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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Meet Again, Mount Fuji! – Yama no Susume: Next Summit Penultimate Episode Review and Reflections

“I don’t care what anything was designed to do, I care about what it can do.” –Gene Kranz, Apollo 13

While out on a hike with Hinata, Honoka and Kokona on a rainy day, Aoi realises that she’s willing to endure the elements for the thrill of seeing the view from a mountain’s summit. That evening, Aoi invites Honoka to join them at Mount Fuji, and Honoka accepts, excited to test her shiny new camera out. As spring turns to summer, Aoi prepares for her return to Mount Fuji, and while visiting Hinata with Kaede and Kokona, the four begin looking at routes up the mountain. Later, when Aoi shares her plans with Koharu, Koharu suggests that Aoi buy a new backpack so she can lessen the strain on her back. While visiting the outdoor good store with Hinata, Kasumi, Yuri and Mio accompany her and are impressed with Aoi’s spirits. Spring turns to summer, and Aoi begins training to build her stamina. Although she’s excited about the climb, she’s also quite nervous that she’ll succumb to altitude sickness again. On the day of the hike, Aoi is disheartened by the weather, but Kaede and Hinata take her mind off things by reminding her that they need to take it easy and acclimatise to the thinner air. After enjoying lunch and making a prayer at a nearby shrine, the weather appears to begin clearing, and Aoi is ready at last to take another shot at reaching Mount Fuji’s summit. Although the pacing throughout Next Summit had left some viewers wondering if a fifth season or movie would be necessary, Next Summit has, thankfully, answered this question and risen to the challenge. Yama no Susume‘s fourth season, in striving to show the growth Aoi’s experienced over the past year as a result of her own initiative, and through her friends’ contributions, will conclude with a successful ascent, and here at the penultimate episode, a year’s worth of learnings feeds into every step, leaving viewers excited to see what pleasant surprises awaits Aoi on this second trip up Japan’s most iconic mountain.

Although Mount Fuji seemingly comes out of the blue here in Next Summit, consistent foreshadowing and the use of mountain climbing as a metaphor for individual development meant that, once it became clear Aoi and her friends would return to Mount Fuji before Next Summit concluded, this particular experience should be of no surprise to viewers. Self-improvement is an integral part of life, as is failure. It is a natural part of the process to desire a rematch when one fails, and in Yama no Susume, there is no greater way to represent this than by having Aoi return to the only mountain trail she’d failed to complete. This message lies at the heart of Next Summit, so it was only logical to show how a full year’s worth of learnings result in Aoi being better prepared to take on such a feat. However, because Next Summit chooses to show Aoi and her friends on different trails, living in the moment and learning to accept the most of every experience, the series is never pushy about Aoi’s rematch. In this way, Next Summit suggests to viewers that life’s challenges aren’t always overcome by directing a laser-like focus towards a problem. Instead, it is by branching out and embracing new experiences, that one develops the breadth of skills needed to improve and mature. Although a fishing trip and helping a friend deal with heartbreak hardly seems related to the physical training and research needed to make a safe ascent up Mount Fuji, the confidence and open-mindedness Aoi is able to acquire from these moments is as essential as learning the best equipment and building up her stamina. This is why Next Summit shows so many of these secondary moments and has Aoi choosing to decline an invitation to join Koharu and the Mountaineering Club – as important as it is to be focused and determined, many of life’s challenges are overcome when one is able to widen their perspectives, and throughout the winter and spring, this is precisely what Aoi’s done.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although the common saying is “time flies when you’re having fun”, what they ought to say is “time flies”. It only seems like yesterday that Next Summit began running, and now, here we are at the penultimate episode. I’ll open this commentary with another still of Mount Fuji following a rainfall – although Aoi had similarly struggled up the mountain, and her thoughts here echo what she’d been thinking back at Mount Fuji, the moment she reaches the top with her friends, she answers her own question.

  • What makes the breathlessness, cold and soreness worth it is the view at the top. Aoi might dislike the physical toll of climbing a mountain, but her love of the scenery outweighs this dislike. The mindset that Aoi has for hiking is one of resilience and deferred gratification: the things in life that are worth doing are worthwhile precisely because they are challenging. Spotting this is what gives Aoi the motivation to get back out there, and here in Next Summit, Aoi’s able to finally put into words how she feels about the mountain.

  • Aoi, Hinata, Kokona and Honoka take a leaf from Kaede’s playbook and camp in the mountains. During a conversation, Aoi comments on how she’s interested in taking another stab at Mount Fuji, and this time, she invites Honoka to accompany them. Honoka immediately accepts because she’s been itching to test her new camera out, and I am reminded of how I’ve been excited to go out and do the same with the iPhone 14 Pro’s top-of-the-line camera. While the cold weather has meant that I’m not getting out as much, the photos that I have taken with the iPhone 14 Pro are incredibly detailed.

  • The pilgrims hiking pole that Aoi had originally picked up at Mount Fuji has become a single stake that her mother now uses as a part of her gardening. I remember discussions with readers pertaining this hiking pole following the second recap episode, while the use of the pole in such a manner did speak to how devastated Aoi had been following her first climb, the fact that it was repurposed shows that even failure has its worth, and moreover, Aoi’s spirits didn’t remain down for long; she found renewed rigour after walking Mount Tenran and marvelling at how straightforward the climb had been.

  • One day at work, while collecting her paycheque, Hikari wonders if Aoi’s plans to hike Mount Fuji involve anyone special, and Aoi’s resulting reaction is adorable. Relationships in slice-of-life anime are apparently still a sore spot for some viewers, who believe that the lack of relationships in these series diminish their enjoyability because they are not realistic, but in reality, a 2021 poll found that up to half of all Japanese men and women have reported that they have no partner, and similarly, here in Canada, about a third of people in this bracket are single. As such, it is hardly unrealistic for characters in anime to be single.

  • Some time later, the Mount Fuji trip begins to materialise after Aoi floats the idea to Kaede and Kokona – they begin to consider different routes up the mountain, and while everyone’s got a different suggestion, Aoi manages to merge everything together: Hinata’s Subashiri route will form their ascent, but then on their descent, they’ll take Kaede’s Gotemba route and do a small detour so Kokona can see Mount Hoei. This moment speaks to how Aoi is considerate of those around her, and having now hiked extensively, she’s also able to make snap decisions and put itineraries together.

  • I admit that a part of the fun about doing any sort of trip is the planning, of looking over where to go and then putting a route together. However, there’s also merit in just winging it, and last Friday, this is precisely what I ended up doing – I had a day off and decided to go drive out to Canmore as a bit of a day trip. Because Canmore is practically in my backyard, I had no plans laid out for the day. I therefore drove out with only the vaguest idea of what my day would entail, and decided to check out the Three Sisters viewpoint. While this viewpoint is especially beautiful in the warmer months because there’s a creek here which provides a stunning reflection of the mountains, by December, the entire area was frozen over.

  • While looking at the map, I had imagined that I wouldn’t be able to ford the creek, but with the frozen creek, it meant that, even though I couldn’t photograph the Three Sisters and their reflections, I was able to walk on the frozen creek and reach the Bow River, which offered another view of the Three Sisters, one that I wouldn’t be able to see during warmer weather. The morning had been quite snowy when I drove in, but in the time it took to reach the viewpoint, the snow had given way to sunshine.

  • Although Char’s sentiments, that a better pilot will overcome a superior mobile suit, are admirable, I’ve been around the block long enough to acknowledge that good gear can make a difference. After sharing their plans to conquer Mount Fuji with Koharu, Koharu’s got other plans, but she does give Aoi a recommendation – this is the sort of support I’d been looking to see from Next Summit ever since Aoi declined Koharu’s invitation to join the Mountaineering Club. Koharu is clearly knowledgable about gear and is able to help Aoi out in her own way; a good backpack helps with weight distribution and reduces strain on the shoulders, which will make a major difference on a hike as intensive as Mount Fuji.

