There’s a terrific flow to Laid-Back Camp that seems to be at odds with its outwardly simple nature. The girls of the Outdoor Activities Circle basically just camp (or prepare to camp, or dream about camping, or work jobs to save money for camping gear), but the deftness with which the mangaka, Afro, switches from calm, peaceful moments that elicit like feelings in the reader to smile-inducing silliness rooted in carefully constructed characters and the destinations at which they camp is expert. It’s why this series is one of the most quality manga currently being released.
Volume eight continues the outdoorsy adventures for Rin, Nadeshiko, and the gang, this time with Izu as their destination. There’s a heavy focus in this volume on the preparation for and drive to the campsite (most of the actual camping will be featured in volume 9), and because of that, these chapters have a different tone than usual, one that’s slightly heavier.
The movement in plot allows the mangaka to continue his pivoting away from a more singular focus on establishing friendships between the girls to delving into their personal lives, whether by spying on them as they sit alone at home on their phones or by focusing on their interactions with family, of which there are several satisfying ones in volume eight, particularly between Rin and her grandfather and Nadeshiko and her dad.
With the added emphasis on characterization in these chapters, and by making this the largest camp outing so far, the chapters feel a bit overstuffed. Characters are sometimes hard to distinguish and the loveliness of the series is a bit obscured, though only in minor ways. Those two hallmarks of the series I mentioned earlier—the stillness of nature and the cute silliness of the girls—remain, as Afro continues to develop out his surprising masterpiece while keeping it grounded on its topic and the girls.
The bonus chapters in the volume are all welcome additions as well, further reminders of just how many jokes and how much charm is packed in the series. I smiled on virtually each and every page, with my grin often succumbing into laughter, reminding me that for the increasing complexities of the story’s design, the reason I love it is simple: It makes me happy.
Laid-Back Camp Vol. 8 is available now for purchase. A review copy was provided by Yen Press.