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Camping with friends gets harder when you add adult responsibilities like a full-time job. The Laid-Back Camp movie brings the gang back together as they try to revitalize a campsite.

This movie is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Steve, this has got to be one of the busiest anime seasons in recent memory! I could go with getting away from it all for a bit.


If we’re really sneaky, when Lynzee’s not looking, we can bounce and go on a day trip somewhere nice and wide open, where there’s nothing to rustle us but a gentle breeze and the soft murmur of wildlife.

Or, because that sounds like a lot of work and driving, we could watch a movie about it.
Truly, the healthiest work-life balance is watching a comfy anime film about the recreational value of camping while still having to put together a column about it. Yes, it’s time to hit the road again as we head back to Laid-Back Camp…The Movie!

And, appropriately enough, that’s the exact kind of work-life balancing act that the movie deals with! Because we’re in time skip territory here, our familiar girl camper gang is now navigating the winding road of adult life and all the trials, responsibilities, and perpetual tiredness that come with age.

It was a surprising turn for me, given I’d purposefully avoided looking too deeply into what the Laid-Back Camp The Movie was about before I watched it. Not that ‘spoilers’ are too contentious an issue for a series like this, but it still makes for a fun change-up going in, and I think it sells this as its own unique thing, as opposed to just an extra-long episode of the TV series (which I honestly would have been okay with too).

Honestly same. I know it’s in vogue for sequels and reboots to take once beloved characters and age them up a decade or several in a desperate bid for relevance in our increasingly nostalgia-saturated media landscape. But most of those ignore an elementary yet important component to any successful story: you must have a talking pinecone.

This movie fakes us out with the pinecone’s first appearance and no ‘Hello!’, too!

A heartbreaking emotional cliffhanger! Like, the magic eventually comes back, but a very soft sense of melancholy permeates much of the film. It doesn’t overpower anything, though, which is good because I come to Laid-Back Camp for healing above all else. Our glimpses into the girls’ grown-up lives certainly have plenty of spark to them. Like, of course, Nadeshiko is now working in an outdoor gear shop. I couldn’t picture her doing anything else.

I am a little surprised that we jump this far in the timeline and that she and Rin still aren’t married. But the new job works as a natural destination on the journey of appreciating camping as a hobby that Rin started Nadeshiko down all those years ago. A notion that winds up powering a fair bit of the themes through this film.

At the start, though, it’s just downright novel to see this sort of multi-girl ensemble moe-adjacent series venture past the school segment as we watch these former kids now dealing with back and drinking problems.

Poor Aki seems to embody these most grown-up issues the most.
A woman after my own heart. And vices. And lumbar pains. But it fits Aki’s brash personality, and naturally, she’s the one who instigates their big reunion in the first place. By boozing it up too much and drunk-texting everyone.

Rin Shima getting jump scared by an Aki text message is a great early gag.

Aki getting the band back together in this way also lends this movie more distinction in terms of its plot. Seeing everyone as adults working to renovate a campground gives this feature a feel like some of those P.A. Works working-girl anime like Sakura Quest or The aquatope on white sand, which I’d say is a pretty favorable comparison.

Most importantly, they’re still the same dorks we all know and love through and through.
The Secret Society Blanket has been upgraded.

And you better watch your butts: some of these girls are forklift certified. Among other heavy machinery credentials.

Another benefit to the age-up. Those Do It Yourself!! girls may seem plenty cool, but they’re still a few years off from operating heavy construction equipment.

Probably for the best, too. That’s a good and critical distinction between the two series. I can believe that Nadeshiko passed her excavator training. Whereas if Serufu so much as sat down in a Tonka truck, I know with all my heart that she would immediately find a way to hurt herself.

Besides the second season’s brush with freezing temperatures, Laid-Back Camp has generally avoided endangering its cast in the same way this season’s klutzy carpenter is regularly injuring herself. There are problems to be overcome for the reunited Outdoor Activities Club here, but in the spirit of the grown-up world, they are primarily ones of logistics and bureaucracy.

Yeah, renovating an entire campsite easily dwarfs any of the OutClub’s prior excursions in terms of scale, scope, and amount of work required. It’s basically another job that everyone volunteers to do on top of their normal careers. But they do it all the same because it rekindles the passion they once held together for camping.

One of them probably should have thought to bring a lawnmower, to begin with, though.

As someone who grew up having to do tons of weekly weed-whacking, that whole bit physically pained me. Like girls, I appreciate your moxie, but how did you come out and think you would knock down all this by hand?

I guess the OutClub was never exactly renowned for its brains. And narratively, it works since we see the job grow more manageable as they recruit more people and experienced locals to help out. This also fits thematically since Aki and the others want the campsite to coexist with nature and the people surrounding it. It takes a village and all that.

Coexisting with nature is an appreciable concept powering this movie since many of its resources are dedicated to showing off its raw beauty.

