“Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.” –Erika Taylor
Aoi’s father invites her and Kokona to accompany him on a weekend fishing trip in the mountains at a friend’s place, prompting Aoi to also invite Hinata along. While the girls learn the basics behind stream fishing, Kokona explains that despite having never fished before, she wanted to broaden her horizons ahead of admittance to secondary school and indicates that she would like to enroll at the same school Hinata and Aoi attend. This leads Aoi to wonder what she wishes for in her own future, and while pondering this question, Aoi also manages to catch a fish of her own. After meeting up with Aoi’s father, who’s caught a number of fish, everyone returns to enjoy tempura fish. Later, Hinata’s mother returns home after a gruelling work week and requests an outing that allows her to both hike and check the ocean out. Hinata’s father suggests Kamakura, and Aoi is invited to accompany them. Along the way, Aoi is reminded of the fact that Hinata’s mother is very energetic and expressive, similarly to Hinata. While hiking up a trail, Aoi notices that despite being winded, Hinata’s mother presses on with enthusiasm, and the four stop to enjoy the lunches that Hinata’s other had bought along the way. They subsequently swing by a temple, where Hinata’s mother lets out her work-related frustrations, before watching a sunset along the coast. Here, Aoi thinks to herself that in a few more weeks, with spring’s immanent arrival, she and Hinata will become second-year students. Three-quarters of the way into Next Summit, viewers have another chance to see some of the secondary adventures that Aoi and Hinata take together; these adventures allow Yama no Susume to highlight a variety of life lessons in a gentle, unobtrusive and instructive fashion, indicating how personal growth comes in all forms, as well as how learnings that improve individuals can come from even the most unexpected of experiences.
The ninth episode’s highlight comes with the introduction of Hinata’s mother. This is the first time viewers see her on screen, and from initial impressions, she’s someone who takes her work very seriously, but becomes frustrated when things don’t go as smoothly as she’d like. This leaves her exhausted, and so, when Aoi meets her for the first time in a while, Hinata’s mother is slumped over on the couch. However, she perks up immediately at the thought of an outing to Kamakura, and although Hinata’s father chooses the destination to ensure that the excursion isn’t something beyond what his wife can do, the chance to go outdoors and regroup proves to be a blessing for Hinata’s mother. She’s able to exercise out some of her stress, and during their shrine visit, throws disks at stones to get her concerns and grievances into the air. The trip leaves her refreshed, and although a mountain of work likely awaits Hinata’s mother when she returns to the office, at the very least, she’s now had a chance to unwind a little. The idea of taking a step back to regroup when stressed seems counterintuitive, but it works because it gives the mind a chance to pause and reassess a situation. Next Summit‘s ninth episode’s second half deals primarily with Hinata’s mother, but it’s also a reminder to Aoi – she’d been beaten at Mount Fuji before, but having had time to take a step back and think things over, she returns to the trails with a renewed passion and a deeper understanding of why she enjoys being outdoors. Similarly, while Aoi now faces the prospect of becoming a second-year student, it is important that she is able to find ways of managing her stress, and Next Summit shows that because she is able to find solace in being outdoors, when things get difficult for her in the future, whether it be her coursework, considering directions for her career and eventually, transitioning to the next milestone in her life, Aoi will have the tools to do so in an effective, and healthy manner.
Screenshots and Commentary
- As the weather warms, Aoi’s father decides to take Aoi fishing, and is happy to bring Kokona along. Not wanting to suffer through a new experience alone, Aoi decides to invite Hinata, too. Some minds suppose that Aoi’s being unfair and is doing so out of malice, but the reality is that she knows that Hinata might actually enjoy fishing, and being with more people might make things more fun, too.
- By having Hinata and Aoi go on a mountain fishing trip, Next Summit takes Yama no Susume to the same waters that Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Slow Loop had covered: I have previously commented on how Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Hina resembles Aoi, and similarly, Natsumi is the equivalent of Hinata. Both anime cover different topics, but the similarities among the characters made Houkago Teibou Nisshi more grounded. Since Hina and Natsumi’s personality traits had analogues in Yama no Susume, it was much easier to focus on the fishing.
- After Aoi’s father’s friend gives everyone a crash course in how to use their fishing lines, everyone heads off to the foot of a waterfall, where they get to put their skills to the test. Aoi’s father helps to get the bait on, and in a moment reminiscent of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Aoi and Hinata both react adversely to seeing the live bait, which is censored initially for comedic effect. Later on, the bait is shown to be some sort of larvae. It was quite telling that Kokona didn’t appear perturbed by things.
