The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Yama no Susume

Yama no Susume Season 3: Whole-series Review and a Full Recommendation

“Mountains are only a problem when they are bigger than you. You should develop yourself so much that you become bigger than the mountains you face.” ―Idowu Koyenikan

Hinata visits Ikebukuro on her own when Aoi is busy with work, finding herself lonely without Aoi’s presence. Meanwhile, Aoi manages to put her knowledge of cakes to practise and recommends a cake to Kokona’s mother, who is looking to buy something for Kokona. Later, because of communications challenges, Aoi ends up planning a trip to Gunma with Honoka, while Hinata plans a visit to Mount Akagi on the same day. While Hinata climbs up the steep trails of Mount Akagi with Kokona, Aoi and Honoka explore the shrines of Gunma before stopping by a hot springs. Hinata becomes increasingly jealous of Aoi when further miscommunications lead Aoi to spend time with Mio, Kasumi and Yuri in Ikebukuro, feeling Aoi is becoming more distant. Kasumi also comments on the changes in Aoi’s personality since she’d taken up mountain climbing and hopes that the confident Aoi will be able to spend more time with those around her. Kaede decides to invite everyone out to camp on a multi-day hike to Mount Mizugaki and Mount Kinpu after Yūka, but when Aoi and Kokona are nearly late, having spent the previous evening cooking for everyone, Hinata snaps and lectures Aoi for being late. She becomes distant from the others and while climbing ahead, injures her knee. On the second day, en route to Mount Kinpu, Hinata’s injury worsens, forcing her to abandon her climb. Aoi volunteers to stay behind and escort Hinata back to camp, while encouraging Kokona and Kaede to finish the ascent. Aoi reassures Hinata that she’ll always be best friends with her, and the two reconcile. Autumn begins giving way to winter, and Hinata’s birthday approaches. Aoi struggles to come up with a good gift for her, and accidentally reveals plans for Hinata’s surprise birthday party. When Aoi expresses worry that she doesn’t know Hinata all that well, Hinata reassures her that this is what being friends and spending time together is about. The two exchange secrets, and Aoi gifts Hinata a handbag for her birthday. This brings Yama no Susume 3 to a close, and with it, my journey reaches an end for the present. Like its predecessors, Yama no Susume 3 excels in covering different aspects of friendship, and with it, comes a very clear theme on both the good and bad that can come with change.

With its focus on a broad spectrum of events that can occur in friendship, as well as mountain climbing, Yama no Susume 3 seamlessly weaves together interpersonal discoveries with the joys and challenges of climbing a mountain. While the first half to the third season progressed at a breakneck speed, the second half puts the brakes on after Hinata’s worries and doubts begin manifesting. Aoi has slowly become more confident and outgoing over the course of Yama no Susume: from making herself heard to taking the initiative and realising her goals through a combination of persistence and determination, Aoi begins to feel more at ease in her surroundings, whether it be in a classroom with peers, or on a tricky mountain trail. She thus opens up and begins to take charge of a situation, making things happen, rather than passively allowing others to drive things. This new Aoi is a mark of her growth, and while positive, also leads Hinata to feel left behind. When Yama no Susume started, Hinata was evidently more outgoing and strong-armed Aoi into hiking with her, but with Aoi finding her own wings, Hinata fears that Aoi may leave her. This is a very natural worry, since Hinata has come to greatly treasure her friendship with Aoi since the two reunited. Worries manifests as hostility, and Hinata uncharacteristically snaps at Aoi, finding it difficult to express herself in an honest manner. However, on the slopes of Mount Kinpu, the combination of injury and Aoi’s understanding of things allows Hinata to reconcile. While this might be considered a magic of the slopes, the process comes as a consequence of Aoi’s growth: she’s now able to take stock of a situation, understand it and then honestly express how she feels about things. Being able to put things in the open help both Aoi and Hinata move ahead, strengthening their friendship further.

While life lessons come at the forefront of Yama no Susume 3, they are presented on the slopes of Akagi, Mizugaki and Kinpu: true to its core, Yama no Susume 3 includes some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the whole of Yama no Susume. From the stunning night view at the top of Tsukuba to the autumn foliage at Kinpu, Yama no Susume spared no expense in crafting a highly vivid, detailed presentation of the Japanese mountains. This is unsurprising, given that Yama no Susume has consistently presented mountain climbing and hiking with realism, and in a bit of a coincidence, I decided to take a hike yesterday to Chester Lake in Kananaskis Country, located a short ways from Calgary. The Chester Lake hike is characterised by a steep start that gives way to more level terrain that also yields a stunning view of Mount Chester, and is rated as a moderate hike that takes some four hours to complete, spanning a distance of 9.1 kilometres. After the ascent up the first third, the going became easier to the point where I managed to reach the lake within an hour and a half. We’d heard that there had been an adolescent grizzly bear on the north side of the trail near the lake, and many hikers had decided to give this bear his space. Sure enough, when we reached the top of the trail, there was indeed a bear here, minding his own business. We stopped briefly at lake, which had become rather quiet, and to a rocky area known as the Elephant Rock. After a brief lunch and climbing further, we reached the end of the trail at a remote pond and sat down for some granola bars before turning back for the trail head. Armed with plenty of water, the knowledge of pacing ourselves and good hiking shoes, this hike proved to be remarkably enjoyable, and as Aoi discovered during Yama no Susume 2, the descent back down the trail can be quite tiring. I’ve been a casual hiker for two years now, and are somewhat familiar with the ins and outs of hiking. To see Yama no Susume so faithfully represent these aspects is a very rewarding, indicating the series’ commitment to excellence and conveying its message effectively; by reproducing technical details around mountain climbing accurately, Yama no Susume convinces audiences that its portrayal of the events that Aoi and the others experience are very much real, augmenting the weight of each learning and discovery that Aoi and her friends encounter.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Aoi’s classmates notice her improved confidence when they visit the bakery that she works at, and during the course of her day, Aoi helps a little girl out when she buys a small slice of cake to gift to her mother to celebrate a new baby sister: the manager waives the taxes, remarking that the little girl’s spirit is most honourable and that a part of the joys of working is helping others to realise their wishes.

  • With the day drawing to an end, the bakery prepares to close, but a lady shows up, and the manager allows her in. Despite the lady’s selection being limited, Aoi works out something and helps her to pick out a cake for her daughter. It turns out that this lady is Kokona’s mother, and Kokona is thrilled to have a mountain-themed cake. Like the finale post for Yama no Susume 2, there’s a bit of ground to cover, and so, this talk on Yama no Susume 3 will be a ways longer than a standard post.

  • While Aoi is gaining confidence and spreading her wings, Hinata begins feeling a bit left behind when her efforts to invite Aoi and the others out fails. Despite having come so far, both Aoi and Hinata still feel doubtful in their friendship, expecting the other to try and engage the other. However, because both lack the initiative, their misunderstanding builds, and it takes a few episodes to sort this out – contrary to their (rather immature) perceptions of one another, both Aoi and Hinata are actually more independent than they otherwise let on. The gap between Aoi and Hinata here visually represents the distance that is developing between the two.

  • Aoi had previously spent time with Kokona when they two had hiked up the Hanno Alps together after running into one another on the trials, but Mount Akagi marks the first time that Hinata and Kokona have spent time together without Aoi or Kaede around. The mark of a solid slice-of-life series is having different subsets of the characters interacting with one another in a more personal setting, which allows for new dynamics to be shown. GochiUsa was an excellent example of how novel moments could be created by simply putting different characters together as pairs.

  • Aoi finally has a chance to visit Gunma, Honoka’s home. There’s a 110 kilometre distance separating Gunma and Hanno, but thanks to how the trains work, most rides take around three and a half hours. The visit is therefore a momentous moment, and while Honoka would’ve liked to show Hinata around, as well, only Aoi was available to make it. Despite this, Aoi enjoys exploring Gunma with Honoka, who shows her the various shrines of the area. After climbing a set of 365 steps, one for each day of the year, the two reach the gates of the Ikaho hot springs.

  • The hike up Mount Akagi is tougher than expected: both Kokona and Hinata struggle to make it to the top. However, amidst the overcast skies and colourful autumn foliage, the two make it, finding a spot to set down and take a breather before continuing to the summit. My typical strategy is to ease into a hike first, and then depending on the difficulty of the path, space out water breaks. Hiking is ultimately no different than lifting weights, and taking breaks at measured intervals is key to preventing fatigue.

  • While I’m generally fond of clear days and express my displeasure at overcast days, I find that during a hike, overcast weather is actually a blessing – exertion during a hike has very pronounced effects, and it can become somewhat uncomfortable on a hot day when the sun is baking down. However, the cooler weather and lack of direct sun on overcast days actually makes hikes more enjoyable, allowing one to stay slightly cooler.

  • Aoi displays a more adventurous side to her when she picks up a metal cup and samples some of the Ikaho Onsen‘s spring water. The water is rich in dissolved iron and therefore has a very distinct taste: the official site advises drinking this water after dinner, and avoiding tea and coffee because polyphenols, such as tannin, found in these beverages can inhibit iron uptake (iron is essential for blood production).

  • Aoi remains quite embarrassed to go into the onsen, and Honoka reveals that all of the constraints Aoi’s mentioned are not an issue at all. With little choice other than to go in, Aoi eventually relents and joins Honoka, finding an immensely relaxing experience. By being nudged out of her comfort zone, Aoi continues to grow as she explores new horizons and becomes acclimatised to things that once made her uncomfortable.

  • It suddenly strikes me that Aoi resembles GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto in appearances. Here, Honoka passes her a Gunma-chan towel: Gunma-chan is the prefecture’s mascot. Taking the form of a horse, Gunma-chan has been utilised by the prefecture government to promote the area. The prefecture’s name itself, 群馬 (jyutping kwan4 maa5) literally translates to “group of horses” and refers to the fact that the prefecture was an ancient place for horse breeding shortly after people arrived from the mainland.

  • While Kokona and Hinata might not have a relaxing soak in the onsen, they instead get to glory in a successful ascent to Mount Akagi. With a height of 1828 metres, the average hike up this mountain takes three hours, which is considered to be a dormant volcano. Akagi gave its name to the IJN Akagi, one of Japan’s aircraft carriers involved in the attack on Pearl Harbour and which was later sunk during the Battle of Midway.

  • At Mount Akagi’s summit, Kokona reveals that she’d prepared some cookies, scones and tea for their excursion. Hinata is genuinely impressed, and praises Kokona, who remarks that this is the joy of the effort. Bringing tea to the summit of Mount Akagi means that Kokona’s brought elements from K-On! into Yama no Susume, and here, a portable burner can be seen. Both Yama no Susume and Yuru Camp△ both showcase more elaborate setups for food options while hiking and camping: while most portable burners are used for heating up simple meals, I’ve also read about how a cast-iron pan and griddles can be used for some creative recipes while one is camping, as well. Midway through their tea, the sun breaks through the clouds and yields Crepuscular rays, creating a magical moment.

  • After the onsen, Honoka and Aoi head towards the Haruna Shrine, which is indeed a spirtual “power spot” that is said to have at least 1400 years of history. Its gods look after blessings and health, and it is located some 3.1 kilometres away from the Ikaho hot springs. While this ordinarily requires a 40 minute walk, Honoka’s older brother is on station to provide a ride: Honoka’s annoyance is quite visible, and it is perhaps a blessing that this car ride lasts only seven minutes. Once Aoi arrives, she makes a wish to successfully complete the Mount Fuji ascent.

  • Kokona and Hinata end up buying good luck charms for success on their future adventures. As their day comes to a close, they run into a film crew who is shooting a commercial spot with Gunma-chan. Kokona’s great love for all things Gunma-chan takes over, and she runs off to embrace Gunma-chan. The precise results are unclear, but one can reasonably work out that the film crew would have no trouble with someone like Kokona showing up unexpectedly.

  • While Hinata’s fear of being left behind have begun manifesting in subtle ways since Yama no Susume 3‘s second half, it becomes quite apparent on the train ride back home, when Aoi begins sharing photos with Kokona and seemingly leaves Hinata out of the conversation. This is unintentional on Aoi’s part – her budding confidence gives her more drive in being able to share her experiences with others, and upon hearing about how Aoi’s been doing fine with Honoka, wonders if she’s been replaced.

