The Infinite Zenith

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Onward! To a New Summit – Yama no Susume: Next Summit Finale Impressions, Whole-Series Review and Recommendation of a Masterpiece

“Hey, Hinata, you look good.”
“I am good, Aoi. I’m very good.”

Aoi begins her ascent up Mount Fuji with Hinata, Kaede, Kokona and Honoka as the skies begin clearing. Along the way, spirits are high, and the girls begin a chant, the Rokkon Shojo, to keep their energy and focus. As they continue the climb, Aoi’s surprised that even off the Yoshida trail, there’s plenty of huts; the group stops at one for lunch before pressing forward. Upon reaching the eighth station, Aoi overhears a group of exhausted climbers discussing what they’ll want for a meal, and Hinata herself becomes curious to try the pork miso noodles despite having had lunch. After reaching an elevation of three thousand metres, Aoi begins to feel light-headed and notices a headache setting in, and although she’s worried about the others, she indicates that she’s not feeling as well as she’d like. This time around, Hinata decides to accompany Aoi, and the pair remain at this elevation – if Aoi is doing better after a bit of rest, she and Hinata will catch up to the others, who press forward. Aoi feels terrible for having stopped Hinata from continuing, but here, Hinata shares a trick Kokona had taught her last time. Although Aoi is still tired, she retains her appetite, and after sleeping, Aoi determines that, while still not a hundred percent, she’s well enough to attempt the summit. With Hinata accompanying her, Aoi ends up reaching the viewpoint and joins Kaede, Kokona and Honoka for the sunrise. The group subsequently hikes the remainder of the distance to Mount Fuji’s summit, and although exhaustion begins setting in, Aoi wills herself forward, one step at a time. She reaches the summit, realises that her other experiences were just as valuable, and joins the others in sending letters from Mount Fuji’s peak. After struggling to decide on a recipient, Aoi sends a letter to her future self, promising that the her of tomorrow will probably be even stronger, better equipped for the challenges ahead. Here at Next Summit‘s finale, viewers who’ve been following Yama no Susume since Aoi’s first steps up Mount Tenran are rewarded with an incredible payoff, a tale of perseverance, determination, and also of taking a step back and regrouping, culminating in Aoi seeing the sunrise from Mount Fuji with her own eyes.

Yama no Susume‘s never been subtle about its themes – Next Summit had made it clear that people mature and find their stride best when allowed to do things at their own pace. Throughout Next Summit, Aoi comes to discover why she hits the mountains and is now able to coherently answer why she enjoys the outdoors. The sight at the top of every mountain makes the sweat and tears worth it, and Aoi prefers to be able to take in every moment at her own pace, enjoying the climb and the struggle along with the scenery and sights along the way. The Mountaineering Club at her high school would not have offered Aoi this, and having experienced so much in a year, Aoi is now able to say “no”. At the same time, Aoi remains open to all learnings that Koharu and the Mountaineering Club have to offer, and together with what she’s learnt over the past year, Aoi is ultimately successful on her second attempt to scale Mount Fuji. Looking back through Next Summit and Yama no Susume‘s second and third seasons, there isn’t a single element that made Aoi better-equipped for the rematch; it is the sum of her learnings during the course of a year that allow her to triumph, and the reason why Aoi has capitalised on these experiences is because she’d been allow to do things at her own pace, trying her strengths in an environment where she has support, and where failure is not final. By being allowed to discover things on her own, Aoi comes to understand herself better, and this manifests in how Aoi approaches her second ascent. This time, she’s paced herself, picked up better equipment to assist the process, and more importantly, she’s able to recognise when she’s having trouble. By being honest and communicating this to Hinata and the others, Aoi is given a chance to acclimatise: in fact, it is suggested that one spend at least 24 hours at an elevation above 2750 metres before advancing, and repeating the process every 1000 metres one ascends. By resting up, Aoi is able to recover and reaches Mount Fuji’s summit, at her own pace. Knowing her body, its strengths and limitations means that Aoi does complete Mount Fuji at her own pace, and by reaching the top with the others, Next Summit has shown that even when one does things at their own pace, taking the time to rest and regroup where appropriate, one actually doesn’t fall behind and in fact, is able to keep up. In a world where there is considerable pressure to keep up, one may lose their footing, and this message in Next Summit becomes critical – rather than trying to race for a milestone to keep up with others, it is healthier and more productive to keep one’s eyes on their own path and do things in a manner one’s most comfortable with.