- After watching the girls try their hand at fishing, Aoi’s father ends up taking off so he can do some fishing of his own. Here, he remarks that being skunked is a part of the experience, and I first became familiar with the term through Survivorman, where Les Stroud had been in Argentina on one of his toughest survival expeditions. Catching nothing while recreational fishing is fine, but in a survival situation, it can drive up desperation and a feeling of hopelessness. This aspect is not especially relevant to Next Summit, and in a few moments, Kokona gets a hit.
- Kokona’s natural affinity with the outdoors is apparent: she’s the first to catch a fish. Throughout Yama no Susume, Kokona’s been portrayed as being a miracle woman of sorts; she’s the only person who manages to make it up every mountain she climbs, and is uncommonly tough despite her appearances. On top of this, she’s a quick study, performs well when it comes to academics and is friendly with most everyone. After she catches her first fish, Kokona hands her rod over to Aoi, and begins speaking about her plans for the future.
- Kokona’s explanation to Aoi provides a fair answer as to why she appears so on top of things: she had accepted this fishing trip invite despite having no particular interest in fishing because she wanted to widen her experiences and be able speak to a range of topics, as well as understand what she enjoys doing. This is quite the opposite of middle school aged Aoi, who was content to do handicrafts and read books. However, while Kokona is clearly a self-starter, and Aoi is someone who needs a bit of a push, the end result is the same, and in this way, Next Summit hints at how it’s okay to get that initial push.
- Next Summit‘s message is that whether it be mountain climbing or the future, the best way to do things is at one’s own pace, and this is something that Aoi will have a chance to work towards. On the flipside, seeing Kokona with a clear plan for the future creates one new thing to look forwards to for Hinata and Aoi; Kokona wishes to enroll at the same secondary school as Aoi and Hinata, and since her grades are solid, I imagine that the three could become classmates at some point. Kokona admits that she likes the uniforms, and the school’s location is also convenient for her, both of which are perfectly valid reasons for choosing a secondary school.
- In the end, Aoi ends up catching a fish, and Hinata’s the one who ends up getting shut out. However, Hinata seems quite unbothered by things and feels that even though she was skunked, it was nonetheless fun to hang out with everyone. By this point in Next Summit, I am accepting of the fact that the character designs in some segments of earlier episodes is deliberate; throughout both this episode, and the previous episode, both characters and backgrounds are of a consistently good quality, being a return to the level of detail seen in Yama no Susume‘s third season.
- After a morning’s worth of fishing, everyone sits down to a wonderful lunch of fried fish. Thanks to their high lipid content and the Maillard reaction, fried foods are appealing to the palate: the human body has evolved to favour nutrient-dense foods, and things high in fat provide a lot of energy per unit mass. The Japanese approach to deep-frying is a healthier one compared to the methods seen over in North America; less oil is used, and the batter itself is lighter, using flour, egg and cold water rather than bread crumbs.
- Food scenes in anime have contributed to my becoming an amateur food photographer and connoisseur of sorts: looking back, one of my lesser-known hobbies is visiting places to try their food out and try my hand at capturing images that portray the taste and aesthetics behind a dish. I’ve found that some dishes, like sandwiches, are a little trickier to capture good images of without creativity, but Japanese cuisine is incredibly photogenic, to the point where even an inexpensive sushi set can be made to look incredible with the right lighting and technique.
- A few episodes ago, I had made the remark that, with Aoi’s father making an appearance, all that was left was for Hinata’s mother to show up. Here at the three-quarters mark, this has come to pass, and it’s quite plain that Hinata takes after her mother, the same way Aoi resembles her mother. Unlike Aoi’s mother, Hinata’s mother is career-driven, and while visiting one day, Aoi finds her lying face down on her couch, bemoaning the difficulty some new hires have been giving her. Hinata’s mother’s work is not specified, but one can reasonably guess that it’s an office position.
- I’ll let Next Summit speak for itself with regard to the notion of taking a step back from a problem and regrouping in a healthy manner. This is something I practise with frequency: whether it’s designing new features prior to implementation or debugging existing code (which may entail stepping through hundreds, or even thousands of lines of code spread out in different classes), it is inevitable that I run into something with a non-obvious solution. Depending on priority, I may regroup by stretching my feet, or if I have the luxury of time, I may even set the problem aside and do something else first.
- Weekends are especially valuable in this regard, and I’ve come to appreciate this time as an opportunity to get out and clear my mind if the weather permits. The situation Hinata’s mother is in is done purely for comedy’s sake: I occasionally vent about the challenges I face at work to peers and family, but it’s nowhere nearly as vociferously. Anime employ these exaggerations purely to accentuate a point, and I’m quick to dismiss complaints about such portrayals because fiction, while it might portray elements from reality, isn’t a 1:1 depiction of the world.
