Laid-Back Camp
Episodes 1-3

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Laid-Back Camp ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Laid-Back Camp ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Laid-Back Camp ?

Rarely has the title of an anime series conveyed so much about it with just three syllables. Laid-Back Camp is exactly what you'd imagine it to be: a leisurely paced show about going camping. The first character we meet is Rin Shima, a quiet girl who prefers to camp alone in the off-season. One of Rin's solo trips is interrupted by Nadeshiko Kagamihara, whose attempt to see Mt. Fuji has left her stuck in the middle of nowhere. Their chance encounter motivates Nadeshiko to join the Outdoor Activities Club at their high school. It should be a recipe for instant friendship, but Rin is reluctant to give up her peaceful solitude just to hang out with a bunch of noisy girls who can barely set up a bargain-basement tent.

So yes, Laid-Back Camp is very much an atmospheric slice-of-life show in the same vein as Non Non Biyori or Aria the Animation. The pacing is deliberately slow, the characters are absurdly pleasant, and the script's first priority is to show how fun and relaxing camping can be. Unlike some of this season's other warm and fuzzy titles, this one's shaping up to be more of a love-it-or-leave-it genre piece. Viewers who can match the show's pace and enjoy its quiet moments will find plenty to like, while anyone hungry for more narrative substance might just die of boredom. It's absolutely what you see is what you get for now.

With that caveat out of the way, the good news is that Laid-Back Camp seems to be quite good at filling its particular niche. A good cast goes a long way in this genre, and the lead duo of Rin and Nadeshiko balance each other out quite nicely. Rin has a quiet deadpan charisma that allows her to carry much of the opening episode on her own, and her personality is also tailor-made to play off Nadeshiko's wide-eyed enthusiasm. For her part, Nadeshiko fits neatly into the “friendly airhead” mold without being too loud or obnoxious. The two of them really seem to hit their stride in the third episode's camping sequence, finding a natural chemistry as they share dinner and chat about their plans for the morning. The supporting cast seems solid enough thus far, but none of them have had sufficient screen time beyond their initial introductions.

The dramatic stakes here are predictably low, but Laid-Back Camp does at least seem to have a decent sense for its brand of storytelling. I particularly like how Rin's distance from the Outdoor Activities Club has been handled thus far. There's no melodramatic backstory to wade through, nor is Nadeshiko overly pushy about getting Rin to join. The story seems content to step back and let the characters warm up to one another on their own terms, and that keeps the tone nice and consistent. There's not a huge amount of outright comedy to be found, but the delivery has been reasonably sharp whenever Laid-Back Camp goes for laughs. Some of Rin's text messages are quite funny, and Nadeshiko seems to be a magnet for mild slapstick humor. There's just enough entertainment value to keep the show afloat in between its landscape shots.

Speaking of landscape shots, there's some darn pretty scenery in Laid-Back Camp. There's definite artistry to the way the environments are presented; whether it's a view of Mt. Fuji from the lakeshore or the more humble sights of a campground in the off-season, this series is very good at establishing that all-important sense of place. A fair amount of detail has also gone into the girls' camping gear and outdoor attire, though the actual character designs are fairly typical for the genre. The soundtrack does a fine job of setting the mood, with several pieces feeling like they could have come straight out of Aria. My one gripe about the production at the moment is its use of a third-person narrator; it's not overly distracting, but it does seem unnecessary. The narrator doesn't convey much that the characters couldn't have delivered through their own conversations or inner monologues.

Based on these opening episodes, this may be a case where it's okay to judge a book by its cover, or at least by its title. If watching anime characters go on an autumn camping trip sounds like your idea of a good time, then Laid-Back Camp should be at the top of your streaming queue. It's a pleasantly immersive series with a good grasp of its genre fundamentals. On the other hand, it hasn't delivered much in terms of dramatic impact yet. Viewers looking for more than a weekly dose of warm fuzziness might be better off waiting to see if Laid-Back Camp has any other tricks up its sleeve.

Rating: B

Laid-Back Camp is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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