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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.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Turning Chaos into Compassion in Seishun Buta Yarō

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge” –Daniel J. Boorstin

When Sakuta Azusagawa meets actress Mai Sakurajima, who is clad in naught but a bunny girl outfit, he is simultaneously drawn to her and begins to wonder about the mysterious phenomenon that afflicts youth. He eventually learns that no one can see Mai, and that this is related to how people remember her. Sakuta eventually confesses his love for her in front of the entire school, burning her existence into everyone’s memories, and sets about helping those around him with their own challenges in adolescence. Sakuta helps Tomoe Koga overcome her anxiety about being accepted and pretends to date her, forcing her to come to terms with her feelings for him. He next aids Rio Futaba, the sole member of the school’s science club who believes Sakuta’s experiences have scientific backgrounds until she manifests two bodies as a result of lacking confidence in herself. Sakuta manages to rectify this, and later, helps Nodoka Toyohama, Mai’s younger half-sister who felt as though she was living under Mai’s shadows, after Nodoka switches bodies with Mai. Sakuta’s younger sister, spurred on by Sakuta, decides to set goals for herself: she suffered from memory loss as a result of the trama from being bullied and reverted to a more infantile personality. After Sakuta’s efforts to help her reach her goals, Kaede reverts to her old personality, and a distraught Sakuta regrets not being able to do more for her until a mysterious visit from Shōko helps him recover from his melancholy so that he can fully support Kaede, who feels ready to pick up her life from where they’d left off. This is Seishun Buta Yarō (literally “Young Asshole”, but officially translated as “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai”, an obvious reference to Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner and Aobuta for brevity), an adaptation of a 2014 light novel about the challenges and turbulence that youth face as they struggle to learn of their place in the world. At its core, Sakuta is portrayed as a unique protagonist, being strictly mundane in manner and appearance. Unlike other light novel protagonists, Sakuta is not uncommonly intelligent or lucky; instead, he is exceedingly kind, has a particular way with words and is exceptionally faithful. The sum of these elements creates a highly focused story where audiences are confident that Sakuta will work out a solution without creating situations that typical light novels push towards, and his genuine concern for those around him results in a protagonist who is exceedingly likeable, giving viewers incentive to follow his story and root him on as he strives to help each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede move beyond their situations.

For its exceptional presentation of what the struggles of youth may manifest as in a visceral manner, it is unsurprising that Aobuta immediately became a favourite among viewers when it aired. Aobuta has heart, capturing the problems that adolescents see in their lives and giving them memorable metaphors that really describe what being young is like; as an adult, we tend to see problems as having a rational, logical answer, but as youth, what is obvious to us may not be so apparent, creating this chaos and conflict. However, as Sakuta demonstrates, the solution lies not in a reasoned process, but through compassion: for each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede, he works to understand their situation and then determines how to help the individual in question overcome their insecurities and doubts. Aobuta shows that Hajime Kamoshida evidently has a strong grasp on how to visualise youth and their struggles in a compelling manner, and this is ultimately Aobuta‘s main draw. However, while it is sufficient to focus on the human aspects of Aobuta, Kamoshida’s inclusion of quantum theory into his work as the metaphor has given the impression that a functional knowledge of matters as varied as wave function collapse, or free will versus determinism. However, these references weaken with time within the anime, and this suggests a deliberate choice on Kamoshida’s part. Taken at face value, these are ultimately are ill representations of the phenomenon that Sakuta and the others experience and end up being a minor distraction. While poorly-applied references to quantum mechanics may have had the potential to decimate the emotional impact and strength of Aobuta‘s narrative, it speaks to Kamoshida’s understanding of the human aspects that allows Aobuta to remain immensely engaging and enjoyable. Simply, knowledge of existential philosophy and quantum theory are completely unnecessary towards finding the strengths in Aobuta, a series whose emotional and interpersonal pieces far exceeded my expectations coming in.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this is a Terrible Anime Challenge, I won’t be discussing Aobuta in my typical manner. I open by remarking that Terrible Anime Challenge shows fall into three categories (“was as good as expected”, “did not meet expectations” or “as poor as described”): Aobuta falls squarely into the “was as good as expected” group, impressing me with its likable characters. Both Mai and Sakuta bounce off one another in reasonable and entertaining ways. Asami Setō performs Mai’s voice: I know her best from Tari Tari‘s Konatsu Miyamoto and Kinuyo Nishi of Girls und Panzer.

  • For the remainder of this post, I will be dealing with misconceptions surrounding quantum mechanics, either within Aobuta itself or from the community at large. The first deals with Schrödinger’s cat, which is a description of quantum superposition where an object may simultaneously exist in two states, and which state cannot be determined until it is observed: this is only vaguely related to Mai’s situation, which is strictly a matter of how Mai sees herself. It has nothing to do with probability, but rather, stems from Mai’s doubts about herself. she therefore feels that she has become invisible to the world, and the story then goes about presenting this in a literal fashion.

  • While I enjoy considering the applicability of real-world phenomenon in fiction, ultimately, fiction exists to tell a particular story, and so, I am not particularly fond of treating intrapersonal problems as a matter analogous with science. One particularly poorly-written case argues that Mai exists in a single reality, but with multiple states as described by Schrödinger’s cat, which is supposedly rectified by pushing her towards the probability of existing or the observer. However, this explanation, besides being a pointless exercise in verbosity, does not account for why Sakuta is able to interact with Mai normally. Before I continue, here’s a lighter moment in Aobuta where Tomoe gives Sakuta a free kick after a misunderstanding occurs while he’s en route to a date with Mai; Tomoe’s perfectly-formed arse is the butt of many of Sakuta’s jokes.