Although Mount Fuji was doubtlessly the highlight of Next Summit, as it tangibly represents the sum of Aoi’s growth throughout Yama no Susume, Next Summit‘s extended runtime has meant that there has been plenty of opportunity to show secondary experiences. While these may not always be related to mountain climbing and hiking, they are no less important because they illustrate Aoi’s increasing maturity. As a result of her excursions with Hinata, Kaede, Kokona and Honoka, Aoi’s become more confident and decisive. She’s able to support others, acknowledge when she needs assistance and accepts help from others. These moments are set in her everyday life, and while this prima facie appears to be inconsequential, the aim of such stories is meant to accentuate to viewers that Aoi’s come a very long way, not just as a mountaineer, but as an individual. The sum of this growth is mirrored in her successful ascent of Mount Fuji, and indeed, Aoi concludes Next Summit by saying that what she treasures most are the experiences. In this way, Aoi is now confident that, by the time the letter she sent from Mount Fuji reaches her future self, she’ll have continued to improve and grow. This is ultimately what Yama no Susume had sought to convey, using mountain climbing and hiking as a metaphor: being pushed out of one’s comfort zone, embracing new experiences and both supporting and being supported by others helps to accelerate one’s growth in unforeseeable, but valuable ways. At Yama no Susume‘s start, it seemed impossible for Aoi to even make the climb up a local hill, but four seasons later, Aoi’s managed a feat that is praise-worthy – in climbing up Mount Fuji, Aoi has shown to herself that, yes, she has what it takes. Whether it be taking a second chance in climbing Mount Fuji, or taking a second chance in getting to know her classmates better, mountain climbing has now had a nontrivial impact on Aoi’s life, and while Yama no Susume uses mountain climbing as its activity to illustrate personal growth, the themes in this anime are applicable to a wide range of scenarios. Aoi’s success here brings the series to a close, and one cannot help but feel elated at Aoi’s accomplishment, as though they were there with her, owing to how well-written Yama no Susume is.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • With the weather clearing, Aoi’s spirits lift considerably, and she’s all smiles as she climbs up the trail. The initial part of a hike is always the easiest because one’s coming in at full strength, and it is especially important to pace oneself at this point to avoid fatigue later down the line. At Prairie Mountain, this lesson immediately became applicable because right at the trailhead, the route up to the summit was already quite steep, and since my cardio isn’t quite what it was before, I was no longer able to power up the slope.

  • Instead, it was by taking things one step at a time, and stopping every ten minutes to catch my breath (a deliberate move, whether I was tired or not), that allowed me to make the climb. However, unlike Mount Fuji, the first third of the Prairie Mountain hike is entirely within a forested area, offering little to look at, so breaks must be deliberately taken. On the other hand, when a hike offers fantastic views, this can be much easier to keep in mind. With Aoi and her friends, pacing is moderated by the fact that along the way up, there’s plenty to take in – Honoka’s been quite excited to try her new camera out, and the trail up Mount Fuji offers plenty to look at.

  • In this way, Aoi and company make good time as they reach the different stations. To help with energy along the hike, Kokona suggests the Rokkon Shojo (六根清浄). Literally “six senses purification”, this manifests as a chant of sorts to purge all negative energy from one’s spirit and has origins in Bhuddism. While the spiritual component is clear enough, chanting a slogan also has a more practical application: it focuses the mind on something else beyond the physical task of exercise. This is why experts suggest that listening to music when performing cardio is helpful, and in practise, listening to music at reasonable volumes can indeed push one further.

  • One thing about Next Summit I found especially noticeable was the fact that, while Aoi and Hinata still trade good-natured barbs with frequency, Aoi no longer pre-emptively makes assumptions about Hinata judging her. This had been one of her shortcomings in the second season, and why it did get her to try her hand at making and tasting coffee, it suggested that Aoi was still immature and was quick to draw conclusions. Subtle cues like these help to show that Aoi’s growing in all aspects, and Next Summit can therefore be seen as a celebration of this progress.

