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Month: April 2018

Laid Back Camp

Laid Back Camp

I’ve only been camping a couple of times in my entire life. The first was in high school, where the freshman class was invited to spend the weekend at a campsite (with amenities like cabins, bathrooms, a cafeteria, etc.). My introverted self didn’t have the greatest time there, I couldn’t get comfortable in my cot, I knew basically no one, and I was too awkward and shy to make friends. The most memorable thing about that weekend was, for me, the bizarre taste and texture of the powdered eggs we had for breakfast. I quickly decided that camping wasn’t for me. And that was that.

Fast forward a decade and change, and my trip to Lake Tahoe and a run through of the Rubicon off-road trail with the SO and a bunch of his friends. I didn’t know what to expect. Compared to my high school experience, we were going to be roughing it. I had to buy a sleeping bag. We slept not in a fancy cabin but in a tent that we had to set up beforehand. We ate burgers and easy, add boiling water meals like ramen. We spent the days puttering through the offroad trail in a Jeep, and we spent nights huddled around a campfire.

After that trip, I realized that I actually did like camping, because I was spending the time with people I actually liked spending time with.

And this is basically the premise of Laid Back Camp, an anime series about a group of high school friends who go camping together in the areas in and around Mt. Fuji. I’m by no means an expert on  moe (the cute girls doing cute things genre) but I’ve watched a heck of a lot of it and I think Laid Back Camp is one of the best I’ve seen. I’d say it ranks up there with K-On. The show celebrates female friendships and youthful enthusiasm for new interests. The girls support each other no matter what, and their love for their shared hobby (camping) is so acute and palpable that it made me want to dig out our tent and go camping myself again.

Laid Back Camp also extolls the advantages of going camping solo. One of the girls, Rin, likes going camping by herself. She spends many a weekend and many a school break puttering to a far away campsite on her moped, and many of the episodes follow her adventures as she goes off on her own, meeting cute dogs, eating delicious food, setting up her tent in remote sites, and enjoying the views (and the isolation). What I love about the anime is that the show makes it clear that Rin isn’t lonely. She’s doing this because she wants to. She loves the freedom of being a solo traveler. I also like that even though the other girls want Rin to join them on their camping trips, they never punish her for saying no.  As someone who adores being alone, it was kind of nice to see this sort of behavior depicted as normal. Rin’s self-reliance is considered an asset, and when she shares her camping knowledge with the other girls, they’re grateful.

Laid Back Camp is a feel good anime series that, like many slice of life shows, doesn’t have much conflict in it, but that’s where the appeal lies. Sometimes I don’t want to see characters come in conflict with each other. Sometimes I just want to watch a couple of friends making a hearty stew out in the middle of nowhere and eat it in the middle of winter, with steam billowing up from their bowls.

That’s comfort. That’s home. That’s a warm blanket on an icy cold night.

Beast Player Erin

Beast Player Erin

I’m in the middle of watching this anime series (available on Crunchyroll) after not quite knowing what it’s about. All I knew was that it was about a young girl who befriends a strange creature which might change the course of history in her world. What felt most surprising about this title is now unknown it feels, considering it has a female protagonist, no fanservice at all, and it’s from the same author who made one of my other favorite anime series Moribito. The Wikipedia page says that this anime was released in 2009 and yet this is basically the first I’ve heard of it. Bad me. And bad internet for not hyping this show more.

Granted, the story feels slightly geared towards younger audiences (it originally aired on NHK, the Japanese equivalent of public broadcasting) but it’s the YA-ness of the story that appeals to me. The story follows the main character, Erin, from the age of ten and goes through two timeskips (at least, I’m on episode 35 out of 50 episodes) and we follow this young girl as she comes of age and finds her way in the world after circumstances force her to leave her village and everything she’d ever known. I’m really enjoying it so far. The story doesn’t shy away from tragedy (this poor girl goes through so much in her young life) but her hard work and empathy are often rewarded with surprising friendships. I’m fascinated by the story and the world it’s set in (there’s some Game of Thrones-ish political intrigue going on in the royal palace happening in tandem with the Erin plot) and I’m really curious to see where this leads. I’m so invested in Erin and her friends and I really want to see her succeed and overcome her earlier tragic life. I’ll probably have more to say about it once I finish the series, but so far so good!

 

Random Thoughts about Jesus Christ Superstar

Random Thoughts about Jesus Christ Superstar

  • John Legend was serviceable as Jesus, even though it definitely felt like some of the notes were out of his range? He was fine and I’m sure a lot of people tuned in because he was playing Jesus so I don’t mind. I’m just happy that there’s gonna be people for whom this version is gonna be their first exposure to JCS.
  • Brandon Victor Dixon’s Judas makes me wish I saw his Aaron Burr because WOW Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas was everything, and I’m in the camp who adored Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdelene.
  • I guess I’m in the minority because I liked the dude who played Simon the Zealot.  Apparently he’s a Swedish heavy metal singer? Neat!
  • The ensemble were great but I really liked the guy who played Peter? He doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention in the reviews I’ve read of the production, but aw Peter. Vying to be Jesus’ BFF but also being selfish and keeping his distance after Jesus was arrested.
  • DAAAANNNG THE PHARISEES. I dug their costumes. The black cloaks and gigantic hoods reminded me of the Nobodies from Kingdom Hearts. What a cool look. Also Annas is probably my favorite out of that group and Jin Ha was perfect in that role, but I can’t discount Norm Lewis as Ciaphas. Such great roles.
  • Um…Alice Cooper. Welllllll, I’m not a huge fan of his, but he was okay. Another piece of stunt casting to bring in viewers but Herod’s Song is sort of a silly, theatrical number that’s supposed to show off the buffoonery of the ruling class at the time so…yeah…it was okay…
  • Ummmmm…what else…
  • Oh! I think I recognized at least a couple of American Idiot musical folks in the Ensemble. I’ll have to look it up, but a few of them definitely looked familiar?
  • Ben Daniels (really??? Him???) was a great Pilate and I LOVED his outfit. But his poor voice near the end of his scene. 🙁
  • I know this is never going to be perfect but my gosh I wish the sound mixing was better.
  • And Judas’ glitter outfit vs. that original fringe outfit will battle for best Judas outfit in my head for all time
  • what i love about live theatre is that the source material gets reinterpreted every time there’s a new production so it evolves with humanity and i think that’s amazing. I mean, there are modern dress productions of Shakespeare…
  • So…overall, NBC’s production was decent, better than lots of the other live musical stuff that they’ve done, and hopefully a sign of things to come with live performance on network TV.