By Afro. Released in Japan as “Yurukyan △” by Houbunsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Manga Time Kirara Forward. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Amber Tamosaitis.
Reading this and trying to review it right after New Game! is going to be a challenge. Even though the two series are not all that similar in premise or characterization, they both share that sort of “let’s watch girls do things in a relaxed way” vibe that so many other Kirara titles have. New Game! was about office work and video games, and Laid-Back Camp is about camping. We see a group of four girls with a shared interest, and watch them talk about that interest. The interesting thing is that for most of the cast, talking is what they’re content to do. Another interesting thing is that the cast are for the most part kept separate for most of the book – Rin is a hardcore camper, but camps when and where she does to avoid people. Unfortunately for her, she’s now met Nadeshiko, and so there will be cute interactions in the future. But I was pretty impressed at how long Rin held out.
Give how one of my first exposures to this sort of title was K-On, it’s difficult not to map out Laid-Back Camp’s cast onto the high school band series – only Ritsu is missing here. Rin is one of our heroines, serious about camping and quite good at it. She accidentally runs into Nadeshiko, who is ditzy and flakey but impossible to dislike, and finds that she loves camping as well. Though Rin does not realize it (as Nadeshiko acts years younger than her actual age), they attend the same school, and said school has an Outdoor Exploration Club. With two members. And its room is a supply closet that’s been repurposed. Yes, it’s another club on the verge of failure. Aoi and Chiaki are the members of this club, but to be honest we don’t really get to know them too deeply in this book, which is concerned with Nadeshiko slowly dragging Rin into their inner circle through the power of being a shiny ball of cute.
As you might imagine, the manga is as laid back as its title suggests. There are many shots of the cast (well, mostly Rin) sitting back and looking at lovely scenery. As an advertisement for camping, it’s not bad. There’s also discussion of tents and sleeping bags, and sometimes this feels more like an educational guidebook. I was also very fond of the relationship between Rin and her friend Saitou, which felt very realistic and also very amusing – I loved their text argument. This also allows the series to have a cast member who’s not into camping, which is nice. With all that, the drawback is that the whole volume feels like it’s setting things in place, and two of the four cast members don’t get much to do. This isn’t a series that you’ll be able to tell if it’s a keeper or not with the first volume. That said, I enjoyed myself enough that I’ll pick up Vol. 2. If you want girls relaxing at campsites, Laid-Back Camp lives up to its name.