The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Power Spot For Valentine’s Day, Trying Out Snowshoes – Yama no Susume: Next Summit Eighth Episode Review and Reflections

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” –Elbert Hubbard

While Honoka is studying for her secondary admissions exams, she receives an invitation to go hiking at Mount Mitake. Although Honoka had wanted to focus, she agrees to go after Aoi mentions that Kokona will be accompanying them. On the day of the hike, Hinata notices Honoka’s desire to grow closer to Kokona and gives the pair some space. They end up visiting several power spots associated with luck in relationships, and upon reaching Mount Mitake’s summit, Aoi brings out some homemade hot chocolate for everyone. Honoka reveals that ever since they’d visited Lockheart Castle together, she’d found warmth emanating from Kokona’s photo, and Kokona replies she’s fond of Honoka’s photos, too. Later, Hinata and Aoi swing by the Mountaineering Club at Koharu’s request: she’s got snowshoes and wishes to hit the slopes at Mount Akagi. This time around, Kokona’s busy, but Honoka decides to come with as a break of sorts from her studies. However, because the weather is unseasonably warm, most of the snow’s already melted. In spite of this, the four ascend Mount Akagi together and reach the summit, marvelling at the views despite the overcast weather, and when they head back down the mountain, everyone’s pleased to see that some of the snow has persisted, allowing them to experience the wonders of snowshoes. While Hinata trips during the trek across a frozen lake, everyone ends up with a memorable adventure, and Honoka’s brother invites everyone to join him at a restaurant known for their deep fried shishamo. Aoi thinks to herself that, despite the weather being seemingly disappointing, the day was well worth it, and contemplates how fun can be had even when things don’t turn out quite the way one had expected. With Next Summit progressing smartly along, this winter episode clarifies what viewers had been suspecting, and deals in a life lesson that I definitely need to be mindful of.

Observant viewers had long noticed that Honoka and Kokona had been steadily becoming closer since Next Summit began airing. An ending sequence shows the pair on a hike together, although their activities appear to be characterised by a hint of gentle awkwardness as the two are still getting to know one another. By the time Christmas rolls around, Kokona and Honoka enjoy one another’s company and share in conversation together. Next Summit‘s decision to make this nascent friendship a part of the story is a pleasant show of how Aoi’s own growth is having a tangible impact on those around her. When Kokona had accompanied Aoi, Hinata and Kaede on their hikes, she’d been the youngest of everyone. At Mount Tanigawa, Aoi’s initiative ended up bringing Honoka into the group, and since Kokona and Honoka are middle school students, the pair are able to find an especially close bond in a group of older students. Being closer in age, Honoka and Kokona would probably find it easier to talk to one another than with their seniors, and unsurprisingly, the pair do strike up a friendship that is, in some ways, a parallel of Aoi and Hinata’s: Kokona is outgoing, while Honoka is more reserved. Viewers will doubtlessly find this moment especially heartwarming, and in the bigger picture, the growing friendship between Kokona and Honoka is a consequence of Aoi’s own development; she had reached out to Honoka while they’d been hiking Mount Tanigawa and opened the conversation, allowing Honoka to learn more about Aoi and her group. As it turned out, there was someone similar to herself in age, and by getting to know Kokona better, Honoka herself will doubtlessly gain confidence and become more confident in voicing her thoughts to others, too.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Aoi may claim she’s more knowledgeable about relationships, it turns out that Hinata’s the one with a bit more tact when it comes to these sorts of things: Hinata immediately spots that Honoka’s wanting some alone time with Kokona, and after she hauls Aoi away, the pair overhear Kokona chatting animatedly with Honoka. This episode realises what’s been on viewers’ minds for some time, allowing the pair to really begin bonding.

  • I was a little surprised that Honoka is still a middle school student, but Yama no Susume had not expressly indicated what Honoka’s age was. While Aoi had been the one to reach out to her at Mount Tanigawa, it was revealed that seeing the warmth from Kokona’s photograph during the third season’s events was what led Honoka to wish to know Kokona better. Here, everyone stops at Musashi Mitake Shrine, located at the summit of Mount Mitake. Although the shrine’s been around since the Kamakura era, the oldest building here, the main shrine, was built in 1878.

