Yuru Camp has a simple premise; high school student Rin loves taking winter camping trips alone, close to the base of Mount Fuji. She meets the excitable Nadeshiko along with several members of her school’s Outdoor Activities Club, Outclub for short. After that, the girls enjoy a series of camping trips together and well…that’s pretty much it. Yuru Camp simply follows its characters as they plan camping trips and subsequently take them. There’s no drama, conflict or any real plot points.
That’s not to say Yuru Camp is bad though. On the contrary, it’s funny, warm and occasionally informative. There’s memorable dialogue, beautiful animation and a folksy score that imbues the whole thing with a sort of rich calmness.
It’s true there’s nothing really going on in Yuru Camp; even by slice of life standard, there’s next to no character development or narrative structure over the course of 12 episodes. And although the series is funny, I wouldn’t consider it an outright comedy. This lack of direction leaves the series hanging in a largely uncharted anime hinterland.
But maybe Yuru Camp has managed to carve out a little niche for itself, because despite possessing a narrative structure that would have made my high school English teacher spit out his tea, it’s perfectly watchable. There’s something wholesome and engaging about following the Outclub crew as they try out different pieces of camping equipment or cooking techniques. It makes for something of a refreshing change from the usual teen dramas, rife with gossip and infighting. After all, Yuru Camp, which translates as “relaxed camp” is only living up to its name.
Watching Yuru Camp is like enjoying a hot bath after a hectic day at work. It’s nice to sit back and get lost in the intricacies of a camping trip; the location scouting, the planning, the food shopping…and the trips themselves are a good excuse for some extravagant, Ghibli-style animation of the natural world, with Mount Fuji featuring prominently in the background, along with vast forests and lonely moonlit roads.
The characters are rounded and believable. The girls communicate largely via text, a move which in other shows can come across as a little “vicar sitting backwards on a chair to be down with the kids” but manages to seem genuine in the context of Yuru Camp.
One of Yuru Camp’s main characters, Nadeshiko, is perhaps afflicted with a little of the cloying “cuteness” that every anime seems to feel the need to jam in somewhere, with the pink-haired camping enthusiast coming across as more of a kitten than a teenage girl on occasion, but that’s a minor complaint.
More problematic was the introduction of teacher and Outclub advisor Toba, who appears to be a problem alcoholic better suited to a rehab centre than a school group campsite. Her crippling alcohol dependency is played for laughs, but I found the character more disturbing than anything else.
As an aside, the series narrator even gives humourous, step-by-step guides on several camping techniques; how to light a fire using a pinecone or anchor a tent in high wind for example. For anyone looking to get the immersive Yuru Camp experience, it might be possible to try out some of these techniques in real life, although I wouldn’t recommend the Outclub’s custom of ssetting up camp at the base of a mountain in the depths of winter.
Overall, Yuru Camp is a good series, to be recommended for those who watch anime to relax. If you’re looking for drama or high-stakes showdown, this may not be the series for you, but there’s hidden depth in the crackling fires and shining lakes of Yuru Camp, if you’re willing to give the girls a chance.
Jonny Keen | [rating=4]
Comedy, Slice Of Life | Japan, 2018 | Season One | Dir.Yoshiaki Kyōgoku | Watch Crunchyroll