The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Encouragement of Climb Prequel, 1st Season: Spring – Yama no Susume: Next Summit First Episode Review and Reflections

“Remembering is painful, it’s difficult, but it can be inspiring and it can give wisdom.” –Paul Greengrass

After Aoi Yukimura graduated from middle school, she looked forward to a quiet life as a secondary student. However, her dreams are dashed when she reunites with her childhood friend, Hinata Kuraue, who’s determined to bring Aoi with her on her mountain-climbing adventures. Although Aoi is initially reluctant, after accompanying Hinata to the nearby Mount Tenran, she gradually comes to enjoy the hobby and, along the way, meets fellow climbers Kaede Saitō and Kokona Aoba. Besides exploring additional mountains in the Hanno area, Hinata and Aoi also enjoy a day with Kaede and Kokona at Hanno River. Aoi decides to continue climbing mountains after learning from Kaede that the night skies are even more stunning from the mountaintop. Yama no Susume‘s original run began in 2013, and episodes were merely three minutes in length. Despite its short runtime, Yama no Susume rapidly became well-received amongst viewers, who praised its positive portrayal of open-mindedness and encouraging people to venture into the great outdoors. Yama no Susume subsequently received a second and third season, seeing Aoi continue on with her experiences with Hinata: by 2018, a third season had aired, following Aoi’s becoming closer to Honoka and Hinata becoming jealous in the process. While portraying mountain-climbing and hiking faithfully, Yama no Susume also explores themes of friendship, showing how life has both its ups and downs, and how even best of friends can fail to get along, as well as how important it is to communicate and be open about one’s problems. Yama no Susume was an immensely satisfying series, showing a very natural progression in Hinata and Aoi’s friendship, but one lingering aspect the series had left open was the fact that, after Aoi’s failed attempt to scale Mount Fuji during the second season, Yama no Susume had not revisited Mount Fuji. Here in Yama no Susume: Next Summit, there is now an opportunity to conquer the last frontier and demonstrate, beyond any doubt, that Aoi has matured as a result of her willingness to share in adventures with Hinata, Kaede, Kokona and Honoka.

Upon returning to Yama no Susume, Next Summit‘s first episode opens with a reintroduction to the series, providing viewers with a refresher on where things began. However, in this revisit, Next Summit also subtly hints at where it’s intending to go. The opening shows Aoi shouting out at dawn to Mount Fuji while wearing a look of utmost determination on her face, and in a later sequence, Aoi, Hinata, Kaede, Kokona and Honoka scale Mount Fuji together. When Aoi and Hinata scale Mount Tenran for the first time, Mount Fuji is faintly visible, and after Aoi and Hinata scale Mount Takao, Mount Fuji seems a little closer, signifying how Aoi’s taken her first steps towards embracing her new hobby, towards a tangible and visceral representation of personal growth. As Japan’s tallest mountain, Mount Fuji represents the apex of achievement, and in the second season, Aoi had found herself developing altitude sickness. As a result, she was unable to reach Mount Fuji’s summit. Subsequently losing her motivation to enjoy the outdoors, it would take Aoi some time to rediscover her footing, and while Yama no Susume has done a fantastic job of restoring Aoi’s love of mountain climbing, as well as showing her increased confidence in befriending Honoka, Mount Fuji became an unanswered question. There is no stronger show of maturity and growth than to have Aoi properly conquer Mount Fuji under her own power, and here in Next Summit, the imagery shown insofar does seem to suggest that Aoi has her sights set on a rematch with Japan’s most iconic mountain. Aoi is someone who doesn’t like to lose, and coupled with the thematic elements in Yama no Susume, I am hopeful that Next Summit will build up towards Aoi and her friends taking on Mount Fuji anew: being able to complete a climb that she couldn’t previously would be immensely satisfying and definitively illustrate that Aoi’s journey has been a meaningful one. The Aoi that started out Yama no Susume had been concerned with a hike to Mount Tenran, and so showing her successfully complete Mount Fuji would demonstrate to viewers that every journey has a beginning, and that it is a combination of experience and support that allows one to accomplish the remarkable.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Right out of the gates, I will state that I have plans to do episodic reviews for Next Summit – Yama no Susume has previously offered a great deal to discuss, and even the recap episodes are valuable in providing further context for the events that had taken place in the previous three seasons. In most posts, I tend to look at scenes in greater depth, but having as I’ve covered the first season in whole previously, I will be taking a looser approach with my discussions for the four recap episodes and return to my usual style once Next Summit begins its new content.