  • The weather in Next Summit really stands in contrast with the weather I’ve got here in Canada: Aoi’s climb up Mount Fuji is set under mainly sunny skies with a bit of fog and cloud, but despite being somewhat brisk, it’s quite pleasant. On the other hand, winter is very nearly upon us – this week has seen the start of a cold snap back home. Since Monday, the temperatures have hovered around -30ºC, and with the windchill, lows have reached -42ºC. Under such conditions, it’s difficult to stay outside for more than five minutes at a time.

  • As it turns out, the Photonic Engine means that even a rank amatuer like myself can dabble in night photography. After the office Christmas party, I ended up driving out to two viewpoints in the city to see how well the iPhone 14 Pro’s photos came out. Both the photos taken from Scotsman Hill and the Mount Pleasant Viewpoint came out extremely well. I ended up swinging by the Crescent Heights Viewpoint, as well. This little detour meant I returned home close to midnight, but it was worth taking the time to check out a side of the city that I rarely see. The next morning, I met up with a friend.

  • Since last year’s The Aquatope on White Sand, it seems a new annual winter tradition has developed – going out to the local OEB’s for their breakfast poutine on the coldest day of year. This time around, I ordered their Tuna Crudo, which features ahi tuna, poached eggs, Hass avocado and cilantro crema on a bed of waffle fries. This breakfast poutine is a little more health-conscious than their usual poutines, but it was still immensely flavourful, and I can now say that I’m a fan of ahi tuna, too. Back in Next Summit, Honoka and Kokona enjoy their pork udon, a second lunch of sorts that takes the chill out of their climb.

  • The initial climb up Mount Fuji had gone smoothly enough, and Aoi’s in great condition as she enjoys lunch with the others. I’ve read that some folks consider Kaede to have been given less screen time than she had in earlier iterations of Yama no Susume. Balancing every character’s presence is a challenge slice-of-life anime face, and it can be tricky for a producer (or even the original author) to give characters equal focus. However, this isn’t strictly necessary, and in Kaede’s case, her love of solo adventures, coupled with the fact that Yūka is always on her back about preparing for their entrance exams, means that she’s not always able to accompany the others on their adventures.

  • After clearing the fifth station, the sharp contrast between the dark ground and bright sky ended up foreshadowing the return of Aoi’s old nemesis: altitude sickness. The classic way of dealing with this is to move up slowly (guides recommend staying at a given elevation above 2750 metres for a day to acclimatise, and a day for every subsequent 1000 metre gain above this). Similarly, the only real cure for managing altitude sickness is to descend back to a lower altitude.

  • Despite Aoi initially trying to tough it out as she originally had, Hinata notices something is off. Hinata had been quite worried about Aoi, and during the packing phase, she’d packed her bag with Aoi in mind – in the event that Aoi had needed to descend immediately, Hinata was prepared to carry Aoi’s gear back down the mountain. Although Aoi never finds out about this, this little detail shows that despite their bickering, Hinata and Aoi genuinely care for one another.

  • Aoi beginning to develop altitude sickness had been the finale’s tensest moment – I never had any doubt that Aoi would complete her climb owing to Next Summit‘s intended objectives, but the manner of presentation had been so well done that for a moment, it did seem as though Mount Fuji might’ve defeated Aoi a second time. However, this time around, there’s several key differences, with the first being that Aoi’s being much more honest about things. While she still wants to avoid troubling the others, she also realises that allowing her symptoms to fester could result in more difficulty later.

  • By making her situation known earlier on, Aoi prevents these symptoms from worsening. Hinata immediately offers to stay behind and look after Aoi – of everyone, Hinata is the closest to Aoi. During Yama no Susume‘s second season, Kaede had stayed behind, but despite her mountaineering knowledge, didn’t quite have the same emotional connection to Aoi as Hinata does. Kaede was therefore unable to reassure Aoi to the same extent that Hinata might. Of course, the events in the second season were essential to Next Summit.

  • Since Aoi’s symptoms aren’t severe yet, Hinata decides that it’ll be okay for Kokona, Kaede and Honoka to continue on ahead. Hinata herself will look after Aoi, and if Aoi feels up for it, they’ll catch up in the morning. The plan does show that Hinata had the presence of mind to account for things, and in the meantime, since Hinata and Aoi will remain at the seventh station, they still have a shot at making it in time for the sunset. With this in mind, even though Aoi needs some rest, the mood on this second attempt is far lighter than it’d been previously.

