The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Yama no Susume: Review and Reflection

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” –Sir Edmund Hillary

Aoi Yukimura is a high school girl who would prefer knitting to the outdoors, but after reuniting with Hinata Kuraue, she is compelled to go hiking; Hina won’t take no for an answer and reminds Hinata that they’d once seen a sunrise together after climbing a mountain. Starting Aoi with a simpler walk to Mount Tenran, Hinata encourages her to enjoy the walk up the path. Later, Aoi and Hinata have a cook-off, and Aoi encounters Kaede Saitō, a backpacker who is trying to buy a sleeping bag. The two become friends, and Aoi asks Kaede for suggestions when Hinata proposes they climb another mountain. Kaede recommends Mount Takao, and Aoi returns this to Hinata. They purchase a new backpack for Aoi, and on the day of the hike, Aoi fails to pace herself. After recovering her breath, the two continue on their trek to the summit, where Aoi gives Hinata a souvenir that she’d bought earlier. On the descent, they encounter Kokona Aoba and help her mend her shoes. Two becomes four – Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona decide to visit the Hanno River beach together. As the day draws to a close, the girls look forwards to the adventures they will share together. Later, to help Aoi with her acrophobia, the girls take her to a climbing center.

Yama no Susume (Encouragement of Climb, literally “Recommending Climbing”) originally aired in 2013 as a short form anime – each episode runs for three minutes each, and the total episode count results in the first season being more similar to an OVA in content and presentation. Every journey must begin from somewhere, and Yama no Susume opens with Aoi becoming familiar with hiking. The progression is a gentle one: Yama no Susume eases Aoi into hikes by starting her off with a walk in the park, and then progresses her to a beginner’s mountain. By gradually acclimatising to hiking and the outdoors, Aoi is able to have more fun without becoming discouraged. She also meets new friends in the process: Kaede is highly experienced with the outdoors and brings technical know-how to the table, while Kokona is knowledgable about the outdoors. The first season of Yama no Susume is a season of beginnings, warming Aoi to the wonders of hiking in a gentle manner and showing that with the right encouragement, anyone can get started with hiking. Moreover, hikes are as varied as people: while there are mountaineering trails that demand exceptional experience and dedicated gear, there are also hikes that novices can readily enjoy and complete. These introductory elements set the stage for what is to come: Yama no Susume‘s first season is remarkably short, and viewers are invariably left with a want to see what adventures await Aoi and Hinata now that Aoi’s gotten her first few experiences with hiking up mountains.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I admit that I am nearly six years late to the party: when Yama no Susume came out back in 2013, I was in the throes of my undergraduate thesis defense, and therefore, was too busy to watch anything besides Girls und Panzer. With the benefit of hindsight, something like Yama no Susume would have been a good countermeasure against the stresses of a thesis defense; the anime is very inviting and warm. Hinata and Aoi have known one another for quite some time, and the former’s memories of climbing a mountain to watch the sunrise with a sea of clouds below encourages her to take up hiking again.

  • The first season has thirteen episodes, each lasting about three minutes each. It is therefore possible to finish the first season in one sitting, and writing about Yama no Susume weekly would have likely presented me with considerable challenges – while each episode coves a bit of ground, there is no getting around that three minutes worth of footage per episode does not permit a large number of screenshots.

  • After Hinata brings Aoi over and has her set up a tent to familiarise herself with outdoors gear, Hinata proposes that they take a hike on Mount Tenran, a 195 metre high hill that is advertised as being accessible for all individuals. Aoi worries about safety and brings an excessive amount of gear, only to watch in befuddlement as a little girl waltzes by with naught more than a backpack. With a bit of nudging from Hinata, Aoi begins the ascent and finds it to be much better than expected.

  • Hinata’s loud and energetic personality brings to mind a combination of traits between Girls und Panzer‘s Yukari Akiyama and Norie Okazaki from Tamayura. She’s voiced by Kana Asumi, who incidentally portrayed Tamayura‘s Kaori Hanawa, Mio Kitahara of Ano Natsu de Matteru, and Non Non Biyori‘s very own Komari Koshigaya. I suppose that small, loud characters are a thing, and Asumi excels in her roles, bringing to life the characters I’ve seen her play.

