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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penguin Highway: A Review and Reflection

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” –Albert Einstein

Aoyama is a fourth-grader with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and spends his days making detailed observations of the world around him. With a strong sense of confidence, Aoyama encounters a lady working at the dental clinic, whom he takes a liking to. His effort to impress her lands him a conversation, and she consents to instruct him in chess. When penguins begin appearing in his town, the lady tasks him with solving the mystery of the penguins’ origins, and Aoyama sets about applying his own brand of logic and reason towards seeking a scientific solution to this fantastical phenomenon. With his best friend Uchida and the equally-inquisitive transfer student Hanamoto, Aoyama continues to work out how the lady and penguins are connected, discovering a mysterious orb that he dubs the “ocean”. From observations made while he hangs out with the lady, and also his own experiments, Aoyama finds that while he can identify patterns (such as how the lady can only conjure penguins under clear skies and that her well-being diminishes the further away from town she is), he is no closer to solving the mystery: the enigma surrounding this orb deepens when the Lego probe with instruments that Aoyama, Hanamoto and Uchida sends into it vanishes. After a typhoon rolls over the area, and the orb expands, Aoyama and the lady enter the orb to rescue researchers from the university, including Hanamoto’s father, who became trapped in the orb while investigating it. Upon finding the researchers, the lady destroys the orb and bids Aoyama farewell, but not before he confesses that he’s fallen in love with her. After she disappears, Aoyama’s life returns to normal. One day, while relaxing at the local cafe, he sees a penguin, runs off outside and finds that while it has disappeared, the Lego probe he’d sent into the orb previously has returned. This is Penguin Highway in a nutshell, a 2018 film about the boundless curiosity and impermanence of youth, and whose home release only became available in 2019.

While Penguin Highway has Aoyama attempting to ground his observations in the realm of science, it soon becomes clear that the whole of the film takes place in a world where the laws of Newtonian and quantum physics simply do not apply. Matter is freely transformed without adhering to the Laws of Thermodynamics, and the lady herself appears to be an embodiment of the world’s mysteries given human form. With a whimsical, fantastical setting, Penguin Highway speaks to how children perceive the world; while adults have a very procedural, structured way of approaching problem, children often have alternative insights precisely because they are not bound by the same methodologies that adults have. Aoyama, while longing to be an adult and exhibiting the logical and deductive skills of someone much older, shows audiences how there are some phenomenon, miracles, in the world that can defy explanation by conventional means. Even he is baffled and impressed with the sights that he witnesses: unable to formulate a hypothesis on why, Aoyama is taken on a ride with the lady, and comes to discover a new feeling – one of love, as he becomes drawn to the mystery that the lady represents. Penguin Highway suggests that, while adults often dismiss children as thinking in simple terms, their unique outlooks on the world are as complex as an adult’s, even if they cannot structure or organise their thoughts to the same extent. Consequently, the thoughts of children can be quite wondrous when one takes the time to consider them, and this is what Penguin Highway aims to convey. While the structuring of Penguin Highway is turbulent, it captures the raw curiosity of children as they attempt to work out the things they experience in the world.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To give an idea of how busy things have been in the past while, I watched Penguin Highway halfway through back in late February, on a Sunday afternoon where my ISP went down. I had some work-related matters to deal with that day and left for the office so I could attend to those items. I finished the film post-F8 – after the conference ended, I had a chance have a coffee at the heart of San Francisco, drove the Golden Gate Bridge, and even had lunch (fried chicken and barbecue brisket) at the Facebook Campus in Menlo Park. On my last day, I had some of the best (and biggest) ribs I’ve ever had for lunch under a beautiful afternoon sun after visiting the Armstrong Redwoods State Park. Penguin Highway opens with a monologue from Aoyama, who wastes no time in establishing his superior intellect (“I’m smart, and I know I’m destined for greatness”). At his age, I was knee-deep into the natural sciences and history, reading every book I could get my hands on, and drawing out everything I learnt.