  • Next Summit offers more context to Aoi’s story – as a middle school student, she was known for preferring solo activities, similarly to Yuru Camp△‘s Rin Shima, and she developed acrophobia after falling from a jungle gym and injuring herself in the process. Aoi’s acrophobia is an important piece of Yama no Susume; it keeps her from climbing large mountains and riding gondolas, but with support from her friends, Aoi manages to pull through. As a result of her experiences, Aoi initially had imagined her high school life to be a peaceful experience, consisting solely of doing solo activities.

  • This setup was mirrored in 2020’s Houkago Teibou Nisshi – protagonist Hina Tsurugi is a splitting image of Aoi, and similarly, Natsumi Hodaka fills Hinata’s role. The premise of such anime leave little to the imagination; it is a foregone conclusion that the protagonists will be participating in the activity the show’s advertised. The joys of watching such shows, then, come from seeing the journey that follows. With this in mind, no two shows are alike despite their initial similarities, and variations among the shows ultimately modify their final message.

  • I had been sitting on Yama no Susume for some years, and finally got around to watching it three years ago. According to my blog archives, the last time I wrote about Yama no Susume was back on New Year’s Eve in 2019. In the three years that has passed, my world’s changed considerably, but I still vividly remember that, shortly after I caught up to Yama no Susume‘s third season, I stated that I would climb Ha Ling Peak before the fourth season came out. This, unfortunately, has not come to fruition: between the global health crisis and the fact that the Ha Ling Peak trail is undergoing maintenance.

  • That Next Summit came out before I could fulfil this particular promise is of no consequence – once the maintenance is completed, I can schedule a hike here. Unlike Hinata and Aoi, who have an expert in Kaede to guide them, I am a novice hiker and mountain climber – the only mountain I’ve climbed is Lake Louise’s Big Beehive, and on the typical hike, I don’t see an elevation gain of greater than 600 metres. In spite of this, the hikes I’ve gone on have been exhilarating and enjoyable: the last hike I did was Grotto Canyon, but prior to the global health crisis, I hiked the Windtower trail and even saw a Grizzly Bear along the way.

  • As I made my way through Yama no Susume‘s first three seasons, I subsequently became hooked, and last September, I ended up ordering Yama no Susume Official Setting Materials, the official guidebook, for 8600 Yen (about 80 CAD today, including shipping). Featuring concept art, detailed drawings of the locations visited in the series and even interior drawings of the characters’ homes and important locations, Yama no Susume Official Setting Materials offers unparalleled insight into the series. It is the essential companion for Yama no Susume fans, and through this compendium, I was able to really appreciate the design that went into the Kuraue residence.

  • The Kuraue residence is a cabin-like home, standing in stark contrast with the Yukimura residence’s modern, clean designs. The contrasts were meant to accentuate the differences between Aoi and Hinata’s starting mindsets (Aoi is more domestic, while Hinata is more outdoorsy), but as Yama no Susume wears on, the shifts in Aoi’s interests means that the architecture tells a new story: regardless of one’s disposition, outdoor activities like mountain climbing are accessible to everyone, and that such activities are such that there is always something that is appropriate for one’s skill level.

  • At the onset of their journey, Aoi’s desire to hike and climb mountains is nil, but after recalling that she and Hinata had ascending Mount Tanigawa as children, she decides to give things another go because it had been a promise that they’d made. This sets in motion the events of Yama no Susume, and for the remainder of the first season, Aoi’s first experiences are shown in conjunction with moments like meeting Kaede and Kokona. Yama no Susume‘s first season had episodes lasting three minutes apiece, and that means it is possible to go through this season in one sitting.

