what Les Stroud presents on Survivorman, thus became a reminder to me that survival techniques had applicability in almost every walk of life: while I’m no outdoorsman like Stroud, everything that is presented in Survivorman is relevant to everyday life, too. It is therefore fair to say that watching Survivorman Ten Days was yet another part of the reason why I survived the MCAT ten summers earlier, and while I’ve never used my score for anything other than an interesting conversation topic since taking the exam, the ancillary learnings, such as prioritising problems, applying existing knowledge to take on new problems, dividing and conquering, and maintaining a mindset of resilience amidst adversity, have fundamentally changed the way I operated, positively impacting everything I do even to this day. Ten years ago to this day, it’s almost time for me to head out and write the MCAT – I had no idea what the outcome would be, but, armed with the will to survive, I set off for my exam, resolute to do my best, too.

Arctic Tundra: Survivorman, Baffin Island and Remarks On The Final Approach to the MCAT

“Cold…wind…lack of wild edibles…it’s a tougher one. The skies and temperatures…grey skies, very little blue, can play on the psyche.” –Les Stroud

In the third season of Survivorman, Les Stroud is dropped off at Pond Inlet in Baffin Island, located in one of the furthest reaches of Canada. Up here during the summer, the sun never sets, and Stroud is faced with the challenges of surviving in an inhospitable land battered by wind and waves. The blustery weather becomes especially wearing, and during the week, the overcast skies and lack of food begins taking an emotional toll on Stroud, on top of a physical toll. However, when Stroud decides to head inland and gather wild edibles and other plants, he realises he’s forgotten something at his campsite. Returning to retrieve it, he notices a school of Arctic Char swimming by, and in the moment, immediately gets a fishing line into the water. Moments later, his demeanor is completely changed – with four large Arctic Char in tow, Stroud is energetic, animated and ecstatic his situation has suddenly changed so dramatically. The resulting fish feast becomes Stroud’s favourite Survivorman moment, and in a Director’s Commentary video, Stroud comments on how this particular food moment even surpassed the feast he had on the Cook Islands. Stroud’s excitement is tangible, and viewers smile right alongside Stroud as he cleans the fish, enjoys fresh roe and fish, and cooks up the fish to enjoy later. In the space of moments, Stroud’s fortunes have completely turned around, showing how quickly circumstances can change, and moreover, how important it is to maintain a positive mindset during difficult times, and how one should not be complacent even when things begin turning around. At one point, Stroud comments on how he can use some of the entrails from the Arctic Char to potentially catch some seagulls and add to his food reserves. While Stroud is rewarded with a delicious meal, viewers are treated to loving closeups of Stroud preparing and cooking the Arctic Char. In the aftermath of this pivotal moment, Stroud continues to explore inland and retrieves a variety of plants that provide nutrition and kindling, taking advantage of a good situation to improve things even further; as a result, when a rainstorm sweeps into the area, Stroud ends up enjoying his Arctic Char as it rains, does stretching exercises to keep the blood flowing, and even makes a qulliq oil lamp with a stone, old sock and the remainder of his whale blubber. Only when the storm worsens, does Stroud call things in and prepare to head back to the settlement. By this point in Survivorman, Les Stroud has found his rhythm, allowing his experience and knowledge to feed into his decision-making process while at the same time, acknowledging to viewers that the variability of survival means that one often has to make the most of the hand they are given.

The Arctic Tundra episode represents Survivorman at its finest – while it is undeniable that Les Stroud is an incredibly skilled outdoorsman with years of survival knowledge under his belt, being placed in the wind-swept, desolate hills of the Pond Inlet area of Baffin Island puts his skillset to the test. Out here, there is no substantial vegetation to craft shelters from, and food is scarce, being difficult to gather and hunt outside of a small window of time in the year. Weather can change at the drop of a hat, and during the episode, Stroud remarks on several occasions that the wind prevents him from travelling to a more favourable spot, keeps him from exploring his surroundings, et cetera. Stroud’s able to capitalise on his skills to make a difficult situation manageable, moving to a better spot on his canoe and whipping up a surprisingly sturdy shelter using old steel drums found on the beach, but has no luck in luring in seagulls for food. As the weather becomes increasingly gray, Stroud comments on the conditions and how they can be incredibly demoralising even when one is armed with a vast collection of skill and experience. Here in the Arctic Tundra, Stroud’s situation speaks to how there are cases where a little luck is required. However, while one might interpret this as being how luck is necessary, the opposite is true: if one has the skill, then they have the means to capitalise when luck shows up. There is no substitute for skill, and this is what makes Stroud’s experience in Baffin Island so inspiring – even when things appear to bottom out, Stroud continues to count on and share his knowledge, with the end result that he is able to net a total of four Arctic Char. In any other show, such a moment would be scripted, but what makes Survivorman especially rewarding is the fact that everything that happens occurs naturally. In some episodes, Stroud is faced with exceedingly challenging scenarios: at Kalahari, Stroud grappled with trying to fend off heat stroke, and in other episodes, he’s unable to secure food. Having seen these previous episodes, it was rewarding to see luck on Stroud’s side and show what can happen in a survival situation when the stars line up, and one possesses the skill to capitalise on the opportunity. Seeing Les Stroud cooking and enjoying the Arctic Char, in his words, “fresh sushi”, was so visceral, it felt as though I’d been the one who had caught that fish, and therein lies the main joy of watching Survivorman. In all episodes, I’m especially fond of moments where Stroud finds food, and whether it’s something like the Witchetty grub or scorpions, to a roast bird and deer remains, Stroud has a talent for making anything look good. Stroud has previously mentioned that in a survival situation, one takes what they can get, and there’s no room for dramatisation: it’s all about getting the nutrients down. This has increased my appreciation for the food, but Survivorman actually had another, even more profound impact on how I conduct myself that influences how I do things even to this day.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My story with Survivorman is an extensive one: I came upon the series while travelling. In 2010, I was in China on a tour of Beijing and Shanghai, and one evening, we’d stopped over in Hanzghou. A major thunderstorm had rolled into the region after dinner, and so, rather than explore the neighbourhood around the hotel, we decided to retire to our quarters and take it easy. I began channel surfing, and came upon a Chinese dub of Survivorman as he was preparing a turtle in the Georgian Swamps. My curiosity was piqued, and upon returning home, I began following the series as it aired on Discovery Canada.

  • While Survivorman remained little more than a curiosity at that point, and I mainly watched the show to see Les Stroud’s reactions to finding water, enjoying survival food or successfully lighting a fire with unorthodox means, by the time the MCAT rolled around two summers later, Survivorman had become a sort of panacea for the stress I was facing: watching Stroud survive off the land and making do with the hand he was dealt reminded me that my own challenges weren’t quite as demanding, but moreover, a similar mentality for survival would be essential in getting through a difficult time.

  • By that point in time, I’d already caught up with all of the Survivorman episodes and was familiar with Stroud’s approaches for reasoned, methodical survival. Seeing a similar set of skills being adapted for different situations was one of the biggest draws in Survivorman, and the first of these skills is determining what to do first. In the desert, Stroud’s immediate priority is determining how he might find more drinking water. Here on Baffin Island, the bitter cold and relentless wind meant shelter was essential. With old plywood, Stroud is able to construct a shelter that stops some of the wind, and as a break, he sits down to a bite of whale blubber, reminiscing about how he’d done something similar during an earlier episode.

  • Survivorman episodes instruct viewers in three ways. The first is when Stroud walks a viewer through what he’s doing and explains the rationale behind why he’s doing something, and the second comes from voice-overs Stroud later adds in the editing suite, which provide a bit of reflection on his actions. The third is unique to Survivorman: Director’s Commentary, a YouTube series that released back when the pandemic was starting. In Director’s Commentary, Stroud takes viewers on a behind-the-scenes and further presents to viewers his thought process. On some occasions, he may even indicate that what he was doing in a situation was not optimal.

