The bulk of this episode revolves around Rin’s solo trip for New Year’s. This time around, she’s camping closer by the seacoast which is really refreshing. Not that I’ve gotten tired of the vistas yet but I can’t deny that the general campsite has either been the woods, a lakeshore, or a grassy plain. It’s a good thing for Laid-Back Camp to vary it up some more. Evidently, I’m not the only one who feels enthusiastic as Rin herself is barely able to contain her excitement. She’s visibly and audibly in awe at the view and she wastes no time setting up her camp so that she can go sightseeing some more.
There’s a couple of pitstops Rin takes along the way. The first is a tea shop recommend to her by her mother, the owner of which is actually the mountain climber she met back in Season 1’s ninth episode. I’m just as surprised as Rin to see this character again. She did have more lines than your average extra but who honestly figured she’d make another appearance? Nevertheless, it’s a neat little callback and exchange. Later on, Rin visits the shrine that sold her on taking this trip in the first place. Unfortunately, the dog she wanted to meet has passed away, resulting in Rin making do with paying a visit to its grave and leaving with yet another doggie trinket. This later leads to Rin asking Ena over her concerns of Chikuwa eventually passing away. Ena even gives an honest and serious answer too, admitting that such a day will eventually come and that gives her all the more reason to spend time with her pet. As surprising as it is to hear two characters of Laid-Back Camp to talk about death, the conversation is a really thoughtful one and it does play into the show’s theme of spending time with the people you’re close to. Moments such as this is what makes the show feel so grounded and earnest.
I often joke in these episode reviews that Rin is seemingly more well off financially than her friends. It’s hard not to think it comes across that way when she has some of the best gear and there’s moments where she splurges. Nevertheless, it’s funny when she acts more on a budget for a change, as evidenced in this episode. At the café, Rin only plans on sampling some of the tea offered but she indulges in more luxurious services when her mother sends her some allowance to spend. Later towards the end, Rin notices some vendors giving away food for free or for sale and Rin can’t help but give into temptation. To be fair, who wouldn’t want to get a snack for free or good pizza if it’s cheap?
While the episode mainly focuses on Rin, a good amount of time is dedicated to the other characters. Chiaki, Aoi, Aoi’s sister Akari (Risae Matsuda), and Toba-sensei (Shizuka Itou) carpool to see the first sunrise of the year. Ena sleeps in until noon and that’s exactly how I imagined she’d celebrate the holiday. The odd one out is Nadeshiko as she’s actually working for the day. That’s kind of sad to see but working during New Year’s is presumably her decision and it does say a good deal about how serious she is about saving up for new gear. That lamp will be hers! Regardless, it’s nice seeing what everyone is up to, especially by the time the first sunrise of the year occurs. It’s a great contrast from the Christmas trip and a neat tie to the ending of Season 1’s fifth episode. While everybody is in separate locations, they still experience the same thing in parallel (well, except for Ena but again, it fits that she sleeps in). Also, this show is just the best at depicting sunrises and sunsets. It still hasn’t gotten old.
It really has been a long time coming for Akari to get the spotlight. This little girl has only made a couple cameos in Season 1 and her most prominent appearance up until now were in the OVAs. And what a good addition to the cast too. Apart from resemblance, Akari shares much of her older sister’s wild side, albeit more obviously and frequently so. By far, the funniest use of her is when she keeps asking Chiaki for a New Year’s allowance, much to Chiaki’s concern. Maybe Chiaki really is the poorest member of the main cast.
Also nice is seeing more of Toba-sensei. She was a great addition to the cast during Season 1 but she was only introduced around the halfway point and she doesn’t formally become part of the club shenanigans until a couple episodes later. While I do love the idea of her getting drunk in a corner, it is nice to see her more sober and more involved for a change, acting as the girls’ chaperone and driver. At one point, her wackier side does manifest itself some more when she drives past the speed limit to reach a destination the girls want to get to (which, hilariously enough, ends in disappointment due to an oversight on Chiaki’s part). As funny as it is, part of me would rather like for Toba-sensei’s personality to be split between the reserved teacher and the happy go lucky drunk. Then again, I suppose Toba-sensei isn’t hiding that part of her personality and it’s for the best that she’s sober during the driving scene.
While everything seems to be going well, Rin does run into a hiccup at the end where she finds out from her mother that the road back home is frozen over. Rin’s grandfather will thus pick her up instead. For the time being, Rin is effectively stuck at the campsite so I’m assuming next episode has her figuring out what else she can do while she’s still there. I hope that with her grandfather picking her up, this means we’ll finally get to see these two characters interact…but I have a strong feeling that the old man won’t show up until the very end.
ED: “Haru no Tonari” by Eri Sasaki
Thanks for reading!