Reviews of Laid-Back Camp (2018) and related work
- Sequel: Room Camp (2020)
Laid-Back Camp (2018) – previously
Seen in 2022.
This review refers to the first two seasons, but not the interseasonal OVAs.
High-school girls go camping. The first season covers one autumn and early winter, the second season the rest of that winter.
A predictable comedy with minimal plotting. There is a pretty strong focus on cooking, especially grilling various meats. There is also a hybrid commercial-didactic dimension discussing camping gear with typical prices, often voiced by an older male narrator as if to instruct young viewers and boost both sales and tourism.
I got to experience the warm relationship between this production and the tourist industry in 2023. I visited Bentenjima in Hamamatsu, as the charcters on the show do in season 2. On the beach, I found this local map, with an extraordinary 16 stills from the TV series, detailing things to do in Hamamatsu through the characters’ example.
There was also a life-size cut-out of the fictional characters on the beach, for taking selfies with drawings. At the time, 80% of Japanese people did not own a passport, and of the 20% who did, many would travel abroad only for work. The vast majority of Japanese do their travelling within Japan, to the extent that it evidently makes financial sense to produce even an animated show like this one.
The laid-back atmosphere (yurui) of the title blunts the hard edge of government-supported capitalism. However, the makers took no risks. A lot of the backgrounds use real photos of real places that are digitally processed and painted over, like the stills on the map. There is heavy use of instant messages and smartphone photography. That is naturalistic, but the static texts messages in the first season look boring.
The second season was produced three years after the first and is therefore a season only in the most tenuous sense, but it does carry the same title. It continues in the same style as the first with greater confidence and competence, and slightly more tension as one trip goes bad. Episode 9 is a highlight: Rin’s father and grandfather go out of their way to help equip her moped for a camping trip, with the grandfather making a quick shopping trip to improve a new built-in USB charger for Rin’s phone, hooking up the DC/DC adapter with a relay to the ignition key switch so it can’t drain the battery. It’s multi-generationally cozy and results in Rin tailing the club’s (teacher’s) van on that moped in her huge scarf; a visual more charming than the capybaras of the season finale.
References here: 2023-07-02, Turistkarta med scener ur Laid-Back Camp, Havets sjö, Rilakkuma to Kaorusan (2019), Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (2020), Let’s Make a Mug Too (2021), Bocchi the Rock (2022).
‣ Room Camp (2020)
Seen in 2020.
A stamp rally.