“I don’t care what anything was designed to do, I care about what it can do.” –Gene Kranz, Apollo 13
While out on a hike with Hinata, Honoka and Kokona on a rainy day, Aoi realises that she’s willing to endure the elements for the thrill of seeing the view from a mountain’s summit. That evening, Aoi invites Honoka to join them at Mount Fuji, and Honoka accepts, excited to test her shiny new camera out. As spring turns to summer, Aoi prepares for her return to Mount Fuji, and while visiting Hinata with Kaede and Kokona, the four begin looking at routes up the mountain. Later, when Aoi shares her plans with Koharu, Koharu suggests that Aoi buy a new backpack so she can lessen the strain on her back. While visiting the outdoor good store with Hinata, Kasumi, Yuri and Mio accompany her and are impressed with Aoi’s spirits. Spring turns to summer, and Aoi begins training to build her stamina. Although she’s excited about the climb, she’s also quite nervous that she’ll succumb to altitude sickness again. On the day of the hike, Aoi is disheartened by the weather, but Kaede and Hinata take her mind off things by reminding her that they need to take it easy and acclimatise to the thinner air. After enjoying lunch and making a prayer at a nearby shrine, the weather appears to begin clearing, and Aoi is ready at last to take another shot at reaching Mount Fuji’s summit. Although the pacing throughout Next Summit had left some viewers wondering if a fifth season or movie would be necessary, Next Summit has, thankfully, answered this question and risen to the challenge. Yama no Susume‘s fourth season, in striving to show the growth Aoi’s experienced over the past year as a result of her own initiative, and through her friends’ contributions, will conclude with a successful ascent, and here at the penultimate episode, a year’s worth of learnings feeds into every step, leaving viewers excited to see what pleasant surprises awaits Aoi on this second trip up Japan’s most iconic mountain.
Although Mount Fuji seemingly comes out of the blue here in Next Summit, consistent foreshadowing and the use of mountain climbing as a metaphor for individual development meant that, once it became clear Aoi and her friends would return to Mount Fuji before Next Summit concluded, this particular experience should be of no surprise to viewers. Self-improvement is an integral part of life, as is failure. It is a natural part of the process to desire a rematch when one fails, and in Yama no Susume, there is no greater way to represent this than by having Aoi return to the only mountain trail she’d failed to complete. This message lies at the heart of Next Summit, so it was only logical to show how a full year’s worth of learnings result in Aoi being better prepared to take on such a feat. However, because Next Summit chooses to show Aoi and her friends on different trails, living in the moment and learning to accept the most of every experience, the series is never pushy about Aoi’s rematch. In this way, Next Summit suggests to viewers that life’s challenges aren’t always overcome by directing a laser-like focus towards a problem. Instead, it is by branching out and embracing new experiences, that one develops the breadth of skills needed to improve and mature. Although a fishing trip and helping a friend deal with heartbreak hardly seems related to the physical training and research needed to make a safe ascent up Mount Fuji, the confidence and open-mindedness Aoi is able to acquire from these moments is as essential as learning the best equipment and building up her stamina. This is why Next Summit shows so many of these secondary moments and has Aoi choosing to decline an invitation to join Koharu and the Mountaineering Club – as important as it is to be focused and determined, many of life’s challenges are overcome when one is able to widen their perspectives, and throughout the winter and spring, this is precisely what Aoi’s done.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Although the common saying is “time flies when you’re having fun”, what they ought to say is “time flies”. It only seems like yesterday that Next Summit began running, and now, here we are at the penultimate episode. I’ll open this commentary with another still of Mount Fuji following a rainfall – although Aoi had similarly struggled up the mountain, and her thoughts here echo what she’d been thinking back at Mount Fuji, the moment she reaches the top with her friends, she answers her own question.
- What makes the breathlessness, cold and soreness worth it is the view at the top. Aoi might dislike the physical toll of climbing a mountain, but her love of the scenery outweighs this dislike. The mindset that Aoi has for hiking is one of resilience and deferred gratification: the things in life that are worth doing are worthwhile precisely because they are challenging. Spotting this is what gives Aoi the motivation to get back out there, and here in Next Summit, Aoi’s able to finally put into words how she feels about the mountain.
- Aoi, Hinata, Kokona and Honoka take a leaf from Kaede’s playbook and camp in the mountains. During a conversation, Aoi comments on how she’s interested in taking another stab at Mount Fuji, and this time, she invites Honoka to accompany them. Honoka immediately accepts because she’s been itching to test her new camera out, and I am reminded of how I’ve been excited to go out and do the same with the iPhone 14 Pro’s top-of-the-line camera. While the cold weather has meant that I’m not getting out as much, the photos that I have taken with the iPhone 14 Pro are incredibly detailed.