  • Later, after yet another miscommunication where Hinata had assumed she was going to the theatres with her family on Saturday rather than Sunday, she suddenly has a free day while Aoi hangs out with the same classmates from karaoke. They end up following a very similar itinerary as Hinata did, visiting the planetarium and sharing a long wait in line for crêpes. While Aoi’s come far in managing her acrophobia since Yama no Susume 2, she’s not completely past her fear of heights and also missed out on a few things.

  • One empathises with Hinata’s situation: when her scheduling falls through, she suddenly has no plans for the day and wanders the streets of Hanno, eventually running into Kaede and Yuuka. With Yuuka furiously pushing Kaede to study for her exams ahead of post-secondary admissions, Kaede’s presence throughout Yama no Susume 3 has been reduced. Here, Hinata wonders how Kaede and Yuuka get along so well; that their personalities clash and complement the other’s is what forms the strength of their friendship.

  • As Aoi’s day draws to a close, Kasumi reveals that she and the others had been in her class since middle school, but because Aoi had been so withdrawn, she never paid attention to those around her. After seeing the new Aoi, Kasumi yearns to strike up a proper friendship with Aoi and requests that Aoi should not forget anyone this time around. Realising this, Aoi accepts and promises to keep everyone in her mind.

  • Colouring is utilised in Yama no Susume to create atmosphere – subtle hints in the colour can speak volumes about how characters are feeling, and here, the washed out, desaturated hues suggest a sense of unease. Looking at anime from a more human perspective offers the most value, and while slice-of-life shows are often dismissed as being little more than “cute girls doing cute things”, a properly-structured slice-of-life show offers a suitable medium for showing a journey of how life lessons are discovered and learnt. This is why I personally approach such shows with the mindset of seeing how meaningful this journey is, and count elements like comedy as being secondary to one’s enjoyment.

  • Yuuka believes Kaede has made satisfactory progress with her studies and allows her a weekend to regroup, reasoning that letting Kaede rest will be beneficial. Kaede relishes the moment, and in a flourish, declares the liberty and limitless potential of not having to have her face in a book. Yama no Susume 3 is certainly not a comedy, and the joy in watching the series instead stems from watching the presentation of how one gets from point A to point B. With her (temporary) new-found freedom, Kaede suggests that everyone go on an overnight trip to Mount Mizugaki and Mount Kinpu.

  • The night before the group’s outing, Kokona and Aoi stay up preparing the ingredients for their evening meal. However, Aoi very nearly oversleeps, and when the alarm goes off, a desperate Kokona shoves Aoi out of bed to wake her. It’s a welcome surprise to Kokona’s character that was hitherto unexpected – despite her gentle disposition, Kokona is willing to do what is necessary to ensure that things work out.

  • On board the train, Hinata lambastes Aoi for being late. While the Hinata of old would have likely shrugged it off, her recent feelings of resentment and loneliness rushes out here. In spite of these feelings, Hinata does stay within the realm of the issue at hand, restricting her lecture to Aoi on punctuality before Kaede intervenes and says that Hinata’s point is clear. While Hinata’s actions are in keeping with how not to escalate a disagreement, not being able to get to the root of her troubles means that Hinata starts the adventure with a sullen heart.

  • Thus, while the scenery of Mount Mizugaki is beautiful, subtle use of camera angles show that even as Aoi, Kaede and Kokona enjoy their adventure, Hinata remains unhappy and is shown with her back towards the camera. As the girls ascend along the trails, these feelings mingle with the sense of majesty and wonder associated with mountain climbing.  Here, the distinct outcrops of Mount Mizugaki are visible: with a maximum elevation of 2230 metres, the hike along Mount Mizugaki takes roughly three hours and is said to be quite easy.

  • When the girls arrive at the top of Mount Mizugaki, the view is stunning. I’ve found that timing estimates for how long trails take to complete are typically on the more conservative side: during my hike out to Chester Lake, the estimated time to complete the entire in-and-out hike was five hours, indicating a two-hour hike to Chester Lake itself. However, we managed to reach the lake in the space of 90 minutes, and that was with periodic breaks along the trail. While there is joy in reaching the end of a trail, I find that a large part of the fun also comes from seeing things on the way up to the destination. In the end, we trekked a total of 13.5 kilometers with an elevation gain of around 400 metres.

  • In my case, it’s usually things like crystal-clear streams flowing down the side of the mountain and stunning views of unspoiled nature: for the most part, visitors to natural areas are very good about leaving naught more than footprints and taking naught more than photographs, so on the various hikes I’ve done, the most I’ve noticed about a human presence (beyond running into happy hikers on the trails) are the occasional footprint. Here, the girls stop at the summit of Mount Mizugaki to enjoy a tea. Again, everyone is in fine spirits save for Hinata, who’s now sustained a minor knee injury on the trails and is doing her best to conceal it for fear of ruining everyone else’s experience.

  • As evening sets in, Aoi, Kokona and Kaede admire the star-filled sky. This was the moment that Yama no Susume 3 opened with, and while Hinata’s absence is noticeable, viewers won’t think too much of it. However, with more context now, Hinata’s decision to not check out the stars is felt more significantly. I’ve noted previously that some anime under-represent light pollution, indicating that it is possible to see a night sky filled with stars and even the Milky Way itself. However, Yama no Susume 3 nails this detail correctly: at Mount Mizugaki and Mount Kinpu, the skies have a darkness of 21.67 mag./arc sec².  This corresponds with a Bortle scale 3, where magnitude 6.5 stars being visible and where the complex structures of the Milky Way can be seen.

  • The girls prepare to retire for the evening, and Aoi shares a tent with Kaede. The next morning, Aoi is paid back in full for being late when Kaede, who moves in her sleep, punches Aoi out. After breakfast, Kaede suggests that Hinata lead the group today, but Hinata’s injury soon becomes apparent as they ascend Mount Kinpu. The music takes on a more ominous tone akin to what is seen in Les Stroud’s Survivorman when Stroud describes a tricky situation. Stroud notes that being injured in the backcountry makes survival all the more difficult, and that out in the bush, one’s priority should always be to minimise exacerbating an injury further.

  • The beautiful scenery of the path leading up to Mount Kinpu does nothing to diminish the fact that she’s injured, and ultimately, Aoi volunteers to look after Hinata and walk her back down the trail to base camp while Kokona and Kaede push forwards. This singular action shows how Aoi’s matured now: taking a leaf from Kaede’s playbook, Aoi sets about ensuring the safety of her best friend and assures both Kaede and Kokona that things will be fine.

  • On the way back down the mountain, Aoi carries Hinata’s gear as well as her own. Watching Aoi take these measures to ensure Hinata’s injury does not worsen is the surest sign of her friendship with Hinata, indicating to audiences just how far Aoi’s come mentally and physically since Hinata invited her to scale Mount Tenran back during Yama no Susume. It is on the descent that Hinata finally is truthful to Aoi, explaining that she’d felt jealous and left behind ever since Aoi was not able to visit Mount Akagi with her.

  • While Hinata and Aoi may not be at the summit of Mount Kinpu, the cliff they choose to rest at still offers an incredible of the world below. Aoi reminds Hinata that no matter the circumstance, she’ll always regard Hinata as her dearest friend, reaffirming their friendship. Having reconciled with Aoi, Hinata’s spirits are restored, and even her knee injury seems to lessen as the two continue back down the mountain together. The mountains bring out the best in everyone, and one of Yama no Susume‘s long-standing themes across each of its seasons was how being made to square off against nature is an exercise that improves one’s character.

  • The strength of the themes in Yama no Susume are encouraging, inspiring, and for having compelled me to consider climbing Ha Ling Peak at some point in the future, Yama no Susume as a whole is counted as a masterpiece (A+, 4.0 of 4.0). Overall, Yama no Susume 3 similarly earns a perfect score for using mountain climbing as a highly visual, immersive metaphor for self-discovery. Like any journey in life, not every step of the way is easy, and there are some downright challenging moments that test Aoi and Hinata’s resolves. Like mountain climbing, there are peaks and valleys, ups and downs: what matters is being able to see the next peak, setting one’s sights on a goal, and knowing how to pick oneself up during times of difficulty.

  • At the time of writing, Ha Ling Peak is closed while crews maintain the trail, so when I’ll actually get around to doing so is unknown. The best I can manage for now will be to promise to climb it before Yama no Susume 4 is announced. Back in Yama no Susume 3, Aoi and Hinata welcome Kokona and Kaede back; the latter is utterly spent and totally content with having conquered yet another mountain: the rush of being tired post-hike is always a rewarding feeling to experience, and after completing Chester Lake, I note that while my legs and glutes are fine, my shoulders are feeling a little sore, indicating that when I train, I should definitely work on my shoulders more.

  • Yama no Susume 3 features no new incidental pieces: the soundtrack across all three seasons was released in July 2018, covering all of the instrumental music used throughout the series, including Omoide Present. Having had a chance to listen to the music more closely, my favourite track is 駆け出す思い (kakedasu omoi, or “feelings that rush out”), which is played at pivotal moments whenever Aoi makes a new discovery.

  • After packing up, Kaede, Kokona, Hinata and Aoi bid the mountain farewell. Like Yama no Susume 2, this is where my post would end, were it not for the fact that following the climactic climb, there is always a falling action episode that has very little to do with mountain climbing. It acts as a quiet, peaceful denouement to Yama no Susume and neatly wraps the series up. Overall, I found the presentation of Yama no Susume 3 to be appropriate: while some folks felt the rift between Aoi and Hinata to be unnecessary, the reality is that such moments are inevitable.

  • The inclusion of the feelings that Hinata experienced therefore makes Yama no Susume 3 more, not less, realistic. Saying that such problems have no place in Yama no Susume 3 is like saying Aoi should’ve made it up Mount Fuji in one go: to do so would completely eliminate the learnings that are gained through adversity, and diminish the strength of the themes. By the events of the final episode, everything’s been resolved, and things go back to Aoi being on the rocks as she struggles to determine what the best birthday gift for Hinata could be.

  • Hinata has known Aoi long enough to know when something’s off, so when Aoi seems unlike herself, Hinata manages to learn that Aoi’s been troubled by being unable to find what to give Hinata for her birthday. After sharing a laugh, Hinata explains that friendships are built over time, so it’s okay not to know everything about one’s friends, and that sharing time together to make these discoveries is what makes it worthwhile. This Hinata seems quite far removed from the surly, jealous Hinata seen in the past few episodes, and indicates that adolescents can demonstrate both great maturity and childishness as they skirt the gap between youth and adulthood.

  • In order to help Aoi along, Hinata suggests sharing secrets with one another that leave the other surprised. With Hinata’s revelation, Aoi finally decides on what to get Hinata for her birthday. This brings Yama no Susume 3 to an end, and during the credits, Hinata’s birthday party is shown, with Honoka doing a video call in owing to her distance. After enjoying the cake that Aoi’s bought and cooking from Hinata’s father, Hinata unboxes her gifts: a handbag from Aoi and makeup from her parents.

  • With this post, a journey that began in April comes to an end for the present: when I first began watching Yama no Susume, I remarked that this would be an excellent way to occupy the time while waiting for Yuru Camp△‘s second season to air. Three months later, it appears as though I’ll now be making use of Yuru Camp△‘s second season to wait for Yama no Susume‘s fourth season, which has no known release date. The only reason why I can be confident about a fourth season is because there remains Aoi’s promise to complete her conquest of Mount Fuji before high school ends.

  • This confidence is justified by the end card to Yama no Susume 3, whose text indicates an intent to eventually return. The use of footprints as exclamation marks is a particularly clever touch, and with all seasons of Yama no Susume in the books, it is a little saddening to learn that my journey comes to an end for the present. We are also nearly halfway through July now, and this July is a noteworthy one, being the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, as well as the fifth anniversary of the Giant Walkthrough Brain. While I have plans to write about Sounan Desu Ka? and Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru?, these special topics posts will take priority.