  • Beyond the act of showing survival in a measured and methodical manner, the nature of Survivorman means that viewers are treated to stunning vistas and landscapes. Even somewhere as desolate as Baffin Island in the high Arctic, there is great beauty in the scenery. In episodes, Stroud notes that he captures some of the landscape footage himself, but larger shots and time lapses (the industry term is B-roll) are done by a team, oftentimes before Stroud himself gets out onto the land for survival. These elements then come together to make the episode.

  • Fresh water is always a priority: the body lasts an average of three days without water before dehydration kicks in, and dehydration brings with it a plethora of unpleasant symptoms, including headache and dizziness. In some episodes, water is a major challenge, but at Baffin Island, fresh glacial melt and pristine meadows mean that Stroud isn’t worried about Giardiasis or Cryptosporidium. Even when water-borne parasites may be a real hazard, Stroud notes that where possible, boiling the water will lessen the risk, and in a time of extreme difficulty, it might be okay to risk an infection and then seek treatment once one is back in civilisation.

  • In both the Arctic and Arctic Tundra episodes, Stroud is legally required to bring a rifle with him as a means of protection against polar bears. Luckily, in both episodes, polar bears have not approached Stroud in a way that has required use of this rifle. While a rifle might be a form of defense, it is worth noting that unlike humans, which collapse when shot as a self-preservation reflex, bears do not share this trait and may keep charging, so shooting a polar bear with a single .22 may not be effective unless one’s got extremely good shot placement.

  • To simulate real-world scenarios, Stroud’s episodes often have a narrative, simulating things like getting separated from a team while diving, getting lost while canoeing, being injured in the wilderness after a plane crash or a lapse of judgement resulting in one’s vehicle running out of fuel in a remote area. In the Arctic Tundra episode, Stroud simulates being a part of a research team stuck here, and outfits himself accordingly: among the pieces of equipment he’s brought include a fishing tackle and a CB radio. Here, he attempts some fishing: one of his Inuit guides had mentioned the area would be dense with Arctic Char, and Stroud figured that a fishing tackle would be an essential survival tool.

  • Stroud’s lament about the presence of trash on beaches along every coastline in the world was a sobering one, and is a reminder that whatever one carelessly discards will always end up somewhere. This is why I do my part to ensure all of my garbage is properly dealt with: when my city introduced a compost and recycling programme, I was thrilled: reusing things and repurposing waste means less effort is expended in remaking everything anew, and this mindfulness also extends to other parts of life. I’ve long been a proponent of sustainability, but I also recognise that stopgap measures are needed to reach our ideal level of environmental consciousness. This is why I do not espouse activism, and instead, commit myself to smaller scale things I can do: composting, turning the lights off and conserving water is much more environmentally friendly than organising large rallies.

  • Through Director’s Commentary, I was able to learn much more about the episodes beyond just the survival elements. Arctic Tundra was Stroud’s first Director’s Commentary, and he explains that early episodes were plagued with issues because he was shooting with different camera brands, which use different recording chips and yield different image colours. Later episodes has Stroud switching to one brand, and being mindful of each camera’s capabilities: some cameras have buttons that can instantly disable autofocus, and Stroud mentions how he would use tricks like taping up the button to avoid accidentally depressing it, which would leave an entire scene out of focus.

  • In Secrets of Survival, Stroud mentions that his favourite method of starting a fire is the fire bow, although things like a flint striker come in a close second. For a non-expert like myself, a flint striker would be especially appealing, representing a reliable means of getting a fire going (provided one already has access to tinder and a good supply of wood). However, I can spot why Stroud might not like the flint striker: it would require a good strike from something like a knife, and in a survival situation, having a sharp knife can make the difference between a difficult situation, and something that can be managed.

  • As such, when the moment allows, Stroud will utilise unorthodox methods to get a fire going. In Baffin Island, Stroud uses the battery from his CB radio and some steel wool he’s found nearby. It turns out that touching the steel wool to the battery’s terminals will create a short circuit that ignites the steel wool, and this creates fire. Stroud refers to these as MacGyverisms, the practise of being creative and using whatever is on hand to achieve something. With this in mind, if and when I’m asked, having been a fan of Survivorman for the past decade, my top five survival items would be a hatchet or hand-axe, multitool, lengths of rope, a steel container for carrying water, and a flint striker.

  • Behind the comfort of a screen, it’s easy to appreciate the beauty of the locations Stroud visits in Survivorman, and it suddenly strikes me as to just how vast and barren the northernmost reaches of Canada are. For the Arctic Tundra episode, Survivorman makes use of very distinct incidental music that isn’t heard anywhere else in the series; the soundtrack to Survivorman is composed by Peter Cliche, Dan Colomby and Les Stroud himself, being an eclectic collection that captures the tenour of the locations that Stroud visits, combining modern outdoor sounds with local flaire. There are two albums with songs from all three seasons altogether.

  • Even while out in a survival situation for Survivorman, Stroud still takes the time to describe indigenous cultures and their means of survival. High in the Arctic Tundra, the indigenous peoples would create warm shelters out of whale bones and caribou hides: although people nowadays tend to congregate in population centers located in comparatively temperate environments (past a certain point, it’s too cold to reliably maintain infrastructure for sustaining larger populations), the fact that there are humans in virtually every corner of the globe, and that all of these populations have developed adaptations to not just survive, but thrive in their environments speaks to the level of ingenuity there is in people.

  • Until Survivorman and Sora no Woto, I’d never really been a fan of grey, overcast days. As Weathering With You‘s Hodaka says, people do feel most alive on sunny days, and feelings of joy appear to be amplified. Overcast days create a sense of gloominess that diminishes from one’s spirits. However, moodiness represents a chance to look inwards and reflect: Sora no Woto‘s fourth episode had been set under grey skies that later turn to rain to gives Kanata a chance to see Seize on a quieter day, and do some introspection on why her bugling skills seem to have stagnated.

  • During the summer a decade earlier, I recall how May and June had been predominantly overcast, but then by July and August, the days became sunny. As July began turning into August, I’d been more or less ready for the MCAT itself, having spent long days reviewing materials and doing practise exams. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would wake up early and go to campus to lift weights, while my MCAT preparation courses were on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Throughout most of the week, then, I spent mornings on campus either doing my course, or studying, before returning home for the afternoon for more revisions.

  • However, as July drew to a close, and I wrote the last of the full-length exams that was bundled with my course, I began to roll back the level of intensity; in the last two weeks leading up to the MCAT, I only studied in the mornings and took the afternoons easy. In the last few days before the exam itself, I stopped studying outright. This was so I wouldn’t suddenly come across a concept and then panic. The approach I took towards the MCAT was inspired by Survivorman, where Stroud does things in a methodical and deliberate manner. Here, his camera lens is covered with raindrops, and he remarks in Director’s Commentary that this was so viewers could really feel they were being rained on.

  • About halfway through the Arctic Tundra episode, Stroud packs up his gear and moves to a different site. Here, he fashions a new shelter out of some oil drums and uses his canoe as a roof. Being able to take advantage of stuff in the environment is of a great help: earlier episodes saw Stroud building his own shelters from tree boughs and whatnot, and while this was important, it’s also extremely time consuming to find all of the materials and assemble it into a shelter that can somewhat keep out the elements. Stroud himself would comment on how even a single piece of tarp can make all the difference in a survival situation, saving him an entire afternoon’s worth of work to waterproof a shelter.

  • After putting a sturdier shelter together to keep him out of the wind, Stroud proceeds to build a bird trap using the remaining bits of whale blubber he’s got. The idea behind these traps is that they work even when one isn’t, making them a nice way to potentially get food without expending too much energy besides setting the traps up. While at first glance, these details are far removed from things like studying for the MCAT (or tackling a particularly challenging development problem), but when abstracted out, Stroud’s approach corresponds to doing the low-effort-high-payoff stuff first. This approach is identical to how I would take on the MCAT itself (do the questions that I’m most comfortable doing first, especially if they’re worth more).