- Instead of worrying about the moral implications of hyperbole and its impact on viewers (I assume viewers and readers are learned enough to know that anime employ hyperbole to illustrate a point or provide comedy), I tend to focus on how well a given slice-of-life anime conveys its life lessons to viewers. For me, this is the biggest joy about watching shows of this genre. Longtime readers will be familiar with the fact that I place a great deal of emphasis on the sorts of learnings these anime aim to communicate.
- While Hinata’s mother initially struggles to keep pace with everyone else, she ends up powering through on pure spirit, and along the way, is able to check out sights that certainly wouldn’t be seen at the office. I was a little surprised that flowers are already beginning to bloom, even though it’s not quite spring yet; in Alberta, spring doesn’t really kick in until around May, and for me, it’s not uncommon for the landscape to remain a dull brown for weeks after the Vernal Equinox. Differences in climate affords Aoi and the others with a more conducive environment for going on an outing, and I would imagine that at this time of year, Kamakura would be quite comfortable for outdoor activities.
- The weather in Next Summit stands in stark contrast to the weather on this side of the world. Weather experts are forecasting that December will open with the coldest temperatures seen in a century, and in the past few days, the thermometer has plunged below -15°C, with the first blast of winter coming next week, where daytime highs aren’t expected to top -21°C. Having lived here all my life, I’m no stranger to the cold; it’s still possible to go out and enjoy the outdoors, but one must be properly dressed for the conditions.
- As cold as Alberta can get in the winter, it’s nothing compared to the likes of Yakutsk, where it’s already -35°C, and where lows can reach -64.4°C. This helps to put things in perspective – by comparison, the average low at this time of year feels balmy by comparison. I certainly won’t be enjoying chirashi or any sort of bento outdoors, but on days where the skies are clear, it’s still quite wonderful to be outside.
- At the shrine Hinata, her parents and Aoi visit, it’s said that throwing clay disks at stones will help one’s wishes to come true. Hinata throws hers with confidence, while Aoi hesitates and falls short of the mark. Hinata’s mother, on the other hand, buys a stack of them, using them to vent. Relieving pressure in this way isn’t unheard of, and mental health guides do suggest that yelling out can help with stress, so long as one does so in a place of solitude (such as the top of a hill or somewhere secluded). For me, I manage my stress through first person shooters and lifting weights.
- One of Next Summit‘s best features is the fact that weather patterns are varied, giving a sense of realism to the adventures Aoi and Hinata embark on. Anime typically are sent under flawless skies, and while this makes for fantastic scenes of unparalleled beauty, it can create the expectation that discovery can only happen with clear weather. Accepting flaws and learning to embrace imperfection is a part of life, so featuring cloudy skies in Next Summit is a show that even when things aren’t perfect (or perhaps, because they aren’t perfect), a moment becomes all the more memorable.
- After commenting that Hinata is a splitting image of her mother and earning herself a brief run around the beach, Aoi stops to consider how by spring, she and Hinata will be second year high school students. Time is moving at a smart pace in Yama no Susume, and while it is important to live in the moment, it’s also important to keep an eye on the future. This is an important milestone for Aoi and Hinata, so I imagine that come next episode, it’ll be time to watch Kaede and Koharu graduate, deal with the changes following their entry into a new academic year, and prepare for the ascent at Mount Fuji. In the meantime, I’ve got one more post lined up for November, and anyone following me on Twitter will have no trouble guessing what this one’s going to be about.
Although slice-of-life anime tend to emphasise the importance of living in the moment, as a given series progresses, the story inevitably turns towards what the future might look like. When characters begin considering said futures, those without a more concrete plan may begin to feel left behind. During the stream fishing outing, Kokona indicates that she enjoys trying new things out and opening herself to new experiences because it may be helpful down the line. This leaves Aoi wondering about what she’d like to do once she graduates from secondary school. It is natural to be concerned about the future if one doesn’t have a clear idea of what things might look like. However, just because one doesn’t have a plan in the moment doesn’t mean it will remain like this forever – I didn’t decide on my career path until I was two months from finishing off my graduate studies, but I did eventually find something I enjoyed doing. Aoi’s worries about her future have a relatively simple solution: because she had stated that the most enjoyable aspect of mountain climbing was that she could enjoy things at her own pace, it follows that the same approach is applicable for her career choice. So long as Aoi doesn’t get stuck in one spot and is advancing steadily, it’s okay to take the time she needs and determine for herself, what her future would look like. Life lessons like these have long been woven into slice-of-life anime with finesse, and spotting these elements is what make these anime so meaningful to watch: they reaffirm the things in our lives that work, and gently nudge us in a new direction if we’re in need of encouragement to better ourselves. Next Summit excels in this area, and while Yama no Susume might deal in mountain climbing, the messages Next Summit have shown off the trails are relevant to all walks of life.