“Beauty has so many forms, and I think the most beautiful thing is confidence and loving yourself.” –Kiesza
With autumn setting in, Aoi decides to take Hinata on a night climb to Mount Tsukuba and express her thanks to Hinata for having gotten her a souvenir from Mount Fuji. The beautiful landscapes at the top of Mount Tsukuba motivate Aoi to reattempt Mount Fuji, but after learning that Mount Fuji’s trails and facilities will be closed until next summer, Aoi decides to pick up dedicating hiking shoes instead, and ascends Mount Tenran to test them out. Later, Aoi decides to hike the trails of the Hanno Alps, and while finding it a challenging experience, she runs into Kokona and visits the shrines in Nenogongen. Back in school, when Mio, one of Aoi’s classmates, strike up a conversation with her, Aoi finds herself accepting an invitation to karaoke. Encouragement allows Aoi to be herself and have a good time. Aoi, Hinata and Kokona meet up with Honoka to visit Lockheart Castle uin Gunma. With their cameras, they capture memories of their experiences. After Aoi learns about mountain coffee, she decides to pursue the art of brewing and enjoying it, sharing her coffee with Hinata at the Kanhasshu Observation Platform and learning that contrary to her imagination, Hinata actually drinks her coffee with milk and sugar. Halfway into Yama no Susume‘s third season (Yama no Susume 3 for brevity), the series marks a triumphant return of a series that has done a phenomenal job of capturing the ins and outs of mountain climbing, growing friendships and interpersonal discoveries, as well as intrapersonal growth as a result of taking up a new hobby and spending time with newfound companions. Yama no Susume 3‘s run began last summer, and having run the gauntlet of having to catch up, I’ve now reached a point where I can begin my journey into Yama no Susume‘s latest instalment.
Immediately after beginning Yama no Susume 3, it is apparent that this third season’s more condensed runtime has a non-trivial impact on each episode’s pacing; whereas Yama no Susume 2 had twenty-four episodes and therefore, plenty of timing to portray Aoi’s experiences in greater detail, the third season only has half the episodes. Consequently, each episode feels a lot more concise, skating over more subtle or mundane moments in favour of highlights. The end result changes the dynamic of Yama no Susume 3 from those of its predecessors, making the anime feel much more determined and to-the-point. While this change does detract from the slower pacing of Yama no Susume 2, it serves one important narrative function – the higher pace reflects Aoi’s growing confidence. As a result of climbing mountains in a literal sense, Aoi has also matured by overcoming metaphorical mountains. Moments that were momentous milestones now become more commonplace, and so, focus on such instances is diminished as Aoi sets herself the concrete target of conquering Mount Fuji again, and then works towards preparing for the task by improving her endurance and picking up new shoes. Along the way, Aoi also becomes more open towards those around her. In showcasing the more pivotal moments for Aoi, Yama no Susume 3‘s pacing conveys to viewers Aoi’s excitement for a rematch with Mount Fuji: the series has always been successful in doing more with less, and halfway through Yama no Susume 3, it appears that things will continue at a brisk, smart pace.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Yama no Susume 3‘s initial airing during the summer of 2018 was coincided with Harukana Receive‘s airing, and in conjunction with the fact that I had not yet begun my journey with Yama no Susume yet, I only chose to keep the series on my radar. Having taken the superbly enjoyable journey through the first and second season, I finally reach the third season’s opening, which wastes absolutely no time in establishing Aoi’s desire to express her appreciation to Hinata.
- On a suggestion from Hikari, her coworker at a local bakery, Aoi decides to take Hinata to Mount Tsukuba by night with the aim of showing her the night landscape here. This hike is quite unlike any other that Aoi had done previously: while early morning hiking was a part of the itinerary for Hinata during the Mount Fuji ascent, Aoi was out with altitude sickness and never completed the climb.
- With a maximum height of 877 metres, Mount Tsukuba is known as the Purple Mountain and on a clear day, offers a panoramic view of Tokyo. Mount Fuji is also visible from the summit. Characterised by an abundance of vegetation and wildlife, Mount Tsukuba is also a popular destination for couples because of the two peaks, which represent the male and female. Hikari suggests this mountain to Aoi, under the impression that she’s seeing someone.
- One element that never ceases to put a smile on my face are the characters’ dynamic personalities, which constantly remind viewers of how life-like the characters are. While Aoi is usually shy and reserved, and Hinata is more energetic and outgoing, Aoi can be smug and childish around Hinata, showing a side of her character that indicates what she’s like when she’s become close with someone. Under the dark of night, the ascent becomes a completely different one, creating an additional sense of mystique in the landscape.