  • Aoyama is very bright, and able to deal with Suzuki (the class bully, Penguin Highway‘s equivalent of Calvin and Hobbes‘ Moe) with a dose of wit; at the dentist, he convinces Suzuki that the latter has an unknown, lethal disease, frightening the living daylights out of him. However, Aoyama’s thoughts also wander towards how attractive the woman working at the dental office is; the lady catches him checking her out when they first meet, and he blushes in embarrassment. Aoyama’s matter-of-act temperament draws her interest and she begins spending more time with him, instructing him in how to play chess.

  • Penguins begin appearing in Aoyama’s town: the name broadly refers to aquatic flightless birds of the family Spheniscidae, and the ones seen in Penguin Highway appear to be Pygoscelis adeliae, the most widespread of the penguin species. The penguins’ sizes in Penguin Highway are consistent with those of P. adeliae, although their bills are different. With their habitat being coastal Antarctica, P. adeliae possess adaptations to deal with the frigid conditions and lack of fresh water: it is unsurprising that their appearance in Japan would be quite surprising.

  • In revenge for Aoyama’s stunt at the dental clinic, Suzuki manages to catch Aoyama, whose attempts to escape fall short: he is tied to a vending machine, and the lady appears. After she frees him, she helps him pull his loose tooth, during which she creates a penguin. Such a phenomenon easily catches Aoyama’s eye, and the lady declares that her existence is a bit of a mystery, leaving him to try and solve it.

  • Using the scientific method, Aoyama manages to work out that the lady can only create penguins under clear skies, with bats being spawned in darkness and nothing happening during overcast days. The same techniques are applied (albeit with modifications to suit their needs) in various disciplines; when I debug software, I aim to only manipulate one variable at a time to ensure that an outcome is not caused by another factor. In Penguin Highway, however, the world hardly appears to conform with the laws of thermodynamics, and so, while Aoyama might be able to draw a correlation, causation cannot be so readily concluded.

  • The artwork in Penguin Highway is of an incredible quality, bringing life to Aoyama’s world. From details in the lighting to the choice of palette for a given scene, Penguin Highway‘s visual components add a considerable amount of immersion to the story. The cool of a rainy day, or the rush of wind can be felt as vividly as though one were present in the scene in person – on a rainy day, Aoyama visits the lady’s apartment, and the grey-blues of the day give a sense of gentle gloom.

  • Aoyama’s feelings for the lady begin from physical attraction: he outright admits to staring at her chest more often than he’d like and despite his stoic nature, never objects to spending time with her. Feelings of love in children are as authentic as those adults feel, and I imagine that this is common. For me, I had a bit of a crush on my art instructor/yearbook club advisor in high school, as well as my science instructor during my first year of high school. I expect that these feelings manifest from a combination of the physiological changes that adolescents go through, as well as taking interest in mature individuals that act as role models.

  • Aoyama’s father gives him an alternate perspective on things: he uses a small bag to motivate the notion that by inverting the bag, he is in effect, holding the whole universe in the bag, since relative to the bag’s exterior, the universe surrounds the interior. It’s a clever metaphor, akin to Stephen Hawking’s analogies and explanations for how multi-dimensional spaces might work. This explanation foreshadows the phenomenon seen later in Penguin Highway.

  • Hanamoto is on par with Aoyama in terms of intellectual curiosity and is skillful in chess. She invites Aoyama and Uchida to check out a mysterious phenomenon that has appeared in a clearing in the woods. While Suzuki has taken a liking to Hanamoto, she is more interested in Aoyama for being her peer in an intellectual capacity and is keen in having him help out in trying to work out the recent string of events.

  • It turns out this phenomenon is a wormhole that resembles a suspended sphere of liquid water – Aoyama and the others are quick to christen this sphere as the “ocean”. Its physical properties are completely unknown, beyond the fact that its surface reflects light from its surroundings. Over time, Hanamoto, Aoyama and Uchida collect various observations from it, learning that its size changes over time. While Penguin Highway makes extensive use of the scientific method, it is erroneously considered to be a science fiction story: the definition of science fiction is loose, but in general, it refers to stories that deal how human society reacts to advances in science and technology.