  • From the summit of Mount Tenran, Aoi marvels at the scenery, before bringing out a boxed lunch for the two to share. Yuka Iguchi voices Aoi: other roles I know her for include Aiko Andō from True Tears, Norie Okazaki of Tamayura (which is a riot considering that Aoi and Norie are distinctly different in personality), Anzu Shiina from Flying Witch, Mako Reizei of Girls und Panzer, and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Hinata Miyake. The sheer diversity of roles speaks to Iguchi’s skill: from the lethargic Mako to the boisterous Hinata, Iguchi presents Aoi as being similar to Miho Nishizumi in temperment, but with a stubborn streak a klick wide.

  • Yama no Susume is set in and around Hannō, a city in the Saitama prefecture. With a population of around 80000, Hannō lies right on the western edge of Tokyo, and despite its small size, the city’s economy is driven by electronics and pharmaceuticals (something the provincial government back home could do well to follow suit with). The Wareiwa Bridge can be seen in the distance, crossing the Inou River, and here, Aoi and Hinata share ice pops in the days following their first hike.

  • Hinata challenges Aoi to a showdown in cooking only with camping implements, and when she doesn’t take the challenge seriously, Aoi proceeds to lay down a physical beating – she prepares a seafood paella with prawns and muscles that is far more intricate than the ready-to-eat meal that Hinata brings to the table. Despite being adorable and peaceable for the most part, Aoi can be quite stubborn and quick to anger, which makes her a much more relatable character.

  • Yama no Susume‘s first season is only really the tip of the iceberg with respect to introducing the characters and premise. In spite of the inordinately short episodes, however, Yama no Susume‘s first season manages to fit so much into such a short space to create a compelling series that does more with less.

  • While looking at hiking supplies, Aoi runs into Kaede, who is looking for a suitable sleeping bag for the outdoors. Kaede is a senior at the school Aoi attends, and is also experienced as an outdoorsman. Aoi manages to convince her to pick the sleeping bag best suited for her usage, even if it is a little pricier, and Aoi leaves, having made a new friend in the process. Folks who’ve seen my older talks on Yuru Camp△ will have already seen earlier discussions about sleeping bags and their compositions, as well as what temperatures different sleeping bags are rated for.

  • In Yama no Susume, Aoi and Hinata frequent an outdoors good store that is decidedly smaller than the large retail stores such as Canadian Tire. It brings to mind the specialty shops of Banff and at some locations at home, which sell higher quality gear for a correspondingly higher price: Nadeshiko and the others visit a Caribou store in Yuru Camp△ to look at equipment for their own camping trips, and I recall that my Google-fu was initially insufficient to locate this particular store, which was actually modelled on a store in a town some ways away.

  • Kaede is voiced by Yōko Hisaka: she’s K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama, Infinite Stratos‘ Houki Shinonono, New Game!‘s Kō Yagami, Pitohui in Sword Art Online Alternative and Domestic na Kanojo‘s Hina Tachibana, to name a few. Knowledgeable, mature and friendly, Kaede acts as a source of technical advice for Aoi and the others, indirectly providing audiences with various tidbits on hiking the same way Yuru Camp△ occasionally would present viewers with camping tips.

  • Aoi is the sort of individual who takes an inordinate amount of time in making a decision and often second-guesses herself. However, with new friends in her corner, she’s able to work through the process more smoothly: when Mount Tanigawa might be too much of a challenge for Aoi, Kaede helps her pick a more suitable mountain in Mount Takao. Aoi’s seen with an earlier MacBook Pro model here – in 2013, I was loaning a laptop from my lab, but carelessly left it on campus during the Great Flood. The waters never did reach campus, but campus was closed, costing me a week in progress.

  • I retrieved my laptop and ended up working from home until early July, but this machine was in no way capable of running the in-house game engine, so progress was slow. I doubt even my current generation laptop could pull it off: it barely runs The Giant Walkthrough Brain on ultra settings at 30 FPS. Back in Yama no Susume, Aoi ends up choosing Mount Takao – a ways more difficult than Mount Tenran, Mount Takao is still quite manageable, with most climbers able to ascend within ninety minutes depending on the route they take. Because this hike is a bit more involved, Hinata suggests that Aoi get a backpack

  • Aoi initially has trouble picking out a proper backpack for her hike, and it takes some time for her to choose one that fits her specifications. My main criteria for picking a bag is that it has to have decent storage capacity, enough compartments to separate out my consumables from smaller items, and durability. The tare weight is also something I consider: something that is too heavy while empty would make it more of a pain to carry when fully loaded.