  • While the outcome of a given slice-of-life anime can often be predicted with high accuracy, moments like these serve to remind viewers that even in such series, things can still appear out of the blue. This is why I continue to maintain that for anime of this genre, the journey is more significant than the destination. As such, even if slice-of-life anime are often predictable and offer few surprises in terms of outcomes, what matters is how unexpected adversity is handled.

  • For me, one of the first signs that Aoi’s in better shape this time around is the fact that even though fatigue and a headache is setting in, her appetite remains. A loss of appetite (anorexia in medical terms) is a common symptom in many conditions, a result of their causing an imbalance of the hormonal and neurological signals that control the desire to eat. Thus, when Aoi sees the curry rice and has no problem eating, Hinata relaxes a little, knowing that this time around, Aoi probably just needs to sleep things off.

  • After a rest, Aoi reports that while she’s not feeling a hundred percent, she’s well enough to continue the climb. Aoi doesn’t elaborate, but I imagine that she’s probably still got a mild headache and tiredness. The more severe symptoms aren’t manifesting, and at this point, remaining hydrated and taking things slow would probably still allow Aoi to continue acclimatising. Once her body adjusts to the decreased oxygen concentration and air pressure, it will continue functioning as expected. This takes a bit of mental fortitude, so seeing Aoi deciding to continue on, at her own pace, was the surest sign that this little detour wouldn’t be stopping her from completing her goal this time around.

  • Donning their headlamps, Aoi and Hinata begin head up the last of the trails leading to the viewpoint. Next Summit had practically clubbed viewers over the head with the idea of “doing things at your own pace”, and while such a sentiment seems like common sense, it’s a little surprising as to how often people forget this. It is not lost on me that, up until now, I’ve continued using this phrase without providing a satisfactory definition of what I make of it – for me, “at your own pace” simply means focusing on the self, without concern for what others are doing, and in the context of everyday life, refers to doing things for oneself, rather than to impress others.

  • This is why I don’t feel compelled to buy a big house or an expensive vehicles: a home is to live in, and a car is to get me from point A to point B, and I tend to worry about being nice to my neighbours, versus trying to stand over anyone. Living at one’s own pace is therefore a healthier mindset for both one’s mental health and finances. In the case of hobbies, I similarly do things at my own pace – while people spend hundreds or thousands of hours trying to dominate video games or be right in internet discussions, I feel that there’s no need to do that, either. I game for fun, and I don’t gain anything tangible by “being right on the internet”. The lessons of Yama no Susume, although written in the context of mountain climbing, are applicable to various facets of life. Here, Aoi demonstrates an unexpected side of her – she brings up some yokan, stating it’s a proper fuel source for mountain climbing.

  • Hinata had eschewed yokan in favour of lighter snacks early on, and now, relieved that Aoi’s spunk is back, she laughs. The pair subsequently link up with Kaede, Kokona and Honoka, and although clouds have come back into the area, Kaede notices that with such a strong wind, the clouds may clear. The moments that follow is the climax of Next Summit: this is what the fourth season of Yama no Susume had been building up to, and while Aoi has seen sunrises on other mountains before, most notably, Mount Tanigawa back during the second season, the Fuji sunrise is special.

  • This is because the sunrise represents the overcoming of something that had previously bested her. Owing to a year’s worth of development in both mental and physical terms, Aoi has finally reached a point where she’s able to ascend Mount Fuji. Hinata will later joke that Aoi is now where she and the others had been a year ago, and while she did mean this in a gentle, non-offensive manner, one could easily make the case that Aoi has made an exceptional amount of progress in the past year – Hinata, Kaede, Kokona and Honoka are all presented as being fond of the outdoors and in excellent physical shape.

  • Seeing everyone together for the sunset was the most rewarding way Next Summit could have presented the finale, and up here, Honoka takes a photo of the moment with her new camera. Here, I remark that while the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera array is the best on the market, it is still prone to lens flaring. Ever since the Xʀ, I’ve noticed that the increasingly advanced cameras produce some flaring, and this can make it difficult to take good photos of a sunrise or sunset. The solutions to this vary, and while more dedicated photographers can apply a coating to the camera lens, as a casual photographer, I simply angle my shots differently.

