Note: I published this review in MyAnimeList on April 17 2018. I made a few edits and changed details. Yuru Camp was a strange phenomenon to witness. An anime produced by a newish studio and an inexperienced staff with a premise that looked about as basic and niche as it could adapting a fairly unknown manga. Very few people looked forward to this show and I was certainly not one of them as it didnt look particularly appealing at first. And yet it remains among the highestrated nonsequel shows of its season along with other series that rely on more visceral and spectacular storytelling Sora yori mo tooi basho Violet Evergarden with heavier themes and mood shifts. It is one of the bestselling shows of the season as well increasing manga sales selling a lot of merchandise and as of today tripling the amount of visitors to the campsites located at the Yamanashi Prefecture the series focuses on. The thing is Yuru Camp is a show about camping. And not even about camping as a side element or room for more potentially exciting character quirks. About camping in itself as an experience with a cast of characters that develop an interest and are always looking forward to and grow and set their focus on the activity. For twelve episodes. With no tension no character drama no external elements getting in the way and certainly not a sense of danger or heavy uncertainty. It is strict in what it covers and straightforward in what it wants to evoke. In a way that was an advantage to the show. Week after week this was a safe choice with a clear attached mood that people could get into knowing what theyd expect and the exact kind of reaction theyd get from it. Some people probably didnt like it but they werent vocal: its not the kind of show that can lead to visceral hate. Not having any element that could generate controversy it was only natural that the series grew through the season with very little negativity around it. The scenario for this backfiring was also clear: after all what kind of appeal does this harmless fun provide compared with the more spectacular and memorable narratives of emotional struggle in its season? It is hard to answer and yet it becomes so clear when you are watching it. Selling Yuru Camp is difficult as one would need to rely on vague statements about its mood. Its quiet its soothing watch it whenever you need to chill. Thats it. I could end my review here and it would be the most straightforward recommendation because that is what this show is about: pure and unadulterated calmness and peace of mind. No more no less. But that would be too easy and misleading. Because its not the simplicity and straightforwardness what makes this series work but an execution that depends on a careful combination of directorial cast music and writing choices that shouldnt be dismissed just because the aim of the show is humble and simplistic. It is masterfully crafted in each of these elements and almost nothing in it feels random or inappropriate for the overall mood. Lets talk first about the visual aspects of the show. A lot of things have been said about the sheer beauty and detail of the backgrounds the use of a subdued color palette that makes everything look more relaxed and soothing the clever use of lighting and so on. Each episode provides a good amount of wallpaper material and they do a great work at enhancing the beauty of the landscapes. But I would like to focus on something this series really excels at and makes everything work even better from a visually evocative point of view: framing. Yuru Camp is a series about outdoor activities and one of the things it does better at representing their appeal is reflecting with its visual language how vast and surrounding its scenarios are in comparison with say confined rooms. Even more difficult if you take into account that it has to convey these feelings through characters that are part and are reacting to that environment at that same time. By placing the characters at the right spot of the frame and by showing an astonishing sense of space and depth of field the series manages to effectively transmit to the viewer a feeling of belonging there and observing the environment along with and not separately from the characters. It doesnt feature any particularly elaborate or flashy cinematographic trick but it does everything well in a way that I think very few have. A zoomout that reveals a wonderful night view a panoramic shot with the character surrounded by the immense beauty of her environment a character moving towards the camera to properly reflect the depth of field. It is consistently clever and efficient at this and increases exponentially the appeal of its scenarios. 