Yama no Susume 3‘s finale is similar to its predecessor, being set away from the slopes of a mountain. This time, the conflict stems from Aoi’s inability to pick a suitable gift for Hinata’s birthday. While Aoi may have grown from her experiences, she’s not infallible, and likewise, while Hinata’s insecurity can come across as being somewhat immature, Hinata also possesses a reasonable degree of maturity and insight. The dynamic between the two friends, where Aoi and Hinata both complement one another, allows both to be strong for one another. While the process of mountain climbing doubtlessly helps Aoi, that Aoi and Hinata both share their experiences together allow the two to grow and improve as people. Yama no Susume be about mountain climbing, and the requirements involved to appreciate the hobby, but its greatest strength is that it masterfully utilises mountain climbing as a metaphor for personal growth and moreover, presents this journey in a highly visceral, visual manner. The mountains become a secondary (but nonetheless majestic) backdrop for a trek that at its heart, is about how one’s experiences strengthen one’s resolve and broadens their horizons. Together with solid aural and visual elements, I deeply enjoyed Yama no Susume, and Yama no Susume 3 is a much-welcomed addition into the series. This is a series I can readily recommend to all viewers for its gentle but moving presentation of life lessons, with the mountains acting as a spectacular setting in which said life lessons are presented. With all three seasons in the books, I’ve now reached the end of the path, and thoughts invariably stray towards whether or not there will be a continuation. While a stage play was announced back in December 2018, news of a fourth season have not yet materialised. With this being said, Yama no Susume‘s manga is still ongoing, and moreover, with Hinata and Aoi’s friendship having come out of the third season all the stronger, the stage is set for Aoi to conquer Mount Fuji in a titanic act that represents both the distance she’s come, as well as the closeness between Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona. Once more volumes are produced, it is inevitable that a fourth season will be announced.

Yama no Susume Season 3: A Review and Reflection at the Halfway Point

“Beauty has so many forms, and I think the most beautiful thing is confidence and loving yourself.” –Kiesza

With autumn setting in, Aoi decides to take Hinata on a night climb to Mount Tsukuba and express her thanks to Hinata for having gotten her a souvenir from Mount Fuji. The beautiful landscapes at the top of Mount Tsukuba motivate Aoi to reattempt Mount Fuji, but after learning that Mount Fuji’s trails and facilities will be closed until next summer, Aoi decides to pick up dedicating hiking shoes instead, and ascends Mount Tenran to test them out. Later, Aoi decides to hike the trails of the Hanno Alps, and while finding it a challenging experience, she runs into Kokona and visits the shrines in Nenogongen. Back in school, when Mio, one of Aoi’s classmates, strike up a conversation with her, Aoi finds herself accepting an invitation to karaoke. Encouragement allows Aoi to be herself and have a good time. Aoi, Hinata and Kokona meet up with Honoka to visit Lockheart Castle uin Gunma. With their cameras, they capture memories of their experiences. After Aoi learns about mountain coffee, she decides to pursue the art of brewing and enjoying it, sharing her coffee with Hinata at the Kanhasshu Observation Platform and learning that contrary to her imagination, Hinata actually drinks her coffee with milk and sugar. Halfway into Yama no Susume‘s third season (Yama no Susume 3 for brevity), the series marks a triumphant return of a series that has done a phenomenal job of capturing the ins and outs of mountain climbing, growing friendships and interpersonal discoveries, as well as intrapersonal growth as a result of taking up a new hobby and spending time with newfound companions. Yama no Susume 3‘s run began last summer, and having run the gauntlet of having to catch up, I’ve now reached a point where I can begin my journey into Yama no Susume‘s latest instalment.

Immediately after beginning Yama no Susume 3, it is apparent that this third season’s more condensed runtime has a non-trivial impact on each episode’s pacing; whereas Yama no Susume 2 had twenty-four episodes and therefore, plenty of timing to portray Aoi’s experiences in greater detail, the third season only has half the episodes. Consequently, each episode feels a lot more concise, skating over more subtle or mundane moments in favour of highlights. The end result changes the dynamic of Yama no Susume 3 from those of its predecessors, making the anime feel much more determined and to-the-point. While this change does detract from the slower pacing of Yama no Susume 2, it serves one important narrative function – the higher pace reflects Aoi’s growing confidence. As a result of climbing mountains in a literal sense, Aoi has also matured by overcoming metaphorical mountains. Moments that were momentous milestones now become more commonplace, and so, focus on such instances is diminished as Aoi sets herself the concrete target of conquering Mount Fuji again, and then works towards preparing for the task by improving her endurance and picking up new shoes. Along the way, Aoi also becomes more open towards those around her. In showcasing the more pivotal moments for Aoi, Yama no Susume 3‘s pacing conveys to viewers Aoi’s excitement for a rematch with Mount Fuji: the series has always been successful in doing more with less, and halfway through Yama no Susume 3, it appears that things will continue at a brisk, smart pace.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Yama no Susume 3‘s initial airing during the summer of 2018 was coincided with Harukana Receive‘s airing, and in conjunction with the fact that I had not yet begun my journey with Yama no Susume yet, I only chose to keep the series on my radar. Having taken the superbly enjoyable journey through the first and second season, I finally reach the third season’s opening, which wastes absolutely no time in establishing Aoi’s desire to express her appreciation to Hinata.

  • On a suggestion from Hikari, her coworker at a local bakery, Aoi decides to take Hinata to Mount Tsukuba by night with the aim of showing her the night landscape here. This hike is quite unlike any other that Aoi had done previously: while early morning hiking was a part of the itinerary for Hinata during the Mount Fuji ascent, Aoi was out with altitude sickness and never completed the climb.

  • With a maximum height of 877 metres, Mount Tsukuba is known as the Purple Mountain and on a clear day, offers a panoramic view of Tokyo. Mount Fuji is also visible from the summit. Characterised by an abundance of vegetation and wildlife, Mount Tsukuba is also a popular destination for couples because of the two peaks, which represent the male and female. Hikari suggests this mountain to Aoi, under the impression that she’s seeing someone.

  • One element that never ceases to put a smile on my face are the characters’ dynamic personalities, which constantly remind viewers of how life-like the characters are. While Aoi is usually shy and reserved, and Hinata is more energetic and outgoing, Aoi can be smug and childish around Hinata, showing a side of her character that indicates what she’s like when she’s become close with someone. Under the dark of night, the ascent becomes a completely different one, creating an additional sense of mystique in the landscape.

  • At the summit, lights of the Tokyo skyline spread out towards the horizon. It is here that Yama no Susume 3‘s opening episode marks the series triumphant return to the screen, showcasing the solid artwork that Yama no Susume possesses. While pronounced visual shortcuts are occasionally taken, on the whole, Yama no Susume has excellent visuals. The third season explores a greater range of unique settings, and the first episode sets the precedence for what is upcoming.

  • At the summit, under a peaceful night sky and the gentle scenery below, Aoi resolves to re-attempt Mount Fuji. After her failed first effort, Aoi spent the remainder of the second season rediscovering her love for the mountains, gradually picking herself back up and spearheading the climactic climb to Mount Tanegawa to fulfil a long-standing promise with Hinata. While Aoi worried about the aftermath of this hike, she also would meet Honoka, and as Yama no Susume 3 presents, a new destination is established now that Aoi has set her sights on Mount Fuji once more.

  • Up until now, Aoi had been hiking with conventional shoes, and when Kaede learns that Aoi intends to climb Mount Fuji again, recommends that she pick up a proper pair of hiking shoes, which can run for around 42000 yen (506 CAD). With a rigid sole, hiking shoes offer superior support and stability when traversing rocky terrain. During my first hike at the Big Beehive in Lake Louise, I used my running shoes and found that the soft sole made it difficult to properly set my foot down, since there was the risk of the sole bending and causing my balance to be lost.

  • I ended up purchasing a pair of hiking shoes for a much more reasonable price and used them during a hike to the Windtower Pass, where the trails were poorly marked and where I ended up squaring off against a section where the trail was a foot wide and adjacent to a ten metre drop. Having good shoes gave me the confidence to negotiate this part of the trail, and as Aoi discovers, a proper set of shoes makes a world of difference.

  • Later, when Aoi goes to hike the Hanno Alps trail to improve her stamina and endurance, she finds that the solitude of being alone is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. Despite being able to take things at her own pace, exhaustion also means the lack of support. It is for this reason that hiking is typically recommended to be done with at least one other person. For me, the non-trivial risk of running into bears and cougars means that having at least one person with me allows a conversation to be carried out, which gives wildlife plenty of notice that we’re around.

  • After stopping to rest, Aoi encounters Kokona, who is hiking the Hanno Alps trail in search of wildlife. Morale immediately shifts, and Aoi’s spirits lift considerably. Hiking in groups allows everyone to encourage one another, and being able to talk does make a hike go by a lot more quickly. Typically, when I go on hikes along trails I’ve never done previously, I prefer pacing myself so that I don’t become unnecessarily exhausted. While the goal is to reach a destination, there is also something to be said for enjoying the journey there.

  • Yama no Susume 3 places a much larger focus on Aoi, whose growing confidence is mirrored in the series’ pacing. This does mean that other characters, most notably Kaede, have a reduced presence. Yama no Susume had always predominantly been about Aoi – Kaede is present to provide knowledge and pass on experience to Aoi, while Kokona seems to represent the tranquility and gentleness of nature itself. I praise Yama no Susume for its characterisation of Aoi and Hinata, but Kaede and Kokona do seem a bit more static in their growth.

  • Attesting to attention in detail, Kokona is seen wearing the hiking shoes her mother had gotten for her birthday back during season two. While subtle, such touches add considerably to the authenticity in Yama no Susume, and here, the two share a lunch: Aoi’s mother had created two vast onigiri for Aoi on the assumption that she would be hanging out with Hinata, but Aoi’s serendipitous encounter with Kokona means that things work out fine.

  • Upon reaching the Nenogongen shrine, Kokona and Aoi learn more about the lore of mountain climbing and pay deference to the mountain kami, praying for good health: the gods here deal with hip and leg health. The real shrine is indeed home to the world’s largest sandals, which have a mass of two tons in total, and can be reached from either the Agano Station or Nishi-Agano Station on the Seibu Chichibu Line on foot; this walk takes around an hour and a half.

  • When Aoi’s classmate, Mio, strikes up a conversation with Aoi, the topic naturally flows from Aoi’s love for knitting to the mountains. Intrigued by Aoi, Mio invites Aoi to join her and some other classmates at karaoke. While Aoi is a bit surprised and nervous, Hinata was also invited, giving Aoi at least one familiar face in a group she typically does not hang out with often. I see myself in Aoi, being perfectly content to be left to my own devices, but folks around me contend that I’m not entirely an introvert, either; on a spectrum, I feel that I’d be closer to the middle, slightly favouring solitude over crowds.

  • Aoi is initially pensive about singing, fearing that she’s not familiar with any of the songs, and upon finding songs she knows of, also worries that her peers may mock her for her selection. However, seeing Hinata sing the Mountaineer’s Song prompts Aoi to sing Natsuiro Present, the opening theme to the second season. I have a particular fondness for this song, as well as the third season’s Chiheisen Stride.

  • Aoi and the others meet with Honoka at Lockheart Castle, a castle that was built in Scotland in 1829 and transported, brick-by-brick, to Japan by Masahiko Tsugawa, a famous actor. With a particular fondness for European culture, Tsugawa used his wealth and connections to purchase and move the castle in 1987. Its location in Gunma brings to mind the Enchanted Forest near Revelstoke, British Columbia, which began when Doris Needham purchased some sixteen hectares of forest and began building a home there. By 1960, Needham opened the location, now dubbed the Enchanted Forest, to the public. Although the original attraction only had a small shack and a giant mushroom, visitors continued to visit. Needham expanded the site with a stone-floored castle and nature trials: by 1970, the Enchanted Forest had over one milion visitors. The site was sold and today, continues to be a family business, enchanting the young and old alike with its attractions.