  • Indeed, when Next Summit‘s first episode aired, almost the whole of season one was fit into the episode’s twenty-four minute runtime. A few moments, such as Aoi having a cook-off with Hinata, and her eventually picking up a new backpack for her second hike, are skipped over – the first season is still the more comprehensive experience, but overall, Next Summit‘s first episode did a fantastic job of condensing the most important moments of the first season into a story that brings viewers up to speed with how things began. The return to Yama no Susume coincided with my first trip to Banff National Park in three years – in past years, I stopped going with my family because of the lengthy traffic jams that would arise whenever we returned to the city,

  • The last time I visited Banff was with my second start-up, during a company retreat we had after I brought the app across the finish line. In the past three years, Banff has changed considerably; Banff Avenue is now pedestrian only during the spring and summer months, and there’s a large parking lot by the train station. To ensure we landed a spot, I suggested that we arrive by no later than 0900. The drive in had been quite foggy, but beyond this, the weather was perfect, with blue skies and mirror-smooth waters. After securing a parking spot, we decided to walk over to an iconic attraction, the Cave and Basin historic site using a route we’d never taken before. After walking the Discovery Trail and the Marsh Loop boardwalk, we returned to the downtown and stopped for photos at the Banff National Park Administration building, which offers a picturesque view of Banff Avenue and Cascade Mountain.

  • The day was rounded off with a drive back to Calgary, where we stopped for dinner at Café 100% YYC, a Hong Kong style bistro. I ended up having their evening special (on Saturday, it’s a Korean-style kalbi short-rib with fresh Pacific Scallops on a bed of spaghetti). Being my first time returning to Banff in three years, I had an incredible time, and this marks the last time I’ll be using the iPhone Xʀ for photographs: earlier today, I received an email from Apple indicating they needed updated payment information for me. After I supplied this information, my iPhone 14 Pro preorder immediately went into “Preparing to Ship”.

  • The status has since been updated to “Shipped”, and my iPhone 14 Pro is projected to arrive next Tuesday. I had been eying the iPhone 14 because I didn’t think I would need the more powerful phone, but after speaking with a friend and fellow iOS developer, I was convinced that the extra features and performance would be helpful to me. This moment parallels Aoi’s suggestion to Kaede: the latter had been eying a more expensive, but lighter sleeping bag for her mountain-climbing travels, and Aoi reasons that it’s better to go with the more expensive option now and enjoy what it has to offer, versus regretting going for the more inexpensive route and wishing one had spent a little more. I immediately related to this scene, and now, I’m doubly glad to have selected the iPhone 14 Pro.

  • Yama no Susume‘s second major excursion saw Aoi and Hinata visit Mount Takao after Kaede suggests to Aoi that this would be a good hike for beginners. Along the way, Aoi and Hinata meet Kokona, a middle-school student who loves nature hikes and animal spotting. After Kokona is introduced, Yama no Susume‘s main cast is present, and while no more large hikes follow, the anime focuses on getting the characters to know one another better. At first glance, being a series of shorts, Yama no Susume doesn’t offer much to talk about.

  • However, looking more closely at things, Yama no Susume is incredibly detailed and meaningful. This is a recurring trend I find in slice-of-life anime – a lot of folks are content to write reaction posts that ultimately amounts to commenting on how adorable the characters are, but I find that such posts can misrepresent a given work, and the slice-of-life genre as a whole, especially if they form the majority of discussion on such anime. Such posts typically don’t yield much in the way of discussion, and if everyone writes about slice-of-life on these terms, one can get the impression that slice-of-life anime are superficial series that lack substance.

  • The reality is that slice-of-life anime often speak to different facets of life and its lessons, as well as accentuating the merits of putting an effort into learning something and appreciation of the ordinary. I’ve found that, while it is true that writing about slice-of-life anime can be tricky, if I have previous knowledge in the topic a given slice-of-life anime covers, or if I can relate to that topic through an equivalent experience, it becomes significantly easier to speak to why a work is successful. In Yama no Susume, for instance, I’ve been hiking since 2016 and have my own stories to tell, so I can relate to Hinata and Aoi to some level. In doing so, I can compare and contrast my own experiences with what’s seen in Yama no Susume, as well as see what messages the anime sought to convey.