  • It feels like everyone’s given a little bit of shine time in this penultimate episode; Mio, Kasumi and Yuri accompany Aoi and Hinata to their friendly neighbourhood outdoor goods store as Aoi picks out a backpack, and here, the others begin marvelling at the sheer amount of products on their shelves. While Aoi had only made some effort to get to know everyone better in her previous year, here, her willingness to invite Kasumi and the others along so they could glimpse her world shows that she’s also a bit more open about her interests in the present.

  • Of course, when presented with an entire wall of backpacks, Aoi becomes overwhelmed and struggles to choose one. I am reminded of when I built my first desktop and was picking out GPUs – while NVIDIA and AMD are the biggest players, there are a plethora of after-market solutions, and each brand may offer variants of the same GPU with a different cooling solution (more expensive boards have more fans, higher clock speeds and RGB lighting). One of my friends helped me to choose, and I ended up going with EVGA, whose cards are generally overclocked out of the box and have the most compact form factor.

  • Today, I rock an MSI card: while I’m quite loyal to EVGA, the other big brands (MSI, Asus and Gigabyte) tend to be quite reliable, so price becomes the deciding factor. Back in Next Summit, I would imagine that, being an expert, Kaede would have no trouble making a recommendation, but luckily for Aoi, the store manager is on hand to help out: a good backpack has a waist strap that reduces the work one’s shoulders have to do by making the backpack fit more snugly, which distributes the forces more evenly throughout one’s body. Aoi is able to follow this conversation without trouble, and when the manager points her to a backpack that might work, Aoi is pleased to learn that it’s a good fit for her.

  • Hinata prefers a backpack with more pockets, and is disappointed Aoi won’t be going with something with pockets. I appreciate the utility of more pockets, since it allows one to carry more stuff in an organised fashion, but Aoi has her heart set on this backpack, which proves comfortable and practical. Yuri and Mio’s reactions are adorable – I imagine that it’s rare for them to see Aoi so excited about something, so this moment would’ve been quite memorable and uplifting.While Yuri, Kasumi and Mio aren’t going to accompany Aoi and the others on their Mount Fuji adventure, they nonetheless wish her the best.

  • Such a moment, while fleeting, serves to illustrate how this time around, Aoi’s got more people in her corner than she had previously, and this additional support helps to spur Aoi on. I would be inclined to believe that Kasumi’s remark about the shingen mochi is her own way of wishing for Aoi’s success – because souvenirs are usually picked up at the end of an adventure, asking for a souvenir so early in the game suggests that Kasumi is confident Aoi will complete this hike and have enough energy left over to buy stuff for the others. As an aside shingen mochi is a Yamanashi specialty and showcased in one of Yuru Camp△‘s Room Camp segments.

  • To prepare herself for the climb, Aoi decides to break in her new backpack and climb the stairs to the nearby shrine. Because physical prowess isn’t the emphasis in Yama no Susume, preparations for such a climb are not shown. However, Next Summit does elect to show this moment because it shows Aoi’s determination and improved knowledge from last time. The outfit she’s wearing here is a callback to Yama no Susume‘s first season: she’d worn the same tracksuit on her first climb with Hinata.

  • In the days leading up to the of the day of the climb, Aoi finds herself checking her weather apps frequently to see if the skies will be clear. I am very familiar with this, and in fact, did the same prior to my drive out to Canmore – I had been hoping for sunshine so I could get some good photographs of the Three Sisters. Different sources gave different forecasts, but as the day of the drive drew near, I felt the weather was “good enough”. To my great surprise, while the Trans-Canada highway leading into the mountains was perfectly clear, a localised system meant Canmore was snowing. Mountain weather is unpredictable by definition, and it’s tricky to schedule something on a day with good weather far out in advance.

  • Hinata has a different problem: worrying that Aoi may suffer from altitude sickness again, she’s trying to minimise the amount of gear she’s carrying so, if Aoi should need any help, she’d be able to help carry Aoi’s stuff, too. Moments like these show that despite Hinata’s love of teasing Aoi, when the moment calls for it, she’s thoughtful and considerate. Hinata’s struggles here also reminded me of a scene from Apollo 13, where technicians struggled to determine which order they needed to power up the landing module’s systems in order to not waste the power available to them. In a moment that wasn’t quite as suspenseful as Apollo 13‘s, Hinata eventually cuts things down to her yokan and decides to forgo it in favour of a lighter-weight snack.

  • Because Honoka lives in Gunma prefecture, Aoi invites her over to stay the night so they can leave together. During dinner, Aoi’s mother attempts to share the story of what had happened the previous year, and while Aoi’s too embarrassed to hear any more, I imagine that this is Aoi’s mother’s way of expressing to Honoka her concern, as well as subtly asking Honoka to look after Aoi. Aoi’s father appears to be back to work again, as he’s absent in this scene. After dinner and a quick bath, both Aoi and Honoka hit the hay.

  • Ahead of the big day, Kokona crafts a teru teru bozu and sings a song with the hope of warding off bad weather. This moment was especially adorable, but then again, so is the whole of Yama no Susume. The characters are engaged in activities that are quite demanding, experiencing successes and failures as vividly as people do in reality, but owing to the manner of presentation, there’s a feeling of warmth and fluffiness that anime like these present to viewers. I would tend to imagine that this is merely a part of the show’s aesthetic – kawaii moments never distract from the overarching story or messages in a given slice-of-life work.

  • When Aoi appears to have trouble falling asleep, she recalls how last time, she’d also been short of sleep. As it turns out, Aoi had been worrying both about the weather and about whether or not she’ll get altitude sickness again; this is partially why she’d been checking the weather frequently, to take her mind off the elephant in the room. Despite these worries, Aoi does manage to catch some shuteye later on. Subtle cues like these are frequent in Next Summit, and seeing them together did hint to me that, despite her concerns, Aoi is definitely better prepared than she’d been last time.

  • Thanks to Honoka, Aoi is able to relax somewhat and falls asleep. The next morning, Aoi’s mother see the pair off, and she’s surprised that Aoi had left her hiking stick behind. By the time Aoi’s mother is back on the main road, Aoi and Honoka have already taken off. For the briefest of moments, viewers wonder if that hiking stick would bring back unhappy memories for Aoi, since she only got markers up to the eighth station. Indeed, these thoughts might be amplified after seeing Kokona brining her own hiking stick along for the hike.

  • The journey from Hanno to Mount Fuji is a lengthy one, requiring a train ride into Tokyo, followed by a two-hour bus ride. These journeys are commonplace in anime featuring younger characters – while they take much longer to complete, enjoying the journey in together is a part of the experience. It goes without saying that having a vehicle makes things much easier: driving from Hanno to Mount Fuji only takes two hours and seventeen minutes along a toll expressway.

  • After disembarking from the train, Aoi’s spirits completely foul when she sees the weather, prompting a hilarious reaction from Hinata. I completely relate to Aoi, being guilty of this more times than I care to count, and here, Honoka steps up by saying that that life is a game of making do with the hand one is dealt, rather than trying to hold out for a better hand. Lessons like these dominate Yama no Susume, but like all well-written slice-of-life series, viewers aren’t clubbed over the head with the messages the series aims to convey.

  • Poor weather or not, the reality is that Aoi’s in some excellent company, and it’s all smiles as everyone rides the bus up to the Fujinomiya Fifth Station. Spirited friends can take the dullness from even the most cloudy of skies, and competent friends can avert calamity. Kaede had done the same for Aoi previously, and while Aoi herself is not aware of it, Hinata has steeled herself to do this in the event anything should happen to Aoi. With this many failsafes on top of Aoi’s increased experience and preparedness, I got the distinct feeling that Next Summit is setting Aoi up for success this time around.

