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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Laid-Back Camp Season 3

How would you rate episode 1 of
Laid-Back Camp (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.2

What is this?

Rin rings in the new season with a solo camp in front of a mini-Mount Fuji. Inspired by recollections of her first taste of camping with her grandfather, she tries her hand at building her own fire from scratch. Her reward is a warming welcome back to these great outdoors, alongside the question of how well she can actually stay connected to that past. Nadeshiko and the Out-Club, meanwhile, work to get back in the camping spirit after all the non-camp work they've been doing. Making some DIY alcohol stoves gets their juices flowing, and this is all just a prelude to the new comfy camping kickbacks that are getting ready to bloom.

Laid-Back Camp season three is based on a manga series by Afro. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.

How was the first episode?

Steve Jones

For me, the big question going into this premiere was whether or not the studio change would impact Laid-Back Camp's view from the top of the iyashikei mountain. The first two seasons were beloved by many (including yours truly), and the movie's more mature and melancholic tone made for a fitting farewell from director Yoshiaki Kyougoku and his team at C-Station. Could Shin Tosaka and the folks at 8-Bit pick up that mantle? Could they assemble their campsite from scratch? The answer is: mostly!

This premiere emphasizes many of the camping components that haven't changed. The cast is untouched, and the girls' chemistry with each other is as strong as ever. Like the second season premiere, Rin spends most of her time remembering a formative outdoor experience, while the rest of the club gets up to shenanigans and plans their next excursion. Akiyuki Tateyama's folksy soundtrack fits the tone exquisitely, accenting both the goofs and the long gazes at natural beauty. You've got the pillow shots of weird sculptures that accent the local color. The pinecones are sentient. It's still Laid-Back Camp.

However, the studio shift can be felt from the onset. I feel pretty neutral about the new character designs. I like the old ones a bit more—there's something about the droopier eyes that doesn't suit Rin in particular—but I can see myself getting used to the change after a few weeks. On the upside, I like the stylized OP a lot. It pays homage to the iconography of past openings while using shapes and colors distinctly and attractively. And although I'm sad to lose Eri Sasaki's gorgeous and gentle voice, it's nice to see Asaka return to sing the ED. Good music is a paramount accompaniment to those cozy vibes.

The biggest downgrade is the compositing. C-Station's craft on that front was some of the best in the business, so 8-Bit would have been fighting an uphill battle even in the best of circumstances. We don't have a coughing baby vs. hydrogen bomb situation but I think the new season's visual philosophy is fundamentally flawed. They seem to be going for more photorealism, with increased detail in the backgrounds, heavier use of filters, and thinner outlines on the characters. While you might think these techniques would help mesh everything together more seamlessly, the result is that characters sometimes look like they're occupying a parallel dimension superimposed over a glossy PNG of Mount Fuji. To be fair, the show can put together shots that look quite nice, but it's far more noticeable when the components don't align.

Ultimately, the Laid-Back Camp spirit feels as fired up as the alcohol stoves the gang builds together. I can look past some shoddy compositing if it means I can spend another season with these goofballs and the great outdoors.

Kevin Cormack

The last time we caught up with Rin, Nadeshiko, and the other members of Secret Society Blanket, they were all grown up, with proper jobs and everything. That was in the Laid-Back Camp movie, though, perhaps not strictly canon to the TV show or its source manga. With this very welcome third season of everyone's favorite relaxing anime, our delightful group of Camping Girls is still in high school. It's probably best not to worry about stressful things like “timelines” and “canon” when really what we should be doing with Laid-Back Camp is drinking in the atmosphere, kicking back, and sinking into the squishiest of cushions under the most comforting blanket.

As befits its identity as an iyashikei (healing) show, season three is in no hurry to establish its current status quo, instead treating us to a cute flashback of Smol Rin (complete with hair bun!) spending time with her grandfather, who introduces her to the delights of camping in the shivering cold. Bonus points for a cute-as-ever Konnichiwa Pinecone cameo! The new opening theme," Laid-Back Journey," remains as peppy and upbeat as its predecessors, with super-cute and bright visuals to match. Watching it makes me feel as if the show has never been away (it's been three years since the second season concluded).