- The pilgrims hiking pole that Aoi had originally picked up at Mount Fuji has become a single stake that her mother now uses as a part of her gardening. I remember discussions with readers pertaining this hiking pole following the second recap episode, while the use of the pole in such a manner did speak to how devastated Aoi had been following her first climb, the fact that it was repurposed shows that even failure has its worth, and moreover, Aoi’s spirits didn’t remain down for long; she found renewed rigour after walking Mount Tenran and marvelling at how straightforward the climb had been.
- One day at work, while collecting her paycheque, Hikari wonders if Aoi’s plans to hike Mount Fuji involve anyone special, and Aoi’s resulting reaction is adorable. Relationships in slice-of-life anime are apparently still a sore spot for some viewers, who believe that the lack of relationships in these series diminish their enjoyability because they are not realistic, but in reality, a 2021 poll found that up to half of all Japanese men and women have reported that they have no partner, and similarly, here in Canada, about a third of people in this bracket are single. As such, it is hardly unrealistic for characters in anime to be single.
- Some time later, the Mount Fuji trip begins to materialise after Aoi floats the idea to Kaede and Kokona – they begin to consider different routes up the mountain, and while everyone’s got a different suggestion, Aoi manages to merge everything together: Hinata’s Subashiri route will form their ascent, but then on their descent, they’ll take Kaede’s Gotemba route and do a small detour so Kokona can see Mount Hoei. This moment speaks to how Aoi is considerate of those around her, and having now hiked extensively, she’s also able to make snap decisions and put itineraries together.
- I admit that a part of the fun about doing any sort of trip is the planning, of looking over where to go and then putting a route together. However, there’s also merit in just winging it, and last Friday, this is precisely what I ended up doing – I had a day off and decided to go drive out to Canmore as a bit of a day trip. Because Canmore is practically in my backyard, I had no plans laid out for the day. I therefore drove out with only the vaguest idea of what my day would entail, and decided to check out the Three Sisters viewpoint. While this viewpoint is especially beautiful in the warmer months because there’s a creek here which provides a stunning reflection of the mountains, by December, the entire area was frozen over.
- While looking at the map, I had imagined that I wouldn’t be able to ford the creek, but with the frozen creek, it meant that, even though I couldn’t photograph the Three Sisters and their reflections, I was able to walk on the frozen creek and reach the Bow River, which offered another view of the Three Sisters, one that I wouldn’t be able to see during warmer weather. The morning had been quite snowy when I drove in, but in the time it took to reach the viewpoint, the snow had given way to sunshine.
- I subsequently returned to town and stopped at the Where the Buffalo Roam Saloon, where I enjoyed their Wagyu beef burger. With an earthier flavour than Angus beef, this burger proved extremely flavourful: the interplay between the Alberta wagyu beef, Tickler cheddar, pickled onion and butter leaf, this burger had one of the most complex flavour profiles of any burger I’ve tried, being a balanced mix of unami, sweet and lightly tangy. Their house fries were served with a homemade ketchup that was more mild than ordinary ketchup. Accompanying my lunch was a glass of locally-brewed ginger beer. After lunch, I was warmed up and hiked out over to the Magic Waterfall, before returning home. Back in Next Summit, Aoi enjoys a seafood Paella with octopus and prawns. This is Spain’s national dish, and thanks to Aoi’s earnings, she decides to go fancy with the ingredients.
- Although Char’s sentiments, that a better pilot will overcome a superior mobile suit, are admirable, I’ve been around the block long enough to acknowledge that good gear can make a difference. After sharing their plans to conquer Mount Fuji with Koharu, Koharu’s got other plans, but she does give Aoi a recommendation – this is the sort of support I’d been looking to see from Next Summit ever since Aoi declined Koharu’s invitation to join the Mountaineering Club. Koharu is clearly knowledgable about gear and is able to help Aoi out in her own way; a good backpack helps with weight distribution and reduces strain on the shoulders, which will make a major difference on a hike as intensive as Mount Fuji.
- It feels like everyone’s given a little bit of shine time in this penultimate episode; Mio, Kasumi and Yuri accompany Aoi and Hinata to their friendly neighbourhood outdoor goods store as Aoi picks out a backpack, and here, the others begin marvelling at the sheer amount of products on their shelves. While Aoi had only made some effort to get to know everyone better in her previous year, here, her willingness to invite Kasumi and the others along so they could glimpse her world shows that she’s also a bit more open about her interests in the present.
