Over the last couple of years I’ve taken more and more to watching the On-Demand Channel/App known as Crunchyroll – a place where you can do 1 of 2 things; watch Japanese anime and live-action Japanese shows for free with an unholy amount of advertising disrupting the flow. Or paying a subscription fee that takes away the adverts altogether, provides even more shows to watch, makes the latest episodes in Japan the latest episodes to you, and allows you to read manga for free on their website. Weirdly enough, they are both on the same level of appeal if you’re not worried about time or being up to date (or reading manga or watching One Piece). It just depends on what you’re happy to do. Me? I was happy to subscribe. But today I’ll be discussing 1 I found 2 years ago (and rewatched it over the Winter Holidays due to a spin-off coming out in January under the name Room Camp) that was on display, and had no prior knowledge of before starting. This is Laid Back Camp (or Yuru Camp).
Laid Back Camp more or less starts off at the very end of the Show before it goes right back to the beginning. In it, we are introduced to 5 girls (and a little dog), and throughout the story we see how this group of girls get together in the end. We begin by being introduced to the 2 main protagonists: Rin, a blue haired introvert who prefers to go camping alone. And Nadeshiko, an energetic girl with pink hair who knows nothing about camping, but then it becomes her favourite thing to do when she isn’t eating…and this show has a lot of eating; not that the opening minute gives that away. We are then introduced to Chiaki and Aoi, who, along with Nadeshiko, run an after-school club that focuses on Camping, and finally, Ena, Rin’s best friend, who spends most of the show texting Rin and doing her hair in a bun. Chikuwa, Ena’s dog, is there to be part of the cuteness.
Now to look at the components:
Set in the real world with hairstyles that range from real to Otaku, 1 thing that really stands out are the backgrounds – They. Are. Stunning! Really beautiful to look at. Practically on a brochure display level or art gallery level, let alone to set the scene. They remind me of backgrounds that I’ve seen in Studio Ghibli films, and sometimes I would stop the streams to screenshot them on my Mac, they are that good. The designs of the characters are simple and cute without being overly detailed, and they’re all very easy to tell apart. For comedic reasons, sometimes they become chibi in nature, and here that style really works. Everything about this program is easy on the eyes, even the hint of food porn.
Backgrounds like these are among the reasons I love this show, and they’re only from the first episode.
The voice acting is really good to my english-speaking ears listening to Japanese with subtitles – each character’s voice matches their designs and characters perfectly and they’re all distinct. Since there is no english dubbing, I can’t make comparisons, and since most dramatic parts of the show have humour mixed in, it doesn’t have a full range of emotions. I’m giving it 4 out of 5, because it’s still really good, but it might not be mind-blowingly good.
The story might not appeal to everybody because of how light and gentle the whole experience is. If there was a gentleness I could compare it to, it would either be My Neighbour Totoro or Winnie The Pooh. Even the dramatic moments can make you smile. To say it’s harmless is an understatement because the approach to character development has more or less no conflict. That doesn’t take away the show’s enjoyment though, as the ‘problems’ they experience are very real, whether it’s high prices, roadblocks, dogs being violent in their friendliness, accidents, a run-in with local folklore, or too many people looking for a good meal.
The Characters are all distinct with everybody finding an aspect of their own personality in at least 1 of them – So here goes: Rin is quiet and introverted, and likes camping on her own. Nadeshiko is loud and extroverted, and loves learning new things (and eating vast amounts of food). Chiaki is the president of the club and likes to take charge and be responsible. Aoi is an old soul who keeps the group together. And Ena is cheerful and full of jokes. Another interesting quirk about the names of the characters is the fact that their surnames are all the same as different towns across Japan. You also get several side characters to move the plot along – primarily Toba, a substitute teacher at their school who happens to be a terrible alcoholic (But she’s a happy drunk, so lightness and gentleness continues) – now, do they behave like real people? No, and to some that could drop a few stars, but, perhaps the vagueness in their personalities allows us to see more of ourselves in them. Who knows.
The music by Akiyuki Tateyama is an absolute joy to listen to, even without the show. His use of whistles along with acoustic guitar, bass, fiddle and several other folksy instruments are really lovely and give a very relaxed feel. The opening theme is by J-Pop singer Asaka, whose sound is quite Jackson 5 in nature and the song Shiny Days shows it. The end theme is a singer-songwriter piece by Era Sasaki called Furu Biyori, which is a great song to say “Night night” to. Music to make you happy.
The Themes are centred around the building of friendship, as well as learning about this niche activity to the point that even the audience is enthusiastic enough to want to replicate it in their own lives. Whether this was intended or just the creators doing their research…is up to us to decide.
Would I recommend Laid Back Camp? Yes I would – especially for people who want to learn the basics of camping by experiencing a tutorial within a story, as well as to enjoy watching what is effectively a gourmet anime within a slice of life comedy. It’s very gentle viewing and in its own escapist way, it sparks joy. I can re-watch this show anytime and feel cosy.
Also despite being 3 minutes each, Room Camp was great. ‘Looking forward to Season 2 in 2021.
Art style: *****
Voice Acting: ****