Yuru Camp (or Laid-back Camp) seems to have all the hallmarks of a comfy iyashikei show- mild lighting, not-too-bright color coordination, memorable yet simplistic character designs, and a nice set of soundtracks that blend into the background.
The rustic, scenic background art has this hand-drawn, pastel look to them- something that’s not so common in the age of glossy, CG-rendered backgrounds in anime. The color design isn’t as vibrant and lustrous as most of its contemporaries, and that’s the case for a good reason- it’s winter time in the anime. But what’s nice about it is that the same applies to the character designs as well. Sure, the designs have a technically bright color palette but the colors have a slightly desaturated scheme, which makes the characters look like they actually belong to the world they are in, rather than looking like they are copied and pasted onto a scenery. While I am on the topic of character designs, I must add that I adore the winter wardrobe on the girls- the color coordination is on point. Damn… what’s with me and color today.
Of course, CG models aren’t strangers in the anime- the buildings and vehicles are CGI composites and they are serviceable. However, there is Rin’s scarf in the wind- it looks awful- it looks so robotic and it stands out… even at night. I wonder why animating the scarf was even necessary- just tuck it in! Anyway, I won’t go down with another nitpicky rant today- it’s just 2 minutes of animation and I can gulp it down… and this is supposed to be a ‘laid-back look’ (I messed up already!). Otherwise, the animation is consistent in quality and not much to say about.
The character writing is solid, but there’s nothing particularly fresh or new to offer in that aspect- you could say it’s laid-back. Nadeshiko is an adorable genki girl, but there’s nothing else unique about her that would save her from being just another flat genki character. Rin at least went through a bit of change where, by the end, she sees that camping out with other people is kind of nice. Chiaki is a weird one, she was pretty passive at the beginning but she turned into a comic relief character in the middle of the series- which I didn’t mind, she was funny. The other cast members are pretty eh, I forgot what most of them were about- but I remember what they look like because like I said before, the character designs are memorable. Clearly, Yuru Camp doesn’t have the most memorable character cast in terms of their individual characterizations- but I enjoyed the chemistry between Nadeshiko and Rin quite a lot.
With the chilled guitar and flute folk soundtracks in the background, we are lent narration by Rin’s grandfather. The narration is mostly on camping gear and camping tips and tricks- which I found interesting for the first five episodes or so. Then, it started to feel longer and longer by each passing episode, and I soon found myself spacing out while watching the show. Nevertheless, his narration during Room Camp segment in episode 4 is one of my favorite cute-funny moments in the anime. Whenever I think “What’s funny in Yuru Camp?”- that segment immediately comes to mind, even if it’s been 5 months since I last watched it.
And now to the best part of the show- the ending theme (“Fuyubiyori” by Eri Sasaki). It’s easily one of the best ending songs I have heard this year- Eri Sasaki’s vocal delivery quivers ever so slightly in just right points and the harmonization with layered vocals are great touches. It calls up sweet nostalgia and has a healing effect on me- like all great soothing songs do. The instrumental production is finely tuned too, not too many instruments in the mix. I wouldn’t mind putting it up along with these great pieces as one of my favorite anime songs to wake up to.
If you are curious as to what other anime songs I would put in this category, here they are: Gankutsuou’s opening (“We Were Lovers” by Jean-Jacques Burnel), Amanchu’s opening (“Million Clouds” by Maaya Sakamoto) and Natsume’s Book of Friends’ very first ending (“Natsu Yuuzora” by Kousuke Atari), which is a weird choice because it’s also a song I used to love to listen to in the evening and is literally about a summer evening- but I got the same energy from this piece when I used to wake up from a quick nap just before going to cram school. I used a bit too many ‘used to’s in my last sentence- nostalgic much?
Alright, time to return to Yuru Camp…
Overall, I enjoyed Yuru Camp- it is a nice slice-of-life anime with some controlled genki-ness and comedy thrown in the mix. It didn’t blow me away, and it didn’t end up being as healing as an iyashikei anime should be- I mean, it’s no Natsume or Amanchu- I don’t think it wasn’t fully committed to being one anyway, the anime just shared a handful of elements of a typical iyashikei, that’s about it. But I would recommend it if you got a few afternoons to lay back and watch some girls having fun winter camping near Mt. Fuji, and listen to calmly narrated camping gear advertisements as a bonus.
And this was, in no way, a ‘laid-back look at Laid-back Camp’. I just did it for the title- my bad.