  • Schrödinger’s cat is about how something cannot be known until it is observed – it has nothing to do with probabilities, and therefore, is a completely inadequate representation of Mai’s situation. This is the limitation of attempting to analyse series early into its run: without more information, it is very easy to commit fallacies because the bigger picture is not known. Early discussions suggest that Aobuta‘s theme is that “perception defines reality…and existence, as well”, which is false in light of the events that Sakuta experiences.

  • Rio Futaba is presented as being well-read, but her metaphors are lukewarm at best and outright incorrect at worse. This is by design: being quite shy around others, it is not surprising that she’s not exactly versed with social convention, and as such, analogies she raises do not match. She dispenses with them as Aobuta progresses, which is a powerful indicator that viewers were never meant to take the quantum mechanics comparisons seriously to begin with, and therefore, there is no meaningful discussion to be had by bringing such matters to the table. By comparison, Sakuta manages to distill out enough to determine what needs to be done to help the individual in question and invariably solves the problem by compassion, rather than logic.

  • Tomoe’s situation is similarly mentioned to involve a “Laplace’s Dæmon”: after Sakuta experiences a time loop akin to that of Endless Eight, Rio suggests this as the cause. This concept supposes that the outcome of any situation is known given a sufficiently large amount of information. The original concept assumed this to mean “the position of the atoms”, but this concept has been dismissed for its inability to conform with the Laws of Thermodynamics, namely, that some processes are irreversible, so no Laplace’s Dæmon could exist to reconstruct a state at time t-1 given a set of parameters at time t.

  • Determinism is most certainly not the theme of Tomoe’s arc; this is a principle that supposes that all events exist independently of human consciousness (i.e. free will). The matter of whether or not free will exists is a topic I will not cover for the present, and in the context of Aobuta, determinism has no place in discussion because the time loop’s cause is ultimately Tomoe’s inability to let go of a certain outcome and desires to keep rolling the dice until a desirable result arises. Rather than philosophy, understanding of human nature here explains why a time loop was chosen to represent feelings of longing and regret.

  • Because humans are involved, human solutions end up being what breaks the time loop. Sakuta manages to get the truth out of Tomoe: she’s fallen in love with him and cannot bear to let go. After a heart-to-heart talk, Sakuta manages to help her accept that they can still remain friends, allowing her to remain connected with her other friends without alienating them. The same folks who asserted Schrödinger’s cat needed analysis for Mai’s arc to be understood subsequently had trouble with figuring out where the Laplace’s Dæmon could hold for Tomoe’s arc. Tomoe is voiced by Nao Tōyama (Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo and Kantai Collection‘s Kongo).

  • When Rio’s arc arrives, and it turns out that two simultaneous versions of Rio exist, the individuals above assert that the two incarnations of Rio represent id and ego, principles from Sigmund Freud. I was wondering when Freud would appear in discussions. In this Freudian model of the psyche, id is supposed to represent the baser aspects of human nature, and then ego is a more rational element that maximises some goal function for the future and for satisfying the id. I’m not sure why anime fans generally hold Freudian concepts as being valid – some of his theories have proven to be cripplingly incomplete and catastrophically wrong, failing to account for why people act the way they do. In particular, id and ego are not credible concepts in any way given the complete lack of evidence to suggest that they hold true.

  • Instead, Rio splitting into two manifestations is much simpler explained as a character versus self conflict, made visceral by having her develop two physical selves. There is a side of Rio who wants to use her physical attributes to increase the attention people are paying to her, especially Yūma Kunimi, Sakuta’s best friend, who is dating Saki Kamisato, and another side who is content with the status quo but longs for more. Reconciling this internal struggle involves a human solution: Sakuta engineers a chance for Rio to come to terms with her feelings and has both Rios invite one another to the summer festival, merging the two personas back into one.

  • Throughout Aobuta, I’ve noticed a recurring trend in that as the series progresses, the focus on the philosophical and scientific aspects in discussions elsewhere diminishes in lockstep with the decreasing emphasis within Aobuta itself, and curiously, as these elements dissipate, so did some individual’s enjoyment. I’m not sure why some people demand convoluted narratives with quasi-academic elements in them to motivate their discussion, especially when it’s clear that such topics are not their area of expertise. While there is nothing wrong in learning about other disciplines, it is problematic if individuals asset to be authorities where they are not. This is what motivates the page quote: I’ve long felt that folks who act as though they are experts in a matter are more harmful to a discussion than those who are unfamiliar with the topic, and this is why I’m always mindful to not overstep what I know.

  • By the time Nodoka’s arc appears, even the most ardent efforts to force a scientific explanation on things prove ineffectual: in Aobuta itself, Rio speculates the body switching is some form of quantum teleportation and leaves Sakuta to work out a solution, indicating that science and philosophy are irrelevant. Nodoka’s problem manifests as body switching: resentful of Mai’s successes, Nodoka longs for her mother’s approval. She’s voiced by Maaya Uchida (GochiUsa‘s Sharo Kirima, Rui Tachibana of Domestic na Kanojo and Rei from VividRed Operation). The body switching exposes to Nodoka how difficult Mai’s job is, further increasing her dislike of Mai, whom she feels is flawless and a natural at whatever she does.

  • Nodoka is pushed over the edge after a concert Mai performs in, but when Mai reveals that she kept Nodoka’s letters to motivate herself, Nodoka comes to terms with who she is. Conscious transfer is a topic strictly consigned to the realm of science fiction: because the machinations of the mind remain poorly characterised, there is no satisfactory hypothesis for how a conscious manifests itself.

