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Laid-Back Camp Season 3
Episode 11

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Laid-Back Camp (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.3


After last week's bloodcurdling cliffhanger, Laid-Back Camp delivers a shocking truth: Aoi got a new bike. It should surprise no one that her first course of action with her new wheels is to forego her sister's request for wasabi chips and instead use her powers to gently terrorize Chiaki. Aoi is a menace to society. That's why we love her.

The other members of the OutClub have gotten their chance to shine solo this season, so it's about time we checked in with our favorite prankster. Her aunt steals the show, though; she doesn't dally, but she sticks around long enough for the audience to understand where Aoi got her penchant for mischief. The post-credits payoff is cute. The Inuyama auntie also sports their clan's trademark set of thick triangular eyebrows, so those genes are definitely dominant. On that note, though, I was shocked that the bike helmet hid Aoi's eyebrows from view. The anime, traditionally, has drawn those suckers over every hairstyle and hat that Aoi has sported, to the point where it's become a part of Laid-Back Camp's visual identity. I can't tell you how disappointed I am with this cowardly backtracking. Free the eyebrows!

For the sake of being fair and balanced, however, I will tell you about a good piece of fashion from this week's episode: Aoi's cargo pants. I love them. As an outdoors venture focused on cold-weather camping, Laid-Back Camp's dress code features many caps and bulky jackets, setting it apart from the crowd. However, pants-wise, it often goes with jeans or leggings, and that's not too unusual for the medium. The anime industry, for whatever reason, seems averse to baggy cargo-wear. That's why I'm so tickled to see Aoi defy conventions and flaunt those extra pockets. They're a sensible and, dare I say, fashionable choice for the laid-back camper.

Aoi's bike adventures offer a nice spin on the series' typical vehicular antics. Historically, the show has focused on Rin's set of motorized wheels, but now we get a granular and tactile look at how a fancy bicycle feels underneath one's hands and feet. It's relatable for anybody who's graduated past training wheels, and Aoi's innate charm carries it. However, the anime runs into a speed bump when it has to show Aoi zooming along the path. It's mostly an issue in the long-distance shots, where Aoi slides across the ground unnaturally like we're watching the animators drag a cutout of her across a photo in MSPaint. I'm not a huge fan of the 3D models used for the other vehicles, but I've accepted that those are industry standard now. The biking scenes call more attention to the jarring compositing that has plagued this season, so those examples are more egregious.

The aesthetics improve as we switch perspective to Rin and Nadeshiko's surprise team-up. Here, the adaptation plays to its strengths, painting delicious pudding and using the background photorealism to display some gorgeous night scenes. The fact is, you don't have to worry about compositing when you don't have a foreground, and in other cases, the darker lighting helps the elements blend more naturally. It's not cheating if it works.

The second half also dips into atypical territory for the series as the girls dig into the history of the area and the mountainside fire displays. At times, it sounds like a recitation of a Wikipedia page, which I suppose is appropriate because it literally involves Sakura reading Wikipedia on her phone. Laid-Back Camp supports these stories with humorous reimaginings of past feuds, but the material feels drier than the series' usual attempts at infotainment. Still, I like learning stuff. The translation also drops the ball when it comes to some of the jokes, but I can't begrudge overworked translators for throwing their hands up when I can't come up with anything better. The main gag is that Nadeshiko's crappy picture of the "dai" kanji (大) ends up looking like the "o" katakana (オ), hence her sister renaming it from Daimonjiyaki to Omonjiyaki. Is that joke worth it? I'll let you judge.

The most touching part of this episode is Rin's openness with Nadeshiko. Two weeks ago, she lamented that she never got a good chance to return Nadeshiko's favor and take her out somewhere, so here, she seizes the opportunity. After hearing about her pink comrade's new obsession with retro railcars, Rin gives her some other sites to look into, and ultimately, she invites her (and her sister) to check out the Oigatayaki together. As Rin explains, this was something her family did together when she was younger, and now, on the eve of her last year in high school, she shares it with another person who's special to her. The narrative doesn't explicitly call this out as a fulfillment of Rin's promise—it's not technically a camping trip, so maybe it doesn't even count. Nevertheless, it leads to a quietly gorgeous moment enjoyed between the series' main couple, and that's the stuff I'll miss when this season ends.


Laid-Back Camp Season 3 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. Reviewing this show is going to guilt him into going on more hikes. You can also catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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