  • On the topic of the Enchanted Forest, I passed by last week during the Canada Day Long Weekend en route to the Okanagan. This excursion out into what is essentially the California of Canada had been in the works for some time: since the trip out there for the salmon run, a desire to visit one of the most beautiful places in Canada turned into a trip. While the weather was rainy on the first day, the weather cleared up by the time we got to Kelowna. Stopping for dinner at an Italian restaurant, we then walked the shores of Lake Okanagan as evening set in: it’s been three years since I was last in Kelowna for a performance of the Giant Walkthrough Brain, and it was such a joy to be back during the summer, where the weather and atmosphere are a world apart from the cold, grey weather I experienced three years previously.

  • On Canada Day itself, we prepared to drive back home: stopping in Sicamous to enjoy the fresh ice cream at D. Dutchman’s, the remainder of the journey home was uneventful until we crossed the Alberta border and passed Canmore, wherein a large traffic jam stopped us cold in our tracks. We ended up taking the Bow Valley Trail to bypass the traffic, bringing an end to this highly enjoyable excursion where time itself appeared to stand still and where I could live in the moment. Such moments are common in series like Yama no Susume, which encourage slowing down to savour the smaller things in life.

  • At Lockheart Castle, Aoi, Honoka, Hinata and Kokona explore to their heart’s content. After touching a stone in the castle that’s supposed to help with emotional development, and Hinata pretends to get stuck in a pillory, the girls stop for lunch, bringing out their cameras and decide to photograph their time spent together. Everyone has a different type of camera, mirroring their own respective backgrounds. Honoka’s camera is a sophisticated one that speaks to her hobby, while Hinata uses an instant camera that represents her forward and living-in-the-moment manner. Kokona uses a disposable film camera: as an older medium, film is more romantic, forcing one to really consider what they’re capturing and waiting to see its outcome (at the same time, also giving a hint about Kokona’s background). Aoi uses her smartphone’s camera: while not a photographer, Aoi’s become more adept with adapting to a situation, and contemporary smart phones, such as Aoi’s iPhone 6, are capable of taking pictures of reasonable quality.

  • My favourite part of Honoka and company’s visit to Lockheart Castle comes when everyone comes decked out in elegant dresses that make each of Honoka, Kokona, Aoi and Hinata resemble princesses. While Lockheart Castle is known for housing a sizeable Christmas collection, visitors can indeed try on various dresses as the girls do. Folks interested in visiting Lockheart Castle will note that there’s a 1000-yen (12 CAD) admission fee for adults (and 800 yen for students, about 9.70 CAD). The castle is around 20 minutes west of Numata by car, and is open from 09:00 to 17:00.

  • The outcome of the girls’ trip to Lockheart Castle is that, on top of additional precious memories of spending time with one another, Honoka also learns that some of the best moments come about naturally, when Kokona decides to photograph her. Later, Honoka’s brother appears to pick her up: he’s a carefree fellow who seems to embarrass Honoka, but Aoi and the others don’t regard Honoka’s older brother as a nuisance.

  • After Aoi learns about mountian coffee, she begins practising the methodology behind brewing a cup so she might be able to enjoy hiking with a more mature spin to it. Her mother is impressed with Aoi’s determination but also wonders if Aoi’s done her homework yet: Aoi seems to be the sort of individual who does well enough in her studies when the moment calls for it but otherwise prefers to spend time on other things. Here, I note that Aoi’s mother, Megumi, is voiced by Aya Hisakawa, whom I know best as Ah! My Goddess‘ Skuld.

  • One of Aoi’s biggest weaknesses as a character is that her imagination tends to get the better of her: her interest in coffee is spurred on purely by a baseless thought that Hinata, who’s begun drinking coffee, regards her as immature. The real Hinata, while occasionally nudging Aoi for fun, is shown to be considerate and caring for Aoi. For her carefree and boisterous manner, Hinata is also has a more thoughtful, sentimental side.

  • While looking through a coffee shop in search of a good coffee, Aoi encounters Kaede and Yuuka, who suggest to her not to push herself in doing something purely for appearances. To warm her up to coffee, Yuuka believes that Aoi should stick with what she likes: Yuuka’s advice is spot on, and while it is tempting to succumb to peer pressure, the height of being cool (or lit, or dope, as folk say these days) is to be true to oneself.

  • Aoi eventually works out a coffee to make for Hinata, and in the process, drinks a substantial amount of coffee. On the day of her walk to the Kanhasshu Observation Platform, Aoi is tired from having not slept very well, yawning frequently. This is the main reason why I don’t drink coffee: despite my love for the smell and taste, the effects of caffeine on me aren’t those that I particularly like, so given the choice, I will drink tea. On the flipside, I will almost always pick coffee or mocha-flavoured sweets if those are available, whether it be ice cream, cakes, chocolates or hard candies.

  • Hinata, noticing this, offers to carry the gear that Aoi’s brought along. The side of Hinata that became more pronounced in Omoide Present is shown once again, giving audiences the sense that time is passing and that both Hinata and Aoi have matured throughout Yama no Susume.

  • The Kanhasshu Observation Platform is located in Hanno, and with an elevation of 771 metres, it is a relatively popular spot for locals because of the views that it offers. On a clear day, Mount Fuji is visible from here, and while some visitors feel the trailhead is a bit out of the way, on the whole, visitors are impressed with the scenery. Watching Hinata and Aoi visit more out-of-the-way spots near and around Hanno is actually what prompted me to plan trips to places like Peachland and the Okanagan Lavender Farm: such spots are invariably skipped if one is looking to see major attractions, but smaller attractions have their own charms and typically do not have the same crowds, making them highly rewarding experiences.

  • Once Aoi reaches the summit, she begins preparing the coffee, grinding her own beans. Hinata remarks that Aoi’s become very proficient in the process and allows her to prepare the coffee. Aoi wears a look of determination on her face: as she sets about the process, her thoughts are on delivering the best possible experience to Hinata to dispel any misconceptions that she’s immature. However, it turns out that Hinata prefers her coffee with milk. After the initial shock wears off, Aoi and Hinata share a laugh together and enjoy their coffee under the brisk autumn skies.

  • Having just passed the halfway point to Yama no Susume 3, my goal now is to wrap this series up in a timely fashion such that I may begin this summer’s anime: Sounan desu ka? (Are we shipwrecked?) and Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? (How many kilos are the dumbbells you can lift?, and informally Do you even lift: The Anime) have caught my eye, so I have plans to write about those once their third episodes have aired. Beyond this, I also have a pair of special posts planned out for this month.

While the short length of Yama no Susume 3 precludes Aoi returning to Mount Fuji for a rematch against the mountain, the comings and goings in Yama no Susume 3 continue to show that the series is about the journey, rather than the destination, and it is the small things, whether it be training for more strenuous treks or picking up the right equipment, that inevitably set in motion much larger changes. Yama no Susume might be billed as a relaxing series, but it also offers a plethora of relevant life lessons. This particular aspect of Yama no Susume is what makes the series worth watching, dealing with often-times tricky lessons in a very gentle and accessible manner. Because Yama no Susume 3 is on the shorter side, I anticipate finishing this one on very short notice, and while there’s been no news of a continuation, given the fact that the manga is still on-going, and the fact that Aoi’s goal of ascending Mount Fuji has yet to be realised, I anticipate that at some point in the future, a fourth season will be released. I am thoroughly enjoying Yama no Susume – each and every episode puts a smile on my face, and I greatly look forwards to wrapping up season three.

Yama no Susume OVA: Omoide Present Review and Reflection

“The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.” –Robert Holden

August is drawing to a close. When Kokona’s mother is asked to work over the weekend they’d originally planned to spend together, Kokona decides to take a walk around Hanno and rediscovers the places that she and her mother had previously visited. After coming across a lost child, she helps the girl find her mother, and discovers a herb garden nearby. Later, Kokona’s mother says that the weekend after, she’ll really have some time off to spend with Kokona and promises to make it an enjoyable experience. During October, while hanging out at Aoi’s place, Hinata comes across an acorn hairclip and recalls that prior to moving years previously, the two had made acorn ornaments for one another, promising they’d never forget their promise to reunite. However, Hinata begins to worry when she realises that she’s misplaced Aoi’s gift to her. She confesses this to Aoi, who tells Hinata not to worry. The two decide to make new acorn gifts for one another, and Hinata recalls that while she may have lost her old gift from Aoi, Aoi had outright forgotten her when they reunited during the first day of high school. The OVA for Yama no Susume, Omoide Present, is actually made of two separate acts rolled into a single title and released in October 2017, spanning the gap between the second season’s conclusion and the opening of the third season, which came out in July 2018. Omoide Present presents two simple stories that acts as a warm-up act to the third season. The first act accentuates Kokona’s open-minded view of the world and how this leads her to create wonderful memories of her own, while the second act details the friendship Hinata and Aoi share, from Hinata’s perspective. These serve to jolt the viewers’ memories of Yama no Susume: season three aired three and a half years after Yama no Susume 2, and quite a bit can happen during the course of this time.

Kokona’s story is an immeasurably warming, presenting her as being remarkably mature for her age. Rather than lamenting what time she cannot spend with her mother, Kokona makes the most of every day to enjoy what she does have. Memories of spending time with her mother come to the forefront of her quiet day out, from walking the same sidewalk in a costume to wondering what theatres were, each moment reinforces the idea that Kokona always makes the most of what she has. This is a wonderful way of looking at the world: people often are so focused on the what-ifs that they neglect to count their blessings in what they have. Happiness can often be found in being grateful for what is, and this gentle acceptance Kokona demonstrates allows her to spend a day making new memories, even discovering a new herbal garden. For viewers, Kokona’s outlook on the world is met with a blessing, when her mother reveals that the weekend after, she will definitely have time off. Hinata’s act has a different message for viewers and shows that, for her boisterous manner, Hinata is very mindful and appreciative of her friendship with Aoi, even if they don’t see eye-to-eye with any frequency. Insofar, audiences have seen a noisy, carefree Hinata, but it turns out that Hinata can also be sensitive and worried about her friendship with Aoi: it greatly troubles her that she’s lost a momento representing their promise, and of the two, she alone remembered their original promise where even Aoi had forgotten. This adds a new depth to Hinata’s character. Altogether, being able to see the depths of Kokona and Hinata’s characters shows that Yama no Susume‘s characters are very life-like, and going into the third season, it will be interesting to see which direction each of Aoi, Hinata, Kaede, Kokona and Honoka will take.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Kokona’s mother ends up busy for work, Kokona decides to make the most of her day anyways, enjoying a hearty breakfast before going out for a walk. Despite the sudden change of plans, Kokona shows no sign of being bothered, and sets about enjoying the last day of August in her own manner. There’s a joy about watching Kokona out on her own adventures: being a full year younger than Aoi and the others, there’s an endearing trait to everything that Kokona does.

  • Six years previously, on the first day of summer, the Bow River overflowed its banks and led to some of the most devastating flooding in the province’s history. After the dark, rainy skies gave way to the sun, the scope of the damage became apparent, and by Canada Day, officials were fervently working to bring the Stampede Grounds up to speed for the annual Calgary Stampede despite the flood damage. I remained at home during the duration of the flooding, since campus was closed, and while I attempted to work, the weather was as beautiful as it is here in Omoide Present: I ended up going out for a burger before spending the afternoon gaming.

  • While Kokona might just be walking the familiar streets of Hanno, there is no shortage of marvels to explore. Kokona stops by a temple, where a group of cats have gathered. One of the more unusual aspects about Kokona’s story in Omoide Present is the application of a fish-eye lens-like effect when the world is presented through Kokona’s eyes. This is likely done to show that Kokona is reminiscing, as well as suggest that the world is quite large from Kokona’s perspective, and therefore, always full of new things to discover and find.

  • The consistency of the artwork and animation in Yama no Susume is solid: while the first season had slightly simpler lighting and textures, by Yama no Susume 2, the series had hit is stride and scenes are beautifully portrayed. The colouring and tone give the sense of a hot summer’s day: passing under a rail bridge, the heat can be felt. Kokona is walking underneath the Seibu Ikebukero line along a small side street, and like countless anime, real world locations are reproduced in stunning detail.