  • Thus, even though Aoi might be discouraged by the fog, Kaede immediately suggests that they acclimatise to the altitude by spending an hour at the Fifth Station’s rest area. Knowing that Aoi’s ability to make the climb is tied to her spirit and resolve, Kaede and Hinata believe that pushing Aoi’s attention towards the next step, rather than worrying about what comes ten steps ahead. When the five enter the lodge, the two English-speaking mountain climbers are back. They’re still lively and full of energy, ready to conquer things again. Their appearance can only be described as fate, and this time around, I’m hoping Aoi and her crew might have a chance to interact with them, even if it’s something as simple as taking their picture at the summit, and then in turn, asking the pair to help them get a group photo.

  • After looking at the menu and finding that there’s ‘shrooms in everything, everyone orders different things. Owing to how the dishes are prepared, when their orders arrive, all of the noodle dishes look the same. I believe these are shimeji mushrooms (White Beech), which have a small cap and long stem. When cooked, shimeji mushrooms have a nutty and savoury flavour. In my parents’ home recipes, these mushrooms go great in a bulgogi beef and onion stir-fry. Since Hinata and Honoka respectively order the curry and fried rice, their dishes are easy to recognise, and Honoka capitalises on the moment to take a photograph of the moment, finding it amusing. The mountain lodge feeling here brings to mind this past weekend, where I brought my parents to Edelweiss Village, my home town’s premiere place for German imports. After enjoying lunch here (I had the Village Special, which includes bratwurst, a cabbage roll, sauerkraut and Bratkartoffeln).

  • After lunch, I browsed around, admired their wall of hand-crafted wooden cuckoo clocks and finished my Christmas shopping. My parents had been interested in checking this shop out, ever since their friends mentioned it a decade earlier, and it suddenly hits me that I’ve not been here in five years; I’d been in the neighbourhood back then, and as memory serves, Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter was airing. Back in Next Summit, Hinata notices that Aoi’s left her hiking stick at home, and wonders if Aoi will be alright. As it turns out, this was deliberate: Aoi’s bought a pair of collapsible trekking poles, which offer a combination of balance and portability. The gear shows that Aoi has given this hike thought, and is much better prepared to tackle things. The contrast between her worries and confidence shows a healthy balance of concern: Aoi will not under Mount Fuji again. In a bit of dramatic irony, Aoi’s mother wonders if she’ll be fine.

  • Between a new backpack and trekking poles, Aoi’s putting her earnings from her part-time job to good use, and here, after making a prayer for a safe and successful hike, the time has finally come to square off against Mount Fuji. For longstanding Yama no Susume fans, this moment has been over eight years in the making, representing a point where Aoi’s grown enough to wish and prepare for another attempt. Since I reached Yama no Susume‘s second season five years later, the wait for me has been significantly shorter, but the moment is no less impactful. Having said this, I am surprised that the discussions on Next Summit have been so limited: contrary to popular belief, slice-of-life anime can offer quite a bit to discuss, especially because they cover topics that are relevant to our day-to-day lives.

  • Aoi’s determination and resourcefulness is what motivates the page quote, taken from the 1995 film Apollo 13: at this point in time, so much has happened in Yama no Susume that viewers should not worry about what Aoi’s limitations are, but rather, focus on how the sum of her experiences have allowed her to surpass her limits. With all preparations now in place, Aoi takes her first step on the trail that leads to the summit, and here, I will note that next week, I will be on break. I’m not sure what my Tuesday looks like at present, but I will do my best to ensure that I get a talk for Next Summit‘s finale out in a timely fashion.

The question of whether or not Aoi will be successful here in Next Summit is pre-ordained; in order for Next Summit to successfully convey its message, Aoi necessarily will succeed. While this creates an element of predictability, which is something that most self-styled critics are fond of pointing out in any given work, the whole point of slice-of-life anime like Yama no Susume is to show the process towards an outcome. Quite simply, the journey matters more than the destination, so there is significantly more merit in showing how one reaches their goals. Seeing Aoi climbing Mount Fuji’s trails more slowly and methodically, stopping to appreciate the scenery and ensure she’s not pushing herself too hard, is the surest sign of her maturity. With this in mind, Next Summit‘s done an excellent job of laying down the groundwork for a second trip to Mount Fuji, and while the challenges and surprises that will appear on this journey remain the topic of the finale, what should be clear is that the view awaiting everyone at Mount Fuji’s summit will be majestic, and well-deserved. At this point in time, it is a little saddening to see how quickly Next Summit has progressed: it only seems like yesterday that I’d begun my journey into Next Summit and its recap episodes, and after the new content was introduced, it became clear that Next Summit has not lost any of its predecessor’s charm. All eyes are now on Aoi as she begins the journey up the mountain that had defeated her a year ago, but this time around, with a new mindset, better stamina and stronger bond with her friends, viewers can be confident that Aoi will complete her climb on this rematch. I look forwards to seeing the sunrise along with everyone, and remark that although the finale is still yet to come, I am going to miss watching Next Summit every Tuesday.

A New Season – Yama no Susume: Next Summit Tenth Episode Review and Reflections

“You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.” –Cesar Chavez

While cleaning out their backpacks with Kaede and Koharu, Aoi and Hinata contemplate whether or not they’ll end up in the same classes together as they move up into their second year. After their end of term ceremony, Aoi off-handedly mentions that it would be nice if she could get a class photo of everyone at Mount Tenran, and this idea quickly gains traction. En route to the viewpoint, Aoi’s classmates become distracted and even swing by Aoi’s bakery, where Hikari decides to gift everyone some of their fancier items as a promotional move. Although Aoi has some difficulty in keeping her classmates on track, Hinata encourages Aoi to do her best. She’s able to gather everyone, and upon spotting that she and the photographer won’t appear in the photo, asks another hiker to help take the shot. To take Aoi’s mind off the impending class change, Hinata takes Aoi to Mount Nabewari during spring break. After the new term starts, Aoi is disappointed to learn Hinata, Yuri and Mio will be in a different class. She struggles to start a conversation with Kasumi and is envious of how quickly Hinata has warmed up to her new classmates. When the time comes for Aoi to introduce herself, she struggles with the process until Kasumi nudges her on, prompting Aoi to share her experiences in mountain climbing with her new classmates. After the day draws to a close, Aoi meets up with Hinata, Kaede, Yūka, Koharu and Kokona, excited to kick off the start of the new mountaineering season even as Kaede and Yūka must gear up for their entrance exams. With this, Next Summit enters its final quarter, with spring returning to the world and offering a new year of possibility for Aoi and her friends.

Mountain climbing is tangential to the tenth episode – its focus is on Aoi’s ability to interact with new people outside of her social circle, and while prima facie, this episode is a case of “two steps forward, one step back” for Aoi (while climbing mountains has definitely boosted her confidence, she still struggles with new people), the significance of portraying this side of Aoi is to show that while yes, she’s definitely made progress, mountain climbing is not a miracle activity that can make extroverts from even the most taciturn of introverts. Instead, it acts as a catalyst from which Aoi can begin looking at the world around her. This aspect of Next Summit is therefore an accurate portrayal of how growth is an incremental process, and similarly, how it is with support from friends that one is able to work their way towards becoming their best self. Similarly, Next Summit suggests here that Aoi’s desire to have a rematch with Mount Fuji isn’t something that just happens overnight. Instead, it is the culmination of accumulated experience, both on and off the trails. This is a reminder to viewers that progress occurs gradually, rather than all at once, and moreover, that learning is an ongoing process. The latter is something I am reminded of on a daily basis, and while one simply can’t know everything about a given topic, there is no shame in acknowledging this and making an effort to better oneself by accepting help from the people in one’s life. The same sort of mindset that Aoi has learnt to cultivate over time will serve her well both on the trails and in life, and now, the arrival of spring opens up the door to outdoor adventures again.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For this post, I’ll open with a scenic image of Hanno’s Wariiwa Bridge by spring. Winter’s past now, and warmth returns to the world – this stands in stark contrast with my side of the planet, where winter is just arriving. With temperatures plummeting to -20ºC (and windchills reaching -30ºC), it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas now, and I’ve now set up my Christmas tree in the solarium, ready to evoke the holiday spirit and bring on the festive cheer.