- At the summit, lights of the Tokyo skyline spread out towards the horizon. It is here that Yama no Susume 3‘s opening episode marks the series triumphant return to the screen, showcasing the solid artwork that Yama no Susume possesses. While pronounced visual shortcuts are occasionally taken, on the whole, Yama no Susume has excellent visuals. The third season explores a greater range of unique settings, and the first episode sets the precedence for what is upcoming.
- At the summit, under a peaceful night sky and the gentle scenery below, Aoi resolves to re-attempt Mount Fuji. After her failed first effort, Aoi spent the remainder of the second season rediscovering her love for the mountains, gradually picking herself back up and spearheading the climactic climb to Mount Tanegawa to fulfil a long-standing promise with Hinata. While Aoi worried about the aftermath of this hike, she also would meet Honoka, and as Yama no Susume 3 presents, a new destination is established now that Aoi has set her sights on Mount Fuji once more.
- Up until now, Aoi had been hiking with conventional shoes, and when Kaede learns that Aoi intends to climb Mount Fuji again, recommends that she pick up a proper pair of hiking shoes, which can run for around 42000 yen (506 CAD). With a rigid sole, hiking shoes offer superior support and stability when traversing rocky terrain. During my first hike at the Big Beehive in Lake Louise, I used my running shoes and found that the soft sole made it difficult to properly set my foot down, since there was the risk of the sole bending and causing my balance to be lost.
- I ended up purchasing a pair of hiking shoes for a much more reasonable price and used them during a hike to the Windtower Pass, where the trails were poorly marked and where I ended up squaring off against a section where the trail was a foot wide and adjacent to a ten metre drop. Having good shoes gave me the confidence to negotiate this part of the trail, and as Aoi discovers, a proper set of shoes makes a world of difference.
- Later, when Aoi goes to hike the Hanno Alps trail to improve her stamina and endurance, she finds that the solitude of being alone is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. Despite being able to take things at her own pace, exhaustion also means the lack of support. It is for this reason that hiking is typically recommended to be done with at least one other person. For me, the non-trivial risk of running into bears and cougars means that having at least one person with me allows a conversation to be carried out, which gives wildlife plenty of notice that we’re around.
- After stopping to rest, Aoi encounters Kokona, who is hiking the Hanno Alps trail in search of wildlife. Morale immediately shifts, and Aoi’s spirits lift considerably. Hiking in groups allows everyone to encourage one another, and being able to talk does make a hike go by a lot more quickly. Typically, when I go on hikes along trails I’ve never done previously, I prefer pacing myself so that I don’t become unnecessarily exhausted. While the goal is to reach a destination, there is also something to be said for enjoying the journey there.
- Yama no Susume 3 places a much larger focus on Aoi, whose growing confidence is mirrored in the series’ pacing. This does mean that other characters, most notably Kaede, have a reduced presence. Yama no Susume had always predominantly been about Aoi – Kaede is present to provide knowledge and pass on experience to Aoi, while Kokona seems to represent the tranquility and gentleness of nature itself. I praise Yama no Susume for its characterisation of Aoi and Hinata, but Kaede and Kokona do seem a bit more static in their growth.
- Attesting to attention in detail, Kokona is seen wearing the hiking shoes her mother had gotten for her birthday back during season two. While subtle, such touches add considerably to the authenticity in Yama no Susume, and here, the two share a lunch: Aoi’s mother had created two vast onigiri for Aoi on the assumption that she would be hanging out with Hinata, but Aoi’s serendipitous encounter with Kokona means that things work out fine.
- Upon reaching the Nenogongen shrine, Kokona and Aoi learn more about the lore of mountain climbing and pay deference to the mountain kami, praying for good health: the gods here deal with hip and leg health. The real shrine is indeed home to the world’s largest sandals, which have a mass of two tons in total, and can be reached from either the Agano Station or Nishi-Agano Station on the Seibu Chichibu Line on foot; this walk takes around an hour and a half.
- When Aoi’s classmate, Mio, strikes up a conversation with Aoi, the topic naturally flows from Aoi’s love for knitting to the mountains. Intrigued by Aoi, Mio invites Aoi to join her and some other classmates at karaoke. While Aoi is a bit surprised and nervous, Hinata was also invited, giving Aoi at least one familiar face in a group she typically does not hang out with often. I see myself in Aoi, being perfectly content to be left to my own devices, but folks around me contend that I’m not entirely an introvert, either; on a spectrum, I feel that I’d be closer to the middle, slightly favouring solitude over crowds.
- Aoi is initially pensive about singing, fearing that she’s not familiar with any of the songs, and upon finding songs she knows of, also worries that her peers may mock her for her selection. However, seeing Hinata sing the Mountaineer’s Song prompts Aoi to sing Natsuiro Present, the opening theme to the second season. I have a particular fondness for this song, as well as the third season’s Chiheisen Stride.