  • Treading along familiar streets causes fond memories of the time that Kokona and her mother spent together resurface. As a child, Kokona was very fond of wearing various outfits: she’s decked out as an angel here, and has been seen in different costumes throughout Yama no Susume. Most notably, the one time Kokona had dressed up as a firefly was also the first time she met Aoi and Hinata, although neither seem to remember.

  • On her walk, Kokona encounters into Kaede and Yuuka, who are on their way to the public library to study. While Kaede is presented as mature and knowledgeable, it turns out that this does not extend to her desire to study: she was shown as being unable to help Aoi on her homework, having forgotten everything, and seems to depend on Yuuka to bail her out. While the Hanno City Library is a beautiful, clean and modern structure, locals also find it to be a bit too noisy to be a good spot for studying.

  • Kokona stops on a footbridge passing over Misugidai Street. After she finishes her lunch and resumes her walk, she encounters a small child who’s lost. Recalling a similar moment when she had gotten lost, and how she managed to find her in the end, Kokona accompanies the child through Hikari Park and runs into her mother after passing through a playground area: it would appear that this child had simply taken a wrong turn and gotten lost.

  • As thanks, the child’s mother gifts to Kokona some herbs. The buildings to the Hanno-Shiritsu Misugidai Elementary School are visible in the background. By my admission, I was not originally intending to go location hunting in this post, but curiosity got the better of me, and I managed to find the locations mentioned in this reflection. There’s actually a very simple process that I follow to hunt down locations using tools like Google Maps: after locating a landmark, it’s a matter of tracing possible paths that characters take to get to their next destinations.

  • Finding all of the locations in Omoide Present took around 15 minutes in total. Pushing on ahead, Kokona comes across the Yakkosoen Medical Herb Garden, located just across the road from Hikari Park. While Kokona only visits the park, there’s a store that sells the herbs, and this store doubles as a cafe with a pleasant selection of dishes for visitors to enjoy. In general, patrons are very pleased with the Yakkosoen Medical Herb Garden, and I note that visiting such obscure locations, if one were to really visit these locations for themselves, would confer an unmatched experience.

  • Kokona’s appreciation for what already is, rather than what could be, is admirable, as the day draws to a close, she reminisces about how she’d once come here with her mother, as well. At the end of the day, Kokona runs into Aoi and Hinata, who have some baumkuchen from the shop that Aoi works at. They spend time together before Kokona heads home, where she learns that her mother’s got next week off for sure.

  • The second half of Omoide Present follows Hinata and her quest to find an old keepsake. Yama no Susume had presented Hinata as being rather boisterous and happy-go-lucky, so to see a more contemplative, sentimental side of her character was a pleasant change of pace. I found that the depth of each character in Yama no Susume contributed greatly to the enjoyment factor, giving each individual a life-like feel and showing that despite their outward archetypes, everyone experiences a very broad and deep set of emotions. This is how to properly convey depth of characters: I was speaking with a friend earlier about how to best convey nuances in characters, and he cites Durarara!! as a series that was a little too aggressive in trying to show that everyone has a hidden side.

  • As the first day of the summer, today is the longest day of the year, and all days subsequent will begin shortening. However, while summer is typically associated with blue skies like those seen in Kokona’s story, the weather today greatly resembled the rainy conditions of six years ago, when the Great Flood devastated the city center and surrounding towns. While the rain was fortuitously nowhere near as intense, we still had a severe rainfall warning for much of the day. This didn’t stop me from celebrating the solstice with my first visit to a food truck since I was a university student: I ended up having a ginger fried chicken poutine that was a fusion of Asian and Canadian flavours.

  • Back home, Hinata is troubled by the fact that she’s lost the acorn figure Aoi had made for her. The nuts of Quercus trees, acorns are produced as a means of dispersing seeds and can also be consumed by humans, although having been displaced by grains, usage of acorns as food has decreased greatly. Looking around the intertubes, it’s somewhat of a surprise that Omoide Present has not received more coverage: I’ve only found one short discussion on the series.

  • Hinata’s doubt deepens when she speaks with her father, who’s kept a leaf that Hinata had found for him while they were walking when Hinata had been much younger. In the end, it is not the worth of the gift, but the intent behind it, that counts for something, and this is something that my parents are quick to remind me: the gesture of taking the time to think about someone and what they like is already a powerful show of compassion and care.

  • Aoi and Hinata are adorable as children: on the day that Hinata moves, it’s a tearful departure, but the girls hold their tears back long enough to give one another their gifts. Aoi’s made a stick figure out of acorns, hinting at her skills with crafts, while Hinata, be less proficient, carves her name into the acorn. The two go their separate ways here and reunite at Yama no Susume‘s beginning, when high school begins.

  • One thing I’ve not mentioned about Yama no Susume is the soundtrack: the music is composed by Tomohiro Oshima and Tomohiro Yamada, and the incidental pieces range from gentle, to encouraging and even chaotic at times, capturing different facets of the girls’ experiences, both on the trails and in their everyday lives. Omoide Memory has its own soundtrack, featuring orchestral pieces that create a majestic sense of wonder and also of nostalgia, for each of Kokona and Hinata’s stories.

  • Ultimately, Hinata decides to be forward with Aoi about having lost the little acorn figurine. Aoi only vaguely remembers and dismisses things, since it happened so long ago: the two decide to make new acorn ornaments for one another and head to the local park, where they search for new acorns. Here, the distinct red arch of Wariiwa Bridge can be seen: its colour makes it a distinct part of the Hanno cityscape, and the bridge is prominently featured in Yama no Susume.

  • As it turns out, while Hinata may have lost the acorn figurine, Aoi had outright forgotten Hinata and their promise: Yama no Susume‘s first episode made this clear, so the two are evidently even, and so, Hinata’s losing of a small memento becomes inconsequential. Here, the two friends share a joyous moment together amidst the beautiful autumn foliage: Omoide Present‘s second act is set in late October, a time when back home, all of the trees have long lost all of their leaves and a noticeable chill has crept into the air.

  • Omoide Present feels as though it foreshadows what is to come in the third season. Having finished the OVA, we’re also entering the final days of June. I actually have no more anime related posts planned for this month, although I am going to attempt to write about Battlefield V and the experiences I’ve had during the third Tides of War chapter, as well as my final thoughts on Valkyria Chronicles 4.

With Omoide Present in the books, I now advance into the final act of Yama no Susume: the third season came out last summer, and praises for this third season is actually what had prompted me to give Yama no Susume a go. Readers will have doubtlessly seen the procrastination that I am infamous for, and it was only now that I’ve finally had the chance to watch Yama no Susume. Despite being a series of shorts, Yama no Susume loses none of its potency and depth in its messages; the shorter length of each episode forces Yama no Susume to ensure that every scene contributes to the story. The result is an anime that is genuine, engaging and also concise: adaptations, such as for K-On!, protracted scenes to ensure they would fit into a standard runtime, and while this can be beneficial for things like performing concerts, it also results in some jokes that seem as though they last much longer than they should. Yama no Susume is built off a similar setup, but shorter episodes allow the series to really focus on their characters and their discoveries. The third season looks to be continuing on in this path, and I look forwards to beginning Yama no Susume‘s latest season. Readers will have my assurances that I will be finishing this series in an expedient fashion: as Aoi learnt, once one gets started, forward momentum makes it easier to continue moving forwards, one step at a time.

Yama no Susume Season 2: Whole-series Review and a Full Recommendation

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” ―David McCullough Junior

After failing to scale Mount Fuji, Aoi falls into a melancholy and wonders about her future in mountain climbing, but after receiving the letters that Hinata and Kokona had sent her from the top of Mount Fuji, she decides to climb Mount Tenran again, running into Hinata. after viewing fireflies with Kokona and Kaede, Hinata and Aoi later decide to invite Aoi’s mother for a hike at Mount Kirigamine. Here, Aoi and Hinata learn that the mountain of their promise, where they’d seen the sunrise together, was Mount Tanigawa. Kaede decides to give Aoi her old raincoat after reminiscing about her friendship with Yuuka, and the girls visit Shinrin Park to help Aoi manage her fear of heights; Aoi is torn about the cable car ride needed to reach the trail to ascend Mount Tanigawa. Aoi decides to take a part time job to earn the funds for equipment, and struggles to finish her homework ahead of their climb. As the date of their ascent draws nearer, Aoi bakes a cake for Kokona, whose birthday is the date of their climb, and Kokona visits Akebano Children’s Forest Park with her new shoes that she’d gotten for her birthday. On the day of the hike, the girls help Aoi when she becomes frightened on the cable car ride. Once they reach the trial, Aoi encounters a quiet girl named Honoka, who’s fond of photography. A rainfall sets in, but the girls reach their mountain hut, where they unwind. Aoi and Hinata voice their worries about what will happen once their promise is fulfilled, but support from their friends lead the two to realise that there will always be new promises to be made, and new journeys to partake in. They reach the summit as the skies clear, and the girls see the sunrise that they had promised to see. On the eve of a summer festival, Aoi and Hinata get into a disagreement. Honoka is visiting, and upon hearing Aoi speak of Hinata, Honoka begins to understand that Aoi and Hinata’s friendship is quite deep despite Aoi’s outward appearances. After watching fireworks together at the festival, the girls unwind at Aoi’s home, where Aoi and Hinata realise that whatever it is they had a disagreement about was trivial. Yama no Susume 2 is ten times longer than the first season, and with a substantially increased runtime, is able to fully explore the suite of dynamics between Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona: seeing more of the characters really allows the audience to connect with everyone more strongly, and this is one of the strongest aspects about Yama no Susume 2.

Aoi’s inability to finish ascending Mount Fuji ends up being but one of many events in Yama no Susume 2: while Aoi’s interest in mountain climbing wavers from her failure, encouragement from her friends and her own recollections ultimately give her the resolve to continue. The first half showed that individuals sometimes cannot overcome adversity even with assistance, and in the second half, Yama no Susume 2 aims to convey that adversity must be conquered from within. After receiving the letters from Hinata and Kokona, the encouragement in “Encouragement of Climb”, it ultimately still falls upon Aoi to make a decision. She could have very well simply decided there and then to throw in the towel, but instead, she finds enough encouragement to rediscover what led her to engage in mountain climbing. Walking the trails up Mount Tenran again, Aoi finds it an easy hike, and realises how far she’d come with Hinata, Kaede and Kokona. This small bit of joy leads her to take another small step in hiking Mount Kirigamine with her mother, and in the end, sets in motion the events that lead Aoi to actively pursue fulfilling her promise with Hinata. Despite her own acrophobia, Aoi does her best to push through the difficult moments, and for her efforts, she manages to both see the sunrise with Hinata as originally promised, as well as making a new friend in Honoka. The simple act of deciding to return, and grasping her friends’ encouragement leads Aoi to overcome the initial disappointment in her failure to climb Mount Fuji. Aoi picks herself up and moves ahead, taking two steps forward for the step backwards that she’d encountered. Taken together, the two halves of Yama no Susume 2 indicate that one’s successes and failures ultimately fall onto the individual’s own resolve, determination and grit; in the presence of friendship and encouragement, failures cost a bit less and successes feel all the more empowering. The extended format shows that Yama no Susume can very well stand on its own: the strength of its episodes and clarity of a theme indicate a series that very much knows what it aims to say to audiences, and knows how to best convey this in a concise timeframe.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Upon returning from Mount Fuji, Aoi’s fallen into a depression and Hinata is unsure of how to help Aoi recover. She decides to leave Aoi be for now, and in this time, the letters that she and Kokona had sent to Aoi from Mount Fuji arrives. Realising that she’s got fantastic friends in her corner, she decides to climb up Mount Tenran again and is surprised at how easy the hike is. This moment is indicative of Aoi’s progress – even though she may have failed to overcome Mount Fuji, she’s improved in many ways since her first hike up Mount Tenran with Hinata.

  • Coincidentally, Aoi runs into Hinata at the top of Mount Tenran, and here, Hinata is able to properly convey how she feels about Aoi; she wants Aoi to continue accompanying her in mountain climbing and provides encouragement. When Aoi offers Hinata a sweet remaining from the Mount Fuji hike, Hinata bursts out in laughter. Aoi and Hinata’s friendship is, despite the turbulence, a deep-running one, and the ups-and-downs make it all the more authentic. The themes in Yama no Susume 2 are very clear and direct, but there are numerous moments worth mentioning. As such, this post will feature forty screenshots in total.

