Yuru Camp fits live action to a tee.

Yuru Camp fits live action to a tee.

Hello. I am Benjamin Wagner, this is my blog and today I…get comfy.

It’s fair to say that I am a fan of Yuru Camp. I have watched both seasons of the anime 3 times. I have read the manga in English twice and in Japanese three times. I even tried to purchase a Nadeshiko Nendoroid before my pesky wallet decided against the idea. Yuru Camp is probably the most slice-of-life a slice-of-life story can be. So, when first getting into live-action Japanese shows, I searched the internet for adaptions of manga and anime I already knew of to get my feet wet. And to my surprise and delight, I stumbled upon Yuru Camp. Fun fact for all of you here, this was actually the second live-action J-Drama I watched; with the first being the Yowamushi Pedal movie I have already commented on. I also didn’t really intend to write about this one at first due to my clear bias and love towards the franchise. But then I remembered this blog is supposed to be about the things I love or have strong opinions on so I rewatched the show and prepared this review for all of you.

So, did I enjoy this story that was already very familiar to me or did I find something to dislike in this adaption? Find out as I review Yuru Camp (Season 1 & 2).

Synopsis

Yuru Camp follows the outdoor club of Motosu High School and their heartwarming connection with camping and all things outdoors. The story, for what it is, seems to follow Kagamihara Nadeshiko, an extremely energetic girl (元気な子)who is able to find joy in almost anything she does. Her inspiration for joining the outdoors club and in camping, in particular, is sparked by a meeting with the charming but stoic Shima Rin. As Nadeshiko had just moved to the area, a small town in Yamanashi prefecture close to Japan’s special mountain, Mt Fuji, Nadeshiko wished to see it in person.

So she rode her bicycle up a Tour De France level mountain to reach a lake with a perfect view of the beautiful mountain. However, she becomes so tired that she falls asleep on a bench, loses her mobile phone and manages to be stranded there alone at night.

Well. Until Rin saves her with cup noodles and a beautiful night view of the squared-off rock of Fuji-san. (Quick note: 富士山・ふじさんFuji-san means Mount Fuji. The -san suffix indicates a mountain. This is different from the suffix to indicate politeness after somebody’s name i.e. Tanaka-san. Don’t make the same mistake as me).

A few days later, Nadeshiko enrolls at the local school, joins the Outdoors Club and meets its two members; Ohgaki Chiaki and Inuyama Aoi, who welcome her with open arms as they want a bigger club room in the future. Through a freak turn of events, Rin is spotted by the group (in part due to her friend Saito Ena) and Nadeshiko’s friendship with Rin blooms. Even though Rin remains stoic and against the idea of camping with others, Nadeshiko’s energy brings their friendship to a boil and brings Rin slowly out of her shell.

That is the basic premise of the story and from this point, most episodes follow a similar format; usually involving a camping event or a trip somewhere and the girls involved introduce, explore and enjoy the local scenery, delicacies and culture as they camp their free time away. This is very much a show where the relationships between the characters carry the narrative. As much fun as it would be to see, Nadeshiko and Rin don’t need to party up to take down the Demon Lord here.

But I bet they could if they wanted to.

So we come to the part where I usually ask two questions about this show. Specifically, about the plot and about the quality of acting on the show.

And I will do just that. But then, I will add a little something after, just to spice the formula up a little. Okay? Let’s crack on.

Does the character-driven story survive the transition to Live-Action?

Yes, it does and it does this remarkably well. The Yuru Camp manga and anime are all about the feeling of relaxation. The laid back atmosphere that these media exude is aided by the cartoony extension of reality that we allow this media. For example, Nadeshiko’s stretchy cheeks or movements and actions that just don’t translate to real people. But they sidestep this well with humour and a consistent tone. They have adapted the manga remarkably faithfully and have kept every minor story beat mostly unchanged. I am delighted about this because, as if not evident before, this franchise is one that means a lot to me and seeing the time and effort that has gone into crafting the believable friendship dynamics of the main quintet makes me very, very happy. These friendships, as in the manga, aren’t just artificially created and instead grow and blossom over the 2 seasons of content. Rin is initially stoic and on-guard; content just to be by herself and indulge in her interests. And, whilst they don’t portray Rin as a lonely character who just wants friends, she does open up to the group around her as time goes on. This allows her to see the joy in spending time with other people and put it alongside the time she spends alone. This mature take on independent people is rare in this sort of art form; as many portray people who are mostly alone as miserable loners who do nothing but crave the attention of others. Rin is mature, independent but open enough to try new things when the opportunity arises.

