True to its name, we follow the calming story of four high school soon-to-be friends and their love for winter time camping. Nadeshiko Kagemihara insists on visiting a lakeside campsite with a view of Mount Fuji but falls asleep when she gets there. She is taken in by Rin Shima, a veteran camper and fellow classmate, who is staying at the site that night. Nadeshiko dives headfirst into the world of camping and joins her school’s Outdoor Club, and tries the whole time to get Rin to join as well. Scenic views, hot chocolate, and winter nights await all who watch.
Rin Shima is our main character and unwilling star. We meet Rin at a lakeside campsite where we learn she likes to spend her weekends. An avid winter camper, Rin leads the show by introducing Nadeshiko to camping and going on camping trips when not in school. This stokes the camping fire of all the other girls, through the example that she sets from afar. She is anti-social, standoffish, and systematic. It seems clear that she lives for the weekend and camping is where she can enjoy the peace and quiet outside of school — at least before Nadeshiko gets there. Rin has a crude charm that shines through her winter coat and makes you secretly hope that the other characters get through to her softer side.
Nadeshiko Kagamihara fits a stereo type of characters I am now realizing that I like: bubbly, pink-haired, positive, and hyper-social (see Chika Fujiwara on page 392 for reference). Nadeshiko is not like Rin. She rarely has a fully-fledged plan. She thrives in the social situations and brings an energy that makes the show really charming. Nadeshiko quickly becomes proficient with all the camping necessities after joining the Outdoor Club. Her addition to the club really seems to revitalize not only Chiaki and Aoi, but all the other characters’ love for camping.
Chiaki Ogaki is the most forced comic relief I’ve seen in a while and I absolutely hate that it works. Between her constant impressions and ridiculous tactics to save money, I can’t decide which one caused more one o’clock chuckles. This camping diehard is the president of the Outdoor Club and all two of its members, Nadeshiko and Aoi. She is obsessed with getting a bigger club room so she isn’t sharing space with Harry Potter in the broom closet. Pastimes include doing nothing but planning events for the outdoor club and cooking food from internet recipes when friends are sick.
Aoi Inuyama is co-president of the Outdoor Club and reminds me of a fishing rod. Chiaki ambitiously swims out too far and Aoi reels her right back in. Yet, she still toys with all the club members. Sometimes she lets them fight the line a little bit, but they always end up in the boat. She has some of the best rhetorical jabs in the whole show but she’s easy to miss if the cozy camping vibes in the show make you start dozing off… but an anime blog aficionado would never.
Ena Saito doesn’t quite feel real for a good portion of the show. She is Rin’s friend and avid texting partner while Rin camps. It seems a bit odd that it takes us so long to see Ena consistently in person, but it speaks to the nature of their relationship. Ena hates the cold, loves her dog, and is constantly doing Rin’s hair at school. It’s rare that Ena tags along to camp with Rin, but when she does, she isn’t shy about dogging Rin about why she shouldn’t camp alone and always brings her dog for as long as it can stand the cold.
Each of the girls brings their own perspective and quirks to camping in an interesting way. Yet, we don’t see the development that drives the show into the highest tier of shows. Among our cast, Rin and Nadeshiko steal the show, but don’t carry it enough for full marks. 4/6
I watched Laid Back Camp a little differently than I normally watch anime. I started to binge the first couple episodes and got busy. I picked up the show later that night, just before I went to bed. Since then, I made it a nightly ritual to watch two or three episodes. This was by far the best way to experience the show. Laid Back Camp calls it how it is: the show embraces the sweet nothings of cozy nights, winter scenes, campfire food. There’s no magical conflict, no glitzy lifestyles, no neon signs — just being outside. Watching this show felt less like you were observing through a screen and more like being an extension of the characters though smelling the hot pot, feeling the cool wind, and breathing in the fresh air on the campsite. The show has a way to pull you in and make you feel invited into the Outdoor Club. I hope you and/or your significant other/body pillow can snuggle up in some blankets and really just enjoy the immersion. 4/6
If you read my review on Love is Like a Cocktail you know how much I love a solid narrator who can explain things not commonly known to the cast. If not, well… I like that shit. Laid Back Camp has a similar narrator who interjects with tidbits on different tent materials, fire-making techniques and other things I would know if my parents enrolled me in the Boy Scouts. While this idea isn’t original, it feels appropriate to rope in views with little or no camping experience, like me. . Normally, I think narration is a cop out for poor story facilitation, but this story benefits from a third party informing viewers — especially compared to a version where the characters would randomly break casual conversation to explain something simple to themselves.