  • Without this experience or an equivalent, Yama no Susume would be much trickier to write about – there is only so much one can share about interpersonal dynamics and the importance of friendship without a topic to solidify these experience and provide a tangible backdrop for how these things come together to positively impact and enrich one’s life. This is why I hope that more people would have a chance to read my thoughts on shows like Yama no Susume: while I’m not going to be experienced in everything anime of this genre cover (I’ve never fished before, for instance), I have enough experience in similar areas so that I can delve into the nitty-gritty details behind why such anime are deeper than they appear and therefore, are worth giving a chance.

  • As Aoi, Kaede and Hinata marvel at the deserts that Kokona’s made, I reflect on the Sunday dinner from this past weekend: my relatives had managed to snag a massive cut of prime rib and decided to have us over. Besides the Prime Rib au jus, the meal also consisted of Bacon Brussel Sprouts, Baby Potatoes and Garlic Prawns. Pumpkin bread and warm butter, plus two kinds of cake and chrysanthemum tea accompanied the after-dinner conversation. Like Aoi, I am especially fond of these conversations because they are immensely relaxing – in Yama no Susume, moments like these brought Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona together even before everyone does their first hike together, showing how whether it be on the trails or over a meal, there’s many ways of connecting with people.

  • With this first episode of Next Summit in the books, this series is off to a strong start – there’s three more episodes before we start Next Summit proper, but I will continue to share my thoughts on these recap episodes: because three years have passed since I first watched Yama no Susume, it is worthwhile exercise for me to see how my thoughts surrounding this series may have changed over time. This season is going to be a busy one: besides Next Summit, I’m also going to write about Kantai Collection: Itsuka no Umi de. Further to this, I am actively watching Spy × Family 2, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From MercuryBocchi the Rock!, and Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! 2. At this point in time, I’m not sure which series I’ll be writing about, or what format I’ll take, but what is known is that we have a fantastic autumn season ahead for anime.

While Mount Fuji remains a lofty goal, Next Summit stands apart from its predecessors in that episodes are full-length now. Previously, Yama no Susume‘s short episodes allowed the series to convey especially memorable moments for Aoi. By showing only the most pivotal moments in Aoi’s life, Yama no Susume was able to present a very concise and focused story. However, here in Next Summit, full-length episodes have two benefits for Yama no Susume: if the series decides to portray other moments, it would be a reminder to viewers that seemingly-inconsequential moments may still have merit. Alternatively, Next Summit may instead continue on in the style of its predecessors and utilise its runtime to show more. The extended runtime would allow this season to show more moments in Aoi and Hinata’s lives as they continue to explore and appreciate the great outdoors. Regardless of which approach Next Summit takes, it should be clear that this long-awaited fourth season, which was announced back three Septembers ago, stands to cover a great deal of new ground and extend an already-excellent series further. Next Summit begins with four recap episodes, which serve to catch new viewers up with the story so far, and to jog the memories of veterans (even I don’t remember every last detail of Yama no Susume despite my counting the series as a masterpiece), and while recaps are typically reviled, Yama no Susume has done an excellent job of using the extended runtime to provide more context behind Aoi’s journey and decisions. By the time the fourth episode has concluded, viewers (old and new alike) will be fully caught up with the story, allowing Aoi and Hinata’s journey to continue on forward: of note is one Koharu Senjuin, the president of the Mountaineering Club at Aoi and Hinata’s secondary school. Although Hinata and Aoi have done their own adventures insofar, formally joining a club has, historically, given characters a chance to learn more about their hobby and some of the accompanying best practises. Having additional knowledge would provide Aoi with one more asset in her conquest of Mount Fuji.

