All I wanted out of this week's episode was a visual smorgasbord of sumptuous-looking food, and Laid-Back Camp has answered my prayers heartily. At one point, it treats the audience to a short but carefully-rendered scene of Rin picking up a full garlic clove and popping the entire thing into her mouth. I have never wanted switch places with a fictional character as much as I did watching that. Finally, we have an anime brave enough to show us the bare-minimum correct and responsible amount of garlic to consume per mouthful. Nature is healing.
Laid-Back Camp remains quite healing too! The sheer enthusiasm the adaptation injects into its characters and their outdoor adventures continues to reach infectious heights even higher than the mountain climb that killed Aki last week. From the grandiose lookout vistas to the simple pleasure of a cold can of milk coffee after a dip in the hot spring, everyone always takes a beat to express or vocalize their enjoyment. A less artful show might have let that become grating, but Laid-Back Camp keeps itself balanced with its occasional warm and sentimental moments. However, even a more skit-heavy episode like this one benefits from its good sense of comedic timing. Toba-sensei's pre-established eagerness for a single sip of beer finally gets the better of her, and I like the quick cut from everyone wordlessly realizing her mistake to the shot of the substitute driver vehicle. The subsequent PSA about drinking and driving feels less like an obligation to Standards & Practices and more like a metatextual extra dunk on poor Toba.
However, I'm pleased to confirm that Toba does indeed get to ingest some of that sweet, sweet ethanol once everyone settles down at the campsite. Aki's reign of abstinent tyranny is no more. Reports of Aki's death also turn out to have been greatly exaggerated, for better or worse, but that just means it's Rin's turn to shuffle off the mortal coil this week. Her early-morning head-start finally catches up with her body, and her perpetual sleepiness provides another gently comedic subplot for the rest of the characters to riff on. Given that Rin tends to be the most guarded cast member when she's around the others, her helplessness in the face of Mr. Sandman makes for a cute contrast. Intentionally or not, she also echoes the soporific effects of her own show. I've taken to watching these episodes right before bed, and their coziness never fails to help me fall asleep more quickly than usual.
Circling back to the food, Laid-Back Camp takes extra care this week in detailing every ingredient, every seasoning, every step, and every mouth-watering bite of the finished product. I think this is probably the most elaborate set of dishes they've made in the show so far, and it definitely strains my conception of even the fanciest possible camping grub. That's part of the show's appeal, though. These camping trips are a kind of rare and liminal space for the girls, so it makes sense for them to go all out savoring the experience, and raising their ambitions ever higher. It's also not like Laid-Back Camp doesn't also frequently celebrate the simple pleasures of a hot cup of ramen on a cold day. Additionally, these meals are a perfect venue to vamp on the group dynamics and highlight each character's idiosyncrasies, from Toba's libations, to the Inuyama sisters' constant trolling, to Nadeshiko's motherly affectations.
I really like the quieter late night scene we get between Nadeshiko and Ena, as an example of one of the aforementioned sentimental moments that further soften the adaptation. It also feels like another recapitulation of the show's thesis: camping is for everyone, and everyone can find something in camping. For Ena, camping is a venue she can share with her criminally adorable dog, and she's inspired by the OutClub members to pursue that even more passionately. It's a very wholesome moment that mirrors Nadeshiko's own eye-opening experiences camping with the others and by herself. It doesn't have to be camping, of course, but we all need some kind of hobby or passion that gives us a sense of fulfillment. That's the core emotion the anime so frequently evokes, and that's why I tend to leave these episodes feeling so warm.
And this is a small thing in this particular episode, but I appreciate how the (awake) campers close out the night with a scary movie on one of their tablets. While that's a frequent activity of choice with my own friends (when circumstances allow), I'm also glad to see the show continue its non-judgmental streak when it comes to utilizing technology in tandem with nature. In fact, the anime often encourages it as a way to make the camping experience even more communal. Anime Herald just published a great article by Alex Henderson that explores this facet of the show in a lot more detail. I think it's another really important part of what makes Laid-Back Camp stand out from the crowd.
If the episode title is any clue, next week we'll finally have the big double birthday bash that this Izu arc has been building towards. I don't know how they're going to top the culinary indulgences of this episode, but I'm eager to see them try! This is assuming, of course, that Rin returns to the group and doesn't drive her moped off into the proverbial sunset, towards what further private hot springs may await her. I don't think any of us could blame her, but I also have a feeling her loyalty to her mother/wife Nadeshiko will carry her back. Meanwhile, I'm trying not to think too hard about this season rapidly approaching its conclusion. A life without Laid-Back Camp seems far too dreary, so I'm going to focus on enjoying these remaining shiny days instead.
And before I go, I need all of you to see the Secret Society Blanket accessory that will be bundled with Nadeshiko's upcoming figma, because I took one look at it yesterday, and my entire heart exploded.
Laid-Back Camp is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is thinking about those eggs. Please direct all egg and egg-related inquiries towards his Twitter