  • Since Penguin Highway does not have a societal component, the presence of the scientific method alone is not sufficient for the film to be considered as science fiction. Penguin Highway is better classified as a fantasy-adventure, following Aoyama’s journey and expressing the components of childhood curiosity in a visual manner for audiences. Aoyama is seen here running to a meeting with his friends, and the normalcy of the neighbourhood is apparent; it’s a beautiful summer’s day, and the blue skies invite exploration.

  • Summer is long associated with endless opportunity to explore, or else simply relax. Besides their research activities, Aoyama, Uchida and Hanamoto also partake in summer activities, such as sharing ice pops and visiting summer festivals. We’re now pushing towards the halfway point of May and are nearly halfway through spring – the days are lengthening, and I am now head home after a day’s work under sunshine. The weather, which has been persistently clinging to winter, has been remarkably nice of late, and I am hoping that the summer this year will be marked by beautiful days punctuated with a good rainfall at regular intervals.

  • During the summer festival, Hanamoto’s father shows up. He’s a researcher working with the local university and has taken an interest in the phenomenon that Hanamoto is studying, as well. During the summer festival, Aoyama and Uchida run into Suzuki and his cronies; Suzuki is interested in what’s going down between Aoyama and Hanamoto, and Aoyama quickly deduces that Suzuki is developing a bit of a crush on Hanamoto.

  • I admit that Penguin Highway was a bit more difficult to write for – I normally write about an anime series or film based on what messages a particular work aims to convey using the experiences the characters go through. By experiencing a disruption, characters mature and respond in a particular way, speaking to a life lesson that can then be discerned as a theme. Penguin Highway does not follow this particular approach and therefore, needed to be viewed with a different mindset in order for its theme to be identified. One review stands out as claiming that there is a substantial philosophical component in Penguin Highway, but fails to identify what this is.

  • The reason why this reviewer cannot identify what philosophy is being presented is simple: there is no overarching philosophical element in Penguin Highway to identify. It comes across as being disingenuous to readers when reviewers for larger sites make factitious claims that an anime is “smarter” than it is, and I make it a point to never do this with my own discussions. Penguin Highway is not a film intended to make audiences feel smarter, but strives to present a very specific picture about children and their curiosity. As their understanding of the orb’s properties increases, Aoyama, Hanamoto and Uchida decide to send a Lego probe into the orb. It is promptly absorbed into the orb and becomes unretrievable.

  • After Suzuki and his gang appear, Aoyama boldly claims that Suzuki must have feelings for Hanamoto and earns a beat down for his cheek. The lady appears and uses her penguins to scare off Suzuki and his gang. When the penguins try to interact with the orb, the orb reacts adversely and begins shooting out water that damage the surroundings. Hanamoto is shocked to learn that Aoyama had not shared this with her: Aoyama claims to have done so to keep the lady safe, and this moment is a subtle reminder of how dissemination of information in academy goes, with secrecy being a part of things as academics work to be the first to present their findings.

  • Aoyama is very blunt in his manner, and when he asks to suspend all investigation into the sphere after spotting a Jabberwock (inspired by Lewis Caroll’s Jabberwocky, a poem about the killing of a creature), Hanamoto loses her cool, accusing Aoyama of doing this because he’s got a crush on the lady and her physique. Aoyama is unfazed by this and openly admits this. As a bit of trivia, there are articles written from two years back that assert that staring at someone’s mammaries increases longevity. The precise mechanism behind this is not well-understood, but some hypotheses suggest that it increases positive thinking.

  • During a bright summer’s day, the lady decides to take Aoyama to the coastal town in her memories despite Aoyama being no closer to solving the question of who she is. However, as the lady travels further from their original town, she becomes weaker, eventually collapsing on the train station. Mysterious entities begin spawning into the platform, but these dissipate over time, and the pair agree to return home. Wondering if diet could be anything, Aoyama feverishly decides to stop eating to see if the results can be replicated, but falls ill in the process.