Put simply enough, building a show around camping is a fresh idea to me. To be fair, I probably would be enthralled with a plot if someone described it as ‘girls go camping,’ but the show finds a way to give it life. While this seems like a small idea, it’s fun for me to see a branch of anime that mimics my life. I can’t act like everyone camps, but I know that in my home state of Michigan, it is a bigger part of life than most other places in the country. a bit of my state’s culture represented here is something that makes my heart happy.
Deep, complex ideas were not super plentiful, but I enjoyed the ones that we did get. 3/6
Laid Back Camp was in no hurry whatsoever. While the show is largely episodic in the sense that nothing major happened in any particular episode, there is a clear sense of the characters growing closer over time. Each episode is fairly self-contained in that it builds up to the girls getting that “perfect view” at the campsite, which comes across as worthy of that growing anticipation. As the school year closes and the season nears its end, the club plans a Christmas break camping trip. Rin (being Rin) doesn’t want to camp with others. By the final episodes, I found myself rooting for the other girls in their mission to convince Rin to join them, hoping that the final scenes of them all camping together would be that “perfect view” of the show we’ve been waiting for. 3/4
Let’s set the scene: I am sitting at my desk, alone on a grey December evening. A notification popped up on my phone. It’s Randy, a member of the Lotad Gang. Now, Randy usually messages the group chat at this time, but something feels off. I swipe to answer. There is a problem — a dire situation, one might say. You see, Randy was in need of something important, and Something that only anyone with a Crunchyroll account could offer him. You see, Randy needed wallpapers.
If you are looking for wallpaper screenshots, this show is for you. Most of the scenic views are painted and look incredible, with towering mountainscapes and calm, forested campsites, and lakeside beauty shots. If you read my Princess Connect review (oh, look, another shameless plug), I criticized the painted backgrounds because they were boring and they played no role whatsoever in the story. I am here to tell you we have turned a page on painted backgrounds and it all starts with… wait for it… actually highlighting your paintings. The show really brings the cozy feeling together with the build up to the scenic view. It took me a couple episodes, but I realized that I was waiting for this peak each episode where you let your breath out and watch it materialize in front of you. These scenes of city lights from atop chilly mountains, Mount Fuji illuminated by the moon, and lakes dancing with the colors of the trees really drive home the aesthetic. 3/4
For those of you who camp, perhaps you feel like me and notice campsites feel still. They feel like an unmoving fixture in which you are the visitor. Yes, yes, I understand you ARE in fact the visitor, but you know what I mean. There is this unshakable feeling of being temporary and distinct from nature. Laid Back Camp has the same feeling. We travel to the campsites with our characters and are treated to beautiful scenery, but there isn’t a sense of depth and life, but instead that feeling you get after you visit a monument only to lose interest five minutes later. We don’t interact with sites like we want to. Perhaps this is a result of the animation, but all the interactions seem to come from the characters and what they bring to the table, not what the world around has to offer. The scenery is beautiful and I enjoyed it, but the world has to be more than a beautiful backdrop. 1/3
I know this is a bold claim, but this is something that has to be said: “Shiny Days,” the opening song, is one of the biggest bops since the opener to Your Lie In April. I will admit that I usually skip the openers. I hear them once, I get it, I skip the rest. I listened to all twelve openers here. As far as the rest of the music? I can explain it no other way than perfect for the tone of the show. Every guitar strum sounds like it comes from beside a campfire. I can hear the early evenings at my grandparents’ cottage in the banjo and whistle combination common throughout the show. Need a little more energy? Whip out the fiddle, boys! The music was uplifting, energetic and tasteful, and really just set the mood by itself in almost every scene. Impactful, not invasive — just as it should be. 3/3
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||4||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||4||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||3||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||3||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||1||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||3||3|
In an anime landscape that’s filled to the brim with action-capped series, heart-throbbing romances and innovative, mystical landscapes, Laid Back Camp feels itself like a trip to the Outdoor. It’s unusually calming, inviting and tranquil as it blazes its own path. You’re not going to get the depth and complexity that some shows offer, but Laid Back Camp unapologetically provides a break from reality — a welcomed change of pace with room to develop and a second season on the way soon.