  • Because it’s Valentines’ Day in Next Summit, the episode has Kokona and Honoka exploring power spots meant to bolster luck in relationships. The pair hold hands and walk between a pair of tree trucks which, according to legend, will ensure two people stay together if they pass through together. The phrase “power spot” is a bit of wasai-eigo that describes places with an especially powerful spiritual aura, and even if one doesn’t believe in these ideas, there is no denying that power spots occupy some very scenic, majestic locations. I believe that in English, the equivalent term is “energy vortex”.

  • Having Kokona and Honoka become friends makes perfect sense in the knowledge that both are middle school students. Youth tend to associate with people close to themselves in age, and at this age, even a year or two can make a massive difference. By having Honoka befriend Kokona, it means that amongst this group, Honoka now has someone closer in her in age to converse with, especially when it may seem improper to ask Aoi, Hinata or Kaede for a second opinion. After their shrine visit, the group heads towards Mount Hinode along the Kanto Fureai trail.

  • Mount Hinode is a fourty-minute walk from Mount Mitake and offers an unparalleled view of the sunrise over the Kanto plains. The trails can get a little crowded, especially during the summer, but by winter, it appears that Aoi and the others have the entire trail to themselves. Because the sunrise is such an iconic sight, small huts line the trail for folks who wish to stay overnight, but since Aoi and company aren’t here for the sunrise, they’re able to walk the trail at their own leisure and take in sights, such as the thousand-year-old tree along the way.

  • The ascent up Mount Mitake and Mount Hinode is classic Yama no Susume, portraying an experience in vivid detail, and here, I remark that the visual quality in this episode is up to the standard I’m accustomed to seeing from Yama no Susume, with both the backgrounds and characters looking especially sharp. Until now, while the backgrounds and landscapes have been consistently good, character artwork has been all over the place, and on some occasions, have even looked like sketches. Initially, I had a bit of difficulty understanding as to why this was done.

  • Thanks to conversation with readers, who pointed to Bocchi the Rock as an example of a technically superb series with fantastic visuals and innovative animation, but exaggerated character deformations, as an example of where crude character artwork is a deliberate choice. Assuming this to hold true in Next Summit, it would mean that a given moment is especially loose and relaxed. Because Yama no Susume is focused on the outdoors and appreciation of nature, deforming the characters to a substantial extent would convey to viewers that in a moment, the characters are lost in their own worlds.

  • Upon reaching Mount Hinode’s summit, Aoi, Hinata, Kokona and Honoka are treated to a stunning view of the Kanto plains and Tokyo. On a clear day, downtown Tokyo and the Tokyo Skytree are visible from this spot. This fact reminds me of how from Prairie Mountain, downtown Calgary is similarly visible. When I visited, even though it had been an overcast day, I had no trouble making out the city centre from the summit of Prairie Mountain, although thinking back, it would’ve been nice if I brought some binoculars.

  • One small detail I found noteworthy was how, after Aoi pours out hot chocolate for everyone, she’s butchered the portions and leaves one cup with much less than the others. When Hinata quips that Aoi never seems to be able to finish strong, Aoi simply readjusts things and moments later, everyone’s enjoying her homemade hot chocolate, a Valentine’s Day gift of sorts to her friends. Aoi had previously always assumed Hinata would think the worst of her, but when the chips are down, she’s slowly learning how to take a joke in stride.

  • With a stunning view around them, Honoka and Kokona share a conversation about their mutual respect for one another and the other’s photography. Communication’s been a central part of Yama no Susume, and now that Kokona and Honoka are both a little closer to the other, their friendship will continue developing following a particularly memorable hike up Mount Mitake and Mount Hinode. Of course, the peace is broken up by Hinata and Aoi’s lighthearted banter about who’s going to find a partner first, and while Aoi is more adorable, Hinata’s assertive personality means she’ll probably beat Aoi to the punch.

  • A few weeks later, Koharu shows off something she’d found while clearing out the Mountaineering Club’s storeroom. Presumably buried there as the club always seems to be on the move, Koharu develops a wish to utilise them before winter concludes. This results in Koharu arranging for a hike to Mount Akagi, marking the first time Hinata, Aoi and Koharu go on a hike together. Aoi also decides to invite Honoka, and while Kokona’s not available, Honoka decides to come anyways, feeling it to be a good break from studying for the entrance exams.