- Of course, when presented with an entire wall of backpacks, Aoi becomes overwhelmed and struggles to choose one. I am reminded of when I built my first desktop and was picking out GPUs – while NVIDIA and AMD are the biggest players, there are a plethora of after-market solutions, and each brand may offer variants of the same GPU with a different cooling solution (more expensive boards have more fans, higher clock speeds and RGB lighting). One of my friends helped me to choose, and I ended up going with EVGA, whose cards are generally overclocked out of the box and have the most compact form factor.
- Today, I rock an MSI card: while I’m quite loyal to EVGA, the other big brands (MSI, Asus and Gigabyte) tend to be quite reliable, so price becomes the deciding factor. Back in Next Summit, I would imagine that, being an expert, Kaede would have no trouble making a recommendation, but luckily for Aoi, the store manager is on hand to help out: a good backpack has a waist strap that reduces the work one’s shoulders have to do by making the backpack fit more snugly, which distributes the forces more evenly throughout one’s body. Aoi is able to follow this conversation without trouble, and when the manager points her to a backpack that might work, Aoi is pleased to learn that it’s a good fit for her.
- Hinata prefers a backpack with more pockets, and is disappointed Aoi won’t be going with something with pockets. I appreciate the utility of more pockets, since it allows one to carry more stuff in an organised fashion, but Aoi has her heart set on this backpack, which proves comfortable and practical. Yuri and Mio’s reactions are adorable – I imagine that it’s rare for them to see Aoi so excited about something, so this moment would’ve been quite memorable and uplifting.While Yuri, Kasumi and Mio aren’t going to accompany Aoi and the others on their Mount Fuji adventure, they nonetheless wish her the best.
- Such a moment, while fleeting, serves to illustrate how this time around, Aoi’s got more people in her corner than she had previously, and this additional support helps to spur Aoi on. I would be inclined to believe that Kasumi’s remark about the shingen mochi is her own way of wishing for Aoi’s success – because souvenirs are usually picked up at the end of an adventure, asking for a souvenir so early in the game suggests that Kasumi is confident Aoi will complete this hike and have enough energy left over to buy stuff for the others. As an aside shingen mochi is a Yamanashi specialty and showcased in one of Yuru Camp△‘s Room Camp segments.
- To prepare herself for the climb, Aoi decides to break in her new backpack and climb the stairs to the nearby shrine. Because physical prowess isn’t the emphasis in Yama no Susume, preparations for such a climb are not shown. However, Next Summit does elect to show this moment because it shows Aoi’s determination and improved knowledge from last time. The outfit she’s wearing here is a callback to Yama no Susume‘s first season: she’d worn the same tracksuit on her first climb with Hinata.
- In the days leading up to the of the day of the climb, Aoi finds herself checking her weather apps frequently to see if the skies will be clear. I am very familiar with this, and in fact, did the same prior to my drive out to Canmore – I had been hoping for sunshine so I could get some good photographs of the Three Sisters. Different sources gave different forecasts, but as the day of the drive drew near, I felt the weather was “good enough”. To my great surprise, while the Trans-Canada highway leading into the mountains was perfectly clear, a localised system meant Canmore was snowing. Mountain weather is unpredictable by definition, and it’s tricky to schedule something on a day with good weather far out in advance.
- Hinata has a different problem: worrying that Aoi may suffer from altitude sickness again, she’s trying to minimise the amount of gear she’s carrying so, if Aoi should need any help, she’d be able to help carry Aoi’s stuff, too. Moments like these show that despite Hinata’s love of teasing Aoi, when the moment calls for it, she’s thoughtful and considerate. Hinata’s struggles here also reminded me of a scene from Apollo 13, where technicians struggled to determine which order they needed to power up the landing module’s systems in order to not waste the power available to them. In a moment that wasn’t quite as suspenseful as Apollo 13‘s, Hinata eventually cuts things down to her yokan and decides to forgo it in favour of a lighter-weight snack.
- Because Honoka lives in Gunma prefecture, Aoi invites her over to stay the night so they can leave together. During dinner, Aoi’s mother attempts to share the story of what had happened the previous year, and while Aoi’s too embarrassed to hear any more, I imagine that this is Aoi’s mother’s way of expressing to Honoka her concern, as well as subtly asking Honoka to look after Aoi. Aoi’s father appears to be back to work again, as he’s absent in this scene. After dinner and a quick bath, both Aoi and Honoka hit the hay.