  • At this point, spring isn’t even in my mind, but here in Next Summit, the warming weather and longer days present a chance for everyone to clean their gear up. This episode of Next Summit places a reduced emphasis on mountain climbing, but the balance between life lessons and adventure is an integral part of the series’ success: adventure for the sake of adventure is fine, but it wouldn’t make for a satisfying story.

  • It suddenly hits me that Kaede’s presence in Next Summit has been more limited: as she and Yūka enters her final year of secondary school, pressure’s on to determine one’s path forward, whether it be post secondary education or work. Because Kaede is shown as not having much of a head for academics, I find that she may find the most fulfilment if she worked a similar job to Nadeshiko. Society nowadays places a great deal of emphasis on higher education, and despite being someone who’ve gone through that process, I’ve found that anything past the post-graduate level is more of a bonus. As such, Kaede could probably complete a degree or certificate in business administration and then find gainful employment as a manager to a large outdoor goods store.

  • A career path for Aoi and Hinata still feel quite a long ways off, so for now, Next Summit isn’t terribly concerned with where the two are headed, and instead, the series focuses on, Aoi becomes worried that she will be separated from the people she’s familiar with as the school year draws to a close; she regrets not having made a more concerted effort in getting to know everyone else better.

  • Back in my time as a secondary student, I got along with most people well enough (save the folks in IB), but since classes were set up so that we weren’t in a set cohort for core subjects, I ended up in classes with a variety of people, and class composition would change every turn. As such, the notion of being in a class with people I were unfamiliar with was never a problem for me. I found enjoyment in helping my classmates out with their coursework back when I was a student, so this did allow me to speak with my classmates despite our having wildly different interests and hobbies.

  • For Aoi, however, she’s still a little shy, so even after a year, she finds it a bit tricky to speak with everyone in her class. However, when she suggests that Mount Tenran would be a good place to go for a class photo, the entire class immediately takes a liking to the idea. Despite having some trouble directing everyone, when her thoughts do get through, her classmates go along with things. A comment about taking her classmates to a place for some cakes ends up acting as a pleasant detour for everyone – while Aoi’s pretty set on reaching the goal, this outing winds up as a clever show of how her adventures turn out.

  • Hikari decides to give Aoi’s classmates some fancier cakes, to the manager’s consternation – although Hikari argues that giving something higher end away could promote return business, this practise ends up being quite costly. Yama no Susume, however, is a slice-of-life about mountain climbing, not an exercise in business practises, and as such, moments like these can be laughed away. In my discussions, while I point out inconsistencies like these for kicks, I emphasise that they do not diminish my enjoyment of a given work in any way.

  • Upon reaching Mount Tenran’s lookout, Aoi’s classmates marvel at the view, but wind up forgetting they’d come up here for a class photo. When Aoi worries that she’s not being heard, Hinata spurs her on, and moments later, a rowdy group of classmates have composed themselves and arranged themselves into rows for a photo without too much trouble. While Aoi does have it in her, Yama no Susume makes it clear that confidence is still something of a challenge for Aoi. Fortunately, when she’s in good company and has the right encouragement, Aoi is able to rise up to the occasion.

  • In classic slice-of-life fashion, the classmate taking the photo is none other than Chisato Wataya of Camera, Hajimete mo Ii Desu ka? (literally “Can I begin a camera?”), the older sister to the protagonist with a bright and friendly personality. In this story, Mito Ikeda is a shy and reserved girl who’s uncomfortable with her appearance, and one day, after meeting Chisato, becomes introduced to the world of photography. This manga began serialisation back in 2019 and is written by Shiro, who had also penned Yama no Susume, so it’s no surprise that characters make a cameo appearance here, similarly to how Non Non Biyori‘s Hikage Miyauchi also appeared in Atto’s Koakuma Meringue.

  • What impresses Aoi’s classmates is the ease that she’s able to approach another hiker and ask them to help out with the photo, which turns out quite nice despite Aoi’s initial reservations about her looking funny in her previous photos. With this, Aoi’s first year of secondary school has come to a close, but owing to how things were framed, this segment of the episode did feel a little like a graduation episode even though it’s merely the end of year one.

  • When spring break arrives, Kokona accompanies Hinata and Aoi on a hike to Mount Nabewari, which is known for its nabeyaki udon prepared by Kusano, who operates Nabewari Sanso, a rest house, at Mount Nabewari’s summit and has been serving their legendary udon for over three decades. What’s more impressive is the fact that Kusano hikes the route every morning to reach the rest house. Next Summit doesn’t portray the hike itself, which has a few steeper sections but is otherwise manageable for most hikers. Like Mount Bukō, there are water bottles at Mount Nabewari, and hikers are encouraged to help bring water up to the rest house.

  • Up here, Kokona, Hinata and Aoi enjoy their noodles, and while Kokona takes off to explore, Hinata and Aoi share a conversation. In any other episode, the hike up Mount Nabewari would be portrayed at length, so seeing the process truncated here was meant to show that by now, Aoi’s physicality isn’t a significant issue, and in this way, the story is able to show that Aoi’s hurdle with Mount Fuji is likely going to be a matter of confidence, rather than her fitness level.

  • As it turns out, Hinata had arranged for the day’s activities precisely so that Aoi wouldn’t worry so much about the upcoming entry into a new academic year – the thought of being separated from Hinata bothers Aoi to a great extent, and while Aoi does show exasperation at Hinata with a nontrivial frequency, the two are remarkably close because they’ve known one another for such a long time, and while Hinata does like to press Aoi’s buttons, when the moment calls for it, she also knows how to assuage Aoi’s fears and push her forward.

  • On the first day of the new term, Aoi struggles to get out of bed and head for school – she’s so nervous that she actively delays going in and only reluctantly does so once Hinata shows up to accompany her to school. Aoi’s nowhere nearly as socially inept as Bocchi The Rock!‘s Hitori Gotō, but her concerns are similar; I have heard that Bocchi The Rock! is well-received this season, and while I’m thoroughly enjoying it, the merits I see in this one are unlike what a majority of viewers are praising the show for.

  • Because Aoi won’t otherwise mature, Next Summit has her wind up in a different class than Hinata, but to ensure Aoi isn’t starting from scratch, she’s in the same class as Kasumi, whom she’d known since middle school and has been in the same class as Aoi without fail after all this time. Having one familiar face provides Aoi with a foothold of sorts, and while she tries to strike up a conversation with Kasumi, it does appear that Kasumi is also mindful of Aoi’s comfort level; she asks Aoi to take things at her own pace.

  • Introductions are presented as being significant in anime because first impressions often linger. When it’s Aoi’s turn to introduce herself to her new classmates, she finds herself being caught off guard after letting her mind wander, and accidentally lets slip that she’s big on mountain climbing. Fortunately, since the instructor had allowed students to ask questions, Kasumi steps up to bat and prompts Aoi by asking about Mount Fuji. With a topic she’s familiar with, Aoi ends up relaxing and going into much greater detail about her travels.

  • Even though she hadn’t fully completed the hike, her new classmates find this an impressive feat, with some of the male students commenting that they likely wouldn’t make it that far. Once Aoi’s done her introduction and answers a few questions, the remainder of the day passes by in a blur, and after class, Kasumi comments on how Aoi tends to bunch up when speaking to people she doesn’t know well, before adding that everyone’s probably guilty of this, and that learning to be comfortable with things like public speaking takes practise.

  • The idea of “at your own pace” dominates Next Summit, and regardless of whether it’s hiking a mountain trail, or learning to be more at ease when speaking in front of others, Yama no Susume is (not so subtly) reminding viewers that one needn’t rush things. Instead, by making the most of each moment and accepting opportunities for new experiences, one will grow naturally over time. While such messages initially appear to be common sense, in a world where people rush to reach milestones for the sake of appearances, these messages are often forgotten.