- Aoi and the others meet with Honoka at Lockheart Castle, a castle that was built in Scotland in 1829 and transported, brick-by-brick, to Japan by Masahiko Tsugawa, a famous actor. With a particular fondness for European culture, Tsugawa used his wealth and connections to purchase and move the castle in 1987. Its location in Gunma brings to mind the Enchanted Forest near Revelstoke, British Columbia, which began when Doris Needham purchased some sixteen hectares of forest and began building a home there. By 1960, Needham opened the location, now dubbed the Enchanted Forest, to the public. Although the original attraction only had a small shack and a giant mushroom, visitors continued to visit. Needham expanded the site with a stone-floored castle and nature trials: by 1970, the Enchanted Forest had over one milion visitors. The site was sold and today, continues to be a family business, enchanting the young and old alike with its attractions.
- On the topic of the Enchanted Forest, I passed by last week during the Canada Day Long Weekend en route to the Okanagan. This excursion out into what is essentially the California of Canada had been in the works for some time: since the trip out there for the salmon run, a desire to visit one of the most beautiful places in Canada turned into a trip. While the weather was rainy on the first day, the weather cleared up by the time we got to Kelowna. Stopping for dinner at an Italian restaurant, we then walked the shores of Lake Okanagan as evening set in: it’s been three years since I was last in Kelowna for a performance of the Giant Walkthrough Brain, and it was such a joy to be back during the summer, where the weather and atmosphere are a world apart from the cold, grey weather I experienced three years previously.
- On the second day, we drove to Penticton, a small town on the southern edge of Lake Okanagan. Here, we walked through the quiet lake-side gardens, visited the SS Sicamous Heritage Park museum, which housed a steam boat converted into a museum, explored a small rose garden, and then stopped for a brief lunch of Huevos rancheros before making our way to the Ikeda Japanese Garden. After a brief stop in Peachland, we drove back to the Okanagan Lavender Farm, where we picked up some lavender tea from a specialty shop overlooking fields of lavender and Lake Okanagan. The penultimate destination was a small honey shop to grab some honey made by bees from the shop’s backyard, and then we made our way back into town, stopping at the Hoolala Chicken Restaurant. Dinner opened with a refreshing fruit salad, and we ended up ordering the original recipe yangnyeom fried chicken, plus the oringkeul barbeque (deep fried squid on a bed of grilled chicken). Both were delicious, and I can finally say I’ve now had Korean Fried Chicken, which live up to expectations that those around me have set.
- On Canada Day itself, we prepared to drive back home: stopping in Sicamous to enjoy the fresh ice cream at D. Dutchman’s, the remainder of the journey home was uneventful until we crossed the Alberta border and passed Canmore, wherein a large traffic jam stopped us cold in our tracks. We ended up taking the Bow Valley Trail to bypass the traffic, bringing an end to this highly enjoyable excursion where time itself appeared to stand still and where I could live in the moment. Such moments are common in series like Yama no Susume, which encourage slowing down to savour the smaller things in life.
- At Lockheart Castle, Aoi, Honoka, Hinata and Kokona explore to their heart’s content. After touching a stone in the castle that’s supposed to help with emotional development, and Hinata pretends to get stuck in a pillory, the girls stop for lunch, bringing out their cameras and decide to photograph their time spent together. Everyone has a different type of camera, mirroring their own respective backgrounds. Honoka’s camera is a sophisticated one that speaks to her hobby, while Hinata uses an instant camera that represents her forward and living-in-the-moment manner. Kokona uses a disposable film camera: as an older medium, film is more romantic, forcing one to really consider what they’re capturing and waiting to see its outcome (at the same time, also giving a hint about Kokona’s background). Aoi uses her smartphone’s camera: while not a photographer, Aoi’s become more adept with adapting to a situation, and contemporary smart phones, such as Aoi’s iPhone 6, are capable of taking pictures of reasonable quality.
- My favourite part of Honoka and company’s visit to Lockheart Castle comes when everyone comes decked out in elegant dresses that make each of Honoka, Kokona, Aoi and Hinata resemble princesses. While Lockheart Castle is known for housing a sizeable Christmas collection, visitors can indeed try on various dresses as the girls do. Folks interested in visiting Lockheart Castle will note that there’s a 1000-yen (12 CAD) admission fee for adults (and 800 yen for students, about 9.70 CAD). The castle is around 20 minutes west of Numata by car, and is open from 09:00 to 17:00.
- The outcome of the girls’ trip to Lockheart Castle is that, on top of additional precious memories of spending time with one another, Honoka also learns that some of the best moments come about naturally, when Kokona decides to photograph her. Later, Honoka’s brother appears to pick her up: he’s a carefree fellow who seems to embarrass Honoka, but Aoi and the others don’t regard Honoka’s older brother as a nuisance.