  • In Director’s Commentary, Stroud mentions that the Arctic Tundra episode is a personal favourite of his, but his editors also enjoyed editing this episode immensely because the grey clouds of the north created a sort of gloominess that other settings couldn’t. The weather seen in Baffin Island is reminiscent of the weather in Calgary from April through June: these are our rainiest seasons of the year, and while I wasn’t fond of such days previously, Survivorman contributed to my coming around: cloudy and rainy days are perfect for feeling a little sullen, of slowing down and appreciating the warmth of one’s home.

  • Stroud’s low point in this episode comes after another failed effort to fish: between the lack of food and grim weather, Stroud slowly walks away from the camera, and his senior editor, Barry Farrell, enjoyed using this moment to really convey to viewers how defeated Stroud must’ve felt here. He crouches down in front of the camera and remarks that even one day can mean the difference between life and death to accentuate the gravity of this situation. In what I found to be one of the cleverest bits of editing, Stroud does a voice-over on how timing is everything, cutting to him standing at the water’s edge with a fishing line in the water.

  • Armed with a fishing tackle, Stroud’s fortunes change entirely: he catches not one, but four large Arctic Char. It speaks to the brilliance of Survivorman that the elation Stroud feels here is so tangible that viewers cannot help but feel as happy as he does, and right out of the gates, Stroud states the importance of having a fishing tackle as a part of one’s survival kit. One thing that’s always bugged me about this scene was how Stroud says that he seems to have lost his fishing line after catching a particularly large fish, but since Stroud seemed quite unconcerned with things and makes no mention of actually losing the line itself in Director’s Commentary, I’ll assume that it was briefly lost on the beach.

  • In a curious coincidence, the Arctic Char that Stroud catches are caught in order of increasing size. Stroud immediately sets about preparing his prizes for consumption, removing the entrails and separating all of the different parts of the fish out. It is this specific scene in Survivorman that opened my mind to watching anime like Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Slow Loop, both of which feature fishing and preparation of freshly-caught fish prominently. However, they key difference here is that in anime, the characters have home field advantage and therefore can access the gear they need to be successful, whereas Stroud is playing the away game.

  • In spite of this, I was impressed with the finesse Stroud prepares the fish with. He cuts the fish at an angle so the slices fall away from one another, allowing them to air out. Stroud notes, both in the episode itself and in Director’s Commentary, that this is a traditional method of preserving fish. The end result is that the fish ends up looking like strips of watermelon, and Stroud immediately digs in, commenting on how this is the freshest sushi he’s ever eaten. The Director’s Commentary reveals that his crew were camped out a few kilometres away from him, and while Stroud is enjoying fresh fish, the crew was eating canned soup.

  • Different camera placements capture the sense that Stroud is really alone on his adventures; some of the survival shows that came out after Survivorman are actually shot with full crews, and on some occasions, the stars of the show even return back to civilisation as the day draws to a close. Conversely, by continuously reiterating that Stroud has nothing beyond himself, his camera and whatever the land has to offer, Survivorman is a true show of what survival entails. In later years, serious bushmen and outdoorspeople have risen up to the occasion and put on shows that rival Les Stroud’s in terms of quality and helpfulness, but for me, Survivorman remains iconic, a trailblazer.

  • Watching Stroud enjoy freshly-caught Arctic Char raw, and then the safe consumption of raw fish in Houkago Teibou Nishi and even Yuru Camp△ would ultimately convince me to give nigiri a go: I’ve long been apprehensive about raw fish dishes of any sort, and during my vacation in Japan, when a hotel served us sashimi, I clandestinely dunked my fish in the nabe, cooking it instantly and rendering it in a state I was much more comfortable eating. As it turns out, raw fish intended for consumption is frozen, which kills any parasites in the flesh, and when properly prepared, it is reasonably safe to eat.

  • Nowadays, I’m perfectly happy with eating things like raw fish in moderation: when raw, salmon and tuna are surprisingly tasty, although nothing quite beats a piece of fried cod or steamed Tilapia topped with soy sauce, ginger and spring onion. One other side effect of watching Survivorman was that I became open to eating offal: in a survival situation, Stroud utilises every part of an animal, including the liver and the heart. As a result of seeing this, I became open to eating things like turkey liver and blood tofu. Here, Stroud enjoys the fish roe, which is a delicacy and which I know best as a part of sushi and, in Cantonese cuisine, can be added to fried rice or siu mai.

  • Amidst the preparations, Stroud mentions that all of the fish blood smell might attract polar bears. It suddenly strikes me that the rifle he’d been carrying earlier is nowhere to be seen, and I imagine that it’s probably stashed away at the campsite. After finishing preparation of the fish, Stroud notes that with the intestines and other entrails, he might be able to add to his bird trap and see if he can’t get a few seagulls to increase his food stockpiles. In Director’s Commentary, Stroud appends that it’s always important to keep looking forward, and just because things are good now doesn’t mean one can’t take advantage of things to better things further. This is another one of those nuances that applies to real life.

  • I smiled upon hearing Stroud say that a good guide should be able to get a fire going even somewhere that’s seen nonstop rain for the past three days. A determined bushman will be able to find or make dry tinder anywhere and make things work; this is what speaks to being a good guide. I remain skeptical that a master guide could simply summon wine and chocolates as readily, but the comment adds a bit of humour to things and acts as a reminder that the situation has shifted enough for Stroud to be cracking jokes. Something similar happened in the Colorado Rockies; after a fishing trip, Stroud says he didn’t catch a single fish.

  • Instead, he’s caught two; being able to apply humour in a difficult situation helps to lighten the mood up and gives the mind a chance to regroup. After the wood’s prepared, a bit of steel wool and a battery is all that’s needed to light the fire. In other episodes, Stroud has used duct tape as a fire-starter, validating the MythBusters‘ episode where they had shown that duct tape is actually a viable fire starter (on top of being useful in many other functions). In other episodes, Stroud has used corn chips and chapstick to start and hold a flame (which is unsurprising, since corn chips are basically oil and hydrocarbons, and chapstick is basically wax). Having a fire at this location proves to be a massive morale booster, giving warmth in a place of nonstop wind and cold.

  • Stroud ends up cooking his Arctic Char over an open flame, and this moment had gotten me curious about what Arctic Char tastes like. Despite looking a little like salmon, Arctic Char is a bit more oily and has a more intense flavour compared to salmon – it is supposed to be more trout-like in terms of texture and taste. Despite being considered more sustainable than salmon, Arctic Char is not widely farmed, and as a menu item on restaurants, it tends to be pricier, being found at higher-end places.

  • The Baffin Island episodes marks one of the few times where Stroud’s so thoroughly enjoying the moment that he addresses his editor, making a joke about how later, once he’s back home and they’re working on editing all of the cuts into an episode, his editor, Barry Farrell, will doubtlessly begin feeling a little hungry at the sight of watching Stroud enjoying fresh-cooked Arctic Char. Director’s Commentary never clarifies whether or not Stroud and his team shared a laugh at this moment, but I would imagine that Farrell probably smiled at this moment.

  • Towards the end of the episode, a persistent rainfall rolls into the Pond Inlet area, preventing Stroud from doing too much beyond sitting in his shelter and enjoying his fish. The aesthetics of this moment reminds me of when I’d been in Rennes, France, after the Laval Virtual Conference had ended; I’d picked up a bug and was not feeling well, so I spent my day in Rennes at the hotel, trying to rest up. A fierce rainstorm was raging outside, and in moments where I had the strength to do so, I was reading through a novel I’d brought. I was lucky in that my stomach bug had subsided long enough for me to make the flight back home, although it was another few days before I healed up completely.

