It very quickly became her favorite anime
To this day, I do not know what caused me to pick up Episode 1 of Laid-Back Camp and give it a watch. At the time, I was a self-proclaimed “anime elitist” who scoffed at the idea of watching CGDCT (Cute Girls Doing Cute Things) shows. I had no way of predicting that the show would become an all-time favorite of mine and a formative influence on my taste in anime. I certainly don’t know what was going through my head when I finished the episode and thought to myself “I should make my mother watch this.”
My parents were no strangers to anime. But it had all been “serious” anime up to that point. I knew my father wouldn’t appreciate the frivolity of Laid-Back Camp, but my mother was a different story. Most of my bonding with her had been over “cute” and “comfy” things: pets, cooking, childhood cartoons, and the like. She, of all people, would be able to vibe with the simple pleasures of Laid-Back Camp.
Even so, I had to sell it to her somehow. I descended the stairs, casually walked up to her, and asked her if she was free. With a tinge of suspicion, she said yes. I then told her, “There’s this show I want you to watch.”
She looked rather amused. “Is it Japanese?”
As we walked up the stairs, I continued to try and sell her on the show. “It’s critically acclaimed for being very calm and relaxing. Don’t be fooled by its appearance; it’s aimed at adults.” My mother nodded her head, no doubt curious about why I hadn’t brought my father along. Once we reached my room, I seated her in my chair (a large, comfy thing), reserving for myself a rather uncomfortable steel folding chair. I was eager to please, to give her the best experience possible. I fired up my laptop. It was time.
As the episode began, I was tense. For some reason, I really, really wanted her to enjoy it. What if she didn’t like it? What if she considered it too silly? Questions such as these were floating inside my head. I could barely concentrate on the episode. Little did I know that the sight of a drooling Nadeshiko was all it took for Laid-Back Camp to become one of my mother’s favorite shows.
Today, Laid-Back Camp Season 2 is part of our weekly ritual. Every Friday, we fire up the TV for our weekly fix of Nadeshiko and Rin and friends. My mother, being the kind of person she is, doesn’t even remember the name of the show. She refers to it only as “Rin-chan,” after the phrase the cheery Nadeshiko often yells out. My mother is very much a Nadeshiko person, you see. I am convinced she watches the show primarily for the food. Every time the narrator reads out a recipe, if it doesn’t contain meat or fish, she goes, “Oh, we can easily make that at home.” She also enjoys the beautiful scenery and atmosphere and the music. The humor is more of a mixed bag. My mother isn’t as knowledgeable about Japanese culture as I am, so some of the jokes fly over her head. She’s also not the fastest reader of subtitles. I sometimes have to pause and explain a joke if it is particularly good. That does not seem to affect her overall experience. It is a testament to the simplicity and universality of Laid-Back Camp that it is able to transcend these cultural barriers.
If my mother is Nadeshiko, then I am Rin through and through. Like Rin, I’ve always been an introvert. If I have a book or a device with me, I can while away the hours without the need for other people (much to their chagrin). While this may sound great in principle, it is actually something of a balancing act. At times, I do feel the urge to share my (limited and obsessive) interests with other people. At the same time, I don’t want these other people to impact my enjoyment of said interests. I love anime. A lot. I think it is a great medium. Which is why I sometimes want other people, people whom I love, to experience that greatness for themselves. I want to see them watch my favorite anime and go, “Wow, that was great.” But I still love watching anime alone. It’s the perfect way to immerse oneself in the medium. If someone were next to me watching the same show, I would be distracted by thoughts of “Are they enjoying it?” or “Did they understand that bit?” or some such.
This is why I love Laid-Back Camp’s depiction of introversion via Rin. Popular media often depicts introversion as a negative “condition.” Worse still, they portray the introvert becoming more extroverted as some sort of “positive character development.” I hate that. Laid-Back Camp, on the other hand, respects Rin’s nature. Rin is a longtime solo camper. It is her favorite activity. Even after Rin discovers the joy of group camping thanks to Nadeshiko, she still prefers to camp solo, as she reveals in Season 2. Nadeshiko and the others respect that. The friendship that Rin and Nadeshiko share is a joy to watch, with Nadeshiko respecting Rin’s space while Rin warms up to Nadeshiko’s outgoing exuberance. They complement each other perfectly.
My experience has not been too dissimilar from Rin’s. From an anime-watching loner, I have become someone who appreciates the group-watching experience. I like sharing my love for Laid-Back Camp with my mother. Discussing the show with her, speculating on what might happen in the next episode, rewatching funny moments, cooking food based on recipes from the show, planning an “anime pilgrimage” to Yamanashi. It’s been a magical experience. It brought me closer to her in a year when I’d become isolated from everyone. So what was it that made me decide to watch Laid-Back Camp with my mother? I don’t think I’ll ever know. What I do know is that I’m going to miss camping with her every Friday once this season ends.
What makes Laid-Back Camp so special for YOU? Let us know in the comments.