  • I join the ranks of many others before me in saying that the interactions between Mai and Sakuta are remarkably refreshing and genuine. While Sakuta has a predisposition for the lewd, at heart, he is trying to inject humour into what would otherwise be a fairly serious situation. As a protagonist, Sakuta is very likeable: unlike Oregairu‘s Hachiman, who comes across as being a smartass with no understanding of social structure, Sakuta does his best to relate those who are around him. Aobuta does outwardly resemble Oregairu, in terms of art style and its focus on youth, but Aobuta is ultimately more optimistic and better written, since Sakuta has clear motivations to help those around him.

  • This motivation stems from Sakuta’s fear of being unable to help his sister, and as it turns out, having been unable to prevent Kaede from suffering amnesia was what led to the scars on his chest. After Sakuta explains Kaede’s situation to Mai and Nodoka, Kaede decides to set goals for herself with the eventual aim of going back to school. In her state throughout Aobuta, Kaede is cheerful, somewhat dimwitted and fearful of strangers. However, the original Kaede was more reserved and taciturn: when Kaede recovers her memories, the time she’d spent with Sakuta and the others vanish from her memories.

  • While coming out from the shadows of something like OregairuAobuta stands out because it ultimately has a more optimistic tone, and Sakuta’s actions have a clear benefit for him, as well as those around him. By comparison, Oregairu‘s portrayal of Hachiman leaves him feeling like an apathetic misanthrope whose story ends up carrying no weight regardless of who his actions benefit: I am not particularly fond of Hachiman, and Oregairu‘s enjoyment factor came from his interactions with Yui and Yukino.

  • Mention of a scientific or philosophical concept does not mean a work of fiction intends to use it to advance the narrative further; in stories where the focus is purely on the human element, the gains to viewers are what characters learn from their experiences. Aobuta‘s phenomenon could be justified by constructs like the Infinity Stones, and the anime would still hold all of its weight. I would prefer that discussion focus on what the characters are doing and shown to be doing, rather than seeing people regard quantum tunneling and wave collapse as being literal representations of the emotional turbulence that youth experience.

  • One may wonder why I am so vehemently opposed to things that, for the want of a better phrase, “sound smart”. The answer to this is simple: one of the biggest aversions I have is ultracrepidarianism, referring to people who act like they know more than they do. An irritant at best, people who believe themselves to be more qualified than they are have the potential of causing real damage in society; an example is Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, who asserted a (nonexistent) link between vaccinations and autism, resulting in an increasing instance of people who hold his findings as true and refuse to vaccinate their children. Ultracrepidarians are one of the few things I do not tolerate, and while they are unlikely to have the same impact in the realm of discussion on fiction, such individuals can still be disruptive to what constitutes as good discussion.

  • In shows such as Aobuta, authentic discussion entails drawing from one’s own experiences, well-established social norms and anecdotal evidence as rationale in justifying (or renouncing) the actions that characters take. Attempting to play philosopher or psychiatrist on the characters is not beneficial, since the individual doing so does not have the same background or assumptions as the author would: I’ve mentioned before that Death of the Author is a very presumptuous way to approach media. The author’s intent matters because it allows audiences to understand a specific perspective on a work, which relates back to the society and its attendant conditions that led to the author expressing their thoughts into a narrative. Excluding this is to dispose of that context, ultimately resulting in a loss of information.

  • My final verdict on Aobuta is that it has definitely earned its praises: this is a solid A grade (9 of 10) for being able to vividly portray the human stories to each arc that Sakuta encounters. Aobuta is greatly helped by the fact that Sakuta is more optimistic and friendly, as well as acting as an amusing foil for Mai, with whom his interactions become entertaining to watch. Characters and their experiences drive the thematic elements, and while the series may incorporate elements of quantum theory into its run, Aobuta makes it clear that these elements were feebly presented precisely because the experiences of youth cannot be so readily compared to even more abstract concepts. In short, one does not need to know anything about the particle-wave duality, determinism or quantum tunneling to get the most out of Aobuta.

The inclusion of such abstract concepts in Aobuta as a deliberate choice allows Kamoshida to deal elegantly with one long-standing complaint I have about light novels: their propensity to force pedantic characters into the role of the protagonist. Aobuta has Rio embody this role as a secondary character, and when I began watching the series, I was unimpressed with her role in acting as a resource for seemingly explaining away the phenomenon that Sakuta encounters. However, progressing into Aobuta meant seeing the characters’ true personalities and nature be explored. After Rio herself experiences a manifestation of this phenomenon, her inclination to rationalise it is diminished: Kamoshida appears to suggest, through Rio’s increasingly half-hearted efforts to present Adolescent syndrome as having a scientific basis, that there simply is no effective way to compare something as nuanced and complex as human emotions during youth with thought experiments meant to deal with science. The pseudo-science is thus displaced by genuine, heartfelt moments as Sakuta helps Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede in overcoming their internal struggles. Consequently, this means that viewers have no need to consider the withertos and whyfors behind why things happen: the who and the what are much more valuable. As Aobuta progresses, Rio becomes less of an encyclopaedia and into a fully-fleshed out character. The lessons of Aobuta are that a story’s enjoyability and ability to capture an audience’s interests lies strictly and entirely within its characters, as well as their dynamics. In the complete and total absence of philosophy and science, series that deal with youth can therefore remain incredibly compelling because at its core, they are about the people and how they overcome their challenges, rather than real-world principles that demand dedicated study. Beyond its execution, Aobuta featured solid technical aspects that come together to create an anime that merits praise. Having now seen it for myself, I understand why people consider this to be a strong series, and so, I can readily recommend Aobuta, albeit with one caveat: prospective viewers should not go into Aobuta thinking quantum mechanics and philosophy are requirements, as the series has numerous merits that make it exceptionally engaging and compelling.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Nagi no Asukara, The Merits of Co-Existence, Tolerance and Adaptability Towards Change