  • Memories of watching rain for large drops against the hotel window linger in my memory, and even now, whenever it gets rainy, my mind wanders back to the March of several years earlier, as well as Stroud’s Baffin Island experience. June this year was especially rainy, and as I worked from my home office, I occasionally turned to face the window and enjoy the sound of rain pattering against my window. We’re now entering the August long weekend, and like the two previous years, we’ve got a heat warning in place, with the temperatures hovering above 30ºC until Tuesday.

  • When the rain lessens up, Stroud heads out into the fields behind his camp to forage for wild edibles and other plants. With the energy from the Arctic Char, Stroud is able to wander around and explore for different things, including a sort of tuber that is quite nutritious. Throughout this episode, Stroud says that timing is vital, as being in a certain place at a certain time can mean the difference between having a Smörgåsbord of things to eat, and being stuck in a desolate landscape. This timing influences when Stroud chooses to go out onto the land for a survival excursion, and while Stroud is widely respected amidst the community, he does have his share of detractors.

  • Stroud always has a fair and reasoned answer for his detractors, explaining that there are certain constraints and limitations he works within. Director’s Commentary really brings these topics into the open, and in fact, when Stroud began doing Director’s Commentary for his Survivorman: Bigfoot series, he explains his mindset behind how he approaches the pseudoscientific field of cryptozoology – although my own scientific background makes me a skeptic by default, Stroud makes a very valid point about how it’s so important to keep an open mind even for this sort of stuff because some of the people who recount these stories are experts in their own right.

  • To dismiss them as delusional, or lying, is then unfair, and at the minimum, one should hear the story through and try to understand what happened. This mode of thinking opened my mind to the idea of Sasquatch, and since watching the Klemtu episode back in September 2020, I’ve also become more open-minded towards the History Channel’s Ancient AliensSecrets of Skinwalker Ranch and the like. While it’s not hard science like NOVA or Nature, there’s a fun about these shows that make their topics worth considering. If and when I’m asked, I would say that while I am skeptical of things like UFOs or Sasquatch, I do not deny that there is a possibility such things do exist, especially considering how large the universe is.

  • Director’s Commentary opened me up to things that I would’ve otherwise not experienced, and this is why Survivorman is something I respect so deeply – even today, Les Stroud always finds a way to impress with his content, and ever since subscribing to his YouTube channel, I’ve broadened my horizons considerably. The global health crisis changed the way I consume media: before the pandemic, I was subscribed to no YouTube channels and only ever watched music channels. Amidst the pandemic, I ended up following a variety of channels, including MeatEater, Binging With Babbish and Rick Steves’ Europe.

  • As the rain continues, Stroud decides to make a qulliq, a traditional Inuit oil lamp that provides long-lasting light during the darkest months of the year. This bushcraft was a reminder of how once the basics are taken care of, the mind is free to focus on other pursuits. Inclement weather subsequently shuts down the episode, forcing Stroud to end things earlier. With the end of this episode, Survivorman concludes one of the most memorable survival experiences, and for me, my reminiscence on the MCAT very nearly is about to draw to a close: I have one more Survivorman related discussion for covering my own recollections of exam day itself.

  • I’ll save those recollections for that post proper, apologise to readers who were doubtlessly hoping for posts about anime, and note that folks will only have to suffer through one more MCAT-related post for the remainder of this blog’s existence. The reason behind why I embarked on a trip down memory lane was because there were learnings from that period of my life that still impact the way I do things now, and I find that it’s important to do a little introspection and reflection every so often. Understanding old experiences and being mindful of how we did things before allows one to keep doing what works, and avoid doing what doesn’t. In the meantime, I’ve got a surprise post for a movie and Among Trees scheduled for early August. Here, I will also note that I’m hosting Jon’s Creative Showcase, aka #TheJCS, for August. I’m not too sure if anyone was hosting it in July, but I do look forwards to seeing what submissions will be available this time around.

For me, the Arctic Tundra episode became a quick favourite for this reason – Stroud speaks to the importance of proactive survival, keeping an eye out for anything that can be helpful and always looking for ways to better one’s situation, all of which are traits that proved instrumental for the me of a decade earlier: at this point in the summer, less than two weeks had remained between myself and the MCAT. Despite having spent nearly two full months in the MCAT preparation course, and despite having done several full-length practise exams, I remained quite nervous about the actual exam itself – in my final week of the preparation course, I was swinging between wanting the exam to come as soon as possible so I could write it, and wishing I had another month of preparation time. As a part of my preparation course’s offerings, I had one full-length exam left to me at this time, and I decided to write it with two weeks left, just to gauge how I might do. I thus spent a sunny Saturday indoors doing this exam under simulated conditions. Six hours later, I finished the exam, and to my great surprise, I scored a 33 (551 in today’s terms). It suddenly dawned on me that the preparations had been fruitful after all: my practise scores had trended upwards, and I thus left for a family dinner that evening more relaxed than I’d been all summer. In the days leading up to the MCAT, I did practise sections and found that for physical and biological sciences, I was scoring 11-12 (128-129), while the verbal reasoning was giving me 9-11 (126-128). The shift in momentum was brought on by this one moment, and I immediately found myself relating to Les Stroud’s Arctic Tundra experience – entering Baffin Island, Stroud had already possessed a considerable set of survival skills, and with the right bit of luck, a difficult situation turned into a manageable one. For me, the realisation I was probably more ready than I felt provided a similarly significant psychological booster: I had all of the knowledge and skills needed to face down the exam, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. Having this confidence proved to be the final piece of the puzzle I needed, and as the final two weeks to the MCAT approached, I spent the remainder of my days doing revisions and drills in the morning, before taking the afternoons easy by blogging, or playing Team Fortress 2 and MicroVolts. The end results speak for themselves, and my experiences with the MCAT would later impact how I faced my undergraduate thesis defense, graduate project and the transition from university into industry: falling back on existing knowledge and doing my best even when facing down a problem of unknown scope has allowed me to consistently work out solutions to problems. While Les Stroud’s Survivorman may deal with bushcraft and survival, the mental aspects of survival, such as the will to live and maintaining a positive outlook in the face of adversity.

Yuru Camp△ Virtual: Visiting A Thousand-Dollar View of Mount Fuji with Rin, Camping the Friendly Fields of Fumoto with Nadeshiko and Discussing Expectations on the Eve of The Yuru Camp△ Movie on Canada Day

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Alexander McCandless

Although Steam’s page indicates that one requires at least an i5-4590 and a GTX 1060 in conjunction with a HTC Vive or Valve Index to comfortably run Yuru Camp△ Virtual‘s two instalments, Lake Motosu and Fumoto Campsite, one can actually do so without a high-end desktop; despite the game being classified as a part of Oculus Labs, Yuru Camp△ Virtual runs flawlessly on the original Oculus Quest, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. Both titles together are quite pricy, costing a total of 50 CAD on Oculus Quest, but in exchange, one is able to fully immerse themselves in a virtual Yuru Camp△ environment. Gemdrops have fully recreated the first two campsites in Yuru Camp△ in this VR project: Lake Motosu has players see the experience from a more experienced Nadeshiko’s perspective, while Fumoto Campsite puts players in Rin’s shoes after she’s become more receptive towards group camping. Both experiences are quite short and possess the same technical sophistication as the UX in prototype for my Unity visualisation of microtubule dynamics (while the model itself was quite complex, being an agent-based simulation of tubule assembly and disassembly, one could only move around and interact with a limited set of items in a scripted manner). However, what Yuru Camp△ Virtual excels in is recreating the atmospherics of the anime: Nao Tōyama and Yumiri Hanamori return to voice Rin Shima and Nadeshiko Kagamihama, respectively. Moreover, in the SMS segments, Chiaki Ōgaki, Aoi Inuyama and Ena Saitō’s voice actresses all reprise their roles. Together with an art style that is consistent with the anime, and Akio Ōtsuka providing narration, Yuru Camp△ Virtual provides a chance for players to fully immerse themselves in now-iconic camping experiences with Rin at Lake Motosu, and Nadeshiko at Fumoto Campsite. Both experiences take place over the course of a day, and after sharing conversations (and occasionally, hot drinks), Nadeshiko will prepare a scrumptious dinner. Rin and Nadeshiko will continue enjoying the night together under the stars before retiring for the evening, and the next morning, prepare to head back home. Although lacking the interactivity of more sophisticated titles and possessing a very steep price point, Yuru Camp△ Virtual represents one more way for fans of the series to enjoy things. In fact, one could say it is the perfect way for us overseas fans to experience things before Yuru Camp△ Movie‘s theatrical première in Japan today – unlike the film, which will likely have a seven to eleven month delay before the home release becomes available, Yuru Camp△ Virtual is available for immediate purchase: Lake Motosu was published in March 2021, and Fumoto Campsite released a month later, in April 2021.