  • On the day of their hike at Mount Takao, Aoi is fired up and excited about climbing the path up the mountain, which is lined with shrines. This is something unique to Japan – in the Rocky Mountains, our trails are more rugged, and while affording stunning views, don’t have the same facilities.

  • Aoi exhausts herself when, on the spur of the moment, she attempts to power through the hike to hit the destination more quickly. This is how not to hike – pacing oneself is essential, especially when one is doing a new hike where they are unfamiliar with the route. Having some experience with fitness training, this is how I approach hikes, and last year, when I did the Windtower, it was experience that allowed me to complete the hike without incident. The Windtower leads hikers into a rugged alpine clearing affording a beautiful view of the Spray Lakes below, but it’s also characterised by a very poorly-marked trail that, in some places, is adjacent to a 15-metre drop.

  • While high intensity, Windtower is also a shorter hike: the longest hike I did was Lake Louise’s Big Beehive hike two years ago. Tallying some six hours, I carried my own provisions up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, and we pushed further towards the Big Beehive, stopping at the top for lunch. I can attest to the fact that food simply tastes better mid-hike: in the middle of their hike, Aoi and Hinata enjoy some dango.

  • Being located a mere hour away from the heart of Tokyo, Mount Takao offers a stunning view of the cityscape below, and one aspect of Yama no Susume that impressed me was that, for its exceedingly short runtime, the art and animation are of a high quality, faithfully capturing the locations that Aoi and Hinata visit.

  • En route up the mountain, Aoi picks up a souvenir with the intent of giving it to Hinata as thanks, but becomes too embarrassed to do so. She later summons up the courage to do so, and I note that for the hikes I’ve done, I’ve never seen any trail-side shops selling stuff before. The closest I’ve seen is the Lake Agnes Teahouse, which serves tea adjacent to a lake among the mountains: their supplies are carried up by staff, and occasionally flown up by helicopter, as well.

  • While I’ve not shown it here, Mount Fuji is visible from Mount Takao. Throughout Yama no Susume, Mount Fuji is something Aoi has shown interest in for its majesty, and like Yuru Camp△, is the object of admiration from those who behold it. Mount Fuji therefore acts as somewhat of an end goal for Aoi and Hinata: they resolve to climb it together one day, and so, it would appear that conquering the greatest of Japan’s mountains is where Yama no Susume is headed.

  • On the way back down the mountain, Hinata and Aoi encounter a middle school aged girl fretting about her shoes. With her skills in making clothes, and eye for creative solutions, Aoi cobbles together a short term solution for the girl, whose name is Kokona. A friendship blossoms here, and they accompany one another down Mount Takao. Kokona is voiced by Yui Ogura, whose roles I’m not too familiar with.

  • If I had to guess, Aoi and Hinata take the Omotesando trail ascending Mount Takao, which has all of the temples and plenty of resting spots. This route takes an average of an hour and fifty minutes to complete. On the way back down, stepping stones over a stream are visible: they descending via the Biwa Waterfall trail, and descent takes about an hour. While helping Kokona, Aoi slips and falls on the rocks.

  • The Biwa waterfall trail is heavily wooded, and on conjunction with the stream, offers a cool, shaded alternative to the other trails. Initially, when I watched Yama no Susume, I finished the entire series within the space of three days, and wondered if I could write about it. If memory serves, I actually watched Yama no Susume back in July of last year – having heard about the third season and the series’ relatively short episodes, I decided to push through, thinking that it would be relatively straightforward to watch through both the first and second seasons, just in time to finish the third before the year’s end.

  • The page quote comes from the encouragement aspect of Yama no Susume: by conquering a mountain, Aoi is slowly conquering her own fears. It turns out that her acrophobia stems from an accident where she’d fallen from a jungle gym and sustained a broken leg in the process. Hinata’s “won’t take no for an answer” personality is what pushes Aoi into hiking, and as a result, she’s now met two new friends, as well as discovering that there’s a world beyond her own fears.