  • The elephant at Kannon-ji Temple had formerly been Aoi and Hinata’s favourite hangout spot, so seeing an increasingly large crowd hang out here after classes is a pleasant sight. Here, as the girls consider what they’ll be able to do with warmer weather and longer days, Kaede immediately begins daydreaming about a hike that involves an overnight stay, exasperating Yūka, who’s quick to remind Kaede that since they’re in their final year, they’ve got entrance exams and careers to think about. Kaede wilts in disappointment, but Aoi does think to herself that the time to hit the trails has come again.

  • It goes without saying that I’m now left in great anticipation of what happens next in Next Summit – whether or not Mount Fuji is portrayed with the remaining episodes or left for a continuation is anybody’s guess. I will admit that, if a movie ends up being the route, I will be quite disappointed, since movies are generally inaccessible to overseas viewers. With this being said, there’s no sense in worrying about things, and with this post in the books, I will remark here that I’ve got a few posts coming up for this blog; we’re approaching the nine-year anniversary to Madoka Magica: Rebellion, and I’ve got some thoughts on how the story could be resolved. As well, Portal RTX finally has a release date; coming out on the eighth of December, I am curious to see how well my RTX 3060 Ti handles things.

With ten episodes in the books, and two episodes left, the lingering question now is whether or not Next Summit will see Aoi return to Mount Fuji for a rematch. After all, Mount Fuji is a capstone of sorts, one that would demonstrate how far Aoi has come since her first attempt a year earlier, and it stands to reason that Next Summit would need to spend at least a few episodes on things in order to properly depict things. With only two episodes on the plate, it seems hardly possible that Next Summit could fit everything into this timeframe, and some have already speculated that Yama no Susume is saving Mount Fuji for a movie or potential fifth season. It is, however, poor form to count one’s chickens before they hatch – in Yama no Susume‘s second season, the Mount Fuji story was told over three twelve minute segments, and recalling that Next Summit‘s episodes are twice the length of the second season’s episodes, it is within the realm of possibility to have the next episode broken up into two halves. The first half would detail the preparation, and the second half would see the beginning of the ascent. Then the finale would portray the ascent and its aftermath. It is possible that Next Summit chooses to take another route: taking Mount Fuji would mark a significant milestone for Aoi, and an accomplishment of this scale can be seen as being worthy of a movie. However, despite anime movies offering a superior medium for storytelling at a larger scale, their main drawback is that films take an unreasonable amount of time to reach overseas viewers. In some cases, the waits have reached eleven months, and moreover, a part of Yama no Susume‘s appeal is how concise the series is. To stretch out Aoi’s experiences at Mount Fuji is not strictly necessary from a storytelling perspective, and next week’s penultimate episode will determine whether or not things will conclude here in Next Summit, or if overseas viewers will need to exercise patience and wait for a film or fifth season to wrap Aoi’s journey up.

Mountain Stream Fishing, The Meaning of Life and Off to Kamakura With Hinata’s Family – Yama no Susume: Next Summit Review and Reflection at the ¾ mark

“Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.” –Erika Taylor

Aoi’s father invites her and Kokona to accompany him on a weekend fishing trip in the mountains at a friend’s place, prompting Aoi to also invite Hinata along. While the girls learn the basics behind stream fishing, Kokona explains that despite having never fished before, she wanted to broaden her horizons ahead of admittance to secondary school and indicates that she would like to enroll at the same school Hinata and Aoi attend. This leads Aoi to wonder what she wishes for in her own future, and while pondering this question, Aoi also manages to catch a fish of her own. After meeting up with Aoi’s father, who’s caught a number of fish, everyone returns to enjoy tempura fish. Later, Hinata’s mother returns home after a gruelling work week and requests an outing that allows her to both hike and check the ocean out. Hinata’s father suggests Kamakura, and Aoi is invited to accompany them. Along the way, Aoi is reminded of the fact that Hinata’s mother is very energetic and expressive, similarly to Hinata. While hiking up a trail, Aoi notices that despite being winded, Hinata’s mother presses on with enthusiasm, and the four stop to enjoy the lunches that Hinata’s other had bought along the way. They subsequently swing by a temple, where Hinata’s mother lets out her work-related frustrations, before watching a sunset along the coast. Here, Aoi thinks to herself that in a few more weeks, with spring’s immanent arrival, she and Hinata will become second-year students. Three-quarters of the way into Next Summit, viewers have another chance to see some of the secondary adventures that Aoi and Hinata take together; these adventures allow Yama no Susume to highlight a variety of life lessons in a gentle, unobtrusive and instructive fashion, indicating how personal growth comes in all forms, as well as how learnings that improve individuals can come from even the most unexpected of experiences.

The ninth episode’s highlight comes with the introduction of Hinata’s mother. This is the first time viewers see her on screen, and from initial impressions, she’s someone who takes her work very seriously, but becomes frustrated when things don’t go as smoothly as she’d like. This leaves her exhausted, and so, when Aoi meets her for the first time in a while, Hinata’s mother is slumped over on the couch. However, she perks up immediately at the thought of an outing to Kamakura, and although Hinata’s father chooses the destination to ensure that the excursion isn’t something beyond what his wife can do, the chance to go outdoors and regroup proves to be a blessing for Hinata’s mother. She’s able to exercise out some of her stress, and during their shrine visit, throws disks at stones to get her concerns and grievances into the air. The trip leaves her refreshed, and although a mountain of work likely awaits Hinata’s mother when she returns to the office, at the very least, she’s now had a chance to unwind a little. The idea of taking a step back to regroup when stressed seems counterintuitive, but it works because it gives the mind a chance to pause and reassess a situation. Next Summit‘s ninth episode’s second half deals primarily with Hinata’s mother, but it’s also a reminder to Aoi – she’d been beaten at Mount Fuji before, but having had time to take a step back and think things over, she returns to the trails with a renewed passion and a deeper understanding of why she enjoys being outdoors. Similarly, while Aoi now faces the prospect of becoming a second-year student, it is important that she is able to find ways of managing her stress, and Next Summit shows that because she is able to find solace in being outdoors, when things get difficult for her in the future, whether it be her coursework, considering directions for her career and eventually, transitioning to the next milestone in her life, Aoi will have the tools to do so in an effective, and healthy manner.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the weather warms, Aoi’s father decides to take Aoi fishing, and is happy to bring Kokona along. Not wanting to suffer through a new experience alone, Aoi decides to invite Hinata, too. Some minds suppose that Aoi’s being unfair and is doing so out of malice, but the reality is that she knows that Hinata might actually enjoy fishing, and being with more people might make things more fun, too.

  • By having Hinata and Aoi go on a mountain fishing trip, Next Summit takes Yama no Susume to the same waters that Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Slow Loop had covered: I have previously commented on how Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Hina resembles Aoi, and similarly, Natsumi is the equivalent of Hinata. Both anime cover different topics, but the similarities among the characters made Houkago Teibou Nisshi more grounded. Since Hina and Natsumi’s personality traits had analogues in Yama no Susume, it was much easier to focus on the fishing.

  • After Aoi’s father’s friend gives everyone a crash course in how to use their fishing lines, everyone heads off to the foot of a waterfall, where they get to put their skills to the test. Aoi’s father helps to get the bait on, and in a moment reminiscent of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Aoi and Hinata both react adversely to seeing the live bait, which is censored initially for comedic effect. Later on, the bait is shown to be some sort of larvae. It was quite telling that Kokona didn’t appear perturbed by things.

  • After watching the girls try their hand at fishing, Aoi’s father ends up taking off so he can do some fishing of his own. Here, he remarks that being skunked is a part of the experience, and I first became familiar with the term through Survivorman, where Les Stroud had been in Argentina on one of his toughest survival expeditions. Catching nothing while recreational fishing is fine, but in a survival situation, it can drive up desperation and a feeling of hopelessness. This aspect is not especially relevant to Next Summit, and in a few moments, Kokona gets a hit.