330https://i.ur.com/akNPvBY.png 330https://i.ur.com/6IwKXNt.png The character designs leave more room for nitpicking. They have rather simple features some kind of... questionable ones what is up with those extra thin necks? and overall they are designs that appeal to a fitting yet standard cutesy style. Past that level of simplicity the thing is that they are actually very spot on in pretty much everything. They wear mundane and appropriate clothes and the show has a surprising variety of outfits and styles for each of them. Particularly noteworthy is the big amount of aesthetic choices thrown around the character of Rin throughout the series that make her quite visually dynamic and even leads to some running jokes with her hairstyles. Either way I would not like to oversell the complexity of these character designs since I think part of their appeal and also a very relevant fraction in the visual comedy of the show lie precisely in their simple and recognizable traits. These general aspects aside the show itself has a number of little issues in its visuals that depending on the person and the focus may look more or less serious. The animation in particular. It is clean fluid and average or above average always serviceable enough but theres not much focus on movement and the series can look quite static at times. It has some surprisingly complex and detailed animation but it is not consistent with that and specially in its latter half it abuses montages of static and frozen panning shots instead. The CG animation of the vehicles feels kind of offputting even with the attempts of the series to make up for it by focusing on the depth of field of the shot thankfully none of these moments last very long. However the biggest issue comes with episode 8. It is pretty much universally agreed that this episode is an aesthetic low in the series with clumsy animation and characters going off model way too often throughout. Luckily at least in my case the flaws feel so irrelevant compared to all the great visual choices it makes that this aspect of the show remains impressive overall with only a few occasional nitpicks here and there. What Id like to emphasize the most here is that the visual language in this series is crucial and it is effectively conveyed with clever decisions and execution. The series manages to nail the cathartic and the mundane equally and is one of the most purely aesthetic anime experiences Ive seen. And if you think that my views on the art are too positive wait for the next section. The sound. Oh how do I even start with this. Its absolute brilliance from start to finish. The soundtrack is quiet and fluffy even at its most playful its just plain laidback. Entirely instrumental except for the opening and ending it constantly evokes the atmosphere of relax and uneventful fun that permeates through the entire series. However what truly makes this series stand out in this department is not in the tracks themselves but in their use in context. It understands the music not as an accompaniment but as an essential element of its aesthetics and narrative. And this is specially relevant in a season that overall did not stand out much in this aspect and took a lot of my nitpicks for otherwise great shows. http://.land/media/qf4z. What Yuru Camp understands so well is that yes the music is fitting and sets a mood but that shouldnt stop you from playing and being active and dynamic with it. You cant expect to play a beautiful song in the background stop caring and proceed to focus on the visual narrative and the dialogue because no matter how good it sounds it will end up creating an aesthetic dissonance. This series takes its effort to match the images the frames and the timing of the narration with the soundtrack. It quite often makes use of sudden and accurately timed interruptions for comedic effect it saves the most emphasized parts of the track for the single moments of catharsis and it perfectly captures the mundane. It knows when to stop and it knows when to start again what track to use for each moment and how to make proper and emotionally or comedically effective transitions. If all of this sounds basic imagine my frustration while watching other shows in its same season failing to understand this fundamental approach. And damn if its effective. The love and care put in this aspect of the show is astounding. Heck if it even went through the trouble of creating a separate and fitting soundtrack for each of the campsite locations. Thats some level of dedication out there. Seriously the music in this show is something else. Even for its generally excellent delivery this is an easy standout. The rest of the aspects of its sound design are also spot on. I love the effects particularly those used to create atmosphere like the little ambient sounds the wind breezing... that make the experience more immediate and relatable. As for the voice acting the series has a very solid cast with a clear standout in Yumiri Hanamoris Nadeshiko. The way she nails the voice of her character her sounds and her overall performance is essential to make Nadeshiko the cinnamon roll of unadulterated cuteness she is and to do it with a character that was so easy to drive wrong has a lot of merit. Almost equal in merit and execution is Nao Touyamas Rin a quiet type that is still perfectly empathic and entertaining to listen to and knows how to add relatable nuances of emotion to a character that acts cold and restrained towards the rest. The rest of the cast all have fitting voices and add to the overall mood and the comedic effect of the characters with another favorite of mine being Rie Takahashis laidback and playful role as Saitou. The energy of Chiaki and the soothing nature of Aoi are nailed as well and perfectly add to their style of humor. My only nitpick aside from some minor characters having more meh voices is with some little moments of Aki Toyosakis Aoi. The character seems to have more creative freedom than the rest of the cast when it comes to the way she sounds and at some points episode 10 in special that sort of rubbed me the wrong way. With the visual and sound aspects covered