“Having feelings for someone just brings sorrow to someone else. Someone always gets sacrificed and suffers. If this is what it means to fall in love, then falling in love is terrible.” –Hikari Sakishima

After their middle school from Shioshishio, a town under the seas, closes from a low student population, middle school friends Hikari Sakishima, Manaka Mukaido, Chisaki Hiradaira and Kaname Isaki are sent to a school on the surface. Despite friction with residents of the surface, the four begin adjusting to their lives and befriend Tsumugu Kihara. As the group learn more about their respective worlds, as well as seeing his sister’s life, Hikari come to care about the fates of those on the surface – with the gods’ powers waning, the world is cooling off, and that the only means of staving off global catastrophe is to perform the Ofunehiki, a rite that pays respects to the ocean gods. While Shioshishio’s residents have the capacity to hibernate and wait out the long winter, temperatures on the surface will result in a death toll, including Hikari’s sister. Preparations for the Ofunehiki take off in earnest from Shioshishio’s inhabitants, with the surface residents helping out. In the process, the mistrust between the two peoples begins fading away, but on the day of the ritual, calamity strikes when Manaka is knocked into the water, presumed lost. Five years later, Hikari, Manaka and Kaname reawaken amidst the frigid world, struggling to deal with the changes that have occurred in their absence. Miuna Shiodome and Sayu Hisanuma, who had initially attempted to sabotage Hikari and the others’ efforts in preparing for the Ofunehiki, have also matured. Miuna has developed feelings for Hikari, who remains in love with Manaka. Chisaki doubts her feelings towards Hikari, and Tsumugu develops feelings for Chisaki. Kaname remains fixated on Chisaki and is unaware of Sayu’s feelings for him. As they strive to resolve their conflicts and bring back Manaka’s ability to love, Tsumugu and Miuna realise they have ena, a substance that allows humans to freely breathe underwater. This had long been a source of tension between Shioshishio’s residents and people from the surface. Refusing to allow Manaka’s feelings to be sealed away, and with the fact that the winter is intensifying, prompts another attempt with the Ofunehiki in an effort to appeal to the sea god. During the ritual, he is knocked into the ocean and decides to sacrifice himself for Manaka, but at the last moment, a miracle occurs. The residents of Shioshishio awaken, and the cooling of the world is halted. With life returning to normal, Manaka and Hikari reaffirm their feelings for one another. This is Nagi no Asukara (Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea, literally “From The Calm Tomorrow” and sometimes misspelled as Nagi no Asu Kara), an anime from P.A. Works that ran from October 2013 to April 2014. In its twenty-six episode run, Nagi no Asukara covers a wide range of topics and proved an enjoyable anime for many for creating an immensely vivid world whose characters were plausible, and whose struggles were relatable. Together with a moving soundtrack and exceptional artwork that brought this world to life, Nagi no Asukara‘s status as being one of P.A. Works’ strongest series is a well-deserved one.

Nagi no Asukara is sharply divided into two very distinct acts. In its first acts, the focus is largely on notions of tolerance and co-existence: Hikari, being the son of a priest, is very much prejudiced against people from the surface. However, when his older sister finds love on the surface, Hikari begrudgingly begins to learn more about how aside from their ena and customs, the surface people are not particularly different than Shioshishio’s people. Despite being a coming-of-age story, Nagi no Asukara‘s portrayal of prejudice and bias between peoples of two disparate societies does much to emphasise the depth of the world that Hikari lives in. Both societies’ perspectives are shown; this allows audiences to quickly empathise with both groups and understand where their beliefs originate from, and as such, when Nagi no Asukara pushes forwards with the impending freezing of the world, watching Shioshishio’s residents and the people from the surface collaborate becomes all the more rewarding to watch. Brought together by the shared desire to stave off calamity, the two separate groups discover, as Hikari does, that their mistrust for one another has been misplaced, and that the commonalities that both societies share outweigh their differences. Co-existence is a major part of Nagi no Asukara‘s first half, and while the anime might be six years old now, its theme has never been more relevant in an age where division and bipartisan beliefs have become prevalent. Fear, intolerance and hatred are an unfortunately accepted way of thinking, driving people to conduct heinous acts. However, all hatred stems from fear, and fear is countermanded with knowledge. Nagi no Asukara shows that the first step towards dispelling fear is to become acquainted with different people, and understand that aside from minor differences, people are ultimately more similar than they’d initially thought. This is admittedly an optimistic approach: Hikari learns to tolerate, and then accept surface residents through watching his sister’s interactions with people on the surface, but Nagi no Asukara does show that all progress must start from somewhere, no matter how trivial.

