A review of Yuru Camp (S2)

I guess anyone following me on that cursed social platform Twitter or even just here on my site could have seen this post coming. This is actually a first for me, somehow, even after almost nine years of writing on the blog — I’ve never divided a review of an anime series into seasons like this. I wondered whether I’d even have enough to say about the second season of Yuru Camp that I hadn’t already said in my review of the first, but it turns out that Yuru Camp is a surprisingly deep well to pull from.

Or maybe that’s not so surprising. Because while Yuru Camp season 2 continues along with the central cast of girls going camping and sometimes getting into hard situations they have to dig themselves out from, it also shifts a little away from the camping advice aspect of the first season (which gave us plenty of such advice anyway, so that’s all right) and a little more towards character and relationship development. And once again, the obligatory spoiler warning, though there’s not really much plot to talk about in this season either. Might sound strange considering what I just wrote above, but you can have character development without plot development after all.

Even Outdoor Activity Club advisor Toba-sensei has a little character development, this time just getting drunk as opposed to totally wasted. It’s progress!

The second season of Yuru Camp starts more or less from where the first left off, following Rin, Nadeshiko, Ena, Aoi, and Chiaki just after their Christmas camping trip as they go back to their part-time jobs and prepare for their New Year celebrations. Of course, Rin gets some time to travel by herself, heading out on her moped to see the sights out on a scenic cape off the Pacific coast. In the meantime, the rest of the girls keep connected with her and make their own winter camping plans. While Ena, Aoi, and Chiaki head up to a mountain lake on their own, Nadeshiko thinks about following Rin’s lead and trying out a solo journey.

Nadeshiko, all excitement as usual.

Despite the relative challenges they face, the girls manage to get through their trips in one piece thanks to some help both from old and new friends. And as in the first season, the last third or so of this 13-episode run is dedicated to a group camping trip with the whole crew, driven by their teacher and advisor Miss Toba who as noted doesn’t get quite as drunk on the trip this time thanks to her extra responsibilities (and to her students actively taking the bottle from her hand and holding it away from her. Well, I know the feeling.)

I’m sober now, but even I have to admit that while a beautiful sunset is nice, a cup of sake enhances it a bit. There’s no point denying it.

Again, Yuru Camp is pretty thin on the plot and has no conflict aside from a little of the old “man vs. nature” we learned about in high school English class (or in this case “schoolgirls vs. nature”, but Rin is just as capable as any tough woodsman anyway.) But just as with the first season, this works to its benefit, because there’s just as much relaxation to be had in the second season thanks to this light slice-of-life approach.

However, there is that character development I mentioned above, and I think it’s an important part of what kept Yuru Camp fresh for me after 25 episodes. The season starts with Rin’s own backstory, when she started solo camping as a far less capable middle school student, getting advice and support from her mother, father, and most of all her outdoors expert grandfather.

And from fellow campers who are thankfully friendly and helpful.

As the season continues, Rin keeps warming up to her friends and to the general idea of camping as a group, while still cherishing her solo camping routines. As Rin gets more experience in that direction, Nadeshiko gets more in the other with her solo camping adventure, which goes surprisingly well considering how much of a novice she was when we first met her in the first episode of the first season. Rin is heartened to see Nadeshiko taking solo camping seriously, though she does worry about Nadeshiko when she stops answering her phone and even heads out to her campsite on her moped (as does Nadeshiko’s older sister, totally independently) to make sure she’s not dead or anything.

Chiaki and Ena out on the edge of a lake in January. Winter camping is rough if you’re not prepared for it.

Nadeshiko is fine, but this fear isn’t unfounded as we see in the sixth episode, in which Ena, Aoi, and Chiaki try winter camping at Cape Ohmama, which turns out to be far too cold for their gear to keep them warm. After their phone batteries die thanks to the chill, the trio end up pretty much stranded on the edge of a lake, facing the prospect of huddling all together in one tent simply to survive. Thankfully, the always wary Rin is put on alert when she hears where her friends are, knowing better than them how far temperatures drop there, and she alerts their advisor in turn, who heads out to the lake in her car.