  • With this being said, I actually do like a little bit of lens flare in my photographs, since they give the impression that the image captures how things would’ve been when I’d been there for myself. I imagine that the combination of good technique and some tools or tricks would allow for one to take breathtaking photos from Mount Fuji with an iPhone camera. Of course, I’m not about to try this just yet – although I count myself as being in fair shape, I don’t think that I’ve got the physicality to hike something like Mount Fuji at this point in time.

  • This makes Aoi’s achievement all the more impressive: I’ve been lifting weights for over a decade, hiking for over a half-decade, and doing martial arts since I was in primary school, but climbing mountains still takes me a fair bit of effort (as my experiences at Prairie Mountain attest). Even though I’ll likely look up essentials before such a hike and pace myself accordingly, Mount Fuji would definitely be a challenge. With this being said, I believe that something like Ha Ling Peak and its 801 metre elevation gain would be much more manageable; this mountain’s summit stands at 2408 metres in total, so there’s less of a concern for altitude sickness.

  • Yama no Susume had been the anime that encouraged me to challenge myself, and back in 2019, after I had finished the first three seasons, I had written here that I was going to tackle the mountain before the fourth season came out. However, those plans were shelved in 2020 because of the global health crisis, and while this year, things have re-opened, the trail for Ha Ling peak was closed during the hiking season because of maintenance to the trail head. As such, my plans to climb Ha Ling Peak have been pushed back, and I’ve been training to build back my stamina since.

  • Having gotten over the initial hurdle, Aoi’s beginning to acclimatise to the elevation, and she no longer feels quite as exhausted as she had earlier. Now in fine spirits, Aoi is able to enjoy the sights from Mount Fuji’s summit along with Hinata. The weather on this day is excellent, with only a few cumulus clouds in the sky. With the sunrise in the books, the girls head on over to the highest point on Mount Fuji, which offers an unparalleled view of Japan.

  • The fact that there are so many stations up Mount Fuji to support hikers is impressive, and every stop becomes a target to look forwards to. In this way, hikers are able to concentrate wholly on reaching this. Earlier, Kaede explains that to keep the stations well-stocked, tractors will climb up mountain paths, and my mind immediately wandered over to Super Cub, during which Reiko had attempted to bike up the mountain on her MD90 but wrecked it in the process. I’m not sure if it’s permissible to take a motorbike up Mount Fuji, but there are several routes for cyclists to make the climb.

  • From this height, the “sea of clouds” phenomenon is visible. Having seen photographs of this, I’d always felt it’d be nice to see this for myself. There are mountain roads in Taiwan where this is occurs, and folks have likened driving these roads on a moped to be equivalent to flying. Here, Aoi and the others begin the last ascent to the highest point at Mount Fuji.

  • Aoi once again struggles with the soft, uneven terrain. Her thoughts briefly stray back to pessimism, but again, her fortitude wins out: this time around, she figures that it doesn’t matter why she’s out here now, and what matters is that she wants to see things through to the end. Rather than focusing on the remaining hundred or so metres left to the destination, Aoi simply concentrates on putting one foot in front of the other.

  • Aoi makes it to this point, a major milestone, as a result of her combined determination and growth, as well as through support from her friends. While Aoi is probably still too proud to admit it, the page quote, a variant of a similar line from Top Gun: Maverick, does seem to capture how Aoi is probably feeling in the moment. After reaching the top, Aoi feels that things are perhaps a little anti-climatic, a consequence of having experienced so much over the past year, and coming up here to Mount Fuji has simply become another notch on the wall, rather than a pièce de résistance. However, for Aoi, she knows now that yes, she can do anything she sets her mind to.

  • This is ultimately what makes Yama no Susume so encouraging. While many things can seem difficult, it is through a combination of hard work, grit and a little support from friends and family that allows one to succeed in their aspirations. Granted, there are cases where no amount of effort and encouragement can make a difference (for instance, I’m not about to become an NHL player, no matter what I put in), but for the things I can do, I have the assurance that, so long as I put in a sincere effort, things will work out.

  • The rambunctious foreign climbers who had made a brief appearance earlier show up at the summit of Mount Fuji, and as I’d speculated, do end up taking a picture for Kaede, Kokona, Honoka, Aoi and Hinata. Here, I note that discussion on Next Summit around the ‘net has been exceedingly limited, a far cry from how much conversation Yuru Camp△ generated during its runs. It might be presumptuous to suppose so, but Yuru Camp△’s messages are, in keeping with the series’ aesthetics, more laid-back, whereas here in Yama no Susume, the themes suggest that people step out of their comfort zone, and also promotes self-reflection, topics that can be a little incommodious to discuss with others.