At present, only a handful of details have been published regarding the Yuru Camp△ Movie: some time has passed since everyone had met in high school. Rin works at a publishing company as an editor, and one day, she’s surprised to receive a message from Chiaki, who ended up joining Yamanashi’s tourism board. Chiaki is in charge of a new project to reopen a site that had closed some years previously, and Rin’s mind immediately flits towards camping. At this time, Nadeshiko’s taken up a job with a camping goods store in Tokyo, while Aoi’s become an elementary school instructor, and Ena is a pet groomer who works out of Yokohama. When they receive news of Chiaki’s project, together with Rin, they embark on an ambitious project to see Yamanashi’s latest project succeed. From organising meetings and planning out the logistics, to getting their hands dirty and working on preparing the site, the girls are reminded of their camping experiences together back when they were high school students. From this premise, the Yuru Camp△ Movie gives every indicator that it is going to be a moving, and touching story of both progress and reminiscence; the decision to do a large-scale project that allows everyone to bring their own unique skills, and their shared enthusiasm to the table in a way that had hitherto been unseen, represents a very large step forwards for Yuru Camp△. Until now, the story had focused purely on seeing the girls plan out and enjoy their travels, all the way adapting to things and making most of whatever unexpected event occurs on their trips. However, to now see everyone reunite, and moreover, apply their skill set towards a task that will help their home out in a meaningful way allows Yuru Camp△ to tread new grounds. Naoko Yamada had previously spoken about the challenges associated with bringing anime series to the silver screen – through Yui, Yamada felt that what a movie must accomplish is using its runtime to convey a greater sense of scale. K-On! The Movie had succeeded by framing the London trip as a chance to make everyone’s appreciation for everything Azusa had done for the light music club tangible. The Yuru Camp△ Movie appears to suggest that no matter what adversity one might face, facing it together, through a combination of passion and of experience, is what allows one to rise above their problems, and in doing so, one will gain both new memories worth treasuring, as well as further experience for whatever may lie ahead.

Additional Remarks and Commentary

  • I still vividly recall writing about anticipation for the Yuru Camp△ Movie a year ago: back then, we’d only known that there would be a movie, but beyond this, details were scarce. In the time that has passed, we now know that the Yuru Camp△ Movie is going to have a two hour runtime, and that it is set after high school. Given that Rin and the others are working now, it’s fair to say that everyone’s probably graduated from post-secondary, as well. The change of timeframe means that the Yuru Camp△ Movie opens things up to hitherto unexplored territory.

  • The decision to set the movie a few years after the original manga gives the story nearly unlimited potential, and this is what makes the Yuru Camp△ Movie so exciting: the film could take any number of ways to show viewers how Chiaki will, together with Nadeshiko, Rin, Aoi and Ena, solve the problem of repurposing previously unused land into a campsite for Yamanashi. Because of Yuru Camp△‘s commitment to reality, one cannot help but wonder if there was a real-world inspiration for this story; it is possible that a real-world location might have precisely undergone this route, although such an undertaking would likely involve a committee, on top of city planners, engineers and other members of the community.

  • For me, the biggest piece I look forwards to seeing in the Yuru Camp△ Movie is seeing how everyone’s skills come together in order to get things done. From the premise alone, it is plain that we have a multidisciplinary bunch, and one thing that anime is fond of showing is how it takes a combination of skills to overcome great challenges. Series like Koisuru Asteroid, ShirobakoSakura Quest and The Aquatope on White Sand all had characters with different backgrounds collaborating to achieve goals that were seemingly unattainable. Some fans are not fond of these approaches and are quick to deride the series, but like my undergraduate faculty, writers have spotted the importance of having diversity in skills.

  • This is something that I am constantly reminded of; when I began my current position a year ago, I entered with the expectation that there’d be a chance to learn different technologies, and in the present, the one skill I am glad to have begun cultivating is Android development. While I’m, in the words of the internet, an Apple fanboi through and through, working with Android has given me an appreciation of how Google’s paradigms towards mobile developers result in some choices that are more intuitive. Of course, there are many areas where Apple excels, and while Android development is far tougher than any equivalent in iOS, working with Android gives me a better understanding of how apps are built, and more confidence in dealing with things like fragments and activities.

  • I jokingly remark that working with Android also gives me legitimacy when I say iOS development is superior in every way. However, the reality is that having familiarity with Android means that I’m better equipped to work on existing apps, whether it’s sorting out bugs or developing new features, allowing my mobile skillset to reach out beyond just iOS. In the Yuru Camp△ Movie, seeing all of the characters as adults means being able to see this sort of growth – I’m not expecting Nadeshiko to be a competent mobile developer at the film’s end, but one of the aspects in the film worth keeping an eye on is seeing how everyone begins to take learnings from their experiences and bring it back into their own careers.

  • With this being said, what Yuru Camp△ excels in most is its ability to combine an educational component alongside character growth: the TV series had felt like a hybrid between Les Stroud’s SurvivormanMan v. FoodRick Steves’ Europe and even Jamie Oliver’s cooking shows, teaching both bushcraft and cooking alongside showcasing some of Japan’s most scenic campsites and attractions. As such, the Yuru Camp△ Movie is also likely to deliver some of this. Because the premise has everyone working on a larger project together, one possibility is that we could see some flashbacks as the characters reminisce on past experiences and draw upon learnings that are applicable to the present.

  • Alternatively, in order to draw inspiration for a particularly tough challenge, Rin may have a chance to go camping alongside Nadeshiko, Chikai, Aoi and Ena again – I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn and get out of a rut is to experience something from the end user’s perspective. Seeing things from end-to-end give insight into the bigger picture, and this will, in turn, guide one’s decisions in how they want to fit one piece of a solution into the entire process. As I continue to work in software, I continue to see parallels between my work, and the sorts of methods for troubleshooting in other occupations.

  • While the media may present technology and software occupations, especially mobile development, data processing and AI, as a Silicon Valley-like occupation, the reality is that the soft skills in these disciplines are actually not too different than those of finance, engineering, trades and the like; at the end of the day, working is about generating value by solving problems. I’m therefore curious to see Yuru Camp△‘s portrayal of this; the TV series had shown how a bit of creative thinking and willingness to reach out to others for help is the key to averting crisis, so seeing an extension of this in the Yuru Camp△ Movie feels logical.

  • While I’ve given my thoughts on what I’m hoping the Yuru Camp△ Movie will deal with, the reality is that I’ve got naught more than the premise and a trailer to go off of. Having said this, the Wikipedia article is surprisingly detailed, and the only editor of the article apparently already translated the entire soundtrack’s tracklist into English. I’d ordinarily doubt the authenticity of this, but my own experiences have found that someone with a basic knowledge of Japanese and access to Google Translate can now produce reasonably accurate translations without too much effort.

