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Laid-Back Camp Season 3
Episode 4

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Laid-Back Camp (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.4

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Let's get the important stuff out of the way first: the beloved Shimarin Bun returns in all its spherical glory this week. Clearly, the animators heard us all bemoaning its absence because it shows up twice—once in Nadeshiko's fantasy and a second time at the hot springs—glory to the hair orb. And the rest of the episode is also good, I guess.

Kudos to the small dose of train nerdery this week with the cute explanation of the railcar combination. I once went on a similar kind of cog railway to get to the top of Pike's Peak, so I'm a little familiar with the mechanics and excitement. Like the one woman Nadeshiko befriends, I'm not big into trains either, but it's still a unique system that's cool to ride and witness in person. It's like the Nagashima Dam or any suspension bridges featured in this arc. Humans utilize ingenuity and technology to integrate themselves into the hugeness and harshness of nature.

The historical record, of course, is fraught with the destruction of these natural vistas due to these pursuits. However, this series instead highlights examples that coexist with their environment because it wants the audience to know that a better world is possible. When Nadeshiko looks over the “egg” (i.e., Okuōikojō Station), it's dwarfed by the lake, trees, and landscape. It's humbled by them. Each destination in Laid-Back Camp is its own character. The featured stations, forests, restaurants, roads, mountains, rivers, dams, and bridges are all as lively as any of the girls—and that goes double for the bridges on a windy day.

Laid-Back Camp's sense of community is another important aspect of its coziness. I'm not one for camping, but I enjoy hiking and the various nods, waves, and hellos exchanged between strangers passing each other on a path. They're small yet comforting gestures. They're affirmations of mutual humanity. In a similar vein, Nadeshiko becomes snack friends with those two women on the train, and Rin and Ayano hear stories about the area from the elderly couple who own that restaurant. These are fleeting connections, but they're not lesser for it. The fabric of society is woven from cordial interactions between people who may never cross paths again.

But if we want something more intimate, then Rin and Ayano's adventures show how quickly friendships can be forged in the fires of mutual struggle. Unsurprisingly, Ayano failed to account for how taxing this trip would be. Rin, similarly, underestimates the formidability of a remote suspension bridge. Together, however, they push each other past their fear and weakness, and both girls come out the other side wiser, stronger, and closer. It's also adorable to hear how excited Ayano was to find another girl with a penchant for motorbikes. If that's not a solid foundation for a relationship, then I don't know what is. She also brings out a different side of Rin, a spark of mania that glimmers behind those purple eyes. Obviously, Nadeshiko is still Rin's girlfriend, but I'm starting to believe in the Rin/Nadeshiko/Ayano OT3.

While the biker girls loudly brave their hell roads together, Nadeshiko's journey more closely resembles the quieter solo camping outings we've previously seen from Rin. There's time for goofs and contemplation alike, taken at her own pace. The spooky tunnel that the locals turned into a haunted house is a great setpiece, and like everything else in the show, it's very real. And while the Nagashima Dam is quite impressive, my favorite locale has to be Okuōikojō Station. It just cuts such a unique vista between the water, the island, and the lattice of the train tracks. I'm not surprised it's a popular spot for photographers.

The last thing I want to highlight is the soundtrack. While I've previously praised Akiyuki Tateyama's music as an irreplaceable component of the series' core coziness, he outdoes himself this week by orchestrating Rin and Ayano's multi-tunnel motorbike montage. It's composed in a more cinematic vein than the usual folksy fare we hear, but it fits the scene impeccably. I especially like the handoff of the melody between the accordion, trumpet, and violin throughout the piece. That interplay provides just the right amount of whimsy—just what Laid-Back Camp needs.

Rating:

P.S. Sound off in the comments whether or not you'd cross that bridge. I'm definitely a yes.

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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