  • Kokona’s natural affinity with the outdoors is apparent: she’s the first to catch a fish. Throughout Yama no Susume, Kokona’s been portrayed as being a miracle woman of sorts; she’s the only person who manages to make it up every mountain she climbs, and is uncommonly tough despite her appearances. On top of this, she’s a quick study, performs well when it comes to academics and is friendly with most everyone. After she catches her first fish, Kokona hands her rod over to Aoi, and begins speaking about her plans for the future.

  • Kokona’s explanation to Aoi provides a fair answer as to why she appears so on top of things: she had accepted this fishing trip invite despite having no particular interest in fishing because she wanted to widen her experiences and be able speak to a range of topics, as well as understand what she enjoys doing. This is quite the opposite of middle school aged Aoi, who was content to do handicrafts and read books. However, while Kokona is clearly a self-starter, and Aoi is someone who needs a bit of a push, the end result is the same, and in this way, Next Summit hints at how it’s okay to get that initial push.

  • Next Summit‘s message is that whether it be mountain climbing or the future, the best way to do things is at one’s own pace, and this is something that Aoi will have a chance to work towards. On the flipside, seeing Kokona with a clear plan for the future creates one new thing to look forwards to for Hinata and Aoi; Kokona wishes to enroll at the same secondary school as Aoi and Hinata, and since her grades are solid, I imagine that the three could become classmates at some point. Kokona admits that she likes the uniforms, and the school’s location is also convenient for her, both of which are perfectly valid reasons for choosing a secondary school.

  • In the end, Aoi ends up catching a fish, and Hinata’s the one who ends up getting shut out. However, Hinata seems quite unbothered by things and feels that even though she was skunked, it was nonetheless fun to hang out with everyone. By this point in Next Summit, I am accepting of the fact that the character designs in some segments of earlier episodes is deliberate; throughout both this episode, and the previous episode, both characters and backgrounds are of a consistently good quality, being a return to the level of detail seen in Yama no Susume‘s third season.

  • After a morning’s worth of fishing, everyone sits down to a wonderful lunch of fried fish. Thanks to their high lipid content and the Maillard reaction, fried foods are appealing to the palate: the human body has evolved to favour nutrient-dense foods, and things high in fat provide a lot of energy per unit mass. The Japanese approach to deep-frying is a healthier one compared to the methods seen over in North America; less oil is used, and the batter itself is lighter, using flour, egg and cold water rather than bread crumbs.

  • Food scenes in anime have contributed to my becoming an amateur food photographer and connoisseur of sorts: looking back, one of my lesser-known hobbies is visiting places to try their food out and try my hand at capturing images that portray the taste and aesthetics behind a dish. I’ve found that some dishes, like sandwiches, are a little trickier to capture good images of without creativity, but Japanese cuisine is incredibly photogenic, to the point where even an inexpensive sushi set can be made to look incredible with the right lighting and technique.

  • A few episodes ago, I had made the remark that, with Aoi’s father making an appearance, all that was left was for Hinata’s mother to show up. Here at the three-quarters mark, this has come to pass, and it’s quite plain that Hinata takes after her mother, the same way Aoi resembles her mother. Unlike Aoi’s mother, Hinata’s mother is career-driven, and while visiting one day, Aoi finds her lying face down on her couch, bemoaning the difficulty some new hires have been giving her. Hinata’s mother’s work is not specified, but one can reasonably guess that it’s an office position.

  • I’ll let Next Summit speak for itself with regard to the notion of taking a step back from a problem and regrouping in a healthy manner. This is something I practise with frequency: whether it’s designing new features prior to implementation or debugging existing code (which may entail stepping through hundreds, or even thousands of lines of code spread out in different classes), it is inevitable that I run into something with a non-obvious solution. Depending on priority, I may regroup by stretching my feet, or if I have the luxury of time, I may even set the problem aside and do something else first.

  • Weekends are especially valuable in this regard, and I’ve come to appreciate this time as an opportunity to get out and clear my mind if the weather permits. The situation Hinata’s mother is in is done purely for comedy’s sake: I occasionally vent about the challenges I face at work to peers and family, but it’s nowhere nearly as vociferously. Anime employ these exaggerations purely to accentuate a point, and I’m quick to dismiss complaints about such portrayals because fiction, while it might portray elements from reality, isn’t a 1:1 depiction of the world.

  • Instead of worrying about the moral implications of hyperbole and its impact on viewers (I assume viewers and readers are learned enough to know that anime employ hyperbole to illustrate a point or provide comedy), I tend to focus on how well a given slice-of-life anime conveys its life lessons to viewers. For me, this is the biggest joy about watching shows of this genre. Longtime readers will be familiar with the fact that I place a great deal of emphasis on the sorts of learnings these anime aim to communicate.

  • While Hinata’s mother initially struggles to keep pace with everyone else, she ends up powering through on pure spirit, and along the way, is able to check out sights that certainly wouldn’t be seen at the office. I was a little surprised that flowers are already beginning to bloom, even though it’s not quite spring yet; in Alberta, spring doesn’t really kick in until around May, and for me, it’s not uncommon for the landscape to remain a dull brown for weeks after the Vernal Equinox. Differences in climate affords Aoi and the others with a more conducive environment for going on an outing, and I would imagine that at this time of year, Kamakura would be quite comfortable for outdoor activities.

  • The weather in Next Summit stands in stark contrast to the weather on this side of the world. Weather experts are forecasting that December will open with the coldest temperatures seen in a century, and in the past few days, the thermometer has plunged below -15°C, with the first blast of winter coming next week, where daytime highs aren’t expected to top -21°C. Having lived here all my life, I’m no stranger to the cold; it’s still possible to go out and enjoy the outdoors, but one must be properly dressed for the conditions.

  • As cold as Alberta can get in the winter, it’s nothing compared to the likes of Yakutsk, where it’s already -35°C, and where lows can reach -64.4°C. This helps to put things in perspective – by comparison, the average low at this time of year feels balmy by comparison. I certainly won’t be enjoying chirashi or any sort of bento outdoors, but on days where the skies are clear, it’s still quite wonderful to be outside.

  • At the shrine Hinata, her parents and Aoi visit, it’s said that throwing clay disks at stones will help one’s wishes to come true. Hinata throws hers with confidence, while Aoi hesitates and falls short of the mark. Hinata’s mother, on the other hand, buys a stack of them, using them to vent. Relieving pressure in this way isn’t unheard of, and mental health guides do suggest that yelling out can help with stress, so long as one does so in a place of solitude (such as the top of a hill or somewhere secluded). For me, I manage my stress through first person shooters and lifting weights.

  • One of Next Summit‘s best features is the fact that weather patterns are varied, giving a sense of realism to the adventures Aoi and Hinata embark on. Anime typically are sent under flawless skies, and while this makes for fantastic scenes of unparalleled beauty, it can create the expectation that discovery can only happen with clear weather. Accepting flaws and learning to embrace imperfection is a part of life, so featuring cloudy skies in Next Summit is a show that even when things aren’t perfect (or perhaps, because they aren’t perfect), a moment becomes all the more memorable.

  • After commenting that Hinata is a splitting image of her mother and earning herself a brief run around the beach, Aoi stops to consider how by spring, she and Hinata will be second year high school students. Time is moving at a smart pace in Yama no Susume, and while it is important to live in the moment, it’s also important to keep an eye on the future. This is an important milestone for Aoi and Hinata, so I imagine that come next episode, it’ll be time to watch Kaede and Koharu graduate, deal with the changes following their entry into a new academic year, and prepare for the ascent at Mount Fuji. In the meantime, I’ve got one more post lined up for November, and anyone following me on Twitter will have no trouble guessing what this one’s going to be about.