  • While I finished Yama no Susume‘s first season on short order, August turned into dumpster fire when I was flown out to Denver to bring an iOS app written in Xamarin back from the brink: flying between Calgary and Denver every other week wrecked havoc with my schedule, and I ended up only writing about Harukana Receive owing to the time constraints. When autumn came, I was occupied with The World in Colour and Anima Yell!, while this winter, a combination of a new job, Ace Combat 7 and Endro! kept me busy. However, with the current spring season looking quiet, I see an opportunity to finally catch up with Yama no Susume. My immediate impression is to wonder why I didn’t watch this one sooner.

  • Towards the end of Yama no Susume‘s first season, Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona enjoy a day at the Hanno River, where they cook French Toast and tomato risotto. It marks the first time everyone’s really hung out together since Aoi met them; thanks to Hinata’s particular enthusiasm in pushing Aoi to hike more, Aoi’s brought people together.

  • Yama no Susume thus sets the stage for more hiking and mountain climbing – we’ve not seen everyone hike or climb together just yet, and Kaede alludes to this: under starry skies, they anticipate spending more time together on the trails and peaks of Japan. It’s a fitting close to the first season, which formally ended in the spring of 2013 alongside Girls und Panzer. Two months later, an OVA was released, detailing Aoi’s adventures at an indoor climbing wall, where she slowly overcomes her fears thanks to her friends’ support.

  • I’ve never gone indoor climbing before; it’s a pastime that seems very popular amongst my peers, and in retrospect, it might’ve been a good activity to balance out my weight lifting. I’ve been lifting weights casually for around nine years now, and are a late-novice lifter now: I’m pushing past being able to bench press 120% of my body weight, and my next goal is to see if I can’t bench 130% of my body weight. My squat is a little weaker, being a mere 120% of my body weight. On the topic of fitness, while I’m not exactly the paragon of fitness, I consider myself in acceptable condition, and earlier this month, I ran a poll on Twitter to see what the lifestyle choices of my readers were.

  • It turns out most of my readers have a well-formed fitness routine, and I figured that I’d share mine, as well as some of my experiences with fitness and how this fits in with the unique hobby of anime blogging. Thanks to the poll’s results, I know to get past the basics and go straight to more of the mental components of health and wellness. Back in Yama no Susume, Aoi falls off one of the walls after getting stuck on a more advanced course, but her friends’ support allows her to overcome a fear of falling. Speaking with Kaede, who similarly had a fear of heights, Aoi resolves to keep pushing forwards.

  • It just wouldn’t be an OVA if there wasn’t some fanservice for viewers, and even something like Yama no Susume is no exception. The OVA wraps up the first season on a high note, and while it was over much too quickly, a second season aired a year later, running with a total of twenty-four episodes, plus two specials. Because this spring season has seen few shows that catch my interest, now is a good of a time as any to continue through Yama no Susume, which has certainly encouraged me to watch it. I also plan on writing about Seishun Buta Yarō in a Terrible Anime Challenge, my first of the year, once we get into May.

Yama no Susume lives up to its name; it is a very encouraging and approachable anime about the process that one takes towards climbing a mountain. While Yama no Susume is very literal about mountain climbing and hiking in that this is precisely what it deals with, from a metaphorical perspective, encouraging climbing is to encourage exploring new directions in life and overcoming them. Yama no Susume posits to viewers that every journey has a beginning, and that it is completely acceptable that beginnings do so in a slow, gradual manner. Despite totalling around forty minutes of runtime, Yama no Susume is very effective in its messages. The series has been compared to Yuru Camp△, which had a similar outdoors premise, but upon further inspection, Yama no Susume and Yuru Camp△ only really share the outdoors and a strong technical component about outdoor know-how as their commonalities – Yuru Camp△ is about the joys of being with others, while Yama no Susume shows how journeys start and progress. With things plainly in motion for Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona now, I am intending to return and write about Yama no Susume‘s second and third seasons, plus Omoide no Present. The manga is still running, and while waiting for Yuru Camp△ to continue with its second season, I have found a superb peer to experience in Yama no Susume.

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