  • As it turns out, Aoi had accidentally scratched the floor to her room while testing the snowshoes out, leading her to get an earful from her mother. The Mountaineering Club’s snowshoes have crampons on them to give them additional traction, but these mean that they dig aggressively into whatever surface they’re on: perfectly suited for icy conditions, it should come as no surprise that these shoes shouldn’t be used indoors. After arriving at the trailhead, Koharu is disheartened to see that there’s hardly any snow around. However, snow or not, the girls decide to continue their climb.

  • As the hike progresses, a brisk winter wind envelopes the trail, forcing everyone to don their hoods. Being a veteran hiker, Koharu’s brought a balaclava, which offers unparalleled protection from the elements; the best balaclavas will also offer neck protection, and as someone from a winter-bound part of the world, I can attest to how much of a difference good neck protection makes. When the thermometer drops below -20°C and windchill kicks in, having a scarf makes being outside bearable. Of course, Hinata finds it hilarious, and while Honoka wants a picture of Koharu, who assumes it’s for cool factor, Honoka ends up capturing a photo that comes out as adorable.

  • This hike up Mount Akagi isn’t the first time that Yama no Susume has seen the characters make an ascent on a cloudy day, but it is the first time that the series speaks to how even in poorer weather, there can be things to enjoy. This episode spoke to me for this reason: I make it a point to hike on clear days, where the views are at their best, but since my weekends are limited, there have been occasions where I’ve had to make do with the weather I’m given. The plus about hiking on overcast days is that the sun isn’t as intense, so I’m not burning up quite as badly when making the climb up.

  • The weather here brings to mind the exact sort of conditions that my side of the world gets for up to six months of the year: residual snowfall and gloomy, overcast skies dominate January and February, but it can extend into May, and similarly, after the pleasant weather of September, things become quite cloudy and cold from November onwards. That Next Summit captures things so well (this scene reminds me of Bragg Creek Provincial Park in the foothills) speaks volumes to how well-done the series is. However, the weather doesn’t deter Aoi and the others.

  • When Koharu spots that their descent route is snow covered, she’s ecstatic and invites the others to join her. The time has finally come to really put their snowshoes to use, and Aoi likens it to walking on a cloud. I’ve never done a winter hike before, but in snow-covered areas, showshoes with crampons would be essential; I don’t have the proper gear for hiking through deep snow or ice. A few weekends ago, I did end up picking up a new pair of all-purpose waterproof winter shoes, and while they’re not designed for wading through ankle-high snow, they are warm.

  • Upon reaching the bottom of the slope, all that’s left is to traverse the ice-covered lake. According to Canadian guidelines, ice is usually safe to walk across if it is at least a half-foot thick, and here, hints of blue ice can be seen. Clear blue ice has the greatest strength of any ice, and viewers attuned to this detail will be given some reassurance that everyone is safe. This clears the way for a bit of humour that arises when Hinata becomes a shade too excited and begins to run across the frozen lake. Unable to hear Koharu’s warnings, Hinata eventually falls over.

  • After their hike concludes, Aoi, Hinata, Koharu and Honoka meet up with Honoka’s older brother, who has the perfect restaurant to visit. He’d gone smelt fishing earlier, and knows of a fantastic place in the region: the restaurant at Aoki Ryokan on the shores of Lake Onuma is indeed known for their fried shishamo, and in fact, some locals consider Aoki Ryokan’s shishamo to be the best in Japan. While Honoka is embarrassed and irritated by her older brother, one gets the sense that he does care about Honoka, being more than willing to share his knowledge of regional attractions and drive her places, similarly to how Sakura had no qualms about driving Nadeshiko to campsites.