Although slice-of-life anime tend to emphasise the importance of living in the moment, as a given series progresses, the story inevitably turns towards what the future might look like. When characters begin considering said futures, those without a more concrete plan may begin to feel left behind. During the stream fishing outing, Kokona indicates that she enjoys trying new things out and opening herself to new experiences because it may be helpful down the line. This leaves Aoi wondering about what she’d like to do once she graduates from secondary school. It is natural to be concerned about the future if one doesn’t have a clear idea of what things might look like. However, just because one doesn’t have a plan in the moment doesn’t mean it will remain like this forever – I didn’t decide on my career path until I was two months from finishing off my graduate studies, but I did eventually find something I enjoyed doing. Aoi’s worries about her future have a relatively simple solution: because she had stated that the most enjoyable aspect of mountain climbing was that she could enjoy things at her own pace, it follows that the same approach is applicable for her career choice. So long as Aoi doesn’t get stuck in one spot and is advancing steadily, it’s okay to take the time she needs and determine for herself, what her future would look like. Life lessons like these have long been woven into slice-of-life anime with finesse, and spotting these elements is what make these anime so meaningful to watch: they reaffirm the things in our lives that work, and gently nudge us in a new direction if we’re in need of encouragement to better ourselves. Next Summit excels in this area, and while Yama no Susume might deal in mountain climbing, the messages Next Summit have shown off the trails are relevant to all walks of life.

Power Spot For Valentine’s Day, Trying Out Snowshoes – Yama no Susume: Next Summit Eighth Episode Review and Reflections

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” –Elbert Hubbard

While Honoka is studying for her secondary admissions exams, she receives an invitation to go hiking at Mount Mitake. Although Honoka had wanted to focus, she agrees to go after Aoi mentions that Kokona will be accompanying them. On the day of the hike, Hinata notices Honoka’s desire to grow closer to Kokona and gives the pair some space. They end up visiting several power spots associated with luck in relationships, and upon reaching Mount Mitake’s summit, Aoi brings out some homemade hot chocolate for everyone. Honoka reveals that ever since they’d visited Lockheart Castle together, she’d found warmth emanating from Kokona’s photo, and Kokona replies she’s fond of Honoka’s photos, too. Later, Hinata and Aoi swing by the Mountaineering Club at Koharu’s request: she’s got snowshoes and wishes to hit the slopes at Mount Akagi. This time around, Kokona’s busy, but Honoka decides to come with as a break of sorts from her studies. However, because the weather is unseasonably warm, most of the snow’s already melted. In spite of this, the four ascend Mount Akagi together and reach the summit, marvelling at the views despite the overcast weather, and when they head back down the mountain, everyone’s pleased to see that some of the snow has persisted, allowing them to experience the wonders of snowshoes. While Hinata trips during the trek across a frozen lake, everyone ends up with a memorable adventure, and Honoka’s brother invites everyone to join him at a restaurant known for their deep fried shishamo. Aoi thinks to herself that, despite the weather being seemingly disappointing, the day was well worth it, and contemplates how fun can be had even when things don’t turn out quite the way one had expected. With Next Summit progressing smartly along, this winter episode clarifies what viewers had been suspecting, and deals in a life lesson that I definitely need to be mindful of.

Observant viewers had long noticed that Honoka and Kokona had been steadily becoming closer since Next Summit began airing. An ending sequence shows the pair on a hike together, although their activities appear to be characterised by a hint of gentle awkwardness as the two are still getting to know one another. By the time Christmas rolls around, Kokona and Honoka enjoy one another’s company and share in conversation together. Next Summit‘s decision to make this nascent friendship a part of the story is a pleasant show of how Aoi’s own growth is having a tangible impact on those around her. When Kokona had accompanied Aoi, Hinata and Kaede on their hikes, she’d been the youngest of everyone. At Mount Tanigawa, Aoi’s initiative ended up bringing Honoka into the group, and since Kokona and Honoka are middle school students, the pair are able to find an especially close bond in a group of older students. Being closer in age, Honoka and Kokona would probably find it easier to talk to one another than with their seniors, and unsurprisingly, the pair do strike up a friendship that is, in some ways, a parallel of Aoi and Hinata’s: Kokona is outgoing, while Honoka is more reserved. Viewers will doubtlessly find this moment especially heartwarming, and in the bigger picture, the growing friendship between Kokona and Honoka is a consequence of Aoi’s own development; she had reached out to Honoka while they’d been hiking Mount Tanigawa and opened the conversation, allowing Honoka to learn more about Aoi and her group. As it turned out, there was someone similar to herself in age, and by getting to know Kokona better, Honoka herself will doubtlessly gain confidence and become more confident in voicing her thoughts to others, too.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Aoi may claim she’s more knowledgeable about relationships, it turns out that Hinata’s the one with a bit more tact when it comes to these sorts of things: Hinata immediately spots that Honoka’s wanting some alone time with Kokona, and after she hauls Aoi away, the pair overhear Kokona chatting animatedly with Honoka. This episode realises what’s been on viewers’ minds for some time, allowing the pair to really begin bonding.

  • I was a little surprised that Honoka is still a middle school student, but Yama no Susume had not expressly indicated what Honoka’s age was. While Aoi had been the one to reach out to her at Mount Tanigawa, it was revealed that seeing the warmth from Kokona’s photograph during the third season’s events was what led Honoka to wish to know Kokona better. Here, everyone stops at Musashi Mitake Shrine, located at the summit of Mount Mitake. Although the shrine’s been around since the Kamakura era, the oldest building here, the main shrine, was built in 1878.

  • Because it’s Valentines’ Day in Next Summit, the episode has Kokona and Honoka exploring power spots meant to bolster luck in relationships. The pair hold hands and walk between a pair of tree trucks which, according to legend, will ensure two people stay together if they pass through together. The phrase “power spot” is a bit of wasai-eigo that describes places with an especially powerful spiritual aura, and even if one doesn’t believe in these ideas, there is no denying that power spots occupy some very scenic, majestic locations. I believe that in English, the equivalent term is “energy vortex”.

  • Having Kokona and Honoka become friends makes perfect sense in the knowledge that both are middle school students. Youth tend to associate with people close to themselves in age, and at this age, even a year or two can make a massive difference. By having Honoka befriend Kokona, it means that amongst this group, Honoka now has someone closer in her in age to converse with, especially when it may seem improper to ask Aoi, Hinata or Kaede for a second opinion. After their shrine visit, the group heads towards Mount Hinode along the Kanto Fureai trail.

  • Mount Hinode is a fourty-minute walk from Mount Mitake and offers an unparalleled view of the sunrise over the Kanto plains. The trails can get a little crowded, especially during the summer, but by winter, it appears that Aoi and the others have the entire trail to themselves. Because the sunrise is such an iconic sight, small huts line the trail for folks who wish to stay overnight, but since Aoi and company aren’t here for the sunrise, they’re able to walk the trail at their own leisure and take in sights, such as the thousand-year-old tree along the way.

  • The ascent up Mount Mitake and Mount Hinode is classic Yama no Susume, portraying an experience in vivid detail, and here, I remark that the visual quality in this episode is up to the standard I’m accustomed to seeing from Yama no Susume, with both the backgrounds and characters looking especially sharp. Until now, while the backgrounds and landscapes have been consistently good, character artwork has been all over the place, and on some occasions, have even looked like sketches. Initially, I had a bit of difficulty understanding as to why this was done.

  • Thanks to conversation with readers, who pointed to Bocchi the Rock as an example of a technically superb series with fantastic visuals and innovative animation, but exaggerated character deformations, as an example of where crude character artwork is a deliberate choice. Assuming this to hold true in Next Summit, it would mean that a given moment is especially loose and relaxed. Because Yama no Susume is focused on the outdoors and appreciation of nature, deforming the characters to a substantial extent would convey to viewers that in a moment, the characters are lost in their own worlds.

  • Upon reaching Mount Hinode’s summit, Aoi, Hinata, Kokona and Honoka are treated to a stunning view of the Kanto plains and Tokyo. On a clear day, downtown Tokyo and the Tokyo Skytree are visible from this spot. This fact reminds me of how from Prairie Mountain, downtown Calgary is similarly visible. When I visited, even though it had been an overcast day, I had no trouble making out the city centre from the summit of Prairie Mountain, although thinking back, it would’ve been nice if I brought some binoculars.