  • Yama no Susume and Non Non Biyori both present fireflies as a magical experience. The choice of lighting in Yama no Susume, however, reminds me of Grave of The Fireflies, which I watched earlier this year – like Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni, it’s a haunting anime about the costs of warfare and shows the price paid by warfare. While the latter presents a more optimistic view on recovery in the post-War, Grave of The Fireflies suggests that the suffering of victims in World War Two ended after death: Seita and Setsuko are shown to be at peace after the war, but there is a great deal of sadness in seeing what war makes of ordinary people, as well.

  • Returning to Yama no Susume 2, after Aoi’s spirits are restored, she decides to take her mother to Mount Kirigamine when the latter expresses concern about Aoi’s hobby, on a suggestion from Hinata’s father. Located in the Nagano Prefecture, Mount Kirigamine has a maximum height of 1925 metres, and the trailhead starts a mere 325 metres from the summit. It’s an easier hike, and thus, well-suited for showing Aoi’s mother that her hobby is quite safe provided the proper precautions and techniques are observed. Throughout Yama no Susume 2, Aoi’s mother also sees character development, becoming more comfortable with Aoi’s hobby and coming to support her over time.

  • I’d actually crossed the finish line for Yama no Susume 2 a week ago, but this past long weekend had been remarkably busy – I spent the majority of it volunteering at Otafest, the anime convention of Calgary. It was an incredibly enjoyable and meaningful experience, to be helping the convention run smoothly and help patrons have the best experience possible. In my roles, I helped keep panels orderly, answered questions about where events and facilities were, and generally aimed to help guests have a good time. On my first day, the convention bakery (which sold Japanese baked goods and soft drinks) had run short of staff, and I decided to step in to help out, doing the equivalent of an additional shift.

  • It was well worth it: helping keeping things run smoothly was rewarding, and I also found enough time between shifts to have my photo taken with the convention mascots, as well as check out the vendor hall (I ended up buying Your Name. Another Side: Earthbound and a Shimarin keychain). All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing things from the other side. I was once a patron myself, and now, I have a bit of involvement in the local anime community, as well – it is great seeing the positive energy among the patrons. I do note that my own tastes in anime appear quite unique, and there aren’t many people in my area who watch things like Yama no Susume.

  • The top of Mount Kirigamine is characterised by its wide expanses and meadows filled with yellow lilies. While the area may be shrouded in a heavy fog, Aoi and Hinata’s hike is on a beautiful day. The tranquil air up here sets the stage for Aoi and Hinata to rediscover their old promise of climbing a mountain to see the sunrise together again. There is one minor problem, though: neither Aoi or Hinata can quite remember what the mountain they’d climbed together as children was called. Here, the hikers enjoy a delicious lunch amidst the scenery that the mountain offers, and Aoi and Hinata later learn that Mount Tanigawa (Tanigawa-dake in Japanese) was the mountain of their promise.

  • While the Japanese may hold that their mountains are nowhere near rivalling the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies, I feel that the mountains of Japan are beautiful and convey a sense of adventure. Anime set in rural Japan predominantly feature mountains because this is the common topography throughout Japan, but Yama no Susume takes viewers deep into the mountains to give them a better appreciation of how majestic the Japanese mountains are: parts of the scenery (e.g. in anime like Ano Natsu de Matteru) become a central aspect of the show.

  • Besides Aoi’s rediscovery of her love for hiking and mountain climbing, Yama no Susume 2 also gives more insight into other characters. Kaede realised how deeply her friend, Yuuka, cared for her after the latter became angry with Kaede’s physical well-being when she’d sprained her ankle on a hike. Recalling this after finding an old raincoat they’d bought together after this, Kaede invites Yuuka out shopping. Practical and focused, Yuuka also has a better eye for fashion than Kaede, who wears what’s comfortable.

  • There is a single obstacle preventing Aoi from from climbing Mount Tanigawa: there’s a gondola that carries hikers up the mountain, and while Aoi’s come a long way, her acrophobia is still very much at play here. Her friends thus decide to help encourage her, and this begins with a trip to Kaede’s house. While audiences have seen Kaede inside her room previously, none of Hinata, Aoi or Kokona have been to Kaede’s house as of yet.

  • Kaede’s room shows her enthusiasm for hiking and mountain climbing; it resembles a section in Canadian Tire, being filled with climbing equipment and books. The setup deeply impresses Aoi, Hinata and Kokona, and after settling down, Kaede explains that she was once worried about gondolas as well, but eventually acclimatised to them. When Aoi reveals she has no raincoat, Kaede decides to give Aoi the old raincoat that she had considered discarding, feeling happy that this beautiful raincoat now has a new owner who will put it to good use.

  • To help Aoi with heights, Hinata brings everyone to Musashi Kyūryō National Government Park in Namegawa, Saitama Prefecture. With a host of outdoors facilities and hiking trails, the grounds have something for everyone. The girls spend their time in jungle gyms and swings to get Aoi used to moving around above ground, and then break for lunch, where Hinata shows off the fantastic lunch that her father had made for her. Of everyone, Aoi is the most proficient at cooking.

  • When met with a suspension bridge, Aoi finds herself unable to cross, but Hinata drags her across. This is a recurring theme throughout Yama no Susume – Hinata’s insistence is often what causes Aoi to step out of her comfort zone and is what led Aoi to take up mountain climbing to begin with. Hence, whenever Aoi is frustrated or irritated with Hinata, the two always manage to make up because Aoi recalls everything Hinata has done for her. Once everyone’s across the bridge, they bounce around on a bounce-house like hill, where Aoi’s fear of heights diminishes for a few moments before she bumps into Hinata, and the two tumble down the slopes of the bouncy hill.

  • When Aoi’s coffers begin emptying, she takes up a part-time job at the shōtengai‘s bakery. After submitting her job application and resume, she begins and meets Hikari Onozuka, who instructs her in the basics of the job. Over time, Aoi adjusts to her job, learning to greet customers with a smile and serve then efficiently. Hikari is very energetic and initially, intimidates Aoi, but her mannerisms also inspire Aoi to follow. Hikari is voiced by Yūko Gibu: she’s credited with a few roles in Yama no Susume and also voiced Tamayura‘s Maon Sakurada.

  • Between working and gearing up for Mount Tanigawa, Aoi’s neglected her homework completely. Hinata is unable to help, having long finished and is travelling, so Aoi turns to Kaede, who surprisingly is weaker with academics – when Kaede sees Aoi’s material, her mind draws blanks and she attempts to brush it off by saying the curriculum’s changed. Unexpected sides of characters add depth to Yama no Susume, and I’d long thought that Kaede would be sufficiently studios as to get by. It takes Yuuka’s help for the two to finish: she’s harsher towards Kaede than Aoi, but both manage to finish just in time for Mount Tanigawa.

  • During volunteering at Otafest, I encountered many fellow volunteers who were still students and therefore, would immediately relate to Aoi’s plight. My own memories of school are strong, and there’s no real trouble in conversing with high school students and undergraduates alike about school; a few of the girls I was working alongside initially guessed that I was in my final year of high school from appearances alone. The first giveaway that I’m much older than I look is that besides high school students, who are energetic and full of life, I am absolutely drab and slower.

  • Over Yama no Susume 2‘s run, I’ve become rather fond of Kokona, whose appearance and mannerisms are adorable. She’s like a færie of sorts, and had actually met Aoi and Hinata as children. During a festival, Aoi and Hinata were lost, and run into Kokona, who’s dressed as a firefly. While perception of their memories leads Aoi to see an angelic being, and Hinata to see a monster, Yama no Susume shows that it’s rather fateful for everyone to be together again. Here, Kokona happens upon the gift her mother bought for her birthday and learns they’re a pair of hiking shoes.

  • It seems that everything Kokona does is heart-warming, and having an episode dedicated to her adventures around town was remarkably fun. She spends the day exploring Akebano Children’s Forest Park and finds a book from her childhood before heading home. The gentle-paced, easygoing episode shows Kokona as having a great deal of fun on her own – this is what solitude looks like, and while some folks are very anxious about being alone, there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. I personally love solitude, as it’s how I refresh myself. Having said this, I most certainly can and do enjoy crowds, as well as striking up conversations with people I meet.

  • Upon returning home, Kokona falls asleep while waiting for her mother to return from work. However, her mother’s not forgotten her birthday and has brought a cake to celebrate: Kokona’s birthday is on the day of the hike to Mount Tanigawa. Towards the end of Yama no Susume 2, the pacing picks up, and I watched episodes back-to-back: once the date to ascend Mount Tanigawa arrives, the remainder of the series deals with the emotional impact of having realised a promise. Neither Aoi or Hinata know what will happen next once they’ve done exactly what they said they were going do.

  • On the day of the hike, the girls must first ascend an incredible flight of steps out to the gondola station. Yama no Susume 2 does not have Aoi engage in a rematch with Mount Fuji: by taking this direction and focusing on Aoi and Hinata’s childhood promise, Yama no Susume 2 shows that overcoming one’s challenges can take different forms. By taking the initiative to climb Mount Tanigawa and doing her best to make it possible, Aoi’s grown in a different way that still shows her development since Mount Fuji.

  • While Aoi initially freezes in fear prior to boarding the gondola itself, encouragement from Hinata, Kaede and Kokona prompts Aoi to board. The delay means that the group allows others to board ahead of them, including a quiet-looking girl with a camera. Despite being scared, Aoi manages to open her eyes once the gondola has cleared the terminal, seeing for herself the sights en route up to the trail-head.

  • However, the lifts still present a challenge for Aoi, although here, the moment is meant to be taken in a light-hearted, comedic fashion. Yama no Susume 2 excels in both comedy and personal development: I was all smiles for each step of Yama no Susume 2, and looking back, while I’d heard about Yama no Susume since my time as a student, I never did get around to watching it until one of my readers recommended the series and praised it in their own reviews. At the time, my interest was piqued sufficiently for me to go through the series, but I was simultaneously going through episodic reviews of Hakukana Receive, as well.

  • Once at the trail-head for Mount Tanigawa, the girls begin their hike to the mountain hut. With a maximum elevation of 1977 metres, Tanigawa is known for its weather conditions, which can roll in from the blue and turn a hike under a beautiful cloudless day into a trek of cold, wet misery. This is why Aoi and the others have properly outfitted themselves with rain gear. The hike to the summit is reasonably safe, but Mount Tanigawa is known for its fatalities: some trails for rock climbing are extremely steep, and the elevation gain in places is even greater than that of Mount Fuji.

  • At a rest point, Aoi and the others enjoy their lunches under excellent weather conditions. The girls in Yama no Susume bring bentos as their lunches during hikes; in my experience, I typically carry wraps and sandwiches with a generous helping of meat, cheese, tomato, pepper and a flavourful sauce: sandwiches and wraps can hold all of the food groups in an easy-to-eat manner and don’t require utensils. During the course of Otafest, I decided to bring sandwiches and wraps, so if necessary, I could eat during my shifts.

  • Aoi later encounters the quiet-looking girl again and decides to push on ahead with the intent of befriending her. She learns that this is Honoka Kurosaki, who has a profound interest in photography. Curious, Aoi decides to follow Honoka for a bit, and her friends catch up. After introductions, they part ways, and rain begins falling. Having anticipated this, the girls don their rain jackets and cover their backpacks, pushing forwards through the rain to their mountain hut.

  • Meeting and befriending people is a skill: it takes me a while to warm up to people, and I remember that for the longest time, I didn’t really do well in crowds. These days, it’s a different story, and I can get by fine, talking with people after starting a conversation with eye contact and a smile. These sorts of things do happen over time as one gains more experience, and while some folks are more comfortable doing this than others, I hold that being able to make conversation is a skill rather than a talent, and by getting used to it, it becomes much easier and more enjoyable.