  • While Aoi and Hinata enjoy their post-hike meal, I reflect on the boutique cake I enjoyed over the past weekend: I ended up going for the green tea cake and was impressed by the fact that this layered cake was simultaneously cake and cheesecake. Great food always makes for fantastic memories, and this is why I’m so fond of photographing what I eat. For Aoi, once she tries the shishamo with some salt, her taste buds take her on a cross-country tour, leaving her feeling completely content and bringing this episode to a close. As the days grow shorter and winter inevitably arrives, I could do well to take a leaf from Aoi’s page and make the most of the conditions I’ve got,

  • I’ll have a chance to put Next Summit‘s learnings to good use soon: with virtually every Friday off, plus two full weeks off at the end of December, I’m going to have a great deal of time to unwind and relax. Overcast or sunny, I am looking forwards to going out and enjoying some food, as well as staying in and sleeping in. This year, I have one more tool in my arsenal to keep my spirits up as the days shorten: thanks to a Black Friday sale, I was able to pick up a Nanoleaf Mini Triangle kit, and got that set up earlier this evening. I’ve still yet to figure out how some of the cooler functions work, but it is a gorgeous-looking fixture that livens up my workspace. With this post in the books, next week, we will be crossing Next Summit‘s three-quarters mark, and I am rather excited to see what other adventures await Aoi and her friends.

In the eighth episode’s second half, Next Summit gives Aoi a chance to see how even when things don’t turn out as expected, maintaining an open mind can turn disappointment into a new experience. The ascent up Mount Akagi is set under overcast skies, a contrast from the beautiful weather Aoi and her friends typically climb mountains under, and since the object of that day had been to give the snowshoes a go, a lack of snow meant they weren’t able to initially see for themselves the joy of the snowshoes. However, by pressing onwards anyways, Aoi, Hinata, Honoka and Koharu are still able to enjoy the sight from Mount Akagi’s summit, and because they made the hike anyways, are able to see the mountain path downhill is still snowy. I have had similar experiences, where the weather had not been quite what I’d hoped for, but on all occasions, I tend to press ahead anyways and do what I can to make the most of things. While I have no trouble adjusting my plans and handling such scenarios, however, one of my own weaknesses is that I do tend to stay somewhat bothered even if the alternative ends up being perfectly enjoyable. I’ve found that channeling my discontent into planning more experiences in the future is something that takes my mind off things, but what I need to work on is remembering this is always an option; I still need to compartmentalise these negative thoughts in the moment and make the most of what is available. Next Summit does a fantastic job of why possessing such a mindset is so important: it helps one to develop resilience against the unexpected and handle shifting circumstances elegantly. Having established that Aoi and her friends have this particular skill down means the story is one step closer to Mount Fuji, and now that Next Summit is moving through February, I imagine that in next episode, viewers will have a chance to see what awaits Aoi and her friends come March, a time when the weather slowly begins to warm back up as spring approaches.

2 responses to “Power Spot For Valentine’s Day, Trying Out Snowshoes – Yama no Susume: Next Summit Eighth Episode Review and Reflections

  1. Michael E Kerpan November 23, 2022 at 18:16

    Honoka and Kokona, two relatively shy and reserved middle schoolers (albeit with very different dispositions) are definitely well on their way towards BFF status with each other. I suspect neither has ever had this sort of extra-strong bond with another person. I recall the delight, at the beginning of high school of meeting a couple of other students who truly shared my interests — and still (55 years later) we have very close bonds (despite living far apart). So watching the solidification of such a relationship is very heart-warming.

    Yet another wonderful episode — with lots of lovely landscape scenery and lots of nice interpersonal interaction. Especially nice to see just how much broader Aoi’s world has become (both geographically and socially). I’ll really miss this show when the end of the season rolls around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith November 25, 2022 at 17:05

      It hits me that we don’t really know much about Kokona, especially how she is around classmates (a few episodes were dedicated to her, and she spends most of them exploring Hanno). Having said this, it is a pleasant way of showing that outside of Aoi and the others, both Honoka and Kokona have someone they can closely connect to. I share similar connections with my friends – I don’t have many friends, but of the few I do have, we’re close.

      It is quite saddening that Next Summit‘s almost three-quarters of the way through. However, my anticipation of each upcoming episode outweighs this, and I’m probably going to be rewatching Next Summit with the same frequency that I do Yuru Camp△. With only four episodes left, it goes without saying that I’m awaiting the upcoming episodes with bated breath!

      Like

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