Laid-Back Camp Season 2
Episode 12

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Laid-Back Camp (TV 2) ?

The Izu arc continues unabated as Nadeshiko and the gang see more spectacular sights, scarf down more sumptuous food, and temporarily mutate into shrimp people. It's more of the same stuff we've been seeing for the past few weeks, but Laid-Back Camp is the rare anime where “more of the same” is high praise from me. The show is still suffused with personality, and its vicarious vacation vibes are needed now more than ever—the weather IRL is getting nicer, and I'm getting antsier about being cooped up indoors. Thankfully, we've had these camping antics for our weekly dose of “Rinjuvenation” (thank you, Aoi), and even though our OutClub friends will soon depart, the series remains determined to bring its A game.

This arc's focus on the unique geology of Izu has been a real treat. Laid-Back Camp is no stranger to the beauty of natural landmarks, but it has outdone itself in terms of variety with this peninsula-wide geospot survey. The composition takes a lot of care to briefly describe and explain the various formations, and the animators take even more care when it comes to depicting them. Working in tandem, these create a real sense of authenticity. Beyond that, however, the love and attention poured into these vistas make them more than just facsimiles—this is art, created by artists, purposefully evoking the experience of being in these places. It's a subtle craft, but it's one that Laid-Back Camp commands with grace and beauty.

Of course, the sentimentality of the preceding paragraph belies the fact that the show is also just very fun to watch. Jokes and funny faces abound this week, and the snappy pacing of the comedy remains a fine complement to the more patient pacing of its capital-R Romantic scenes. Their trip across the tombolo is a great example, where the novelty of the geography provides a great backdrop for the emotional terrorism Aoi inflicts on her excitable little sister. The beat between Nadeshiko looking at her teacher and the shot of Toba happily pouring herself a midday beer is also perfect. Even the weirder gags, like the surprise shrimp heads, are as good and flavorful as shrimp itself. In a meta sense, it's also pretty funny for the show to briefly tease a traditional beach episode, bikinis and all, right before cutting back to the girls in their winter hats and puffy jackets. I don't doubt that Laid-Back Camp could make warmer excursions just as magical as its colder ones, but winter camping is definitely one of the angles that makes it stand out from the crowd.

I appreciate the adaptation's emphasis on tactile experiences as well. For example, the girls have to wade across shallow water, where the chilly winter ocean stings their feet, and the show has fun depicting Rin's highly relatable reactions. But even these less-than-pleasant experiences create powerful associations and memories, and these memorable moments are what make these trips so special. However, Laid-Back Camp tends to focus on the good times, and there are plenty of those here as well—most of them involving food. From their breakfast sashimi spread to the evening birthday feast, the girls eat like queens this week. In fact, the one downside about watching this late at night is that I inevitably go to bed feeling hungry.

The girls' adventures along the tombolo and other oceanside rock formations also reminded me of some of my favorite moments from my 2019 Japan trip (warning for the incoming humblebrag). I didn't visit Izu (although it's certainly on my list now, thanks to this show), but I did take a day to check out Enoshima island. While I went to plenty of the touristy locations, the highlight of the day arrived towards the end of my visit, when I checked out the southern part of the island. There were caves there that had been closed due to flooding, but at the bottom of the cliffs were a bunch of large flat rocks you could walk on when the tide was low. I spent a good hour or so just walking along there, checking out the tide pools, looking out at the ocean, and feeling the cool breeze. It was the kind of chill moment that would feel right at home in the hands of Rin, Nadeshiko, and the others, and I love Laid-Back Camp for giving me the inspiration to go out and create more memories like that.

The climax of this episode has been teased in the OP all season, and now that it's here, it's easy to understand why. The sunrise at Mt. Daruma is Laid-Back Camp at its peak, flexing its mastery of composition to craft the quiet awe of daybreak in the countryside. I'm blown away by the painstakingly delicate way it shows the sunlight gently blanketing the mountains and trees before it intensifies into dawn. I genuinely have no clue how difficult that is to rig or animate, but I can appreciate the artistry that had to go into making the softness and movement of that light feel just right. And the girls' starry-eyed wonder at this majestic vista reminds us that this is Laid-Back Camp's magic. This is not just an anime about new experiences, but about the evocation of those new experiences at the talented hands of a staff that obviously cares about the material.

In some ways, this is a more difficult show for me to write about than Wonder Egg Priority. WEP is dense enough to support the kind of close reading and critical analysis my education prepared me for, but Laid-Back Camp is more about feelings and textures. I find words notoriously lacking when it comes to describing feelings, and to date, I don't believe I've done the show justice and satisfactorily communicated what makes it so special to me. I think I've gotten close, though, and even if its vibe isn't your thing, I hope I've said something that helped you understand its appeal. As an aggressively comfy iyashikei anime, it's easy to take Laid-Back Camp for granted, but it would be so much lesser if not for the strength and vision of its craft. We have just one episode left with these delightful blob people. Let's all make the most of it.

Rating:

Laid-Back Camp is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is thinking about those eggs. Please direct all egg and egg-related inquiries towards his Twitter


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