  • The biggest worry that Aoi and Hinata have is what will happen once they see the sunrise together at Mount Tanigawa: with their promise fulfilled, what lies ahead is unknown, and there seems nothing left to work towards. While it’s a momentous achievement for the two, to finally return again, they also begin wondering what lies beyond this promise. This is an understandable feeling: after putting in some much effort and dedication towards seeing something through, the time after finishing can seem empty and devoid of purpose.

  • Together with Honoka, Aoi and the others enjoy dinner. Unlike Mount Fuji, Aoi is in excellent condition here, and her mind is on the outcome of their climb now. After dinner, the girls sing a song and then prepare to turn in for the evening, anticipating an early start. While it rains into the evening, everyone remains hopeful that the skies will clear out ahead of their ascent to the summit of Tanigawa for the sunrise.

  • As evening sets in, Honoka shares with Aoi some of the photos that she’s taken during her adventures. Honoka is voiced by Nao Tōyama, best known as Yuru Camp △‘s Shimarin, Karen Kujo of Kiniro Mosaic and Kantai Collection’s Kongō. It is no coincidence that Tōyama plays quiet, reserved characters in both Yuru Camp△ and Yama no Susume: while her repertoire of shows includes characters who are rambunctious and outgoing, Tōyama is very skilled at delivering lines for taciturn characters, as well.

  • Bright and early the next morning, the girls don their raincoats and prepare their head-mounted lamps. A mist covers the ground: it’s a chilly morning, and with the skies staying covered, it would seem that Hinata and Aoi might not be able to see the sunrise per their promise. Unlike Mount Fuji, this time the group is plus one: Honoka accompanies them, joining in on an adventure between friends that sees her become a part of their group. Like Kokona and Kaede’s introduction in season one, Honoka’s entry comes a bit later into Yama no Susume 2.

  • As they reach the summit of Mount Tanigawa, the sun breaks through the clouds and bathes the land in a warm light. Aoi and Hinata hold hands, feeling at peace that their promise has been fulfilled. After their conversation the previous evening, the two learn from their friends that fulfilling one promise simply leaves the future open to new directions. For all of their differences and conflict, Aoi and Hinata are inseparable and best friends. If there was a single screenshot that captures the sum of every emotion and lesson in Yama no Susume 2, this would be it.

  • This achievement marks the end of Yama no Susume 2: her friends have given Aoi the encouragement necessary to rediscover her own love for mountain climbing. In the process of fulfilling an old promise with Hinata, Aoi has also matured sufficiently to begin befriending new individuals, as well. This is a wrap for Yama no Susume 2, acting as an immensely enjoyable and satisfying conclusion where Aoi climbs, falls and learns to pick herself back up again, coming out all the stronger for it.

  • At least, that’s what I’d say if that were the finale proper. The finale actually entails Aoi and Hinata getting into a fight over something that audiences don’t get to see. While it may be strange of me to say so, Aoi and Hinata’s fights were actually the magic moment that got me into Yama no Susume: the fights themselves end up being adorable, but their importance stems from really painting the characters as being more human. Deliberately omitting the reason for their fight forces audiences to look at how Yama no Susume‘s themes apply here.

  • Honoka comes to visit shortly after – she’s quieter than Aoi, and the contrast comes to show how far Aoi had come since Yama no Susume‘s first season, where she was content to engage in activities on her own. By Yama no Susume 2‘s ending, Aoi is able to take the initiative and show Honoka around town. When Aoi arrives at the bakery she works at, Hikari and the manager imagine Honoka to be Aoi’s significant other. This is, of course, a misunderstanding, and after Aoi buys some pastries for Honoka, Hinata arrives quite separately, still bothered by the fight she had with Aoi.

  • Honoka is able to offer an alternative perspective for Aoi: after hearing Aoi subconsciously mentioning Hinata into conversation at every turn, Honoka understands that outward differences aside, the two are very much friends regardless of what happens to them. She suggests to Aoi that friends are like photography, and that sometimes, there is beauty in looking at the same thing from a different angle.

  • Thus, while Yama no Susume 2‘s finale might not include any mountain climbing, there is a different sort of climbing involved as both attempt to summon the strength needed to properly apologise to one another. However, even with the summer festival drawing nearer, Aoi and Hinata are unable to do so. Seeing the series in its entirety convinced me that there is something special about Yama no Susume, and so, after the second season, I can confidently count Yama no Susume as a masterpiece: this is equivalent to an A+, or perfect ten.

  • The reason why I’ve designated Yama no Susume a masterpiece is because of its multifaceted characters whose experiences are expertly reflected in visual metaphors, as well as how the series takes a more grounded portrayal of learning and discoveries. Failures exist, as do the processes involved in picking oneself back up afterwards. Conflicts are addressed in a more natural manner, with the occasional loose end showing that not everything can be neatly resolved. The sum of these lessons, in conjunction with Yama no Susume‘s commitment to accuracy (the series occasionally mentions techniques and terminology in mountain climbing for viewers) and for presenting the joys of mountain climbing means this series left a non-trivial impact on me.

  • Yama no Susume reinforces the life lessons that I’ve learnt, and also has fuelled by excitement about mountain climbing. Motivated by the series, I intend to climb Ha Ling Peak. Located outside of Canmore, the hike takes roughly five hours to complete, the hike itself spans a distance of 5.3 kilometers, with a 855-metre elevation gain. It’s easily going to be the most challenging hike I’ve ever done, and I expect that I’ll need to pick up gloves for scrambling, as well. Ha Ling Peak is currently undergoing maintenance, and I plan on ascending once the trail re-opens.

  • Back in Yama no Susume 2, after enjoying the fireworks and summer festival, everyone visits Aoi’s house to unwind. Aoi’s room seems the most spacious and modern of everyone’s, making it the perfect place to hang out. Kokona is seen hugging a teddy bear as large as she is, and Kaede kicks it easy, reverting to her preferred casual clothing style. It is here that Aoi and Hinata realise they’d completely forgotten what their disagreement was about.

  • While climbing mountains might be the core of Yama no Susume, watching the characters mature and grow from their adventures was the main draw. Yama no Susume 2 was certainly a worthy sequel to Yama no Susume, and nailed every part of the experience for me. I will be returning to write about Omoide no Memory and then the third season for Yama no Susume. In the meantime, with two weeks left in May, Gundam Narrative and Nagi no Asukara are the two major projects I have on the immediate horizon.

Yama no Susume 2 proved to be an incredible experience: besides improved artwork and animation over the first season, the extended length really allowed the series to properly convey the feelings encapsulated in Aoi’s desire to climb mountains, and the struggles that she experiences during the course of her journey. Seeing Aoi’s varied interactions with the cast, especially Hinata, make her especially compelling as a lead character: while most protagonists of series in this genre usually retain shared attributes such as determination, shyness, clumsiness and being generally adorably air-headed, Aoi can be irritable, stubborn and even petty. People are not flawless, and seeing Aoi’s less positive traits show that she is very much human, with much room for improvement in her character. This improvement comes from gaining new perspective on the world, both by climbing mountains and by interacting with others to better understand her friendships with those around her (especially where Hinata is concerned). Honoka’s introduction late in Yama no Susume 2 and her role in helping Aoi realise the depth of her friendship with Hinata is an example of this. Flawed, but also kind-hearted, Aoi makes for a very intriguing protagonist that audiences can relate to. Yama no Susume 2 successfully capitalises on its extended run to breathe considerable life into its world, and this corresponds to a series that I enjoyed each and every second watching. At this point in time, I’ve got the two OVAs from Yama no Susume 2, and Omoide no Present left to cover before I roll into the third season, which aired last summer. Yama no Susume has provided plenty to write about, and I am rather looking forwards to continuing a series whose merits are numerous, and whose characters stand out in a genre where many protagonists share enough attributes to feel unremarkable.

Yama no Susume Season 2: A Review and Reflection at the Halfway Point

“If the mountain defeats you, will you risk a more dangerous road?” –Saruman, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

After Aoi is moved by a sunset during a sleepover, Hinata decides to surprise her with a trip to Mount Mitsutōge, from which there is a spectacular view of Mount Fuji. On the day of their trip, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona do their best to keep Aoi surprised; she learns of the truth anyways and is happy that her friends have gone to such lengths to make her happy. En route to Mitsutōge’s summit, Aoi manages to clear a cliffside path with support, and enjoys the view of Mount Fuji from the top of the mountain. Following their descent, the girls relax in an onsen, with Aoi partaking despite her embarrassment. Later, when Hinata accidentally mangles something Aoi is knitting, Aoi refuses to speak to her. With help from Kokona, Hinata makes amends with Aoi. Aoi later wants to ascend Mount Fuji to see the sunrise from its summit, and her mother initially refuses, but relents after seeing Aoi’s determination. Despite this, Aoi worries about whether or not she’ll make it, and decides to proceed with encouragement from her friends. During the ascent itself, Aoi grows tired from the increasing altitude, and eventually develops a headache shortly before reaching the Eighth Station from pushing herself. Kaede remains behind to look after her, while Hinata and Kokona continue their climb. They are met with a beautiful sunrise and explore Mount Fuji’s caldera, while Kaede accompanies a dejected Aoi back down the mountain. This is the sum of what happens in Yama no Susume‘s second season’s first half – airing in the summer of 2014, amidst the development of The Giant Walkthrough Brain, Yama no Susume‘s second season continues with Aoi’s journey to mountain climbing.

With the first season setting up the premise and introducing all of the characters, Yama no Susume‘s second season (admittedly, an unwieldy title, which will heretofore be referred to as Yama no Susume 2) proceeds into showcasing the natural progression of Aoi’s friendship with Hinata, Kaede and Kokona as they get to know one another better. This results in a group hike up Mitsutōge, and eventually, an attempt to scale Mount Fuji itself. This is a gargantuan undertaking representing the culmination of everyone’s friendship – to defeat the tallest mountain in all of Japan would be a momental feat. Unsurprisingly, Aoi finds herself ill prepared, both physically, and mentally, for the task at hand: even with support from her friends, exhaustion and altitude sickness precludes her making it to the top, showing that in spite of how far she’s come, Aoi is not quite ready to make the climb just yet. There’s still a bit more learning left, and while Aoi does fall into a melancholy for her failure, this sets the stage for her to grow further as a character. Yama no Susume 2‘s deliberate portrayal of Aoi being defeated by the mountain shows that in life, there are things that one cannot quite conquer even with help; it is sometimes the case that one’s own limitations are the cause, and it ultimately falls on the individual to further themselves, rising to the occasion and finding different solutions, that allow them to overcome their setbacks. It’s a change of pace from series where friendship is a decisive factor in helping an individual out, and Yama no Susume 2 represents a refreshing approach towards advancing character growth.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve actually jumped ahead to the actual hike to Mount Mitsutōge: thirty screenshots is not enough to showcase every moment in Yama no Susume 2, and quite honestly, this is a series where one could have realistically done episodic talks for each episode despite being a short. Unlike the first season, Yama no Susume 2‘s episodes run for half the length of a conventional episode, rather than three minutes, allowing each episode to cover more turf than available in the first season.

  • On their way up Mount Mitsutōge, Kaede encounters clear mountain streams and drinks out of them, offering Aoi to do the same. The mountain is indeed known for its pure, clean water, and it is possible to drink from the water flowing out of the mountain, although whether or not I would do this is debatable: even the cleanest-looking water may host invisible pathogens, and the risk simply isn’t worth it.

  • Here, Aoi slowly makes her way along a narrow cliffside path. Despite her fears, she manages to make it, and the group advances up the mountain. The trails in Mount Mitsutōge are depicted as being well-marked and maintained: this stands in stark contrast with the Windtower, which has poorly marked trails, and when I hiked here last June, I had to press myself along a narrow cliffside path that was 12 inches wide, dropping off 20 meters. I feel that I’d gone off the trail, and this was quite terrifying to know that any screw ups would have seen my endgame. Compared to that, Mount Mitsutōge feels absolutely safe.

  • The hike to Mount Mitsutōge’s summit and back takes around seven hours, spanning some twenty kilometers and sees an elevation gain of around 1328 meters. This is more than any hike I’ve done: hiking the Big Beehive two summers ago was only around four hours, covers 10.3 kilometres and has an elevation gain of 647 meters. When the girls reach the summit, they enjoy a spectacular view from up here before making the descent back down.