  • One small detail I found noteworthy was how, after Aoi pours out hot chocolate for everyone, she’s butchered the portions and leaves one cup with much less than the others. When Hinata quips that Aoi never seems to be able to finish strong, Aoi simply readjusts things and moments later, everyone’s enjoying her homemade hot chocolate, a Valentine’s Day gift of sorts to her friends. Aoi had previously always assumed Hinata would think the worst of her, but when the chips are down, she’s slowly learning how to take a joke in stride.

  • With a stunning view around them, Honoka and Kokona share a conversation about their mutual respect for one another and the other’s photography. Communication’s been a central part of Yama no Susume, and now that Kokona and Honoka are both a little closer to the other, their friendship will continue developing following a particularly memorable hike up Mount Mitake and Mount Hinode. Of course, the peace is broken up by Hinata and Aoi’s lighthearted banter about who’s going to find a partner first, and while Aoi is more adorable, Hinata’s assertive personality means she’ll probably beat Aoi to the punch.

  • A few weeks later, Koharu shows off something she’d found while clearing out the Mountaineering Club’s storeroom. Presumably buried there as the club always seems to be on the move, Koharu develops a wish to utilise them before winter concludes. This results in Koharu arranging for a hike to Mount Akagi, marking the first time Hinata, Aoi and Koharu go on a hike together. Aoi also decides to invite Honoka, and while Kokona’s not available, Honoka decides to come anyways, feeling it to be a good break from studying for the entrance exams.

  • As it turns out, Aoi had accidentally scratched the floor to her room while testing the snowshoes out, leading her to get an earful from her mother. The Mountaineering Club’s snowshoes have crampons on them to give them additional traction, but these mean that they dig aggressively into whatever surface they’re on: perfectly suited for icy conditions, it should come as no surprise that these shoes shouldn’t be used indoors. After arriving at the trailhead, Koharu is disheartened to see that there’s hardly any snow around. However, snow or not, the girls decide to continue their climb.

  • As the hike progresses, a brisk winter wind envelopes the trail, forcing everyone to don their hoods. Being a veteran hiker, Koharu’s brought a balaclava, which offers unparalleled protection from the elements; the best balaclavas will also offer neck protection, and as someone from a winter-bound part of the world, I can attest to how much of a difference good neck protection makes. When the thermometer drops below -20°C and windchill kicks in, having a scarf makes being outside bearable. Of course, Hinata finds it hilarious, and while Honoka wants a picture of Koharu, who assumes it’s for cool factor, Honoka ends up capturing a photo that comes out as adorable.

  • This hike up Mount Akagi isn’t the first time that Yama no Susume has seen the characters make an ascent on a cloudy day, but it is the first time that the series speaks to how even in poorer weather, there can be things to enjoy. This episode spoke to me for this reason: I make it a point to hike on clear days, where the views are at their best, but since my weekends are limited, there have been occasions where I’ve had to make do with the weather I’m given. The plus about hiking on overcast days is that the sun isn’t as intense, so I’m not burning up quite as badly when making the climb up.

  • The weather here brings to mind the exact sort of conditions that my side of the world gets for up to six months of the year: residual snowfall and gloomy, overcast skies dominate January and February, but it can extend into May, and similarly, after the pleasant weather of September, things become quite cloudy and cold from November onwards. That Next Summit captures things so well (this scene reminds me of Bragg Creek Provincial Park in the foothills) speaks volumes to how well-done the series is. However, the weather doesn’t deter Aoi and the others.

  • When Koharu spots that their descent route is snow covered, she’s ecstatic and invites the others to join her. The time has finally come to really put their snowshoes to use, and Aoi likens it to walking on a cloud. I’ve never done a winter hike before, but in snow-covered areas, showshoes with crampons would be essential; I don’t have the proper gear for hiking through deep snow or ice. A few weekends ago, I did end up picking up a new pair of all-purpose waterproof winter shoes, and while they’re not designed for wading through ankle-high snow, they are warm.

  • Upon reaching the bottom of the slope, all that’s left is to traverse the ice-covered lake. According to Canadian guidelines, ice is usually safe to walk across if it is at least a half-foot thick, and here, hints of blue ice can be seen. Clear blue ice has the greatest strength of any ice, and viewers attuned to this detail will be given some reassurance that everyone is safe. This clears the way for a bit of humour that arises when Hinata becomes a shade too excited and begins to run across the frozen lake. Unable to hear Koharu’s warnings, Hinata eventually falls over.

  • After their hike concludes, Aoi, Hinata, Koharu and Honoka meet up with Honoka’s older brother, who has the perfect restaurant to visit. He’d gone smelt fishing earlier, and knows of a fantastic place in the region: the restaurant at Aoki Ryokan on the shores of Lake Onuma is indeed known for their fried shishamo, and in fact, some locals consider Aoki Ryokan’s shishamo to be the best in Japan. While Honoka is embarrassed and irritated by her older brother, one gets the sense that he does care about Honoka, being more than willing to share his knowledge of regional attractions and drive her places, similarly to how Sakura had no qualms about driving Nadeshiko to campsites.

  • While Aoi and Hinata enjoy their post-hike meal, I reflect on the boutique cake I enjoyed over the past weekend: I ended up going for the green tea cake and was impressed by the fact that this layered cake was simultaneously cake and cheesecake. Great food always makes for fantastic memories, and this is why I’m so fond of photographing what I eat. For Aoi, once she tries the shishamo with some salt, her taste buds take her on a cross-country tour, leaving her feeling completely content and bringing this episode to a close. As the days grow shorter and winter inevitably arrives, I could do well to take a leaf from Aoi’s page and make the most of the conditions I’ve got,

  • I’ll have a chance to put Next Summit‘s learnings to good use soon: with virtually every Friday off, plus two full weeks off at the end of December, I’m going to have a great deal of time to unwind and relax. Overcast or sunny, I am looking forwards to going out and enjoying some food, as well as staying in and sleeping in. This year, I have one more tool in my arsenal to keep my spirits up as the days shorten: thanks to a Black Friday sale, I was able to pick up a Nanoleaf Mini Triangle kit, and got that set up earlier this evening. I’ve still yet to figure out how some of the cooler functions work, but it is a gorgeous-looking fixture that livens up my workspace. With this post in the books, next week, we will be crossing Next Summit‘s three-quarters mark, and I am rather excited to see what other adventures await Aoi and her friends.

In the eighth episode’s second half, Next Summit gives Aoi a chance to see how even when things don’t turn out as expected, maintaining an open mind can turn disappointment into a new experience. The ascent up Mount Akagi is set under overcast skies, a contrast from the beautiful weather Aoi and her friends typically climb mountains under, and since the object of that day had been to give the snowshoes a go, a lack of snow meant they weren’t able to initially see for themselves the joy of the snowshoes. However, by pressing onwards anyways, Aoi, Hinata, Honoka and Koharu are still able to enjoy the sight from Mount Akagi’s summit, and because they made the hike anyways, are able to see the mountain path downhill is still snowy. I have had similar experiences, where the weather had not been quite what I’d hoped for, but on all occasions, I tend to press ahead anyways and do what I can to make the most of things. While I have no trouble adjusting my plans and handling such scenarios, however, one of my own weaknesses is that I do tend to stay somewhat bothered even if the alternative ends up being perfectly enjoyable. I’ve found that channeling my discontent into planning more experiences in the future is something that takes my mind off things, but what I need to work on is remembering this is always an option; I still need to compartmentalise these negative thoughts in the moment and make the most of what is available. Next Summit does a fantastic job of why possessing such a mindset is so important: it helps one to develop resilience against the unexpected and handle shifting circumstances elegantly. Having established that Aoi and her friends have this particular skill down means the story is one step closer to Mount Fuji, and now that Next Summit is moving through February, I imagine that in next episode, viewers will have a chance to see what awaits Aoi and her friends come March, a time when the weather slowly begins to warm back up as spring approaches.