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Dated 2 March 2021: Yuru Camp△ SEASON 2 is the best anime of Winter 2021 not featuring self-harm

Nadeshiko
I appreciate Nadeshiko's apparent immunity to fatigue.

Surprising no one who watched the first season, Yuru Camp△ SEASON 2 remains fantastic. I don't actually watch a lot of shows that I would expect to be similar in terms of tone and content, such as Yama no Susume (Encouragement of Climb), or Non Non Biyori, but perhaps I should, considering how much I enjoy Yuru Camp△. Then again, the majority of my interest in the show unmistakably centers around Rin specifically, and her various camping-related efforts. I mean, I like all the other characters too, but significantly less so, and I'm fairly sure this perspective is nearly universal among fans of the show.

Rin
So what happens if you do the suspension bridge thing alone?

Actually, there is one other character I know some Yuru Camp△ fans seem to like a lot: Nadeshiko's older sister, Sakura. For years now, Yuru Camp△ fan art has featured a lot of Rin x Sakura 'shipping. (Admittedly, it is one prolific artist who dominates this scene.) I found this pairing a little peculiar, since the two characters interacted basically not at all in the first season. Best I could figure, it was either in reference to something that developed later on in the source material, or ardent fans fabricated it whole cloth.

Sakura and Rin
You know, people would have lost their minds if Sakura
had been Nadeshiko's older brother instead.

Presuming the anime is adapting the original manga (as opposed to inventing stories to bolster the anime-tourism economy), it seems we've at least reached the genesis of this particular movement. I don't actually expect Yuru Camp△ to expand this meeting into a genuine romance, though. Fan enthusiasm aside, I really don't think it's that sort of show. Sorry, 'shippers, I'm pretty sure Sakura and Rin aren't going to be tearing each other's clothes off in a tent anytime soon. Besides, Rin wears a million layers even when she's napping by a space heater while she's ostensibly working in a library; she's probably wearing two million layers when she's camping in the winter.

Dated 3 March 2020: Heya Camp△ needs more Rin and more △

Nadeshiko
Nadeshiko is okay even though she maintains boundless optimism in the face of adversity.

I enjoy Yuru Camp△ and its mini-sequel Heya Camp△ quite a bit, but really I'm in it for Rin doing Rin things. This is not to say that I don't appreciate the other characters or the show's antics as a whole, but I definitely have a substantial bias in favor of the One True Camper. Because of this, my viewing experience so far for the Heya Camp△ shorts consists of solidly favorable reactions punctuated with the occasional, "Where in Hell is Rin, God damn it?" outbursts.

Aoi
Aoi fills a gaijin tourist's head with lies.

Rin actually is in Heya Camp△, just sort of infrequently. I don't know that this is enough to tie me over until the proper second season actually starts (whenever that is), but it will have to do. In the meantime, I suppose I had better start warming up to the rest of the cast. I could also go for some more scenes of their alcoholic teacher, but I have the feeling the few seconds we've gotten so far are all we're gonna get. She is a bad influence on impressionable campers, even when they are not camping.

Dated 6 August 2018: This is Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight

Hikari
This was a blatant effort to encourage anime tourism.

I starting watching Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight thinking it was going to be an idol anime that would contrast nicely when watched back-to-back with Ongaku Shoujo. Yeah, that turned out to be wrong. It's not an "idol anime" at all, or at least it's less so an idol anime than it is a "wack ass giraffe fight club" anime, as I've seen it characterized on the IRC. To tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure what to call it.

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Dated 27 March 2017: Sudden urge to bicycle around Kamakura

Hiromi
Definitely not Hane. Definitely not Haruka, either.

Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu (Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club) is a blatant attempt to promote tourism in Kamakura as well as encourage more people to ride bicycles (read: buy bicycles and bicycle-type accessories). The show caught my attention because it stars Ueda Reina in the lead role, effectively making it Bakuon!! except with bicycles instead of motorcycles. Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu is not nearly as good as Bakuon!!, but it does have some real charm as an introduction to bicycling and to the Kamakura area.

Yuika
Landmarks and potential attractions are all clearly identified, too.

I don't know Kamakura at all, but it's a cinch the various locales depicted in the anime are all famous tourist-friendly landmarks. There are a number of shots obviously framed in such a way that visitors will be encouraged to replicate them. As someone who once juggled a camera and an old PDA with a washed-out screen in Heidelberg trying to line up perspective and angles correctly, I can appreciate the thoughtfulness displayed here.

Fuyune
This shot might be more difficult to replicate than one of, say, the Buddha statue.

The bicycling portions are accessible and informative, doling out more advanced information as the season progresses. (There are also live-action instructional shorts at the end of each episode.) It does present cycling in an extremely positive light, compared to Bakuon!! which had a bit of fun with the potentially negative aspects of motorcycling. Really, Bakuon!! is just more fun overall, whereas Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu is more...pleasant? It certainly is a pleasant show, where everything is great and oh so nice. I don't mean it as a criticism, but this relaxed approach does seem to cap the upper limit as to just how good the show can get.

Dated 26 January 2013: Vividred Operation is three for three

Akane and Momo
I'm surprised there wasn't a Momo POV shot immediately after this.