By its second act, Nagi no Asukara transitions into a more personal narrative, dealing with the group dynamics and their shifts after a five year time-gap. While the passage of time and its attendant changes are inevitable, the characters struggle to deal with these changes. In particular, Chisaki is hit particularly hard; because she avoided hibernating, she’s now five years older than her friends. Missing the time she’d spent with them and feeling guilty at having moved ahead of them, and is unable to accept that her feelings for Hikari have wavered and clings onto them, viewing them as a way to bring back this lost time. The age disparities among the group create new conflicts: Tsumugu had matured alongside Chisaki and fell in love with her, while Kaname has not moved on from his old feelings. Miuna has now fallen in love with Hikari, who’s still in love with Manaka, and Sayu’s feelings for Kaname have only strengthened over time. While this love tesseract could have been immensely complex, Nagi no Asukara masterfully weaves everyone’s stories together, striking a balance between drama and character growth to create a more credible tale of how everyone eventually comes to find a solution for their situation. Relationships are immensely complex, and like reality, Nagi no Asukara shows that not everyone ends up with their first choice. In spite of this, second choices always exist: being able to recognise this and then possessing an open mind, to adapt and change, allows one to seize these opportunities to make the most of a new future. Chisaki manages to let go of her past and come to terms with her feelings for Tsumugu, while Kaname’s eyes are opened when Sayu gives him what I found to be one of the most genuine declarations of love that I’ve seen in fiction. Especially for Kaname, being made to see that there is someone who’s been chasing after him all this time forces him to stop and reconsider his own goals, and brings about a closure for him: he accepts Sayu’s feelings and with it, begins to finally move on with his life, as well. Romance and love are among the most poorly-characterised but also most engaging components of humanity. If love had been understood with the same precision and rigour as something like Newtonian mechanics, then love songs, romance fiction and endless self-help articles dealing with love would not exist, and the process would be reduced to a series of unexciting steps. Nagi no Asukara is a visceral reminder of both sides of love, and having spent its first act establishing the world for its story, allows the characters to explore new directions in a world whose unique points are now familiar sights.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Nagi no Asukara was one of the toughest anime for me to write for because of how numerous its strengths are, and for the longest time, I had no idea where to begin. It’s time to take a crack at things: while Nagi no Asukara certainly did not initially strike me as a masterpiece, after watching it a second time in full, I realised that the sincerity and honesty in its delivery made it a series worth remembering. The series has two distinct acts, each with its own distinct theme, and originally, I considered doing two separate posts for Nagi no Asukara.

  • While that could’ve been a good endeavour, my time simply does not accommodate for that anymore, so a single post will have to suffice for now. Right from the onset, Nagi no Asukara introduces viewers to a highly unique and nuanced world. Folks living under the sea have a special biological agent known as ena that protects them from oceanic pressure and allows them to breathe under water. While they can survive on the surface, they must consistently find a water source to soak in, otherwise the ena dries up and fails to function.

  • Chisaki, Manaka, Kaname and Hikari are the protagonists: this close group of friends are initially shocked about their school’s closure and of everyone, Hikari is the most resentful of the surface-dwellers. This change over time is noticeable in his character, and while he remains a hothead throughout Nagi no Asukara, he does exhibit concern for those around him in his own way. Manaka is an energetic and easygoing girl who is rather indecisive: she is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Shirase Kobuchizawa in A Place Further than the Universe, Yukari Yukino of The Garden of Words and Your Name), while Chisaki is voiced by Ai Kayano (Saori Takebe of Girls und Panzer and Mocha Hoto from Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?).

  • Because I only have a space of forty images to really discuss Nagi no Asukara, I won’t be able to cover every detail in the anime completely, and will massive leaps in the timeframe throughout the course of my discussion. Hikari’s initial goal was to bring Akari home after hearing that she was married to a surface-dweller, but after spending time with this new family and seeing his sister happy, he comes to understand the people on the surface might not be so bad after all. Hence, when it is revealed the world is freezing, he spearheads the effort in hosting the Ofunehiki festival, coming to learn how to work with his classmates and other people on the surface, as well.

  • The unique setting of sea and coast allows Nagi no Asukara to showcase highly unique and imaginative settings. P.A. Works pulled all the stops to create a visually compelling and detailed world, making use of light effects, colour and sound to immerse viewers into the coastal town and ocean that is Hikari’s world. While P.A. Works have always had consistently solid artwork and animation, most of their works are set in more ordinary locales: extensive use of water separates Nagi no Asukara‘s world from P.A. Works’ previous titles, and the quality has remained comparable even with more recent titles.

  • Like Angel Beats!Nagi no Asukara makes extensive use of comedic and everyday moments to familiarise viewers with the protagonists. Purely comedic or dramatic series tend to craft situations that characters must react with, and while these moments allow characters to show their best and worst, it does little to show how they are as individuals outside of more noteworthy moments. By comparison, giving a baseline of how a character is allows audiences to see how they normally act, in addition to seeing their best and worst sides; knowing someone better is how we come to empathise with people, and it is this reason that Key works like CLANNAD and Angel Beats! are so effective at moving their audience.

  • Strictly speaking, Glasslip‘s Tōko Fukami is a carbon copy of Manaka, featuring similar personalities and appearances. Similarly, Tsumugu and Kakeru Okikura resemble one another in appearances, as well as manner. The key differences are that Manaka and Tsumugu have more time during which their traits can be developed, and Glasslip feels as though it sought to reuse familiar characters while experimenting with a highly unstructured, atypical narrative.

  • While Hikari is initially quick to assume his classmates were responsible for vandalising the Ofunehiki doll they’d been working on, it turns out that the damages were caused by Akari’s daughter, Miuna, and her best friend, Sayu. Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, Miuna and Sayu are no longer nuisances and become an integral part of helping the others prepare for the festival. While Sayu can be seen as ill-mannered, her spirits quickly grew on me.

  • Chisaki and Manaka watch the tomoebi, a phenomenon similar to parhelion that is, incidentally, created by very similar conditions: whereas our sun dogs come from the refraction of light rays through suspended ice crystals in the air, tomoebi results from moonlight refracting off the sea salt-based snow crystals, which is subsequently refracted through cold water to create a false moon. While the friends had originally planned to watch this event together, but separate in the process.