we can move on to the writing. And since this is just cute girls doing cute camping things for twelve episodes this should be fast right? Right? You know it wont. Im afraid you have to stay for a little while yet. One of my biggest pet peeves with anime criticism is the in my opinion excessive reliance on themes. When it comes to a story focused on the mundane that uses observational and incidental narrative and doesnt focus in a central point prioritizing in your speech the talk about transcendence and depth of themes is artificial and uncalled for. And I have even seen it with this show. Its not like Yuru Camp doesnt offer valuable insight on certain topics Ill get there a bit later but to make it the main point of appeal of the series is to me missing the point and applying standards it doesnt aim for. And the solution is not to dismiss the efforts of this show based on the simple immediacy of its premise either specially if such immediacy is carried through an observant perspective that has its inherent difficulty. Why am I bringing this up? Because the writing of Yuru Camp is excellent. It is a definitive standout in its genre and it is easily the most solid I could find in its season. The way it understands and applies character interactions through its entire run is nothing short of brilliant in its apparent simplicity and naturality. The first element Id like to tackle is the storyline. What I am about to say may sound surprising but compared to other slice of life shows I think the pure story aspect in this series is actually quite sophisticated or perhaps I should say tightly structured. Contrarily to what one could think in a show that lives up to its premise of cute girls camping and having harmless fun it has a clear narrative with perfect continuity throughout. All the characters undergo some sort of development regarding their interest on camping some become more profficient some start to contemplate other alternatives... The point I want to make with this is that in this show the narration is above all consequential. It constantly refers to previous events or circumstances the attachment of the characters grows throughout and this development is kept as a basis for future interactions both in the bigger picture and in slight and seemingly irrelevant details. This is true for all of them but particularly as its the main narrative focus for the dynamics of Rin and Nadeshiko. Both learn from each other and we see how they gradually form an increasingly close relationship with some relevant transitions that have their emphasis in the narrative. The main focus of the show is the experience of camping and the attachment to what it has to offer. Some people have said not without reason that the characters and the events are way too focused on camping and that it is difficult to obtain a bigger picture of them when their lives and conversations are so conveniently reduced to their hobby. This never bothered me personally because I think the running theme of camping is more than enough to create a significant introspection to the characters particularly because the very nature of this activity leads to a lot of quiet observation and naturalistic depiction but I can understand this being an issue particularly if you want to observe the characters in other situations or frames of mind or if you get bored by the lack of variety of focus. Speaking of its camping themes and focus it also seems that a common issue among people who either disliked or dont share the enthusiasm for this show lies in the presence of a voiceover narrator who tells things to the viewer serving as a tutorial for camping and giving advice. This is something I myself feel conflicted about not because it bothers me personally but because I honestly dont know how to draw the line and why do I find it acceptable and perfectly fine while other people feel completely unattached when it appears. To me I guess it has to do with how soothing the voice itself is how its strategically placed in the narration to avoid unnecessary interference with the natural interactions of the characters or how at times it plays along with the characters and their mood. 660https://i.ur.com/GqfT6JN.png Through its running theme of camping the show talks as well about friendship and opening up to new experiences. And where it excels at is not so much the inherent complexity of its themes but the execution and particularly in the amount of right narrative decisions taken throughout to build a conclusion that is constructive and inspiring. One of the greatest merits of the writing in this series is how it never puts the characters in a situation where they are stated to be in the wrong or need to be fixed despite the obvious contrast in their personalities and approaches. This is specially true for Rin who is introduced as an introvert and loves camping alone at the beginning and through the series she develops a liking for camping with people. But the loner Rin is still there for the entire series. And her introversion is not fixed either: it is an essential character trait of her and the other characters respect her boundaries. A good deal of the laidback atmosphere in this show is achieved through the mutual respect the girls feel for each other. Nadeshiko the initially hyperactive and potentially invasive personality that would force Rin to change quickly understands that pressuring her is wrong and