I’ve only been camping a couple of times in my entire life. The first was in high school, where the freshman class was invited to spend the weekend at a campsite (with amenities like cabins, bathrooms, a cafeteria, etc.). My introverted self didn’t have the greatest time there, I couldn’t get comfortable in my cot, I knew basically no one, and I was too awkward and shy to make friends. The most memorable thing about that weekend was, for me, the bizarre taste and texture of the powdered eggs we had for breakfast. I quickly decided that camping wasn’t for me. And that was that.
Fast forward a decade and change, and my trip to Lake Tahoe and a run through of the Rubicon off-road trail with the SO and a bunch of his friends. I didn’t know what to expect. Compared to my high school experience, we were going to be roughing it. I had to buy a sleeping bag. We slept not in a fancy cabin but in a tent that we had to set up beforehand. We ate burgers and easy, add boiling water meals like ramen. We spent the days puttering through the offroad trail in a Jeep, and we spent nights huddled around a campfire.
After that trip, I realized that I actually did like camping, because I was spending the time with people I actually liked spending time with.
And this is basically the premise of Laid Back Camp, an anime series about a group of high school friends who go camping together in the areas in and around Mt. Fuji. I’m by no means an expert on moe (the cute girls doing cute things genre) but I’ve watched a heck of a lot of it and I think Laid Back Camp is one of the best I’ve seen. I’d say it ranks up there with K-On. The show celebrates female friendships and youthful enthusiasm for new interests. The girls support each other no matter what, and their love for their shared hobby (camping) is so acute and palpable that it made me want to dig out our tent and go camping myself again.
Laid Back Camp also extolls the advantages of going camping solo. One of the girls, Rin, likes going camping by herself. She spends many a weekend and many a school break puttering to a far away campsite on her moped, and many of the episodes follow her adventures as she goes off on her own, meeting cute dogs, eating delicious food, setting up her tent in remote sites, and enjoying the views (and the isolation). What I love about the anime is that the show makes it clear that Rin isn’t lonely. She’s doing this because she wants to. She loves the freedom of being a solo traveler. I also like that even though the other girls want Rin to join them on their camping trips, they never punish her for saying no. As someone who adores being alone, it was kind of nice to see this sort of behavior depicted as normal. Rin’s self-reliance is considered an asset, and when she shares her camping knowledge with the other girls, they’re grateful.
Laid Back Camp is a feel good anime series that, like many slice of life shows, doesn’t have much conflict in it, but that’s where the appeal lies. Sometimes I don’t want to see characters come in conflict with each other. Sometimes I just want to watch a couple of friends making a hearty stew out in the middle of nowhere and eat it in the middle of winter, with steam billowing up from their bowls.
That’s comfort. That’s home. That’s a warm blanket on an icy cold night.