  • I have previously mentioned that I treat this blog as an open diary of sorts, and I periodically read old entries to see if my thoughts back then still hold true today. This is why I’ve got no qualms about sharing my shortcomings and strengths here – they help me relate to what’s going on in a given anime better, and this in turn provides a more personalised discussion. At least for me, the personal aspect of a given blog is what makes for the best reading, and on this token, the anime opinions that are least helpful are those that are merely summaries and reactions. A critic could suggest that I do the same, but the key difference here is that I tend to elaborate on things and provide some context as to why I’m making a particular statement.

  • Back in Next Summit, the most strenuous phase of the climb is over, and after everyone prepares postcards to send back to people in their lives, it’s time to make the descent down the mountain. I’ve gone with the four screenshot format here for brevity’s sake – I took a hundred screenshots for this post and had to pare it down to a more manageable forty. Looking back, I believe I’ve done a reasonable job of keeping my other Next Summit posts concise for this season. This was because episodes aired on Tuesdays, a workday, and I began writing after my day had drawn to a close.

  • Since the finale aired while I was on break, I was able to spend a bit more time putting my thoughts to paper. In the event that I’ve lost readers here, I will reiterate that I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Next Summit, and this series has my recommendation. With this being said, Next Summit does require a priori knowledge: Aoi’s journey is meaningful because viewers are able to see how far she progresses throughout the series, and here, Aoi’s smile says it all. With this, Next Summit draws to a close, and unlike the previous seasons, the presence of an epilogue does suggest that this is the end of the series.

  • The epilogue is quite adorable and very much worth sitting through, showing how even though everyone’s moving into the future, some things still remain as they were. The observant reader may have noticed that I’ve not given too much thought to the soundtrack: the incidental music is composed by yamazo and Tom-h@ck, and while it accentuates the aesthetics in the series, the music isn’t particularly standout. With this in mind, I have read that the soundtrack to Yama no Susume‘s third season was only released back in 2022, and if this is the case, it could be some time before the soundtrack for Next Summit will become available.

  • Seeing Kokona wearing the same uniform as Hinata and Aoi shows that Kokona was successful in gaining admissions to their school, and seeing this particular uniform suggests that their secondary school has three uniforms in total. This moment really accentuates the fact that the flow of time is relentless, but it also suggests that as far as the story goes, Next Summit is the endgame for the series – I imagine that some viewers were doubtlessly hoping to see Kokona accompanying Aoi and Hinata to and from school, and featuring a still of this here suggests that this is the only time viewers will see such a moment.

  • Overall, Next Summit is an A+ (4.0 of 4.0, and 10 of 10), a veritable masterpiece. The series perfectly captures the ups and downs of mountain climbing and hiking, meticulously details specifics behind equipment and technique, and presents relevant life lessons in an approachable manner. Aoi’s growth is natural and tangible, culminating in a finale with a meaningful payoff for viewers – for longtime viewers of the series, it would be immensely rewarding to see Aoi overcome her old limitations and reach the summit of Mount Fuji, especially for viewers who’ve been around for eight years and had been eagerly anticipating new seasons of Yama no Susume.

  • With this, my post draws to a close, and my Tuesdays open up again. It’s been a fantastic twelve weeks, and I’ve enjoyed both writing for readers, as well as reading the conversations surrounding Next Summit. At this point in time, when I look ahead to the next season, only two series catch my eye: Bofuri‘s second season, and Mō Ippon!. I’ll have to watch a few episodes before determining how I’d like to write about them, but in the meantime, with Next Summit in the books, it looks like that for the remainder of December, I’ll have a little downtime on Tuesday evenings to unwind and kick back with some Battlefield 2042 or Modern Warfare II.