- After Aoi learns about mountian coffee, she begins practising the methodology behind brewing a cup so she might be able to enjoy hiking with a more mature spin to it. Her mother is impressed with Aoi’s determination but also wonders if Aoi’s done her homework yet: Aoi seems to be the sort of individual who does well enough in her studies when the moment calls for it but otherwise prefers to spend time on other things. Here, I note that Aoi’s mother, Megumi, is voiced by Aya Hisakawa, whom I know best as Ah! My Goddess‘ Skuld.
- One of Aoi’s biggest weaknesses as a character is that her imagination tends to get the better of her: her interest in coffee is spurred on purely by a baseless thought that Hinata, who’s begun drinking coffee, regards her as immature. The real Hinata, while occasionally nudging Aoi for fun, is shown to be considerate and caring for Aoi. For her carefree and boisterous manner, Hinata is also has a more thoughtful, sentimental side.
- While looking through a coffee shop in search of a good coffee, Aoi encounters Kaede and Yuuka, who suggest to her not to push herself in doing something purely for appearances. To warm her up to coffee, Yuuka believes that Aoi should stick with what she likes: Yuuka’s advice is spot on, and while it is tempting to succumb to peer pressure, the height of being cool (or lit, or dope, as folk say these days) is to be true to oneself.
- Aoi eventually works out a coffee to make for Hinata, and in the process, drinks a substantial amount of coffee. On the day of her walk to the Kanhasshu Observation Platform, Aoi is tired from having not slept very well, yawning frequently. This is the main reason why I don’t drink coffee: despite my love for the smell and taste, the effects of caffeine on me aren’t those that I particularly like, so given the choice, I will drink tea. On the flipside, I will almost always pick coffee or mocha-flavoured sweets if those are available, whether it be ice cream, cakes, chocolates or hard candies.
- Hinata, noticing this, offers to carry the gear that Aoi’s brought along. The side of Hinata that became more pronounced in Omoide Present is shown once again, giving audiences the sense that time is passing and that both Hinata and Aoi have matured throughout Yama no Susume.
- The Kanhasshu Observation Platform is located in Hanno, and with an elevation of 771 metres, it is a relatively popular spot for locals because of the views that it offers. On a clear day, Mount Fuji is visible from here, and while some visitors feel the trailhead is a bit out of the way, on the whole, visitors are impressed with the scenery. Watching Hinata and Aoi visit more out-of-the-way spots near and around Hanno is actually what prompted me to plan trips to places like Peachland and the Okanagan Lavender Farm: such spots are invariably skipped if one is looking to see major attractions, but smaller attractions have their own charms and typically do not have the same crowds, making them highly rewarding experiences.
- Once Aoi reaches the summit, she begins preparing the coffee, grinding her own beans. Hinata remarks that Aoi’s become very proficient in the process and allows her to prepare the coffee. Aoi wears a look of determination on her face: as she sets about the process, her thoughts are on delivering the best possible experience to Hinata to dispel any misconceptions that she’s immature. However, it turns out that Hinata prefers her coffee with milk. After the initial shock wears off, Aoi and Hinata share a laugh together and enjoy their coffee under the brisk autumn skies.
- Having just passed the halfway point to Yama no Susume 3, my goal now is to wrap this series up in a timely fashion such that I may begin this summer’s anime: Sounan desu ka? (Are we shipwrecked?) and Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? (How many kilos are the dumbbells you can lift?, and informally Do you even lift: The Anime) have caught my eye, so I have plans to write about those once their third episodes have aired. Beyond this, I also have a pair of special posts planned out for this month.
While the short length of Yama no Susume 3 precludes Aoi returning to Mount Fuji for a rematch against the mountain, the comings and goings in Yama no Susume 3 continue to show that the series is about the journey, rather than the destination, and it is the small things, whether it be training for more strenuous treks or picking up the right equipment, that inevitably set in motion much larger changes. Yama no Susume might be billed as a relaxing series, but it also offers a plethora of relevant life lessons. This particular aspect of Yama no Susume is what makes the series worth watching, dealing with often-times tricky lessons in a very gentle and accessible manner. Because Yama no Susume 3 is on the shorter side, I anticipate finishing this one on very short notice, and while there’s been no news of a continuation, given the fact that the manga is still on-going, and the fact that Aoi’s goal of ascending Mount Fuji has yet to be realised, I anticipate that at some point in the future, a fourth season will be released. I am thoroughly enjoying Yama no Susume – each and every episode puts a smile on my face, and I greatly look forwards to wrapping up season three.