Review: Laid-Back Camp Vol. 5

The charming 2018 camping anime, Laid Back Camp (Yuru Camp), ended its twelve-episode run with a few notable events on the horizon: New Year’s celebrations for the crew, the first true introduction to Rin’s grandfather, and Nadeshiko searching for a job. Volume five of the manga answers a couple of these questions (the grandfather storyline is postponed, literally, because of icy conditions), while continuing the series-long theme of Rin’s growth into a kinder, more sociable person even as she remains her understated but sassy self. And just like the rest of the series, volume five is a wonderfully-crafted representation of the slice-of-life genre.

With New Year’s approaching, each of the five girls have separate plans—some are working right though the holiday, while others have breaks and time to spend with family. Nadeshiko has found a job through Ena delivering New Year’s cards by traveling door-to-door on her trusty bicycle. Rin, on the other hand, returns to solo camping, this time far away from Mt. Fuji and by the ocean (though she can see the beloved landmark in the distance). Having most recently joined the entire group while Christmas camping, this solo excursion gives Rin the opportunity to carve her own exploit (it’s not quite as cumbersome as her Ina trip, but she does have at least one ruff misadventure) and reflect on the past several months. As ever, the manga mixes quick and funny dialogue with moments of beauty and contemplation.

But although this volume seems to separate the group, our two main girls find themselves together again as Rin encounters icy roads that keep her from traveling home and lead her to Nadeshiko’s hometown where the two try out the area’s speciality, eel, and where readers meet Nadeshiko’s friend Ayano. The meat of the volume is right here—Rin, the consummate introvert, gets along perfectly well with Ayano as the trio visits an overlook in the city. It demonstrates how much Rin has grown, and also reminds readers of what the series is all about; there’s no catty jealousy between old best friend and new—instead, Laid-Back Camp continues to press forward with a cast of thoughtful but hilarious girls whose journeys in the outdoors gently push them toward adulthood.

This series really is a special read, one reminiscent of the wonderful slice-of-life tales that were so popular a decade ago but have since waned in popularity. When life gets too stressful and even when manga is too full of tension and action, Laid-Back Camp is a series readers can turn to and relax with, while still still being entertained by carefully-knit stories and beautiful illustrations. And although more of a transitional set of chapters, volume five is a beautiful addition to the series, accomplishing what all good manga does—leave you wanting more to read, and more of the characters in your life.

Rating: A-



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