While Next Summit had opened with four full recap episodes, and some of the character designs had felt a little inconsistent in places, there is no denying the effort, and care, that went into Next Summit‘s production. Every aspect of hiking and mountain climbing is captured in vivid detail. From the exhilaration of overcoming exhaustion to reach the summit of a mountain, to its portrayal of how gruelling hikes can sap one’s spirits, and exploration of how equipment can make a major difference, it is clear that Yama no Susume was well-researched. As a result, Yama no Susume fully captures what it feels like to be a mountaineer and hiker, bringing the activity to life. Yama no Susume is unique in that the series never shies away from showing the lowest of lows in conjunction with the highest of highs – this is an especially valuable lesson in that, happiness cannot exist without dejection, and success cannot exist without failure. Failure and dejection are part and parcel of life, and what makes things worthwhile is finding a solution for overcoming them. Yama no Susume absolutely lives up to its title in this regard: the anime is certainly encouraging and shows how one might get past a difficult situation in a plausible manner. In fact, it is fair to say that, through the lessons portrayed in Yama no Susume, I was encouraged to challenge myself and attempt to climb a mountain of my own. This past year, I scaled Prairie Mountain as a warm up to the climb at Ha Ling Peak, one of the most recognisable mountains here in Alberta, and in the upcoming year, I am hoping to reach the summit and demonstrate that despite my age, I’ve still got a bit left in the tank. For having spurred me to continue enjoying the great outdoors and test where my limits lie, Yama no Susume is a masterpiece. There is no doubt that, in a year with multiple, excellent slice-of-life series, Next Summit stands among the very best, building upon the progress from earlier seasons to create an emotional payoff that rewards longtime fans of the series for having stuck around for this long and demonstrating exemplary patience as Aoi picks herself up and finds the answer to the question she’d been seeking out. While Next Summit brings the series to a conclusion, I have heard that in order to fit Mount Fuji into Next Summit, some experiences originally present in the manga were not portrayed, and this opens the floor to the possibility of a continuation, in either the form of an OVA (or several OVAs), and if there happens to be a great deal of content, a Non Non Biyori Repeat-like approach would be appropriate; giving Yama no Susume a whole season to show the in-between moments, as Non Non Biyori did, could be quite welcome. Although the series may have concluded in a decisive and satisfying manner, I imagine that viewers would not mind seeing more of Aoi, Hinata, Kaede, Kokona and Honoka on their adventures, which are simultaneously cathartic and instructive. For now, however, Next Summit has come to a close, and I will remark that Yama no Susume will be missed.

7 responses to “Onward! To a New Summit – Yama no Susume: Next Summit Finale Impressions, Whole-Series Review and Recommendation of a Masterpiece

  1. Michael E Kerpan December 20, 2022 at 19:05

    Definitely a masterpiece. A splendid (and moving) conclusion to an utterly wonderful series. Nice seeing that lovely group graduation photo of Aoi and Hinata (and all their friends and family) at the very end — even if it suggests we will never see any further anime adventures of this delightful cast of characters.

    It was funny seeing the English-speaking characters show up at Fuji again. I remember finding the cringe-inducing on that first attempt. But I found they made this re-ascent feel more comfy (even before the guy got drafted to take their commemorative summit photo).

    Aoi really was at the center of this whole season, despite the wonderful ensemble cast around her. The season (even more than before) was about her growth. And the growth we got to see was impressive, not just in mountain hiking but in all respects. She now has a part-time job — and has not only made non-climbing friends at school but has gotten the attention of her whole class (and is able to cope with this attention).

    Of course, Aoi could never done this without the steadfast support of others, especially Hinata. The relationship between these two has become much stronger and closer. But many others have helped her (and she has learned to welcome their support). Her mother, for instance, is a real asset — and so are classmates and work mates.

    One especially nice touch was seeing Aoi’s vision of her future self up on Fuji-san, Maybe an appropriate thing to experience on what is, after all, a “pilgrimage”.

    The only disappointing thing about this show is that we have had to say “sayonara”. But one can only be grateful that we got to finally see this season. Thank you staff and cast!

    Liked by 2 people

    • infinitezenith December 25, 2022 at 14:40

      I’m definitely going to be sad to see Next Summit draw to a close, but on the flipside, we couldn’t ask for a better ending. Aoi conquering Mount Fuji for the first time after a year’s progress made this one an immensely rewarding watch. According to some folks, Yama no Susume is very popular, and despite its format suggesting otherwise, the fact is that there’s a lot of promotional content for this series around, so we may be lucky enough to see some OVAs bundled with Next Summit‘s home releases.

