I enjoyed Laid Back Camp a lot. Between its informative depictions of going camping in Japan, it’s interesting travelogue sequences, and it’s generally chill tone, it ended up being one of my favorite anime, and one where I was kind of sad to see it end, and glad to see the show get a second season. After hearing that the manga had been getting an English release, I decided to check out the first volume of the manga.
In short, Laid Back Camp is basically a pretty clear adaptation of the first couple blocks of the show. It ends partway through the Outdoor Club’s first camping trip, and Rin going on her first road trip on her scooter, and I think that says a lot about the series. It’s a series that it so little about any sort of dramatic tension that we don’t need cliffhangers at the end of each volume. The reason to keep reading is because we want our fix of chill.
And man, that fix of chill is here. With the anime, the music played a major role in setting up the tone of the show and putting the “laid back” in Laid Back Camp, and I found myself wondering if the manga could do that without that excellent music by Akiyuki Tateyama. The answer is absolutely yes.
The way it does this is two-fold. Part of this is with the art – the backgrounds and landscapes by the mangaka, Afro, are tremendously detailed and do a great job of laying out these environments, and the campsites and schools in the manga are the same as those that appear in the anime, and have the same level of detail, just in black & white line art instead of color like in the show.
Black & white art, particularly with line shading, can make places feel cold and oppressive, but Afro definitely manages to avoid that, making the forest at the lakeside campground at the start of the story feel pleasant even in the late autumn and early winter. On top of that, Afro uses some shojo stylistic conceits (i.e sparkles around characters heads when they’re happy or comfortable), to help with the tone as well.
It makes for a volume of manga that, while it doesn’t quite project the same sense of being curled up in a warm blanket the way the anime did, is charming, cheerful, and fun.