This brings me to one of the most interesting aspects of Yuru Camp in general, and one that came up strongly in this season: the camaraderie between campers, even those who are total strangers. While out looking for ways to survive the night, Ena, Aoi, and Chiaki meet and are taken in by a woman and her father out camping in a tent with a proper stove. When Toba shows up following Rin’s call, she’s invited in as well, and they all have an impromptu dinner party out in the woods. This isn’t the only time a stranger comes along to help out one of our main characters, just as we saw in the first episode of this season with a young Rin still learning the ropes, or last season with Toba’s younger sister showing up before any of them knew each other to assist Rin and Nadeshiko with a cookout they were attempting.

It’s not exactly a reliance on the kindness of strangers, since none of the girls were exactly relying on any of these people to come along and help out. Yet they end up benefiting greatly from this sudden help. I don’t know how much of this sort of mutual support between strangers out in the wild actually happens, since as I noted in the last review I’m not a camper or an outdoors person in the slightest. I do know that I was always taught to be wary of strangers when I was a kid, since there was a non-zero chance they’d end up being kidnappers or serial killers or something similar.

You might think I’m just being unnecessarily dark here again, but this really is one aspect of Yuru Camp that I couldn’t connect with in personal terms so well just because of my upbringing. Maybe it was the time and place I grew up in — 90s suburban America was scared to death of murderers stalking the streets and grabbing kids, to the extent that we couldn’t walk down the road to a friend’s house without being secretly watched by our parents. That’s no exaggeration. So the idea of being able to get on a moped and drive for hundreds of miles alone as a teenager, or even several miles down to a lake to camp on my own — it’s unthinkable to me. Maybe that’s still another part of the appeal Yuru Camp holds for me, being able to watch these characters do things I never could have (if I’d even been inclined to in the first place, which I admit I wasn’t. But maybe I would have been if I’d had the chance? You can never really answer a what if.)

Rin and Nadeshiko seeing the sights in Nadeshiko’s old hometown before she moved inland to Yamanashi. Another theme of Yuru Camp I’ve enjoyed in general was the easy mix of old and new friends — no drama or jealousy going on here, just good vibes, which is exactly what I need. Save all that shit for another series.

In my look at the first season, I missed out on a lot of the aesthetic aspects of Yuru Camp, so I may as well mention them here. That was a major oversight, in fact, since this series looks great as you can tell from the screenshots I’ve posted. I’d never even heard of the studio C-Station before watching this anime, but they did a great job with it, really making the Japanese countryside, mountains, and seaside look beautiful. I’ll extend my praise to the character designs too — each character is distinctive with a look that fits them perfectly. I haven’t read the Yuru Camp manga at all, but I imagine that praise should go to the original artist and writer Afro.

Somehow I didn’t bring up the series’ music, either, which is an even worse mistake on my part. Yuru Camp has an excellent soundtrack, with several recurring tracks that stand out like Laid-Back Time and Solo Camp△ Recommendation (there’s that △ I’ve been avoiding all this time!) It’s all or almost all acoustic as well, perfectly fitting the outdoors feel. Though I guess you could drag some speakers into the woods with a power supply if you really felt like it. And don’t skip those opening or ending themes either, like first season’s Fuyu Biyori.

And of course there’s also just as much talk about cooking and eating food as in the first season. I almost fucking cried looking at this just because of how much I wanted it.

I wrote in that last post that watching Yuru Camp made me hate life a little less, and I still feel that way about this second season. But there’s a little sadness mixed in there as well now about possibly missing out on some good experiences myself. Maybe that’s just my general sense of bitterness and lack of gratitude talking.

And also my continued jealousy of access to those natural hot springs. I don’t want to fall into that “grass is greener on the other side” trap but it doesn’t look like any amount of “self-care” you can get where I live can compare to this. The only natural resources we have here aren’t the kind you’d want to soak in.

Well, maybe there’s still time for me to unravel all that stress and bitterness, probably in fifty years once I’m nearly dead assuming I make it that far. In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for the Yuru Camp movie that’s supposed to be coming out this summer and for the third season that’s being talked about beyond that. I have no doubt they’ll both be great after watching these first two seasons.

So that’s all for Yuru Camp for now. I have no idea what’s coming up next, but whatever it is, I’ll probably somehow find a way to make it depressing too — until then!