  • Even with the trekking poles Kaede’s provided, Aoi’s knees begin giving way. While I normally would crack a joke (perhaps in poor taste) at Aoi’s predicament, the numbers on the Mitsutōge hike are double that of what I’ve hiked previously, and I vividly remember being slightly weak-kneed after completing the Big Beehive, even though I’m considered moderately fit. Hence, I won’t judge Aoi, and would in fact say that Kaede, Hinata and Kokona’s endurance and fitness probably outstrips my own.

  • As evidence of this, when the girls reach the onsen at the foot of the mountain, they’re still in good enough condition to sprint for it, leaving Aoi in the dust. Aoi’s rather sensitive about others seeing her body and therefore is embarrassed about going into the onsen. I admit that back during my trip to Japan two years previously, I was a little unsure about being naked, but the prospect of doing something I’d only seen in shows up until now outweighed my embarrassment. The onsen I bathed in was at the Hotel Heritage in Saitama, a ways outside of Tokyo, and there was a bit of a walk through the brisk spring air from the hotel to the onsen itself.

  • I thus stripped down, even though there was a female staff cleaning the change room, and headed for the men’s bath. I honestly was not expecting the bath to be empty, and after thoroughly scrubbing myself down as I’d seen in countless shows, I stepped into the bath and melted with a look of bliss on my face. Aoi’s expression here mirrors exactly how an onsen feels, and I can honestly say that none of the mineral hot springs in any Canadian National Park comes close to matching an onsen in terms of comfort.

  • While Aoi might have become friends with Kokona and Kaede, she’s still uncomfortable with being around people sans clothes. A clever touch in this moment is that Aoi’s placed herself behind a stone in the bath itself. Yama no Susume‘s portrayal of the water in the bath is par the course for what anime are wont to doing: whereas the water in a real onsen is clear, there is a bit more opacity here for obvious reasons.

  • I must admit that I deeply enjoy Aoi’s different facial expressions in response to various situations; they add a tremendous amount of depth to her as a character, and shows that she has a full emotional range. Here, she reacts to the realisation that she’d just boldly stood up to deliver a retort, and subsequently shrinks away into the water with embarrassment. The spotches of F3D9C5 in the image are motion blur of her arms waving around.

  • While Kokona and Hinata enjoy some refreshments post-onsen, Aoi dozes off and wakes up after vividly seeing a warning about bears. I loved this moment, since it came completely out of the blue, and it paints Aoi as being rather endearing. The ride back home is rather uneventful, but Aoi is charged up about the hike – this is the first time everyone’s done a hike together.

  • Yama no Susume 2 is animated by 8-bit, who had previously done Yama no Susume. Here, the girls hang out at Kannon-ji Temple, which dates back to 810 AD. Despite its age, it’s actually pretty modern in its approaches, and it does have a distinct feature in the white elephant statue on its ground. The girls spend an afternoon here with crepes, and it is clear that between the two seasons, the quality of the animation and artwork have improved slightly.

  • After Hinata accidentally pulls down Aoi’s skirt and exposes the latters’ pantsu, Aoi grows mad and refuses to speak to Hinata, but she decides to visit to apologise. Aoi’s no longer angry with Hinata over the pantsu, which is apparently a common incident between the two. Instead, Hinata’s curiosity leads her into a “out of the frying pan and into the fire” situation – she accidentally wrecks something Aoi is working on.

  • When speaking with Kokona, Hinata learns that Aoi had been working on knitting a hat of sorts for her. This explains why Aoi is particularly angry with Hinata, and it takes Hinata learning the fundamentals of knitting herself to convince Aoi that she’s genuinely sorry for what’d happened. When meeting up with Aoi next, Hinata manages to make up with Aoi. While this is a small moment in the grand scheme of things, showing the dynamic between Aoi and Hinata as one with ups and downs does much to increase the relatability of the characters.

  • Yama no Susume 2 is a series that manages to me smiling through its entire run, and in the aftermath of Hinata and Aoi’s disagreement, it’s Aoi’s turn to accidentally pantsu Hinata. She dismisses the incident in very nearly the same way that Hinata had, and again, seeing Aoi do something like this seems out of character for her – Aoi had always come across as more shy and doubtful of herself, but her tehepero expression here shows a side of her that shows there’s more to Aoi than just being fond of indoors activities and being shy.

  • The girls set their sights on the king of all Japanese mountains: Mount Fuji is on their table next, and with a height of 3776.24 metres, it is the toughest hike the girls have planned so far. Inspired by a memory Hinata’s father shares, Hinata decides to try and ascend Mount Fuji’s by night so that they could reach the summit in time to see the sunrise. It’s a momentous undertaking, and Aoi worries she might not make it, but Hinata and Kokona reassure her that they’ll be there for her.

  • After Aoi convinces her mother to allow her this journey, the girls take some downtime, where Aoi searches for a swimsuit following Hinata’s challenge to find one that’s “sexy”. She digs through some of the more wilder and impractical designs, but inclement weather pushes back their ability to hang out in the Azuma river, they decide to hang out at Hinata’s place instead. Later, the girls prepare for their climb to Mount Fuji, buying an assortment of snacks and drinks to keep everyone energised and hydrated per Kaede’s suggestion.

  • During my trip to Japan two years earlier, the fifth station was one of the destinations that I ended up visiting. It’s the highest point that one can drive up to, and offers a variety of dining and shopping options. While we did not go any higher, lacking the gear to do so, this is the starting point for Aoi and the others on their trek up the mountain. Presently, while I’m not trekking up a mountain, visiting the F8 Facebook Developer Conference proved to be a similarly intense experience.

  • On the evening of my arrival, I linked up with a coworker and we visited a Japanese place in San José for dinner, where I ordered a ramune and curry katsu that, while simpler than Hinata’s Volcano Curry in presentation, was still delicious. The next morning was spent planning out our itinerary for F8 in Palo Alto, and after a stroll around the Stanford Dish pathway under beautiful skies, we returned to Palo Alto’s downtown for lunch before taking the train back to San José’s McEnery Convention Center to pick up our badges and finalise registration for F8. Dinner came a little later, at a quaint establishment that makes a solid barbequed shrimp po’boy.

  • Facebook really can throw parties: live music, arcade machines, and food ranging from potato martinis and dim sum to hot dogs were provided. On the second day, after attending the morning keynote and the afternoon sessions, we attended the closing reception and made our way north to Santa Rosa. Attending F8 and visiting Silicon Valley was a powerful reminder that the world is vast, and that as a developer, I should always be mindful of the fact that there is always something new to learn and master. Back in Yama no Susume 2, Aoi and Kokona are seen carrying climbing stick souvenirs, which one can get stamped at each station they visit. For Yama no Susume 2, they act as a bit of a visual metaphor for progress, tangibly marking how Aoi and her friends have gone.

  • With each passing step, Aoi and her friends are treated to increasingly stunning views of the landscapes below, but the air is also thinning. Altitude sickness is a concern while ascending Mount Fuji: symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headaches and fatigue – most people begin feeling the effects after 2500 metres. While Aoi does fine earlier on, she begins experiencing fatigue, and by the eighth station, is unable to continue.

  • Altitude sickness can impact anyone, and personal fitness levels do not always correlate to the severity of one’s symptoms. As evening sets in, Kaede gives Kokona and Hinata the option to continue pushing forwards towards the summit while she will look after Aoi. It’s one of the more tense moments in Yama no Susume 2, and while I was hoping Aoi would recover in time for a storybook finish, she ends up requiring a bit of rest time.

  • Avoiding mountain sickness usually requires acclimitisation, spending time in a higher elevation area to give the body a chance to produce more erythrocytes to pull oxygen out of the air. Aoi is suffering from acute mountain sickness, and carrying some medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin, can help alleviate the symptoms of headache and nausea. There more more sophisticated treatments, but for Aoi, these don’t appear necessary. Aoi’s mountain sickness is a bit of a warning that inadequate preparation can be one of the biggest enemies of mountain climbing.

  • There is therefore a sense of melancholy as one watches Kokona and Hinata continue the climb on their own. With two of their number now down at station eight, Hinata resolves to finish off the climb and do so for Aoi. Audiences tangibly feel Hinata and Kokona’s doubts: on one hand, they are worried about Aoi, but they also know now that there is no turning back. Their journey up is a difficult one, even with a brief pit stop for curry rice, but seeing the dozens of other climbers making the same trek, and the beauty of the night sky spurs the two on.

  • With the sky beginning to glow, Hinata and Kokona make one final push. Their efforts are rewarded – they see the sun break over the horizon, flooding the land in a gentle light and washing the sky with hues of red, orange and gold. It’s a sight for the ages, and for Kokona and Hinata, it is the experience they had put in their efforts towards realising. Down at the eighth station, Aoi watches the same sunset from a lower elevation, and tears fill her eyes.

  • Improvements in Yama no Susume 2‘s artwork and animation mean that every moment is more visceral, and speaking frankly, the visual elements of Yama no Susume 2 far exceeded my expectations for a series whose episodes only span thirteen minutes each. This is a series where episodic reviews could have been possible, as there is so much to talk about and consider for each episode. From the mountain climbing itself, to everyday events, Yama no Susume is very much a series with strong messages about persistence, adaptability and having faith in one’s friends.

  • Kaede is not bothered by missing out on the sights: for her, the mountains will always be there to await their challenge. By comparison, Aoi becomes very melancholy, both at having failed and for feeling like she’d kept Kaede from a wonderful experience. However, Kaede treasures Aoi’s well-being more than an experience: having friends who genuinely care for one is critical in moments such as these, and in time, Aoi will come to count on her friends again.

  • Under full daylight, Kokona and Hinata celebrate a successful ascent. The top of Mount Fuji is about as barren as the surface of Mars, and while the two take a moment to explore, their stay up here is a shorter one: it is exceptionally windy up here, and while the view down is phenomenal, the summit itself is somewhat less scenic.

  • After making the four-hour descent back to the fifth station, Kokona expresses a desire to climb Mount Fuji again someday while on horseback, before turning to find Kaede and Aoi. This is the basis for the page quote: for Aoi, the mountain has literally and metaphorically defeated her, and she does risk taking a more dangerous road, of losing interest in mountain climbing. Yama no Susume 2 shows that slice-of-life needn’t always be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows: life has its share of adversity, and what matters most is overcoming this adversity.

  • I leave readers with a dejected, downtrodden Aoi calling home to report that she’d not successfully made the ascent to Mount Fuji’s summit. Moving ahead, Aoi’s recovery and return to the mountains will be the focus of Yama no Susume 2, and I am definitely looking forwards to seeing the second half. Readers can expect more Yama no Susume posts from me in the near future: even now, I’m a little surprised that I did not give this series the attention that it has merited, and so, will be remedying this fact on short order.

One aspect of Yama no Susume that continues to stand out is Aoi: despite possessing the characteristics typical to a protagonist of a slice-of-life series (Aoi is quite, reserved and doubtful of her abilities in some areas), she’s also considerably more expressive than characters in a similar role. Aoi can be upset by the things her friends do, grow embarrassed under some conditions, and can be a bit mischievous in her own right. The fifth episode, dealing with Hinata attempting to make things up to Aoi, shows Aoi as exhibiting a wider range of behaviours: she stubbornly refuses to talk to Hinata after Hinata wrecks her knitting project, and later brushes off an accident with an unexpectedly insensitive manner after she trips and pulls down Hinata’s skirt. This was the magic moment in Yama no Susume 2: Aoi’s developing interest in mountain climbing, as well as dejection in failing to best Mount Fuji, underlies the complexity and multi-faceted nature of her character, making her more relatable and plausible as a character. With distinct flaws, audiences are therefore more inclined to root for Aoi as she picks herself back up and rediscovers the joy of the outdoors once again. This is the appeal in Yama no Susume; while the first season was a pleasantly gentle ride, season two definitely shows that there is much to be gained by watching the characters interact more freely with one another in a wider context. I am looking forwards to seeing where Yama no Susume 2 heads, and remark that it was indeed episode five in this second season that convinced me to thoroughly go through the series.