- Ahead of the big day, Kokona crafts a teru teru bozu and sings a song with the hope of warding off bad weather. This moment was especially adorable, but then again, so is the whole of Yama no Susume. The characters are engaged in activities that are quite demanding, experiencing successes and failures as vividly as people do in reality, but owing to the manner of presentation, there’s a feeling of warmth and fluffiness that anime like these present to viewers. I would tend to imagine that this is merely a part of the show’s aesthetic – kawaii moments never distract from the overarching story or messages in a given slice-of-life work.
- When Aoi appears to have trouble falling asleep, she recalls how last time, she’d also been short of sleep. As it turns out, Aoi had been worrying both about the weather and about whether or not she’ll get altitude sickness again; this is partially why she’d been checking the weather frequently, to take her mind off the elephant in the room. Despite these worries, Aoi does manage to catch some shuteye later on. Subtle cues like these are frequent in Next Summit, and seeing them together did hint to me that, despite her concerns, Aoi is definitely better prepared than she’d been last time.
- Thanks to Honoka, Aoi is able to relax somewhat and falls asleep. The next morning, Aoi’s mother see the pair off, and she’s surprised that Aoi had left her hiking stick behind. By the time Aoi’s mother is back on the main road, Aoi and Honoka have already taken off. For the briefest of moments, viewers wonder if that hiking stick would bring back unhappy memories for Aoi, since she only got markers up to the eighth station. Indeed, these thoughts might be amplified after seeing Kokona brining her own hiking stick along for the hike.
- The journey from Hanno to Mount Fuji is a lengthy one, requiring a train ride into Tokyo, followed by a two-hour bus ride. These journeys are commonplace in anime featuring younger characters – while they take much longer to complete, enjoying the journey in together is a part of the experience. It goes without saying that having a vehicle makes things much easier: driving from Hanno to Mount Fuji only takes two hours and seventeen minutes along a toll expressway.
- After disembarking from the train, Aoi’s spirits completely foul when she sees the weather, prompting a hilarious reaction from Hinata. I completely relate to Aoi, being guilty of this more times than I care to count, and here, Honoka steps up by saying that that life is a game of making do with the hand one is dealt, rather than trying to hold out for a better hand. Lessons like these dominate Yama no Susume, but like all well-written slice-of-life series, viewers aren’t clubbed over the head with the messages the series aims to convey.
- Poor weather or not, the reality is that Aoi’s in some excellent company, and it’s all smiles as everyone rides the bus up to the Fujinomiya Fifth Station. Spirited friends can take the dullness from even the most cloudy of skies, and competent friends can avert calamity. Kaede had done the same for Aoi previously, and while Aoi herself is not aware of it, Hinata has steeled herself to do this in the event anything should happen to Aoi. With this many failsafes on top of Aoi’s increased experience and preparedness, I got the distinct feeling that Next Summit is setting Aoi up for success this time around.
- Thus, even though Aoi might be discouraged by the fog, Kaede immediately suggests that they acclimatise to the altitude by spending an hour at the Fifth Station’s rest area. Knowing that Aoi’s ability to make the climb is tied to her spirit and resolve, Kaede and Hinata believe that pushing Aoi’s attention towards the next step, rather than worrying about what comes ten steps ahead. When the five enter the lodge, the two English-speaking mountain climbers are back. They’re still lively and full of energy, ready to conquer things again. Their appearance can only be described as fate, and this time around, I’m hoping Aoi and her crew might have a chance to interact with them, even if it’s something as simple as taking their picture at the summit, and then in turn, asking the pair to help them get a group photo.
- After looking at the menu and finding that there’s ‘shrooms in everything, everyone orders different things. Owing to how the dishes are prepared, when their orders arrive, all of the noodle dishes look the same. I believe these are shimeji mushrooms (White Beech), which have a small cap and long stem. When cooked, shimeji mushrooms have a nutty and savoury flavour. In my parents’ home recipes, these mushrooms go great in a bulgogi beef and onion stir-fry. Since Hinata and Honoka respectively order the curry and fried rice, their dishes are easy to recognise, and Honoka capitalises on the moment to take a photograph of the moment, finding it amusing. The mountain lodge feeling here brings to mind this past weekend, where I brought my parents to Edelweiss Village, my home town’s premiere place for German imports. After enjoying lunch here (I had the Village Special, which includes bratwurst, a cabbage roll, sauerkraut and Bratkartoffeln).