Vividred Operation is not exactly a high-brow show, but it is consistently entertaining and there have been no occasions to complain about its production quality or execution. I'm also very pleased with its pacing through the first three episodes. Some people felt Vividred rushed Wakaba's introduction and integration in episode three, but while I would agree in the context of a 26-episode series, I don't think there's any time to waste during what will almost certainly be a 12- or 13-episode run. Hopefully, Himawari's introduction in episode four will be similarly quick.

Rei
Where did her bow go?

After these introductions, Vividred can get down to business devoting the remaining eight episodes to unfucking Rei's shit, and befriending the Bejesus out of her. Or maybe Rei ends up killing them all. It won't happen, but I'd be okay with that. Rei is going to be the lynchpin behind the success or failure of Vividred. If you can suffer another not-necessarily-apropos comparison with Strike Witches, the Alone appear to be as unengaging and faceless as the Neuroi. I'm sorry, but you can't try to build action scenes around bland opponents that nobody cares about.

Rei
I re-watched this to confirm it was a sunrise, not a sunset.

Using cardboard bad guys didn't work in Strike Witches, it certainly didn't work during the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS training arcs, and it won't work in Vividred with the Alone if Rei doesn't instill some life into the fights. It's possible to have have emotionless enemies that the audience finds engaging (see, for example, the first two Terminator movies), but they'll at least need to be menacing or unique in some way.

Stonehenge
I promise this is the last time I will make this joke.

As long as Rei ensures there will be an antagonist we care about in future episodes of Vividred, then the show will basically have everything. You want fighting? It's got fighting. You want flying girls hitting things with giant hammers? It's got that too. Standing-in-circles magic and fancy transformations? Yes. Bridge operators swiveling around to holler SITREPs to the commander? Well, yeah. Befriending enemies? Count on it. A talking weasel/otter/ferret/probably-not-a-mink thing? Of course. Butts? It's got butts. Fresh fruit? Holy shit, it's got fresh fruit. And how. (Tomato is a fruit, okay.)

Dated 17 January 2013: Initial impressions of the winter 2013 season

Rei
If you haven't seen this by now...

This is a little earlier than I typically like to post initial impressions for a new season, since I consider it premature to make assumptions about shows after only a couple of episodes. However, I'm already more or less familiar with most of the shows I'm following this season because they are either continuations or adaptations of things I've read. Only Vividred Operation and Love Live! School Idol Project remain unknowns at this point.

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Dated 10 August 2012: It doesn't take Meitantei Conan to figure out who killed Yui's Gitah

Mio, Mugi, Azusa, Ritsu, and Yui
Not depicted: Bewildered patrons wondering why
people keep taking pictures of these tables.

What is Anime Tourism? Is it when anime fans make pilgrimages to real-life locales depicted in anime (see, for example, the Lucky Star Hajj), or is it when anime characters venture beyond their usual stomping grounds as tourists themselves? Maybe it's both. This installment features London, England, as depicted in the K-On! movie and in a series of Detective Conan episodes from 2011.

The River Thames
The River Thames
Welcome to London. It may appear slightly different than it does in anime.

Both K-On! and Detective Conan appear to be beneficiaries of an impressive amount of meticulous research. They accurately depict their locales while making only minor changes to avoid impeding their viewers' ability to identify certain settings. Some locations are simple yet still iconic and thus were shown virtually unchanged, such as this shot of the K-On! girls in the London Underground:

Azusa, Yui, Ritsu, Mugi, and Mio
Aldgate East
Upper: Azusa, Yui, Ritsu, Mugi, and Mio at the Aldgate East station.
Lower: Actual photo from the London Underground.

Of course, simple locations are not going to impress most viewers, nor encourage much anime tourism. Contrast this with the brief shot of the Tea Time band entering The Troubadour. A few seconds of film inspired enough visitors that the management now displays a K-On! poster in the window with a Japanese-language menu alongside its awards and positive reviews.

Mio, Azusa, Mugi, Ritsu, and Yui
The Troubadour
Upper: Mio, Azusa, Mugi, Ritsu, and Yui in front of The Troubadour.
Lower: Photo of the actual coffee house on Old Brompton Road.

As you can see, inconvenient trees and light poles occasionally get removed, and the scale sometimes gets changed to better fit a scene. For example, the rooms at 221B Baker Street are much more cramped than they appear in Detective Conan.

Sherlock Holmes museum
Sherlock Holmes museum
The interior of the Sherlock Holmes museum on 221B Baker Street.

Curiously, the K-On! girls also visit 221B Baker Street and pose for a picture, but appear to blow straight through the famous Abbey Road crossing without noticing. Had it been summertime, perhaps they would have been alerted by the crowds of tourists endangering their lives and making a general nuisance of themselves by playing in traffic.

Ritsu, Mugi, Yui, Mio, and Azusa
Abbey Road
Ritsu, Mugi, Yui, Mio, and Azusa cross Abbey Road on a quiet day.

I suppose the absence of crowds is a reasonable liberty in an anime movie. Anime "filming on location" generally seems to assume a best case scenario. Although blue skies are at least plausible in Ran's case since she visited London in July, the K-On! movie's depiction of the weather over Westminster Bridge during the colder months is somewhat optimistic.