It is incredibly difficult to comment on the narrative of a show like this. Because it is mostly non-existent. This sounds like a criticism but it really isn’t. It turns a show into comfort food. You consume the media and enjoy it. It makes you feel warm inside and you are more than satisfied. But you can’t always explain why. Yuru Camp is about the atmosphere. And this adaption nails that atmosphere. In a show that attempts to follow the relatively ordinary everyday lives of these 5 high-school girls, Yuru Camp does more than enough to stand out amongst its contemporaries as a fun, engaging show that is very, very easy to binge. And this live-action drama adaption does this as well as any other media could.

Well, barring one teeny-tiny, very biased thing. And that relates to our second question:

Have the actors brought these beloved characters to life faithfully?

Mostly, yes but I do have a gripe here.

On the whole, the acting is incredible. The fact that all of the voices resemble the anime as much as they do is shocking. I was convinced that the young actresses playing Rin and Nadeshiko were the very same voice actors who were in the anime and was surprised when I found out otherwise. I don’t want to focus on the voices too much but this level of consistency across media is really appreciated and adds a sense of realism to each adaption you may watch, as odd as that may sound.

Apart from the voices however, there was something that stood out to me as a little odd and that was the acting of Fukuhara Haruka as Shima Rin. She seems to grow into the role remarkably well but the adaption of someone alone but happy with that fact is instead portrayed with a little bit of nervousness and shyness instead. I know I heaped praise on Rin’s character above and that still stands as Haruka really does grow into the role as the story progresses, but, especially in the opening two episodes, she really just didn’t click with me.

But you know what, that’s it. I have no other complaints. Ohara Yuno is the very epitome of Kagamihara Nadeshiko and puts in a picture-perfect performance in bringing this energetic scamp to life. Yanai Yumena brings a slightly more reserved Inuyama Aoi to life, but it fits well with the tone as the drama focuses in on the Rin/Nadeshiko dynamic a little closer than the other friends; at least in the first season. This is an odd duck in that nobody really stands out because they are all equally as good. I have spoken about my biases against Japanese acting before and it was watching this show that quelled my fears. This show showed me that I was completely and utterly wrong. Japanese people can act; I’d just been watching the wrong stuff.

So the acting is good. Anything Else?

Right. What I am about to say is stupid.

This adaption is about as perfect as it could be. But, you know what? I would still choose to read the manga again instead of rewatching this. And I truly don’t know why. I would change very little about this adaption and everything from the camera work and character acting to the faithfully adapted ‘story’ is bang on. But there is just a sort of charm to the original work that the drama doesn’t lack, per se, but it just doesn’t make me have that special feeling in my chest that the manga does. It’s possible I just prefer reading manga to watching anime and drama (although I think the adaption of Gohoubi Gohan trumps the original manga in multiple ways, as a counterpoint). This bias of mine doesn’t diminish how good this live-action adaption is but it does affect my final rating of the show because as a human, I just have certain likes and dislikes. Much like Metroid Dread, you can appreciate the quality of something whilst not loving it wholeheartedly.

As is now becoming customary, I’m going to give a quick mention to the music that graces the opening. In both seasons, the opening songs are catchy earworms that have become frequent listens on my Spotify playlist and I have linked them both below. They’re not standout songs but they are upbeat and catchy enough to match up to the anime opening Shiny Days.

Yuru Camp is an excellent show to watch. Let’s say you’ve just watched a drama with heavy action or suspense, Yuru Camp would be the perfect palate cleanser for you to sit down on a rainy Saturday afternoon with a friend and just binge your way through it. It’s funny. It’s charming. The acting is almost spot on and it doesn’t overstay its welcome either. My odd biases aside, this drama is about as close to perfect as an adaption as one could get and deserves as many eyes to see it as possible. I score the two seasons of Yuru Camp:

Yuru Camp Live Action Season 1: 8.4/10

Yuru Camp Live Action Season 2: 8.8/10

A beautiful adaption that I enjoyed a tremendous amount (but I’d still rather read the manga…)

So, that’s that. This won’t be the only Yuru Camp related content I cover here, as I intend to purchase the Visual Novel that released in November soon and I am excited to discover how they managed to do. But, for now, I’ve been Benjamin Wagner and I endorse this message.

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