  • The Yuru Camp△ Movie soundtrack released on June 29, along with the opening and ending songs, and this dulls the pain surrounding the wait for this movie somewhat. Having said this, knowing Yuru Camp△‘s thematic elements, I can rest assured knowing that no problem will be insurmountable, and that throughout the film, viewers will be treated to Nadeshiko’s warm smiles. The eagle-eyed reader will have doubtlessly noticed that everyone’s rocking shorter hair now: shorter hair is easier to care for and dries much more quickly, being an essential when one’s life is so busy.

  • Now, I change the programme out and switch over to screenshots from Yuru Camp△ Virtual – I picked this up last year to experience Yuru Camp△ on my Oculus Quest headset, and while the interactivity is about as limited as what I’d implemented into my agent-based model of microtubule assembly and disassembly (the model itself had been a term project I finished two weeks into the semester), the game itself fully captures the atmosphere of camping with Rin and Nadeshiko. Gameplay is comprised of looking around at things in the environment, which trigger a dialogue that offers insight into the characters.

  • The Oculus Quest captures images in 1440 by 1440, so screenshots are square. However, the sharpness leaves much to be desired, and the built-in mechanism by which screenshots are captured is cumbersome. In something like SUPERHOT VR, it means I’ve found it quite difficult to take good pictures – there’s a bit of a delay, so I can’t just capture a moment. On the other hand, in Yuru Camp△ Virtual, the laid-back pacing means I’m free to push the screenshot button and casually wait for an image to be taken.

  • Some events will change out the context and character models: it is possible to make a hot drink for Rin on the shores of Lake Motosu and obtain new dialogue, for instance. Once one has exhausted all of the interactive event in their environment, the next chapter can be reached simply by looking at an object that brings up a clock icon. Yuru Camp△ Virtual will ask players if they want to move ahead. This is about it for the gameplay, but my favourite feature of Yuru Camp△ Virtual is the ability to disable all of the event prompts, which allows one to chill.

  • Both Lake Motosu and Fumoto Campsite feature a cooking segment: narrated by Akio Ōtsuka, they give insight as to how that particular evening’s dinner is prepared. With Rin, Nadeshiko whips up a delicious curry that looks absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, the world’s most sophisticated virtual reality technology has not yet figured out the art of simulating taste – there is no way to taste what Rin’s eating. On the flipside, since Yuru Camp△ Virtual does provide one with the recipe, an inquisitive player could simply copy down the recipe and try things out for themselves.

  • In the morning, Rin thanks Nadeshiko for having joined her on this camping trip. The events of Yuru Camp△ Virtual are set after the second season’s events; by this point in time, the characters’ interactions convey a sense of closeness, and while everyone’s still rocking winter clothing, there’s a hint that winter is drawing to a close in the environments. I’d be interested in seeing whether or not Yuru Camp△ ventures into the summer for camping – this would represent a dramatic departure from what the series is known for, but the summer also has its advantages. For one, one would get to see Yamanashi and its surroundings with verdant vegetation and deep blue skies.

  • Fumoto Campsite is Yuru Camp△ Virtual from Rin’s perspective, and plays identically to Lake Motosu. The scenery here is similar to that of Morley Flats, about 20 minutes east of Canmore. On Canada Day most years, the family tradition has been to go over to Banff and enjoy a day in the mountains, since National Park fees are waived on Canada Day. However, this also results in congestion of a level that one doesn’t see, so this year, the plan is to head over to Drumheller and do a walking tour of the Atlas Coal Mine.

  • The weather today looks solid, so I’m hoping that things hold out for the remainder of the day. However, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”; last year, temperatures on Canada Day topped out at 36ºC, and having taken my second dose, I was feeling a little under the weather, so I spent the whole of the day resting in the cool of home. At the time, I thought that my lethargy was caused by the high temperatures, but back in February, after picking up the third vaccine and becoming so bushed I slept a full half-day, I conclude that the exhaustion I experienced last year was probably a consequence of the vaccine.

  • We’re actually set to start the drive in an hour, so my goal now is to finish off this post and then hit the open road. Back in Yuru Camp△ Virtual, Nadeshiko enjoys cabbage rolls with Rin – like Lake MotosuFumoto Campsite has Nadeshiko cooking for Rin, and the resulting dinner is so delicious that Rin makes room for seconds, as well as promising to one day make something for Nadeshiko as thanks. Once dinner is done, Nadeshiko and Rin enjoy the beautiful evening weather before turning in.

  • Motosu Campsite is set in a more traditional camping location, and I found myself getting immersed with watching the night skies. By morning, it’s time to take off, and for both instalments, Rin and Nadeshiko are standing up. I played through Yuru Camp△ Virtual sitting down, so to keep consistent with things, I stood up for both games’ final act. It was a little surprising to see how small the character models for Rin and Nadeshiko are – I’m of average height, but I tower over Rin and Nadeshiko anyways.

  • In this post, I’ve briefly discussed my expectations for the Yuru Camp△ Movie and finally share some screenshots from Yuru Camp△ Virtual. I do hope to have the chance to write about the former at some point in the future once it comes out, and in the meantime, it’s time for me to enjoy the fantastic summer weather on this Canada Day, as well. I’ll return tomorrow to write about Tari Tari and my thoughts of the first episode since it aired ten years ago, as well as share some photos of my travels; regular programming resumes on Monday as I delve into the first of the summer anime. Luminous Witches has my eye at present, and I am rather looking forwards to writing about this one.

In this way, the Yuru Camp△ Movie may represent unexplored ground for the series, but the series’ impressive execution (a consequence of being able to successfully present meaningful lessons, accentuate the beauty in the outdoors, showcase Japan’s travel spots and generally create a sense of catharsis) has resulted in Yuru Camp△ being immensely successful, both in Japan and internationally. Very few slice-of-life series gain such universal acclaim, and as a TV series, it did feel as though Yuru Camp△ had already succeeded so wholly that there isn’t much in the way of new direction to explore. However, the second season of Yuru Camp△ ends with volume nine, and the manga is still ongoing. At first glance, it would be logical for a movie to continue covering the manga’s events, which follows Rin and the others on new camping adventures as winter turns to spring. A summer camping trip with everyone, including Ayano, would have been the logical, showing how Rin’s experiences with everyone opens her to experience camping during a time she previously avoided. However, such a story is more befitting of a third season. In choosing to go with all-new material, the Yuru Camp△ Movie is truly stepping up its game to, in Naoko Yamada’s words, fill the scale and expectation that accompanies the silver screen. Yuru Camp△‘s reputation means that expectations for this film are going to be high, but with two seasons of anime, a short anime series, two seasons worth of live-action dramas, a visual novel and a pair of virtual reality games setting the precedence for what’s possible, it is reasonable to suppose that viewers’ expectations for the Yuru Camp△ Movie will be exceeded: it goes without saying that viewers in Japan and abroad alike will greatly be looking forwards to this film, although for those of us internationally, the wait to see the Yuru Camp△ Movie will likely correspond with when the BDs become released. To ease the agony of this wait, I’ll likely spend more time admiring the sunset on the shores of Lake Motosu, or sharing another conversation with Nadeshiko in the middle of Fumoto’s seemingly-endless grass plains.