Ran
Detective Conan episode 617.
Westminster Bridge
K-On! movie.
Westminster Bridge
There aren't crowds in Ran's shot because it's 9PM.

So how is the K-On! movie itself? I don't actually like K-On!, having dropped the series early in its run, but K-On! is a juggernaut almost inescapable for anime fans. So despite only watching four of its 40 episodes, I still know quite a bit about the show and the characters (although my Twitter joke pretending to mistake Ui for Yui's mother flopped), making the movie quite accessible. I have to admit it's a good movie, and the K-On! characters are more agreeable now that they're better established. In many respects, the K-On! movie is a journey. The characters travel from Japan to London and then proceed to explore the city, but it's also a journey in the sense that the movie is very much about the graduating members of the light music club searching for the appropriate way to hand it over to Azusa. Neither are journeys the way Monster is a journey, but they effectively take advantage of the opportunities a feature-length project has to offer. There is a palpable sense of bewilderment and wonder as Mio, Mugi, Ritsu, Yui, and Azusa wander around London, and the movie presents numerous opportunities for the viewer to see and experience it from their points of view.

Jubilee Gardens
Yui
Jubilee Gardens glows with the benefit of Yui-vision.

The unusually long London arc of Detective Conan episodes in 2011 is also a journey in both these literal and metaphorical senses. With regard to the metaphorical portion, the London arc advanced a fairly significant step in the relationship between Ran and Shinichi. From the literal perspective, Conan, Kogoro, Ran, and Professor Agasa race around the city collecting clues in order to stop a mad bomber, although the transitions are not as finely executed in these moments as they are in the K-On! movie. In the Detective Conan episodes, the characters seemingly pop up at various spots the story deems appropriate. Many of these cuts lack any real consideration as to how the characters got there, and some scenes ignore minor concerns that don't actually affect the plot. For example, Ran's fortuitous encounter with Minerva Glass at the base of the Sherlock Holmes statue outside the Baker Street Underground station (around the corner and a short distance away from the entrance to the Sherlock Holmes museum) advances the story, but doesn't necessarily comport with the traveling she does that day. The K-On! movie is much better at depicting travel around the city, and ensuring the corresponding scenes are generally geographically consistent; fans could potentially recreate much of the movie by tracing Hokago Tea Time's steps.

Ritsu, Mio, Yui, Mugi, and Azusa
Steps at the end of Westminster Bridge
This scene needed more pickpockets.

So am I actively advocating Anime Tourism? You mean like going to various locations around the world such as Italy or France or, well, countless places in Japan strictly for the purpose of seeing the 3D versions of 2D sites? Well, no, but if you're going to be in the area anyway, load up some screenshots on a portable device for comparison's sake. It's an interesting exercise in augmented unreality.

Dated 3 April 2010: The End of Nodame Cantabile: Finale

Nodame
Nodame glances at Chiaki.

I wanted to write about the end of Nodame Cantabile: Finale, but what can I say about a show like this? Finale is basically the second half of Nodame Cantabile: Paris, so nobody should watch Finale if they haven't already seen Paris. And if they've seen Paris, they'll already know whether or not they want to watch Finale no matter what anyone says about it.

Nodame's hands
Nodame's non-CGI hands.

This is not to say that Nodame Cantabile: Finale is an exact continuation of Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter; there are significant differences. First, J.C. Staff has deemphasized the CGI orchestra in favor of regular animation that focuses instead on the expressions of the musicians and the audience instead of the technical aspects of the music. Second, the attention is back on Nodame and Chiaki instead of the supporting characters.

Nodame and Chiaki
Nodame and Chiaki share some music again.

One complaint about the post-Japan Nodame arcs is that the supporting cast is not as interesting. I don't know that I agree necessarily, as I never found any of the supporting characters in Nodame Cantabile especially endearing. The Japan-centric cast may be more eccentric, but that doesn't mean I care more about them than Frank, Tanya, and company. Comparing Paris with Finale, however, I can say the supporting cast in Finale is not there to drive its own stories. The stories belong more to Nodame and Chiaki; the rest of them are just along for the ride.

Chiaki
Tiny pictures are the way of love, Chiaki.

So what else is there to say? Well, for one thing, it's the third-best show that aired Winter 2010 behind Cross Game and Kimi ni Todoke—first, if you only count series that began Winter 2010. From the looks of it, I enjoyed Nodame Cantabile: Finale much more than most people. I wonder if it's because I have never read the manga? Or if it's because I've come to view Nodame Cantabile as a story about Nodame's love affair with music instead of her love affair with Chiaki?

3D Paris
Paris in 3D.

2D Paris
Paris in 2D.

In other news, there are a few artistic liberties taken with the Nodame Cantabile: Finale locales. For example, the above setting does not really exist except as a composite of different (albeit admittedly nearby) views:

3D Paris
Paris in 3D.

I'm guessing animating on location is even less convenient than shooting on location, what with all the staring by tourists and locals and prolonged exposure to the elements and whatnot, so it's excusable.