15 responses to “Encouragement of Climb Prequel, 1st Season: Spring – Yama no Susume: Next Summit First Episode Review and Reflections

  1. Fred (Au Natural) October 6, 2022 at 00:40

    I can’t seem to find it. Crunchyroll sez it isn’t available to me.

    Like

    • infinitezenith October 6, 2022 at 18:01

      To the best of my knowledge, Next Summit isn’t on Crunchyroll, which only has the first and third seasons. On the flipside, it is available on HIDIVE.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fred (Au Natural) October 8, 2022 at 16:02

        Sorry. It isn’t there for me. What country are you in?

        Like

        • infinitezenith October 8, 2022 at 16:42

          I’m in Canada. Have you tried doing a search for “Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit”? I wasn’t able to find it using the Hepburn title, but the English name was what worked for me.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Fred (Au Natural) October 8, 2022 at 17:13

            That got it. This Hepburn v. English title conflict can drive me nuts. I went to HiDive and searched on “Yama…” and it turned up nothing. You’d think at least “Next Summit” would have got a hit, wouldn’t you? They also have it as season 1, as if the other 3 didn’t exist.

            It did show up in Crunychroll but gave me a message that “this is not available to you.”

            Like

            • infinitezenith October 8, 2022 at 17:23

              “Next Summit” should indeed return results, and now that I’m playing around with searches, my conclusion is that whoever implemented Crunchyroll’s search algorithm is an amateur. At least with HIDIVE, using the substring “next summit” actually yields results. On Crunchyroll, I can’t get to Yama no Susume, either. At any rate, I’m glad we’ve got an avenue to watch Next Summit: happy viewing!

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael E Kerpan October 6, 2022 at 19:50

    I remember on watching the first season of _Yama no susume_ that I was taken aback the episode was shorter than the opening and close. I also felt that the characters, even in high school, seemed too young looking. Despite this drawback, I enjoyed this show quite a bit — in fact it motivated me (for the first time) to “sail the seven seas” to find the otherwise-unseeable second season.

    I did not rewatch any of the prior seasons before watching the first recap episode. Too busy. But watching the recap I felt a considerable sense of nostalgia, that left me inexplicably misty-eyed despite nothing whatsoever sad (or even a bit melancholy) happening. I was totally charmed — just as I was at first.

    People may be interested in a new SoL this season — Do It Yourself!! Intriguingly, this school club anime is set in the near future (maybe 10 years, maybe even a bit less). But the first episode, wherein our main character, who is a total klutz, becomes involved with a depopulated do-it-yourself club (only the 3rd year president is left). Surprisingly, the first episode of this seems to have garnered a lot more interest than I would have expected.

    MY travel note: When we had lunch in Banff a few weeks ago we had really excellent ramen (at Ramen Arashi). Alas we did not do much climbing overall (so we didn’t get to either Beehive at Lake Louise — just perambulated about it and Lake Moraine. We did do a little climbing to see Peyto Lake (albeit along a paved path).

    Like

    • infinitezenith October 6, 2022 at 22:10

      Animated works in general need to use certain aspects and styles to capture age, so this aspect of Yama no Susume is one I’m willing to forgive. For comparison, Corner Gas‘s characters look significantly younger in animated format compared to the show’s live-action counterpart. It is unfortunate that the second season is so elusive, but on the flipside, given that Next Summit is kind enough to give all viewers a refresher, especially for things that occurred eight plus years ago, some moments from the second season will be accessible to viewers 🙂 I myself had watched Yama no Susume back in 2019 and thoroughly enjoyed it: I’d already been a hiker by then, but Yama no Susume pushed me to challenge myself further. I still intend on scaling Ha Ling Peak as a result of this.

      I’m going to put the brakes on Do It Yourself for the time being, as I’ve got a lot of shows on my plate already. Shows that create a great deal of buzz early on are usually excellent, but I’ve found that with my approach, it’s going to be tricky to fit more than five shows into a given season. This is actually why I put off watching Spy × Family until recently: the only reason was finding time to watch it during its airing was trickier for me.