lets her grow at her own pace. At the same time she learns from Rin too while not changing a bit of her outgoing and enthusiastic personality. It is very refreshing to see this sort of development and it speaks volumes not only to the mutual understanding and empathy displayed by the characters but to the narrative focus itself and the respect the writing shows for their agency and individuality. Speaking of the characters they could be defined by basic personality archetypes. As said Rin is the loner introvert and Nadeshiko the outgoing enthusiast. This is also true for the rest of the characters who all have a set personality and defined traits. While some people have mentioned this as a negative I dont think Yuru Camp suffers from having characters that meet an archetype or sigh can be defined in a single phrase. This is mostly because the writing stays refreshing and keeps finding new ways to explore the set traits of the characters throughout. And above all it puts a lot of care in their interactions and chemistry together and with the surrounding environment. The key word here is spontaneity. Everything in this series is built around this premise. The dialogues are filled with casual banter they have some exposition here and there without feeling like infodumps but the conversations feel perfectly downtoearth and relatable which is even more fascinating if one takes into account how quirky and differentiable their basic character types are. And as a result of this comes one of the greatest and probably one of the most unsung merits of this series. 660https://i.ur.com/BgEFjcx.png Take the scene with Saitou drawing a funny face in Chikuwas photo. Take the Outdoors Club girls silly imitations of camping objects and activities. Take the Santa Clangers the intense chats between Rin and Saitou Chiaki the evil kidnapper Nadeshiko the granny and so on and on and on. There is something relevant around all of these moments. They are funny but they dont need to. You dont need to find these jokes amusing in order for them to make sense because the ones they need to make sense to are the characters themselves. This lack of pandering is one of the things that put this show above so many of its competitors particularly in the portrayal of friendships that like any relationship have their own codes and only make perfect sense to those who share them. Understanding this and not trying to tell the viewer hey this is funny thats why they are laughing but ultimately transmitting that the characters laugh because they genuinely and no matter what you think find this funny is something I can never praise enough in this show. This is true even for Rin alone and her solitary interactions with her environment filled with genuine moments of silliness and fun that are presented in the most natural way possible. A running theme with these girls and their relationships is the use of technology and this is another little aspect that I think deserves to be further emphasized. Where most other narratives either try to establish a contrast or never give enough importance to technology compared to real facetoface interactions Yuru Camp understands and applies both as a continuum of each other. They use their phones to communicate to have fun together to organize plans and etc. Rin and Saitou for instance understand each other extremely well and yet most of their interactions in the show happen through a phone chat. You dont need to see them together in a room to figure out how strong their friendship and mutual confidence is and when it happens it only confirms what we already knew. Another example is in the relationship of Rin and Nadeshiko and how they connect deeply with each other even when they are hundreds of kilometers away to the point that at one scene Nadeshiko literally wants to chat with Rin and serve as a remote travel guide to her solo camping adventure because that way she feels connected to Rins journey. Last but not least in this talk about characters and writing going back to the importance of spontaneity comes the comedy. Now we all know the issue about comedy so its not worth mentioning it again. What makes me laugh wont necessarily make you laugh and so on. But I cant deny that I laugh a lot with this series. Maybe even more than I could expect considering how little it does to try to structure its jokes as well jokes. In fact this may actually work in its advantage and its absolutely worth mentioning the lack of a consistent straight man routine in this series. Whenever the characters do something silly they seem to prefer playing along than reacting in disbelief or pointing out where the joke exactly is. As a result a lot of these comedic moments feel spontaneous and lacking a separated structure and above all they dont overstay their welcome. Ultimately however what makes Yuru Camp work and what explains its appeal to me is the synergy of all the individual elements mentioned above. Visual emphasis soundtrack character writing and storytelling combine to form a single and inseparable entity which could only be achieved by putting individual care on each of them but also factoring a clear overall vision. The perfect embodiment of this lies in its conclusion one of the most solid and appropriate I have ever seen in the medium and which I dont think could even be possible had the show not been as carefully planned and integrated as it was during its whole run.