Travelling Shimarin: Yuru Camp△ 2 OVA 2 and The Official Guidebook Yagai Katsudo Kiroku Volume 2 Review and Reflection

“Exceeding expectations is where satisfaction ends and loyalty begins.” –Ron Kaufman

In the near future, a manned Mars lander enters the planet’s atmosphere and prepares for a historical achievement. However, as the lander approaches the surface, its camera array picks up something surprising: the profile of a young girl camped out on the surface, nonchalantly grilling meat. Mission control identifies this as Shimarin, and are shocked beyond words that mankind’s next giant step has been beaten out by the solar system’s greatest camper. At least, this is what Ena imagines Rin’s camping will take her; it turns out that as the night sets in on their latest camping trip, the Outdoor Activities Club and Rin are swapping stories about the sorts of adventures Rin might have once she gets her advance license. Once Hokkaido opens up to Rin, Nadeshiko suggests that Rin will be able to have all sorts of delicious food from Hokkaido, while Chiaki imagines Rin as being an aruki-henro rocking the Shikoku Pilgrimage on her trusty Vino 50. Meanwhile, Aoi supposes Rin would be able to push herself further during the winter to enjoy the warmth of various onsen. However, Rin feels that these adventures are a bit outlandish and unlikely to be within the realm of her usual travels This is the second of the Yuru Camp 2 OVAs accompanying the third and final Blu-Ray volume, being a gentle fireside conversation about camping that was probably set during the second night of Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club to the Izu Peninsula. Unlike the previous OVA, the second Yuru Camp 2 OVA is gentler in nature and lacks the mean-spirited cut of Nadeshiko camping at a work camp; a chat around the campfire about camping is the best way to wrap up what will be the last bit of Yuru Camp△ viewers see prior to 2022’s Yuru Camp: The Movie.

The contents of Yuru Camp 2‘s OVAs both stem from the manga’s Heya Camp△ segments; this time around, elements were drawn from segment 33 in volume five, and segment 65 in volume eight. The adaptation of content from Heya Camp△ for OVAs demonstrates how much material there is within Yuru Camp△: unlike the regular manga’s story, which is grounded in reality, the Heya Camp△ segments are fanciful, imaginative and creative, presenting a more comedic and exaggerated side of camping that otherwise wouldn’t fit into the regular story. The end result is a fantastic means of allowing the series to poke fun at itself and also remind viewers that at the end of the day, Yuru Camp△ is about having fun. Further to this, the second and final OVA to Yuru Camp 2 also hints at what is upcoming for the series; by choosing to portray Rin in a variety of different camping trips quite unlike anything that we’d seen previously, the OVA is hinting at the fact that Yuru Camp: The Movie will be doing something bigger and bolder than before. This isn’t too surprising, as anime films have typically taken concepts from their original run and then expanded it such that the scope matches what one expects from a silver screen feature presentation. Given that Yuru Camp△ has continued to expand the scale of Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s adventures, one can reasonably surmise that the camping trip within the movie will be both further away and features more people than anything the series had shown until now. This prospect is most exciting, and while it probably won’t see the girls reach Mars ahead of NASA or CNSA, I am rather curious to see what destinations and experiences await this group of friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As it is right now, the United States and China possess the greatest likelihood, technology and scientific know-how to run a successful manned Mars mission: such an undertaking has been given serious thought since the 1950s, and the subject of no small discussion in academic circles and fictional works alike. The second Yuru Camp 2 OVA parodies this by giving Rin the ultimate advantage: a manned Mars mission is estimated to cost five hundred billion US dollars, so, seeing Yuru Camp△’s most proficient camper can trivially accomplish something that the world’s brightest and best minds were so close to reaching, drives the humour in this first scene.

  • The scientists running the mission are reduced to incoherent puddles, and I imagine that it would be a considerable shock to see five hundred billion dollars and decades of effort be defeated by a girl’s power to desire grilled meat anywhere in the solar system. One detail I liked was how everyone is speaking broken Japanese during these scenes; the Yuru Camp manga has everyone speaking in English. Of course, such a feat is well outside the realm of possibility: Rin is wandering the surface of Mars without a pressure suit, but Mars’ atmosphere is two orders of magnitude thinner than Earth’s, lacks the oxygen content and can drop down to around -70ºC by nightfall, forcing the inevitable conclusion that this is a bit of fantasy.

  • Unsurprisingly, this turns out to have been a what-if scenario from Ena. The manga supposes that this is another one of Rin’s dreams, and it speaks to the strength of both Yuru Camp△’s anime and live-action drama that aspects of the manga are so cleverly written into a different context without breaking immersion. Besides the Yuru Camp OVAs, one moment from the manga’s Heya Camp segments was the idea that keeping everything packed makes it easier to clean up the next day, and the Outdoor Activities Club decide that they can pack up everything, even their tents, before the next morning, leaving them to sleep in the open air. The drama ended up bringing this to life for laughs.

  • Given the jackets that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club are wearing, coupled with the fact that Minami are accompanying them, I concluded that Yuru Camp 2‘s second OVA was set during the second night of the Izu trip. It doesn’t seem quite so outlandish to have everyone telling campfire stories before turning in for the evening, and par the course for Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club, their stories are all camping-related. This is what lends itself to the second OVA’s title, which had long hinted that the OVA’s contents would be related to Rin in some way.

  • The second Yuru Camp 2 OVA is nowhere near as fleshed-out as Heya Camp△’s Sauna, Meal and A Three-Wheeler OVA, which saw Rin do her weekend camping trip on a loaner Yamaha Tri-City motorbike. When I watched the first of the Yuru Camp 2 OVAs, I was a smidgen disappointed that it was only four minutes long and lacked the same level of content as did the Heya Camp OVA, but I subsequently recalled that the OVAs were largely adaptations of the manga’s omake content. As such, entering the second Yuru CampOVA, I tempered my expectations and anticipated a shorter, but still enjoyable segment.

  • This time around, Yuru Camp 2‘s second OVA exceeds expectations for being enjoyable to watch, and matching the remainder of the series in tone. The first OVA, Mystery Camp, was fun in its own right, but the middle vignette saw Nadeshiko go to a work camp. It was utterly heartbreaking and demoralising, and to the best of my knowledge, was a new story written specifically for the OVA. While funny in a twisted, cruel way, I did remark that doing something like that again would be a tough pill to swallow – I am therefore glad that Yuru Camp 2‘s second OVA is much more in keeping with the tenour as the rest of the series.

  • Nadeshiko’s ideal camping destination for Rin is Hokkaido: the northernmost island would be a fun place to ride, and they do have some of Japan’s best food: from top left going clockwise, Nadeshiko imagines Rin riding off to have kaisendon (a seafood bowl of white rice topped with sashimi, crab, prawn, squid and roe), baked potatoes topped with butter, yūbari melon, Genghis Khan (a grilled mutton dish) and corn off the cob. I certainly would like to go visit Hokkaido purely for their food alone, although the northernmost Japanese island is no slouch in attractions, either: Hakodate is supposed to be beautiful owing to its distinct night-scape, and Sapporo is famous for their ice sculptures.

  • Chikai’s vision of a travelling Shimarin entails Rin travelling to Shikoku for the 88-temple pilgrimage, decked out in the aruki-henro‘s garb. The aesthetic of Chiaki’s suggestion casts Rin as being similar to Kino of Kino’s Journey, wandering to different parts of Japan and gaining spiritual enlightenment as a result. While I’ve not seen the original Kino’s Journey, curiosity led me to give the 2017 anime a go. I was promptly impressed with the thematic aspects, and how much effort was paid into making each nation unique, noteworthy. Kino herself is well-suited for the journey, possessing exceptional sharpshooting skills to keep herself out of trouble, and despite her stoic mannerisms, is polite and open-minded.

  • Earlier today, my copy of the Yuru Campofficial TV guidebook arrived. I had pre-ordered it back in June when the listing was first created, and figured that to save a few bucks, I’d go with unregistered airmail, which was ten dollars less costly than the other options. Airmail takes an estimated five to twelve days, and since my copy of the guidebook came on day eleven, I’m very happy. After opening the package, I was impressed with the book’s heft: it’s a fully twenty-five percent larger than the first season’s guidebook while at the same time, costs only twenty percent more.