  • Unified by the shared goal of the Ofunehiki, Hikari and his classmates now get along very nicely. While they remain committed to their heritage by wearing their school’s preferred uniforms, everyone is on cordial terms with one another. Working together for a common objective brings people together, and in the aftermath of Otafest, I attended a feedback session where one of the points I made was that it would be nice to get to know the other volunteers better, beyond the time spent working with them: knowing the team would reinforce the sense of community even further.

  • Admittedly, this stemmed from I’d experienced something I’d not expected during my volunteering for Otafest: during one of my shifts, a young lady, another one of the volunteers in my section who was helping looking after the panels, would look in my direction, and then break into a dazzling smile once my gaze returned from whatever I was doing previously. It seems that I could probably fall in love with a warm smile, and so, post-Otafest, I am left with mixed feelings despite the event’s overwhelming success and satisfaction from volunteering.

  • Watching the people of the sea and surface come together was immensely rewarding: there is a massive payoff in what Hikari and his friends have led, and while I might not remember every detail of Nagi no Asukara, the higher-level events stuck with me. One element in the setting that remains a bit of a mystery even now are the reinforced concrete pillars that dominate the landscape. While some have speculated they’re for supporting a sea-to-sky style freeway, or otherwise were meant to have symbolic value, they are never mentioned by the characters, nor do they seem to affect the narrative in any substantial manner, leading me to conclude they’re probably just a part of the scenery.

  • Sayu and Miuna head the support efforts: the entire community’s women have come forward to provide food. While perhaps not as intense as the scene in Avengers: Endgame where every female hero shows up to help deliver the Iron Gauntlet and its Infinity Stones to the time machine in Scott Lang’s van, it is a reminder that in any given project, effort or endeavour, things work at their very best when everyone is working together, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or beliefs. I greatly enjoyed seeing all of them women of the MCU come together in a titanic moment to help defeat Thanos, and Nagi no Asukara, pre-dating Avengers: Endgame by some five years, does a fine job of showing what cooperation looks like.

  • If memory serves, I believe this is the moment when Miuna falls in love with Hikari, seeing the sheer determination in his eyes as he hoists a flag in preparation for the Ofunehiki. Despite his brisque and rough mannerisms, Hikari is a respectable character who ultimately acts with the interests of those around him in mind. Watching him grow throughout Nagi no Asukara was one of the biggest draws about the series, and one of the things that I look forwards to most in a given anime is seeing how initially-unlikable characters mature into honourable people.

  • While the Ofunehiki is happening, Akari’s wedding to Itaru is also on the horizon. Seeing the union of two people prompts Hikari to attempt and confess his feelings to Manaka, who is unsure of how to react and seemingly rejects him. Meanwhile, Chisaki decides to do a kokuhaku to Hikari after Kaname did the same for her: I’ve heard that weddings can really drive up people’s desires to be together, and in the moment, the emotional tenour pushes everyone onward, although adolescence and the naïveté of youth means that misunderstandings occur.

  • The Ofunehiki itself is a glorious spectacle even though the outcome is suboptimal: the wrath of the seas kicks in midway through the ceremony, bringing things to a halt. Manaka, Hikari and Kaname fall into the ocean, while Chisaki manages to rescue Tsumugu. The freezing of the world sets in soon after, with Chisaki being left behind on the surface while the others enter hibernation. A five-year time skip occurs, and with this, we’ve reached the halfway point of Nagi no Asukara.

  • A time skip of five years happens to be exactly the same time skip that was in Avengers: Endgame, and I must say that Nagi no Asukara actually holds its own. In five years, Chisaki’s matured into a young woman whose style is noteworthy, while Akari has become accustomed to life on the surface and has raised a rambunctious son, Akira. Tsumugu’s become a university student pursuing a marine biology degree, and Miuna is now in middle school.

  • As middle school students, both Sayu and Miuna have become sufficiently mature as to be considered peers with Hikari, Manaka and Kaname. Now is a good as a time as any to note that Sayu is voiced by Kaori Ishihara (The World in Colour‘s very own Hitomi Tsukishiro), and Mikako Komatsu (Sanae Kōzuki of Sakura Quest) provides Miuna’s voice. Seeing these two grow from being impediments to integral parts of the cast was rewarding, and a part of the dynamics possible, because of the unique world building, is watching these two deal with Kaname and Hikari as fellow classmates.

  • Of everyone, Chisaki is the only individual to have avoided the hibernation and therefore, ages alongside Tsumugu on the surface. When she meets with her friends, who are now biologically five years her junior, she struggles to come to terms with the differences and desperately tells herself that nothing has changed, despite having spent five years of time with Tsumugu and his family. Here, she waits for a bus on the surface, and subtleties in the environment, such as the shape of the bus stop signs and bus designs, show a world that is meant to be simultaneously similar to and different than our own.

  • After the time skip, Hikari grows more distant from Tsumugu, feeling him a rival for Manaka’s feelings and that it is unfair for him to not return her feelings. The two clash on several occasions, until Tsumugu reveals that he is in love with Chisaki. The flow of relationships in Nagi no Asukara is very natural: a sort of closeness develops in the group as a result of time spent together. Because Tsumugu has spent so much time with Chisaki, the two know one another as well as themselves: Chisaki may believe that she’s still in love with Hikari, but these feelings manifest as a result of her wanting to hold onto the past.

  • While time stood still for Hikari during hibernation, once he returns to classes, he holds a degree of maturity and seniority over his classmates despite being biologically the same age. A testament to his learnings during Nagi no Asukara‘s first half, Hikari gets along with most everyone in his classmates. Much of the conflict in Nagi no Asukara‘s second act comes from everyone trying to sort out their relationships, although now, Miuna and Saya take center stage, as they are the same age as Hikari and Kaname. Meanwhile, Chisaki and Tsumugu are removed from this equation, being five years older than the others.