      Finally, I’m glad you had a great time in Banff! Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are iconic destinations. I hiked the Big Beehive and Lake Agnes teahouse six years ago. I long to go back, since during my hike back then, we had massive forest fires that ruined all of my photos by filling the skies with smoke. The prospect of having to wake up at 4 AM and driving in so I can secure parking, however, is quite daunting. This is why I’ve looked to the less-crowded-but-still-beautiful Kananaskis Country for equivalent hikes. Finally, regarding food in Banff, you ended up visiting a great restaurant in Ramen Arashi. There are several excellent places in town, but for my part, since I live an hour east of Banff, I’ve traditionally driven back home for dinner.

      Like

      • Michael E Kerpan October 7, 2022 at 19:12

        The overly young-looking characters didn’t bother me much — but I prefer more realistically-aged ones nonetheless. I find that live action adaptations typically feature characters that look much too old — which is a far worse flaw in my opinion. (However, _Linda Linda LInda_ did a great job of portraying high school students, despite having slightly over-aged performers).

        We relied on the Park and Ride service near the ski lift/summer gondola to get to the lakes. No problem parking at either Bow Lake or Peyto Lake. We had gloomy weather for the first couple of days (but things were still gorgeous).

        Like

        • infinitezenith October 8, 2022 at 12:32

          That reminds me, I still need to watch Linda Linda Linda in full! Things have been very busy, I’m just barely keeping up with things as it is. Having said this, I think Yuru Camp△‘s live action did a fair job of presenting characters that looked their age (despite the actresses being plainly older than high school age): when things line up, it does work quite nicely.

          Bow Lake and Peyto Lake are both gorgeous and when we’d visited previously, parking was also not a concern. That being said, I’ve never actually used the park-and-ride before. In previous years, we would just get up really early to be assured of parking, and more recently, we’ve elected to visit the destinations that are a bit less-travelled. For instance, my parents have never been to the Vermillion Lakes until we brought them over. Banff is one of the few places where, even on a gloomy day, it’s still beautiful. I’m glad you had a great time there and hope you’ll have a chance to visit and check out some other destinations in the future 🙂

          Like

          • Michael E Kerpan October 8, 2022 at 12:56

            When we visited, getting to Lake Louise by 7:00 a.m. supposedly sufficed. But Lake Moraine’s parking was full by 4:00 a.m.

            Alas, for me the live-action performers in _Yurucamp_ looked to me like college graduates (at least). I couldn’t suspend disbelief at all (and vocally they were nowhere as appealing as the anime cast members).

            Like

            • infinitezenith October 8, 2022 at 16:48

              I get the feeling that if I wish to visit Moraine Lake, park-and-ride will be the only option. On the plus side, popular spots filling up will encourage me to check out the places that are off the beaten path, and that sounds very Yama no Susume-like 🙂

              As memory serves, I too found the mannerisms in Yuru Camp△ live action to be a bit exaggerated. It hits me that in reality, we’re used to seeing people acting composed and the like, mainly because other cues like body language help with conveying emotions. Anime tends to kick things up a notch because some nuances aren’t so readily translated in the animated format, so when anime mannerism are adapted back into real life, it feels uncanny. That being said, I did enjoy the live action for its true-to-life portrayal of the locations, and the fact that the series made an honest attempt to cast actresses who resemble their anime counterparts (except Aoi, because no one can match Aki Toyosaki’s adorable and soft delivery of the Kansai-ben!).

              Like

              • Michael E Kerpan October 8, 2022 at 17:24

                Another new series you might want to add to your pile of eventual watches (if it isn’t already there) — _Bocchi the Rock_. Looks like it will be a real prize. And as a bonus, the girls band at the center of this series made a cameo appearance in _Slow Loop_ (playing at a school festival).

                Like

                • infinitezenith October 8, 2022 at 17:27

                  Bocchi The Rock is on my watchlist! I’m a sucker for Manga Time Kirara anime, so this one’s caught my eye right out of the gates. It’s Thanksgiving Long Weekend right now, and I’ve got family over for two of the three days we got off, but I daresay I’ll have a chance to go through the first episode very soon.

                  Like

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