Laid-Back Camp Season 3 Episode 2: Mini Camp



Channelling my inner Thanos, I have to address director of photography Katsuto Ogawa, “Perhaps I treated you too harshly”. I was rather critical of the work they produced with the first episode, citing a lot of struggles in various scenes. While they might still ultimately struggle, I’m finding it hard to place the blame solely with composition in this situation. Laid-Back Camp season 3 episode 2 comes out of the gates stumbling and tripping all over itself with its art, producing quite honestly baffling results beyond belief. Below are two stills from the same episode. Even though I’ve watched the episode, I still have a very hard time believing that the episode could contain disparity in quality as blatant as this- especially when the first image is meant to be some “big” reveal.

It’s a difference in quality that I can’t begin to understand. You can definitely explain away some of the flatness, in the foreground, but the vista provided by the sequence? Absolutely abhorrent output that shouldn’t have made it to air. The whole view looks like it came from Google Earth. You could even say that the lack of any real lighting in the scene can make it look worse than the one on the right. The fact remains though, that the difference in quality is something that is entirely unacceptable to see from a studio- period.

Alright, rant out of the way, why not look at some more specific cases of this issue? There’s very clearly an artistic line drawn internally that’s clearly expressed with Laid-Back Camp season 3 episode 2. It’s the delineation between fiction and reality, and that blend begins to cause problems because of how the art is approached. So, let’s take a look at some of the places that shows up. One of the easiest (and earliest) examples is Ayano Toki (Nadeshiko’s childhood friend) when they’re in an outdoors store.

I think on one side of the coin, Ayano’s design in proximity to the realistic environment art creates a fun effect, but on the other side the thermos she picked up looks like it was draw by me- and I am not a good artist at all. It’s rough around the edges, non-uniform, and can’t even match the simple shading of the mugs next to it. Also, they pretty clearly show off a black Stanley mug next to it in the image- logo and all. I do wonder about the potential legal concerns of doing something like that.

Getting back on topic, it becomes even more confusing with a second example in the same setting. In the second image, the camping tools have been given far more detail to be able to fit in with their setting. It’s just that, well, the boxes in the background are almost comically grating. Flat squares with only a single face bearing any detail isn’t that outstanding. And it’s arguably even worse when you realize that boxes of the same product have different designs. There’s two columns of boxes for that outdoor burner on the left, but one column has a hand-drawn design, while the other is very obviously just an image.

I could provide many more examples, but I think this gets the point across enough to make the connection- Laid-Back Camp season 3 episode 2 highlights just how impossible this art direction makes it for the series to integrate its realistic (and oftentimes real) environment art with the lifeblood of the work. Why does the first image I showed for environment art look so bad? Because it’s a part of the scene. The sequence moves and a character exists within it. On the other hand, the shot of a cluster of houses does not.

Is it the fault of the art director, director of photography, storyboarder, et cetera? I can’t really say for certain, but the territory that the art inhabits is undeniably at fault here. It’s a nightmare to effectively integrate, and really points to 8-Bit’s inability to do so. That said, it’s obviously really hard to call it all terrible, as if it were I would have said that with the first episode. There’s still good bits, but they’re all forced to be static, and funny enough are almost always accompanied/supported by Miho Hasegawa’s lovely color design.

Anyways, the range in quality of art really takes away from the viewer’s enjoyment of the series, as well as (once more) the rather good storyboards of Shin Tosaka and Masao Kojima. It’s off topic, but I’m very curious to see if they head for a third episode together next week, or if they stop at two. Regardless, they put forward much of the same work in Laid-Back Camp season 3 episode 2 as they did with episode 1, so I don’t have much to comment on today (though you can head here to see what I said).

What I can comment on though is some of the animation of this episode. Overall, I’d say there’s more quality work done here, but not quite as “impressive” as things like Rin starting her fire. Hell, there’s even some goofy and awkward pieces like CGI Ayano. When riding her bike she looks fine, but there’s a sequence where she parks and dismounts it, and it’s pretty clear that the staff didn’t put much effort into the animation. Where they did put effort though was Chiaki today.

Considering setting and circumstance, it’s pretty obvious that the silly and very casual humor of our quartet of girls (and our solo dog Chikuwa) is the focal point. Within that, the episode gets off quite a few good laughs through Chiaki’s funny bone, as well as some surprisingly well animated (and mundane) sequences, while everyone camps out at Ena’s house for the afternoon. Though the environment may not be overly pretty or appealing, Tosaka and Kojima’s boards do a good job of hiding it, and the animation throughout the scenes works well to pull your focus towards singular pieces.

Overall, Laid-Back Camp season 3 episode 2 is a surprisingly difficult episode to talk about. Yes, a lot of it comes from the fact that the environment art is near wildly inconsistent, causing problems for plenty of scenes. The other issue though is that, really, not a whole lot of “camping” goes on. The spirit of camping still exists, and it’s quite fun, but it’s just the girls getting together for a fun time and a few laughs. It’s basically purpose-made for enjoyment rather than discussion- and obviously that’s not a bad thing, it just leaves me shaking my fist like an old man at the environment art and mumbling a bit about the good parts. So before I come full circle and turn senile on this episode: it’s a good episode that shows 8-Bit’s commitment at the minimum to the animation. At its best it shows off some impressive potential that allows it to rival C-Station’s work on the series, but at worse it’s to the point of being painful to watch. Here’s hoping that future episodes fix the incredibly sore spots of environment art that we saw today.

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