  • With Miuna now a middle school student, she enters the same world of relationship challenges that Hikari had been dealing with. When Sayu learns that one of Miuna’s classmates intends to confess his feelings for Miuna, she becomes jealous. It turns out that, now that she’s the same age as Hikari, Miuna feels that she has a fighting chance to win Hikari’s heart even in the knowledge that Hikari loves Manaka. Hikari’s concern for her only serves to amplify her feelings for him.

  • Sayu subsequently attempts to distance herself from her feelings for Kaname: distraction from romance is one of the most frequently recommended suggestions for dealing with a broken heart. I can vouch for this: The Giant Walkthrough Brain from five years ago ended up being my distraction that saw me create something constructive. As I pushed into learning the Unity Engine and build what would become the starting points for my graduate thesis, I found myself feeling a great deal more whole than I had following heartbreak. While there would be days where I felt miserable, I continue to remind myself that there is more to life than romantic relationships.

  • Kaname does eventually return to the cast, joining Hikari and the others. Of everyone, he feels the most left behind, having seen first-hand how close Chisaki and Tsumugu have become. At the age of nineteen, Tsumugu has enrolled at a local university and studies Nagi no Asukara‘s equivalent of marine biology, participating in research. While still young, Tsumugu’s involvement with a research lab is not implausible by any stretch: undergraduate students interested in research are encouraged to find a supervisor and lab to work in during summer. My faculty was particularly forward with this, and after learning of a biological visualisation lab on campus, I decided to spend my summer working with them. This is how I met my supervisor, who would go on to oversea and provide guidance on my undergraduate thesis, the Giant Walkthrough Brain and ultimately, my graduate thesis.

  • The tensions between Sayu and Miuna reach an all-time high after Sayu runs into Kaname, who fails to recognise her. Feeling that her emotions have given her naught but trouble, she renounces them, only for Miuna to declare that being truthful to how they feel is more important. Both Kaname and Sayu experience the misfortune of having the person they’re interested in seem unaware of or are otherwise unable to return their feelings: I’ve been down this road before, and this is why for me, Kaname and Sayu’s stories in Nagi no Asukara hit me the hardest: I know what unrequited love feels like, to feel so desperately sure that things could work out, and fail nonetheless.

  • Of course, it’s a disappointing thought, but it happens all the same. While Miuna may cling onto her feelings for Hikari, she’s also able remain mindful of her surroundings. When it turns out that Miuna has inherited ena, and with it, the ability to freely move about underwater, she is ecstatic and becomes a new contributor to the research Tsumugu is working on. By using acoustics, Tsumugu’s supervisor is able to work out where to best enter Shioshishio: since the events five years previously, intense currents have surrounded the town, making the area inaccessible. However, given a chance to visit, Kaname, Hikari and Miuna decide to undertake this assignment.

  • For the first time, Miuna visits the middle school that Hikari and the others would have attended. The location feels like a haikyo, and here, Miuna plays with an xylophone. Reflections from the windows and the bright lights coming from outside create a very melancholy impression: while Shioshishio is a very lively town, having all of the inhabitants in hibernation creates an eerily still locale, a far cry from the Shioshishio that we’d seen during Nagi no Asukara‘s first act.

  • Aural anomolies were the reason that Hikari and the others descend to Shioshishio. When they trace them to its source, they find a graveyard of old Ofunehiki effigies, and Manaka frozen at the center. The mystery of where Manaka went is solved, and Hikari decides to bring her back. This action results in a disturbance, and Manaka’s memories are seemingly lost when she is returned to the surface.

  • For Miuna, Manaka’s return is a mixed bag. On one hand, a friend has returned now, someone who she can talk to and support as thanks for having done so much for her previously. However, Manaka is also a rival for Hikari’s feelings; her return means that Miuna’s feelings for Hikari may never be realised if Manaka’s memories return. In the end, Miuna picks a selfless route, deciding that bringing Manaka back for Hikari’s sake is much more important than whatever her own wishes are. This is the truest sign of love, being able to let go and hope for another individual’s happiness even at one’s own expense.

  • One evening, Chisaki decides to try her old middle school uniform out again for kicks. It is impressive that after all this time, her uniform still fits to a reasonable extent: besides being tighter in the chest and hips, she’s still able to wear it. In what is Nagi no Asukara‘s only cliché moment, Tsumugu walks in, coming face-to-face with an embarassed Chisaki who proceeds to throw things at him until he beats a hasty exit.

  • While Manaka is still unconcious, Miuna seeks out Lord Uroko, a minor sea god born from a scale of the original sea god. He acts as a messenger to the gods, and despite his appearances, holds a great deal of knowledge about the lore of the ocean. While typically flippant and unsympathetic, he appears to help if the situation demands it. Lord Uroko explains that Manaka’s sacrifice was to appease the sea god, and taking her back means taking something in return: when she reawakens, Manaka appears to be as happy-go-lucky as she had been during the first act once she wakes up, but lost her ena and recollections of Hikari.

  • Nagi no Asukara builds its lore in an incremental manner, showing only as much as is needed to drive the narrative forwards, and integrates this seamlessly into the story. Audiences never feel left out when details surrounding their world are presented, and each bit of knowledge helps viewers understand what must be undertaken for Hikari and the others to help bring Manaka’s love back. It is therefore unsurprising that Nagi no Asukara features many tearful moments such as these – where the most fundamental of human emotions are involved, people can become overwhelmed.

