What’s it about? Rin has always enjoyed camping alone, but that may be about to change after she meets transfer student Nadeshiko and shows her the simple joys of sleeping under the stars.
It’s probably too early to say this is the soothing successor to relaxing gems Amanchu and flying witch that I’ve been waiting for, but it sure is off to a promising start. This premiere was the anime equivalent of sipping tea under a fuzzy blanket. It cured my headache and dropped my blood pressure 10 points. I wouldn’t be surprised if my doctor starts prescribing it to me.
As the title promises, Laid-Back Camp has its mind on its comfy and its comfy on its mind, which means it’s less about plot or character development and more about atmosphere and tone. Thankfully, the series production pretty much top-to-bottom nails that tone. The character designs are rounded and gentle while still being expressive, and while the backgrounds aren’t breathtaking, they have a feathered paintbrush quality that adds to the show’s easygoing atmosphere. There’s also a nice focus on minutiae in the storyboards, as the camera follows little actions like a sleeping bag slowly unrolling or a campfire coming to life, helping to draw the audience into these seemingly mundane moments.
Perhaps most notably, the music is pitch-perfect, from the bouncy Jackson 5-esque opening theme to the woodwind-heavy instrumentals that’d be right at home in a Medieval Europe-inspired fantasy series. They provide a fantastical quality to the outdoor scenes, imbuing the natural world with a bright, gentle wonder. There are long stretches without dialogue in this premiere, leaving it up to the art and music to carry the narrative, and they do so with calming aplomb.
Atmosphere may be this series’ first priority, but that doesn’t mean it’s void of charming characters. Rin is a refreshing example of a protagonist who enjoys solitude without being a lonely outcast, and her deadpan sense of humor provides some solid chuckles and keeps the show from becoming too sugary sweet. Her costar Nadeshiko, an outgoing airhead who wears her heart on her sleeve, is a bit more archetypal, but Hanamori Yumiri plays her with such sincere, wobbly energy that she comes across as genuinely cute instead of infantile or a calculated moeblob. They seem like good kids, and I wouldn’t at all mind hanging out with them more.
As far as “plot” goes… well, this isn’t that kind of show, you silly reader, so if you’re looking for a gripping narrative or pulse-pounding mysteries, better check elsewhere. That said, there are other girls joining the cast (two of them get a fun little vignette at the end of the episode) and it’s heavily implied that the gang will come together to form the “outdoor activities club” before too long. I suspect those group interactions, along with Rin slowly opening up her hobby to others, will form the heart of the story and provide whatever low-key conflicts we might see.
There were a few tonally offbeat moments worth mentioning, although they weren’t necessarily off-putting. There’s a random campsite narrator with a soothing paternal voice who shows up out of nowhere to provide helpful camping tips to the audience. You kinda just have to roll with it. He also introduces us to a pine cone who says “hello” and then squeaks out “hot!” when Rin sets it on fire, which made me laugh and then feel bad about laughing. The show has beats of weird humor, which don’t always match the overall tone but mostly work.
The only moment that genuinely took me out of my comfy haze was when Nadeshiko’s sister entered the scene just long enough to dish out some comedic slapstick, which wouldn’t be an issue except that she yells at and insults Nadeshiko, calling her a “pig.” It’s a surprisingly mean-spirited scene for a premiere that had been so warm with its humor up to that point, and may hint at the series having a few sharp edges buried under its puffy sleeping bag. Based on the rest of the episode, I suspect this was an anomaly and not a warning sign, but it was so tonally out-of-place that I figured it was worth mentioning.
Beyond that, though, Laid-Back Camp’s premiere was good clean fun for the whole family. How the series handles its character dynamics and balances camping slice-of-life with cute humor will likely determine its staying power, and there’s always a chance it could shift from charming to cloying or even (gulp) skeevy if the story takes a turn into stereotypical fanservice nonsense. So far, though, this strikes me as a harmless little iyashikei, the kind of show you’ll want to cuddle up with on a cold winter night. I feel pretty confident that I’ll be back for another dose of cozy next week.