      The portrayal of foreigners as being boisterous and perhaps a little too excitable is not new – when playing through Go! Go! Nippon!, a visual novel about travelling to Japan, the player is presented in a similar light. I’d expect this is because compared to the Japanese sense of stoicism, folks abroad, especially North Americans, are seen as a bit more expressive. With this in mind, I feel that their presence in Next Summit was less jarring, if only for the fact that this time, Aoi makes it up, and their high spirits don’t conflict with the dejection Aoi had previously experienced.

      I would imagine that, were I in the same year as someone like Aoi, I’d definitely have noticed, too – from being a part of the scenery, to someone who can open up and interact freely with her classmates, Aoi’s come a long way. While it could be said that the mountains have helped her to grow, there is no denying that Hinata was the catalyst in all of this. This is why I ended up choosing the page quote that I did. The pair may squabble and spar, but they genuinely care for one another. One aspect I did like was the fact that Aoi is no longer quick to assume that Hinata is thinking the worst of her, and bringing the yokan up the mountain shows that Aoi also sees Hinata’s approach for hiking as one with merit.

      Leaving us on such a high note means that, even if Next Summit is a farewell, it is a touching and warming farewell. I noticed the vision Aoi had while coming down the mountain path, but couldn’t quite place whether it was a flashback or glimpse of the future, so I refrained from commenting. Your remarks helps me to clarify and accentuates the strength of the imagery here in Yama no Susume. I’m glad to have written about this season episodically, and are similarly thankful you’ve been here at every step of the way to provide your insights and thoughts on things 🙂


      • Michael E Kerpan December 25, 2022 at 19:17

        I am grateful that you provided a pleasant venue for discussing this lovely show. In a season with many fine shows, this one still was near the top of my favorites list — yet definitely didn’t get quite as much (non-Japanese at least) attention as it deserved. Still, the weekly thread on reddit did have contributors who provided information on the locations (and the like).

        Unambiguously kind-hearted films don’t seem to find a very large audience among US (at least) anime fans. I think people are made uncomfortable by these, in some fashion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • infinitezenith December 29, 2022 at 13:39

          I think that we already had a very busy season, which is never a bad thing. Between the likes of Do It Yourself!, Spy × Family, Bocchi The Rock, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, Chainsaw Man and numereous other shows, I can see how folks out there had no shortage of excellent series to watch and discuss. Having said this, Next Summit offered quite a bit to look at, too, and while I’m not a Reddit user, it is nice to see that there is some excitement surrounding what is a very inspiring and relaxing series.

          At least here in North America, I feel that there is a bit of a stigma surrounding shows like Yama no Susume that continues to endure: a decade earlier, the most prominant anime bloggers had universally decried slice-of-life name because “nothing happens”. Over here in North America, animation is often seen as a medium for younger viewers, and a subset of the anime viewers are insecure in this perception, so they gravitated towards shows that were darker, more philsophical and in their terms, intellectually-stimulating; when asked about their hobbies, these viewers could then pull the card that they watched things that demanded a modicum of intellectual prowess to enjoy. More relaxing series like Yama no Susume or K-On! were dismissed so these folks could cultivate an air of authority. Of course, this approach is no way to partake in a hobby, and while this mindset has lingered, I feel that people on the whole are more open towards shows like these in the present.


  2. RABlackAuthor December 20, 2022 at 20:59

    Aoi’s conquest of Mt. Fuji has inspired me to start planning a hike up Mt. San Antonio, colloquially known as “Old Baldy,” the tallest mountain in the greater Los Angeles area at just a bit over 3000m. I do a conference with my publisher out that way in mid-June, so I’ll stay a couple of extra days and go for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith December 25, 2022 at 14:52

      June is a long ways off, but that just means more time to plan out an itinerary and make the most of things 🙂 It would be great to see some photographs of your adventures, but irrespective of whether or not this is to be, I hope you’ll have a wonderful hike.

      For me, over the winter holidays, a conversation I had about an upcoming road trip through interior British Columbia eventually resulted in tentative plans to hike a few spots along the way. One could say that Yama no Susume inspired this, and while I won’t be ascending Mount Robson itself (that’s an even tougher climb than Mount Fuji), just being outdoors is a fantastic experience. Having said this, my plans for Ha Ling Peak are unchanged, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be an OVA for Next Summit – it would be nice to say in a Yama no Susume post that I achieved my goal, the same way Aoi did!


  3. Pingback: 5 Favorite Anime Blog Posts from 2022 Week 52 - Crow's World of Anime

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