YES. Extremely so. It also speaks to how good the TV show looks that this movie, with elevated yet comparable production values, feels perfectly film-worthy. And for me, this is the perfect time of year to be watching it. The backgrounds capture the many underappreciated hues of brown that paint the late autumn and early winter, both in Japan and where I grew up in Pennsylvania. There’s just a beauty to how Laid-Back Camp revels in areas that look worn and lived-in.

There’s an argument that this movie can run a little long compared to the Laid-Back Camp show’s episodic entries ending on scenic climaxes. But that freedom with the run-time gives it the sort of breathing room this production deserves; That’s why you can have that scene early on where we watch Rin wander around and vibe in the abandoned site.

More of that bounty bequeathed by the format. What else but a full-length Laid-Back Camp movie would confidently dedicate several minutes to animating its characters silently noshing on lovingly-rendered crab meat?

And now I’m glad we waited until after dinner to record this column.
It’s no matter. It’s almost midnight here; nevertheless, my stomach is now growling for crab.

I just wanna eat something so tasty my head turns into a manjuu bun.

It’s the highlight of the film for me too. At their lowest point (“lowest” in big quotation marks because while there is conflict, this is still the Laid-Back Camp movie), Rin and Nadeshiko take a mind-cleansing trip to Japan’s highest and smallest hot spring for some quality wife time together. And it’s where the narrative most explicitly hones the sense of longing that comes from being an adult in your mid-twenties and facing your limitations.

This almost feels like it should have come out a decade or two later. Its cast reunion and sometimes melancholy meditations on reaching the future speak to now older fans of the show. But Laid-Back Camp‘s second season just wrapped last year. Instead, this movie shows narrative ambitiousness, speaking to the same audience immediately in a way the original show functionally couldn’t.

Like it’s commonly understood that these sorts of high-school activities anime primarily appeal to grown-up nerds, but this is an entry that addresses their adult sensibilities and anxieties instead of just roasting them for having back problems.

And I love that direction a lot. Despite my earlier joke, the film’s aged-up concept works precisely because it doesn’t fit into any trend. It is, instead, a concept that fits these characters surprisingly well. Perhaps because the show was always so understated, I like seeing that same attitude applied to the nuances of adulthood. It’s silly, but at points, it feels almost parental, like my heart is swelling, watching my babies all grown up and navigating their own lives on their terms. I can’t single out many other films or shows that have made me feel like that.

It evokes a fondness for familiarity. This movie contains at least three crowd-pleasing “Holy shit, they’re still alive after the time-skip” reveals between Chikuwa, Rin’s grandpa, and Rin’s moped.

I could tell you I didn’t cheer like a mark for every one of these, but I’d be lying.
The moped is the most fanservicey thing the franchise has ever done, and I respect it. Hard. And old man Chikuwa somehow got only more moe with age. Though if you want to feel your heart clench the hardest it will all day, here’s the before and after:

That fluffy boy has been living the best of his long life, probably thanks to his owner Ena going into animal care as her full-time profession.

It’s a micro version of the value of inter-group cooperation, like the OutClub girls regularly helping and encouraging each other through all the bumps in their campsite plan, including Chikuwa’s archaeological ambitions nearly scuttling the whole thing.

That is before they bring the plan back, it is just bigger, better, and more integrated with their discoveries. Akin to old friends coming together as adults to rebuild their love of a camping hobby.

Yeah, it all comes down to the strength of their bonds holding everything together. Even though it isn’t directly connected to the campsite, we still get a very nice scene of Aki and Aoi, for instance, being genuine and supportive of each other in the wake of Aoi’s school closing.

Well, mostly genuine.

I must also note that Aoi’s eyebrows still pierce through her hats. People may grow older, but some things never change. No matter how much they defy the laws of physics.

Rin may have shed her hair orb, but Aoi’s eyebrows and flesh fang persist no matter how much of a respected educator she becomes.

The bonds between these good girls are also illustrated in all those appreciable Laid-Back Camp ways. An understated point throughout the movie is that Rin, once the most prolific camper (solo or otherwise) of the bunch, is now the most swamped with work and unable to get away. But the others still keep her looped in via text messages and photos, just like in the good old days.

I always liked this series’ integration of technology despite its natural world subject matter. In this case, it makes for a heartening treatise on the persistence of adult friendships in the digital age, even as schedules become that much harder to align.
And you could say that’s more or less the film’s thesis: that it gets harder, not easier, to devote time and energy to your passions and personal life when you’re an adult. But at the same time, it’s also much more important and rewarding to put in the effort to maintain those fires, whether they warm you and your friends or light the way for others to follow.

It’s a positively warming achievement of a movie. Like I said at the beginning, I probably would have been happy enough with just a couple more hours of regular Laid-Back Camp content. But this series didn’t become, for my money, the best dang iyashikei anime ever by taking it easy (ironically). What they go with instead means this whole movie will stick with me, distinct from how the show had already carved out a cozy campsite in my mind.

I think Rin’s grandpa gave the best, most succinct review I can muster:

No argument here, Grandpa.

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