FEATURE: The Quiet Lessons of Laid-Back Camp



Hello everyone, and welcome back to Why It Works. The winter season has plenty of charming attractions, but personally, I might be most appreciative of the return of Laid-Back Camp. The show almost feels like a form of therapy, as many slice of life shows do. It’s all about sitting back and celebrating the smaller moments in life, as it renders those moments with such beauty and care that you can’t help but appreciate them. Even as it vividly conveys its own beautiful moments, it also works as something of a guide, instructing us in how to bring a similar sense of wonder and appreciation to our own lives. Laid-Back Camp emphasizes being present in the same way you’d expect from mindfulness training — and as we return to its second season, let’s celebrate the many ways this show emphasizes being present in your own life!


Laid-Back Camp


First off, it’s certainly a bit easier to sink into the rhythms of the natural world when that natural world is conveyed with this much beauty. From its opening shots onward, Laid-Back Camp presents a beautiful vision of the Japanese countryside, without necessarily idealizing the actual geography of that countryside. Many of its settings consist of mundane road stops or well-trodden campsites, but through its vivid colorwork and the relationship of its characters with the world around them, Laid-Back Camp emphasizes that natural beauty can be found almost anywhere.


You don’t always need to be rushing off in search of beauty, though. Through its pacing and sound design, Laid-Back Camp also emphasizes the allure of a quiet afternoon and the busy stillness of a day in motion. Early on in the first episode, there’s a sequence of Rin just sitting at her window, closing her eyes and letting the wind rustle over her. Laid-Back Camp consistently emphasizes the beauty of quiet, and of time spent with your thoughts, simply letting the music of nature complement your relaxation. 


Laid-Back Camp


When you minimize your own centrality in the world around you, the beauty of that world comes into sharper focus. And with camping, a great number of moments to pause are inherently built into the process — there are plenty of times when your task is simply “be here in this moment,” which can be a hard thing to internalize at first, but ultimately an important lesson.


Laid-Back Camp’s lessons aren’t simply about sitting around and listening to birds, though. The show frequently lingers on Rin’s processing of assembling camping gear, with both season premieres featuring a tent-raising montage. There’s a reason for this: there is a soothing rhythm to steady, repetitive, productive labor, and there is a great sense of fulfillment in building something with your own hands. In camping, this is doubly true, because everything you construct has a clear and immediate purpose, and thus your efforts are immediately rewarded with the satisfaction of being housed, or warm, or fed. Laid-Back Camp relishes the quiet satisfaction and pride of working with your hands, and feeling competent and self-sufficient in the moment.


Laid-Back Camp


Though you obviously can’t “feel” the sensation of constructing a tent while watching Laid-Back Camp, the show does its best to convey the tactile sensation of physical labor. It is overstuffed with partial body shots, a staple of slice of life productions, and for good reason. This genre generally wants you to feel more deeply, to be aware of the substance of your every action, and to not discount small victories just because they don’t feel “narratively significant.” Through both its narrative preoccupation with these processes and the deliberate, tactile nature of its layouts, Laid-Back Camp encourages us to enjoy productive labor and appreciate each moment as it passes.


And of course, all that carefully observed labor eventually blossoms into the satisfaction of a job well done. In a world where our labor efforts can frequently feel distant from any real-world accomplishments, sitting down inside a tent you built is an undeniable expression of labor well spent. Heck, even the process of planning a camping trip offers Rin plenty of small victories and an ultimate sense of satisfaction. It can at times be very difficult to convince ourselves we need to rest, or that we deserve a break; through camping, the natural points of rest and recuperation are illustrated clearly. Through these lessons, we hope to learn to be easier on ourselves in our everyday life, as well.


Laid-Back Camp


Laid-Back Camp obviously isn’t some sort of stuffy or didactic “lesson-driven” anime; it’s a fluffy slice of life show and it’s here to make you feel good. But in spite of its cozy ambitions, or perhaps even as a result of them, the show feels full of natural lessons. Laid-Back Camp encourages us to take it a little slower, to appreciate the world around us, and to take heart in all our smaller accomplishments. It’s a quietly wise show, and I’m very happy it’s back.


What’s your own favorite lesson from Laid-Back Camp? Let us know in the comments!




Nick Creamer has been writing about cartoons for too many years now and is always ready to cry about Madoka. You can find more of his work at his blog Wrong Every Time, or follow him on Twitter.


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