- After lunch, I browsed around, admired their wall of hand-crafted wooden cuckoo clocks and finished my Christmas shopping. My parents had been interested in checking this shop out, ever since their friends mentioned it a decade earlier, and it suddenly hits me that I’ve not been here in five years; I’d been in the neighbourhood back then, and as memory serves, Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter was airing. Back in Next Summit, Hinata notices that Aoi’s left her hiking stick at home, and wonders if Aoi will be alright. As it turns out, this was deliberate: Aoi’s bought a pair of collapsible trekking poles, which offer a combination of balance and portability. The gear shows that Aoi has given this hike thought, and is much better prepared to tackle things. The contrast between her worries and confidence shows a healthy balance of concern: Aoi will not under Mount Fuji again. In a bit of dramatic irony, Aoi’s mother wonders if she’ll be fine.
- Between a new backpack and trekking poles, Aoi’s putting her earnings from her part-time job to good use, and here, after making a prayer for a safe and successful hike, the time has finally come to square off against Mount Fuji. For longstanding Yama no Susume fans, this moment has been over eight years in the making, representing a point where Aoi’s grown enough to wish and prepare for another attempt. Since I reached Yama no Susume‘s second season five years later, the wait for me has been significantly shorter, but the moment is no less impactful. Having said this, I am surprised that the discussions on Next Summit have been so limited: contrary to popular belief, slice-of-life anime can offer quite a bit to discuss, especially because they cover topics that are relevant to our day-to-day lives.
- Aoi’s determination and resourcefulness is what motivates the page quote, taken from the 1995 film Apollo 13: at this point in time, so much has happened in Yama no Susume that viewers should not worry about what Aoi’s limitations are, but rather, focus on how the sum of her experiences have allowed her to surpass her limits. With all preparations now in place, Aoi takes her first step on the trail that leads to the summit, and here, I will note that next week, I will be on break. I’m not sure what my Tuesday looks like at present, but I will do my best to ensure that I get a talk for Next Summit‘s finale out in a timely fashion.
The question of whether or not Aoi will be successful here in Next Summit is pre-ordained; in order for Next Summit to successfully convey its message, Aoi necessarily will succeed. While this creates an element of predictability, which is something that most self-styled critics are fond of pointing out in any given work, the whole point of slice-of-life anime like Yama no Susume is to show the process towards an outcome. Quite simply, the journey matters more than the destination, so there is significantly more merit in showing how one reaches their goals. Seeing Aoi climbing Mount Fuji’s trails more slowly and methodically, stopping to appreciate the scenery and ensure she’s not pushing herself too hard, is the surest sign of her maturity. With this in mind, Next Summit‘s done an excellent job of laying down the groundwork for a second trip to Mount Fuji, and while the challenges and surprises that will appear on this journey remain the topic of the finale, what should be clear is that the view awaiting everyone at Mount Fuji’s summit will be majestic, and well-deserved. At this point in time, it is a little saddening to see how quickly Next Summit has progressed: it only seems like yesterday that I’d begun my journey into Next Summit and its recap episodes, and after the new content was introduced, it became clear that Next Summit has not lost any of its predecessor’s charm. All eyes are now on Aoi as she begins the journey up the mountain that had defeated her a year ago, but this time around, with a new mindset, better stamina and stronger bond with her friends, viewers can be confident that Aoi will complete her climb on this rematch. I look forwards to seeing the sunrise along with everyone, and remark that although the finale is still yet to come, I am going to miss watching Next Summit every Tuesday.
A fantastic episode. The chemistry among all the “mountain girls” is so lovely. The only problem I have with this season is that it will end with the next episode. And, to make it worse, it does not seem that there will be any new worthwhile slice of life shows next season.
I’ve knocked grades off anime before for ending too soon, right when they were getting to the good parts. It is going to be sad to see this one go, but at the very least, we’re also likely to finally see Aoi bask in the triumph of her achievement, too. The only anime in winter that has my eye is Bofuri: I rather enjoyed the light-hearted parody of what happens when game metas are broken that the first season presented, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that a second season was going to come out. This was back in 2020, and when the second season comes out, it’ll be three years after the first.
Beyond this, there’s also Mou Ippon!. I’m a martial artist, so I’m curious to see how this one turns out. The remainder of the slice-of-life are isekai, a genre I’m a little more reluctant about, so for the time being, there’s two anime in the winter season that I’m watching. I can use this lull to catch up on anime from previous seasons 🙂
S1 of Bofuri was pretty entertaining, so I will watch it also. Mou ippon looks like it might be the only new “real” SoL. We will get S2 of Nagatoro, albeit from a different studio. While this manga has some outlandish moments, it is a pretty lovely SoL-ish romantic comedy overall (though some were bothered by the start of S1). PA Works will have a new series, Buddy Daddies — which I will watch (the studio’s been on a roll since Aquatope). Beyond that, who knows….
I’m also going to miss Bocchi and DIY about as much as Yama no susume.