  • Most impressive was the fact that the guidebook details every location, both in and around Minobu, as well as the different campsites, restaurants and attractions for both Yuru Camp 2 and Heya Camp△. Besides locations, concept art of every dish is shown, and in conjunction with the cast interviews, the guidebook really demonstrates the level of effort that went into making the series. The guidebook’s extra materials come from the fact that Yuru Camp 2 has one more episode than Yuru Camp did, as well as the fact that it fully covers Heya Camp△, as well: the stamp card Nadeshiko completes is also included.

  • Altogether, the Official Guidebook Yagai Katsudo Kiroku Volume 2 is the ultimate resource for Yuru Camp fans, and I’m immensely glad to have picked it up when I did. I’ve heard rumours that an election is about to take place here in Canada, and with mail-in ballots being one of the primary options on account of the ongoing health crisis, it is suggested that Canada Post could slow down as they need to make additional deliveries, so the guidebook couldn’t have come at a better time.

  • I had been a little worried after the first OVA: the Dystopian Camp, as it is known, is really just a work camp, and puts Nadeshiko in a piteous situation. With this being said, the anime adaptation has nothing on the manga; during one of the omake comics in volume eight, Chikai and Aoi discuss how to keep the campsite clean, but then Nadeshiko interjects and states it’s fine to eat any waste they produce. The panel is horrifying to behold, and as it turns out, Chiaki had been having a nightmare.

  • Conversely, owing to Rin’s not-so-secret love of onsen, Aoi supposes that Rin would want to push her enjoyment of the hot springs to the limit by travelling in increasingly cold weather, only to hit the thermal waters immediately after. This is something I’d like to try, and since my area is blessed with bitterly cold winters, as well as geothermal hot springs an hour over, it would be possible for me to hop over to the Upper Hot Springs in Banff during the winter. I have considered doing an overnight stay during the winter, during which I would hit the hot springs early in the morning, then don a thick woolen sweater and then sip a hot cocoa on a café down Banff Avenue before returning to my lodgings and sit down to a warm, hearty dinner.

  • In Aoi’s mind’s eye, Rin even gets to bathe with the Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata), an Old World Monkey (differentiated from New World Monkey by the lack of a prehensile tail and arboreal preferences) found in Nagano. In reality, the Japanese Macaque were first seen bathing in open-air hot springs belonging to a hotel in 1963, so to give the monkeys a place of their own, Jigokudani Monkey Park was constructed. It is only in the imagination where one could bathe with the Japanese Macaque – hygienic factors preclude such an activity in reality, altough one cannot deny that Yuru Camp has a talent for visually portraying comfort through the characters’ fuzzy eyes.

  • While a winter hot springs trip to Banff would be fun, I suddenly realise that it would also be immensely relaxing to spend a few days at a ryōkan, especially one with private baths and an in-house kaiseki dinner. There is a draw about the aesthetic of peace and simplicity at a ryōkan that conventional accommodations do not offer, and being able to soak in my own private onsen while overlooking the mountains as Rin does here would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While ryōkan are no slouches in terms of price, I have been working for a while and could go on such a trip, so long as I plan for a trip where I’m not busy with work.

  • While I’m not keen on driving a moped though the snow as a part of said vacation on account of that being my everyday life for eight months of the year, I suppose that I should treat myself to a ryōkan experience at some point in the near future – for the past four years, I’ve not travelled out of country except for work (including business trips to Denver, Winnipeg, and attending F8 2019), and I’ve not taken any vacation time off for myself because I’ve been so focused on building stuff for start-ups. Since I was the only iOS developer around, it was always all-hands-on-deck, so it was difficult to get away. However, I am working with a larger company now, and since there are other developers, it would be possible for me to take some proper time off: since I now have five years of experience, I have three weeks of vacation time.

  • I can get by well enough with just the statuary holidays – I live to solve problems. However, I do appreciate that work-life balance is important, and from the other side of the coin, I also solve problems to live. Three weeks of vacation time (15 days off) is quite a lot, and I could go on a one-week trip to Japan for a ryōkan stay, and still have enough left over for a week off at the end of the year, plus five more days of time for things like other appointments. With this sort of timeframe, I’d definitely be able to give the ryōkan experience a go: I’d previously had a similar experience during my travels to Japan, during which I was served sukiyaki nabe and sashimi for dinner, before going for a soak in the hotel’s onsen.

  • Such a trip is something to look forwards to in the future, but for the shorter term, there’s also Yuru Camp: The Movie to look forwards to. With Aoi’s thoughts of winter onsen in the books, the second Yuru Camp 2 OVA draws to a tranquil close, being a warm and light-hearted way of wrapping up the second season. While Yuru Camp△ came with three OVAs, including a particularly enjoyable romp on a deserted tropical island, one cannot fault C-Station, since all of their present efforts are probably directed at the film.

  • With this final OVA and the second season’s official guidebook, I’ve had a very Yuru Camp△-focused year: I also ended up watching the live-action drama and bought both Yuru Camp Virtual experiences for my Oculus Quest. Having had a chance to try things out now, I conclude that the Oculus Quest is the best way to enjoy Yuru Camp Virtual. Unlike the mobile app for iOS and Android, the Oculus Quest is completely immersive, and unlike the HTC Vive, Valve Index or Oculus Rift, the Oculus Quest is unencumbered by wires, offering the most freedom of movement.

  • Now that I think about it, I’m been pretty picky about what I about what I buy for the Oculus Quest, and a full two years after picking up my complementary Oculus Quest from F8 2019, the only apps besides Yuru Camp Virtual I paid for are Wander and SUPERHOT VR. Although VR has improved dramatically since the days I put my virtual cell into the earliest Oculus Rifts, the technology is still quite limited, so I don’t spend too much time in VR. I’ll close off with the OVA’s final moments, which has Rin rocking her moped on the surface of Mars. In the near future, I have plans to write about Action Heroine Cheer Fruits, which I recently finished, along with some thoughts on Far Cry 5 following the free weekend, a special post on Kanata no Astra, and of course, a talk on The Aquatope on White Sands now that we’re six episodes into the series.

Besides the second Yuru Camp 2 OVA, I also recently picked up the official TV guidebook for the second season – the first TV guidebook had impressed with its thorough presentation of the behind-the-scenes in Yuru Camp△, featuring character design, concept art, cast interviews, location stills and never-seen-before artwork, as well as a summary of all the episodes and OVAs. The first season’s TV guidebook sold for 2500 Yen, and so, when I learnt that the second season’s TV guidebook would retail for 3000 Yen, the price increase suggested to me that this would feature more content: Yuru Camp 2 is bigger than its predecessor, after all. I therefore hastened to pre-order my copy – these guidebooks always offer phenomenal insight into series that online discussions alone do not provide, and while I made the choice of going with a slightly less expensive shipping option (which resulted in my copy taking a bit longer than usual to arrive), it becomes clear that the wait was well worth it. Yuru Camp 2‘s official TV guidebook is bigger and badder than its predecessor. With 160 pages over its predecessor’s 128, the second season’s guidebook showcases the new locations in hitherto unseen detail (in particular, having information about what went into the Izu Peninsula segment of Yuru Camp 2 was most illuminating). In addition, it also details the new equipment that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club utilise. To my pleasant surprise, the guidebook’s increased price tag means that Heya Camp△ is also presented, and with it, the locations that Nadeshiko visits with Chiaki and Aoi on her stamp rally, along with Rin’s experiences while she’s rocking the Yamaha Tri-City bike. The guidebook acts as a tangible copy of Yuru Camp 2, allowing me to catch details that I missed during my initial watch of the series, and reading through it, I am thoroughly impressed with the level of effort that went into Yuru Camp 2. There is no doubting that C-Station will continue to put on an impressive showing for Yuru Camp: The Movie – if Yuru Camp 2 was anything to go by, we viewers can reasonably expect to be blown away by the adventures that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club share.

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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