Laid-Back Camp Season 2
Episode 9

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Laid-Back Camp (TV 2) ?

Laid-Back Camp's second season has been stacked with solo camping adventures and sudden brushes with subzero temperature disasters, but the girls of the OutClub haven't had a chance to embrace the great outdoors together as one big round-faced family…until now. Nadeshiko had an illuminating experience last week, but she also admits it wasn't enough to sway her to the solo side forever. Indeed, her decision to vacillate back and forth between group and personal outings hews true to Laid-Back Camp's overarching philosophy—that there's no one “correct” way to camp. Camping here is all about the vibes, so as long as you're vibing (and respecting nature, other campers etc.), you're camping just fine.

However, as this is another transitory episode, this week's antics are focused more on humor and character interactions than on chill camping vibes. There's also nothing wrong with that; it's just another flavor of Laid-Back Camp that rounds out its narrative curry. I like the playful way Ena teases Rin with her illicitly-gained knowledge of the worrywart traversing the vast expanses of Japan to check on her wife's well-being. It's also nice to see everyone's unbridled, unfiltered excitement at the prospect of having another big group trip. Both the show and its characters embrace sincerity tightly with their wool-mittened hands, and that's a huge part of its appeal. Rin's moped-fueled delight at her upcoming Izu journey is matched in warmth by the smile on Nadeshiko's face, cradled in her hands as she looks at her bun-domed partner-in-camping-crime. The series has been adamant that a good camping experience is anything but simple, yet nevertheless, there's a rustic charm in how the girls fixate on this particular hobby as their getaway from quotidian life.

Oh, it's also Nadeshiko's and Aoi's birthday! Or it was on March 4th, anyway, which by happy coincidence happened to be the date this episode aired. Sadly, it's too late to properly celebrate now, but I'll probably prepare a simple curry this weekend in their honor. It's also another opportunity for the anime to flex its invariably wholesome muscles, as we see the other girls plan for their double-birthday extravaganza in their own timeline. Maybe they'll all pitch in to finally reunite Aoi with her beloved Caribou-kun; maybe they'll find something for Nadeshiko that is even more round and Kirby-like than she is. And the scary thing is, I can't tell which of those two is more unlikely.

My favorite part of this episode is its focus on Rin's family, which is now confirmed to be made up of nothing but bikers and motorbike enthusiasts. Now we know where she gets it from! It's also so funny that she has a nice bonding moment with her dad over their moped modifications, only for her grandpa to pull up in his hog, take one look at their handiwork, and immediately identify how they screwed up. He's a lot more genteel in practice than my description there, but that's only because Rin's grandpa is actually the coolest guy in the entire universe. He is the King of the Road and he will burn responsible rubber towards the nearest auto repair shop at 8 pm on a Friday in order to help his precious granddaughter. What a dude. I also need to know more about her mom's delinquent biker past. The picture after the end credits is priceless, but absent any additional information, I'm just going to assume she used to be the leader of a cutthroat sukeban gang. And furthermore, I'm going to demand a Laid-Back Camp prequel that stars her as the protagonist.

Despite the antics-heavy theme this week, the episode ends in a strong and sentimental place, with Rin and her grandpa riding together on the empty road under the starry sky. That might not sound like much, but it delivered a surprising emotional punch square in my gut. Both Rin and her grandpa are people of few words, and the scene is appropriately quiet, staged to emphasize the darkness of the early morning and the grand expanse of the scenery. Despite the distance between them, however, their familial bond wordlessly illuminates the entire experience. The anime, in its beautifully subtle way, captures the precise and overwhelming joy of sharing a moment with someone you love over something the both of you love. Rin doesn't have to ask to know that her grandpa planned to travel with her all along. And he probably didn't have to vocalize it either, but as he reflects on the specialness of this journey over a hot can of coffee, it evokes both the transiency of all of our lives, as well as the unfathomable magnitude of these small perfect moments when they find their way into our hearts. As long as we keep looking out for the people who are important to us—whether it's a father helping with his daughter's first campsite, or friends checking in on each other's wellbeing, or a grandfather sharing the road with his granddaughter—we'll be alright. Maybe that's too mawkish of a reading on my part. However, I do believe that this stuff is what elevates Laid-Back Camp from a pretty good anime into a great one.

The OutClub girls are now ready for Izu, and so am I. Let's see that double birthday bash. Let's see some capybaras taking a bath (a real thing, by the way). Let's see Toba-sensei down seltzer water like it's, well, water. We've had almost a full season of smaller, more contemplative adventures. It's time to embrace chaos—and camp responsibly, of course.

Rating:

PSA

Hey, did you know that Crunchyroll posted a bonus Room Camp special last week? If you didn't, you're welcome! That's 11 more minutes of laid-back content to soothe your soul until the next full-length installment. There's not much in it for me to review, but I can vouch for its comfy vibes. It's a simple Rin-focused venture that doubles as an animated advertisement for a 3-wheeled motorbike—which, now that I think about it, has a lot of fortuitously-timed synergy with the this week's focus on Rin's biker genes. I also assume it takes place sometime after season 2, because Rin has a new haircut (RIP her hair meatball). That doesn't mean you can expect some tantalizing teasers for future dramatic developments, but it does feature Rin's relatably awkward first-time sauna experiments. Overall, it was a nice surprise, and I definitely don't take those for granted anymore.

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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