  • As Nagi no Asukara reaches its final episodes, everyone’s emotions come to the forefront. Hikari learns that Tsumugu had never had his eyes on Manaka and loves Chisaki, while Chisaki did return his feelings, fearing only that if she accepted them, it would mean discarding old friendships. Chisaki overhears his kokuhaku and dives into the sea; when Tsumugu goes after her, he discovers that he possesses the ena, as well. Lord Uroko later agrees to help out, since everyone has worked out a possible solution for the situation at hand: having taken back Manaka, the sea god demands another sacrifice. Manaka’s pendant, a special stone that seemingly holds everyone’s feelings, is suggested as the substitute.

  • As preparations for another Ofunehiki begin, the only person who feels left behind is Kaname – everyone is busy working towards setting things right, and having heard that Tsumugu and Chisaki accept one another’s feelings for himself, Kaname becomes dejected, even wondering if he had done the right thing in saving Tsumugu years previously. Despite being level-headed and wise for his age, Kaname’s unrequited feelings for Chisaki leave him feeling left out; of the characters, I relate to him the most strongly.

  • It takes a tearful confession from Sayu to force Kaname to accept that things are what they are now – she implores him to see her as a girl rather than a child and that she’d only had eyes for him for the past five years. Realising that there had been someone in his corner all this time, Kaname is shocked and decides to start over with her. While such outcomes seem relegated to the realm of fiction, reality can work in strange ways; Kaname accepting this turn of events show that he is not so stubborn as to see alternative paths, and this open-mindedness is what sends him down another means towards finding what he sought.

  • Nagi no Asukara‘s soundtrack, hitherto unmentioned, was composed by Yoshiaki Dewa and Masayuki Watanabe. They make extensive use of Spanish guitar in more relaxed moments, and piano when emotion kicks in to create incidental music that adds another level of depth to the anime: the soundtrack has two volumes, released two months apart. Together, there is a total of sixty tracks, and these well-composed pieces do much to convey the atmospherics within Nagi no Asukara.

  • With all of the secondary characters’ stories largely resolved, preparations for the Ofunehiki wrap up, and the ceremony commences. This time, it is with Lord Uroko’s consent, and as they had done five years previously, prepare a sacrifice with the aim of appeasing the sea god. This second attempt similarly disrupts the sea, and Manaka falls overboard. Miuna rescues her, and Manaka’s memories return, but Miuna is drawn into the depths, standing in as the new sacrifice.

  • Realising that Miuna was lost because of her intense feelings for him, Hikari implores the sea god to take him instead. The seas react to this: it turns out that the original sea god was unable to let go of Ojoshi, his original lover, who had turned her back on the sea for a life on the surface with a mortal. Devastated, the sea god froze the world, but realised that Ojoshi’s original feelings for him and the sea never wavered. He consents to allow the world to return to its normal state, and the oceans begin flowing again. Shioshishio’s inhabitants begin awakening from their hibernation, as well, signifying that the world’s climate is returning to its normal state. Hikari’s father greets him and notes that he accepts Akari’s marriage, expressing that he looks forwards to meeting his grandson.

  • The finale to Nagi no Asukara is optimistic; with the natural order back in the balance, lives begin returning to normal. I also expect that at this point, readers who have stuck out would have a nontrivial inclination to never read this blog again: I’ve made no fewer than thirty mentions of the word “feelings” in this post alone. In the epilogue, Hikari, Manaka and Kaname don surface middle school uniforms before heading off to classes, signifying that they accept in full the people on the surface.

  • An exceptional anime in all regards, Nagi no Asukara represents one of P.A. Works’ very best work since Angel Beats, covering an exceptional amount of material during its twenty-six episode run. With life-like characters and a vivid world rich in lore, Nagi no Asukara tells a coming of age story that fully utilised every aspect of its environment to convey a moving story. Masterpiece Anime Showcase will return next time with K-On!‘s first season – this series is celebrating its tenth anniversary and is counted as a masterpiece in my books for a very special reason. Other series that will be covered include Kanon and Your Lie in April: I know that some readers have expressed an interest in hearing my thoughts on these, and I look forwards to seeing if I can meet those expectations.

Because of its raw and emotional portrayal of what coming-of-age means for a group of friends, in conjunction with the fact that I still have nothing by the way of experience in this particular discipline, writing for Nagi no Asukara proved much trickier than I originally anticipated. As such, I did not write about this series despite making numerous references to it in other talks. However, after taking a look back through the series, I figured that even if I cannot readily speak from experience, the fact that Nagi no Asukara was so moving for me meant that there was much more at play that I could properly write for. Looking through the anime a second time, I saw a series whose enjoyment factor increased with time: watching it again meant being able to appreciate the subtle details that present themselves on a second visitation. Between giving the characters a unique world to grow in, the time to develop and the opportunity to watch them overcome their challenges, Nagi no Asukara gives audiences reason appreciate the characters and their struggles. In conjunction with some of P.A. Works’ finest animation and artwork, Nagi no Asukara represents a maturation of the learnings from Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari, inheriting highly relatable characters and exceptional visuals with a bold new direction in a fantastical setting. The incidental music further accentuates the atmospherics Nagi no Asukara intends to convey. All of these elements come together to create an anime that is timeless, recognisable and moving; Nagi no Asukara is something that I can readily recommend to all audiences because of its fantastic world-building, universally-relatable themes and strong execution. There are a lot of moving parts in Nagi no Asukara: its appeal stems from being able to cover such a diverse range of topics and explore them in satisfying depth; in conjunction with a world whose every facet is vividly-rendered, Nagi no Asukara stands out as one of P.A. Works’ more memorable titles that is well worth watching.