This episode is split into two segments, the first following Rin as she camps alone and reminisces about the lessons imparted to her by her grandfather. In this case, she comes to appreciate how difficult it is to generate fire by merely rubbing two pieces of wood together, and how much her grandfather indulged her by demonstrating it all those years ago. These scenes remind me of my fond memories of my own (sadly missed) grandad, who taught me similar things as a kid. As a bonus, Rin inadvertently passes the knowledge on to an enraptured little girl watching her tribulations. Of course, Rin didn't actually use her fire to heat anything – she explains it would turn her pot black with soot, so she uses a portable gas stove instead! I love these funny little character quirks that Laid-Back Camp is full of.

Rin's main quirk is her attraction to out-of-season solo camping, something she learned from her similarly solitary grandfather. “Loneliness is a part of camping,” he explains to Smol Rin when she is sad that they have to leave. “It's what makes you look forward to your next trip.” That sentiment is what drives Rin to seek out new experiences and new campsites – in this case beside a lake in which (on a still day at least) is reflected Kodaka Fuji, Mount Fuji's “child”, with the ever-present Fuji “hugging” the smaller mountain in the background.

The rest of the episode focuses on Nadeshiko and the other girls of the outdoors club at school. Their approach to camping is far more social than Rin's, with plans made for a potentially raucous backyard sausage-cooking camping party! Laid-Back Camp has always included neat little educational segments, this time with the girls transforming metal drinks cans into simple ethanol burners. Of course, Nadeshiko is “too powerful” (read: clumsy) to manage this with something as fragile as aluminum, so after three ruined attempts, she must upgrade her ingredients to use steel instead. Her smug little smile after succeeding is so funny and characterful. I can't help but worry that granting a chaos magnet like Nadeshiko the gift of easily ignitable (and invisible) flames isn't the safest choice, though…

This excellent first episode has firmly laid to rest any concerns about production duties for season three of Laid-Back Camp switching studios. The ending sequence concludes our short bucolic sojourn with sunbeam-drenched perfection. As always, with its adorable, sweet characters and relaxing vibe, Laid-Back Camp season three comes highly recommended.

Christopher Farris

After spending two seasons and a time-traveling movie getting cozy with C-Station's handling of Laid-Back Camp, there's some understandable trepidation about hopping studios and staff for this latest outing with the OutClub. Don't expect a characteristically cozy easing back in either, as the style shift from studio 8-Bit is noticeable up-front. The characters now have a distinctive low-outlined look, and the compositing looks rougher. The character animation also misses some of that previous appreciable plushness, with bits like Rin's efforts at starting a fire looking a little choppy. Elements like those, alongside not having Eri Sasaki perform the ending theme, all drive home the inherent shift in identity in this season. That new ending theme at least invokes the phrase "Shiny Days."

Thankfully, there's an understanding of the overall shape of Laid-Back Camp, which is still driving this third season. This intro episode indulges the standard split between Shimarin's solo camping kickbacks and the OutClub's slightly more upbeat antics. The episode even pulls something of a reverse of the movie, flashing back to the past to show the secret origins of Rin's camping fascination as inherited from her grandpa. Effective musical accompaniment compliments her efforts at starting a fire by rubbing wood together to become a cheer-worthy moment once she succeeds. The unique alchemy of making plays in parallel with the creation of anime itself. Ideas like that and Rin's lines questioning how well you can return to previous feelings or if you'll be missing something—make this perhaps ring a bit more meta than it actually is, considering the circumstances of this season's creation. But those feelings are there nonetheless, and all the pinecones saying "Konnichiwa!" can't make you not notice it.

The following half, focusing on Nadeshiko and the others, also embraces that acknowledgment of its priors. There are notable flashbacks to earlier season antics as the characters slyly comment that it's been a while since they got out on a proper excursion. This section seems to settle into the style swap more naturally than Rin's trip, as we snappily follow the crew's craft project that makes this Laid-Back Camp feel like Do It Yourself!! in equal measure. Between the alcohol stoves and Rin's wood-burning efforts, this episode is all about making fire in unique ways that are different from what we'd seen before.

It's different, but it's lit up well enough already. The episode teases some new aspects to make this season feel like it's moving forward, regardless of the soft reboot stylings of the studio switch. So, look forward to…haircut camping? At least they're also implying additional Ayano for this new entry. Like the flowers that Nadeshiko snaps a photo of, this Laid-Back Camp doesn't feel fully bloomed yet, but it's still worth a look. There's just a sense of melancholy as it lingers in the shadow of its pitch-perfect predecessor, feeling like it could have an uphill climb ahead of it to live up to what has been, for my money, the best iyashikei anime ever.

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