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Laid-Back Camp Season 3
Episodes 1-3

by Steve Jones,

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

How would you rate episode 2 of
Laid-Back Camp (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.1

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


Laid-Back Camp isn't just an anime. It's a soft blanket, a warm cup of ramen, a crisp inhalation of forest air, a cloudless night sky, a sonorous rustle of leaves in the breeze, and a faint ember glowing in the fire pit. Laid-Back Camp is texture. Although this third season arrives bearing change behind and in front of the scenes, these girls and their camping escapades still entice the audience to touch the grass.

The studio and staff switch between the second and third seasons is noticeable. There's no getting around that. Rather than reiterate my thoughts, I'll direct you to my writeup of the premiere in the Preview Guide, because all of the points I made there still hold three episodes in. Regarding my biggest issue, the compositing, I will say that I am getting more acclimated to the new style with each new episode. I barely notice a disconnect in some scenes, but other sequences will pull me out of my reverie with how poorly the characters mesh with their backgrounds. And sometimes, it looks like they don't even bother throwing a filter over the photograph. However, it's not the dealbreaker I feared it might become, so that's the important part. The spirit of camping, laid-back style, persists. Afro's original text still shines through.

The third episode proves that Laid-Back Camp still has the juice. Rin and Ayano's moped tour through the Oigawa (Oi River) area highlights an area of Japan I've never heard about before, and it does so with the series' trademark gentle sense of humor and genuine appreciation for local color. That is precisely what I love the most about this show. It's an animated travelogue that lets me vicariously experience corners of this planet I might not ever walk through. To that extent, I can understand the philosophy behind all the lightly edited photographs layered into the backgrounds. These are real places, and the series invites you to visit them. You can go on that very bridge tour. You can eat some dam curry. And although you might not live in Japan, there are sights and destinations you can get to in your area. It's a big world out there.

I also love Laid-Back Camp because it shows how the human mind works in these environments. Rin and Ayano's material in the third episode is all about the innate allure of a bridge on a nature trail. It's like a primal urge. If I see a bridge on a hike, I will try to cross it. When the girls see that particularly long suspension bridge and comment, “That's a big boy,” that's real. When Nadeshiko abandons her meal plan to indulge in pork on a stick, that's real. That's what being a person is all about. It's the small moments about nothing in particular, shared with another person or enjoyed by one's lonesome. There's profundity in ordinariness. Kurt Vonnegut wrote that we're put on this planet to fart around. I think the ladies of the OutClub would agree.

To that end, it's always fun to see the breadth of the scope that Laid-Back Camp applies to its outdoor activities. The third episode's cross-country road trip and robust rail system propaganda occupy the more extravagant end of the spectrum, while the second episode celebrates smaller wins. Ayano explicitly turns down costlier equipment in favor of a pocket stove, a cheap tent, and a cup of hot cocoa. While these may not be lasting investments, they allow her to get a taste of the camping life, and she can decide whether it's the life for her. In a parallel sense, Aoi remarks how their original cheap purchases led them to connect with Rin and Ena. There are lots of ways to enjoy the outdoors. Sometimes, it involves imagining how hot your friend would be with shorter hair and other times, it's marveling at the immaculate vision of Chikuwa reposing in his 35,000 yen dog tent.

I'm enjoying the heightened presence of Ayano in these early episodes, too. She has a slightly sharper edge to her than the rest of the cast (though still well within the confines of iyashikei comfort), so she adds different colors to the dialogue. For instance, you won't hear Nadeshiko call Rin a freak. I'm all about that classic Tomoyo Kurosawa typecasting. Ayano is also a salient reminder that change isn't intrinsically terrible. She seems like she'll slot into the main cast perfectly well. I've caught myself thinking that this season will inevitably be lesser due to the new staff and studio, but there's plenty of room for it to surprise and delight me.

The ultimate test for Laid-Back Camp will always be the coziness level I feel while watching it, and so far, I've been plenty cozy. While I felt some pangs of anxiety watching Nadeshiko make all those train transfers, that has more to do with my neuroses than anything else. She's a big girl. She can handle herself. The show's return feels like the embrace of an old friend, happy and wistful at the same time. The third episode ends as Nadeshiko's train passes under a bridge that Rin and Ayano had crossed over. They're on different paths. They see different things. But they'll meet up all the same, and they'll tell each other about it.

Episode 1 Rating:

Episode 2 Rating:

Episode 3 Rating:

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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