  • While trying to sleep off his cold, Aoyama’s dreams are turbulent and confusing. Because the mechanisms behind dreams are not understood, the reason why we have repetitive dreams while ill is similarly poorly understood: some speculate that the sheer amount of energy the body has diverted towards fighting illness leaves the brain in a state of producing stranger, more limited dreams. When Aoyama wakes up, he finds the lady by his side. Frustrated by his lack of progress and the events around him, Aoyama allows himself tears.

  • Aoyama recovers the next morning, and learns that the orb has grown to a gargantuan size. Earlier, Suzuki and his gang were interviewed by scientists to learn more about the phenomenon around town, but these scientists have disappeared. He, Hanamoto and Uchida plan on sneaking out after an evacuation order is issued, and are confronted by Suzuki’s gang: they decide to help out, as Suzuki wants to get back into Hanamoto’s good books. Never one to hold grudges, Aoyama readily agrees, and the gang come in handy for helping Aoyama and the others eluding patrols around the school.

  • After Aoyama appears to have escaped from the pursuing law enforcement officers, he runs into the lady but come face-to-face with more patrols. When it looks like they are cornered, the lady summons a veritable army of penguins to get them back into the forest, towards the orb. The spectacle is nothing short of impressive, and there are hundreds of penguins on the screen at once: the sight is comparable to the scale of the final fight in Avengers: Endgame, which I just had the pleasure of watching mere hours ago. This is not a talk about Endgame, so readers should not expect any spoilers here.

  • As the penguins carry Aoyama and the lady through the city streets, the world becomes increasingly surreal, foreshadowing the film’s complete departure from anything resembling reality. While Penguin Highway retained a largely realistic world throughout its run, as the climax approaches, this is discarded. I’ve heard comparisons for this scene to a similar moment in Hinata no Aoshigure and Fumiko no Kokuhaku, which featured a likewise chaotic scramble towards their ends: I have seen the latter, but not the former.

  • After a wild ride into the forest and upon entering the orb itself, Aoyama and the lady find themselves resting on a raft of penguins, watching the sunset in a strange world. The sort of events in Penguin Highway can only  be explained with magic approaching those conferred by entities like the Infinity Stones, and for me, I feel that approaching Penguin with the expectation for adventure, rather than instruction, is the most appropriate way to get the most from things. If and when I am asked, Penguin Highway makes extensive use of the Space and Reality stones to drive its events.

  • After entering a town where buildings float and defy physics, in a world that appears as though it were the sandbox environment for a game developer, Aoyama and the lady find the missing researchers. They decide to close off this world, even if it comes at a great cost to the lady. The setting feels infinitely peaceful, with its vividly blue skies and vast ocean. I’ve been referring to the lady only as such because she has no given name, and is referred to as onee-san throughout the movie, accentuating her enigmatic presence.

  • It’s been a week since I returned from F8, and it’s been remarkably busy, hence my low number of posts. On Tuesday, I spent the evening catching up with an old friend: we swapped stories over ramen at a local restaurant (their daily special was a pork ramen so hot that I felt the effects for the whole of the next day), and then I stepped out for lunch on Friday at a restaurant that I was sure was a furniture store, and where every item on the menu, including their Swiss-mushroom burger, was six dollars. In the aftermath of F8, there’s a great deal of work to do, and while travelling has been fun, I have enjoyed settling back into my daily routine.

  • The page quote comes from Albert Einstein, who is best known for his work in relativity and contributions to quantum mechanics. The events of Penguin Highway tend towards the creativity that Einstein described as being essential for tackling new problems – approaching problems from the realm of what could be possible, rather than what already is, allows minds to envision new solutions and approaches in ways that purely using existing knowledge cannot.

  • By the film’s end, it becomes very clear that Penguin Highway is more about imagination than about knowledge – existing reviews out there similarly identify imagination as being one of the biggest strengths in the film. Back in the real world, the orb collapses, releasing a torrent of pure water that flows through the city streets. Penguins that the lady have conjured run about, popping the water spheres in the streets, and bemused, Hanamoto’s father can only stare at what occurs. In the aftermath, Suzuki and his gang return to the school, while a tearful Hanamoto embraces Aoyama upon finding out that he’s alright.

  • Aoyama’s farewell to the lady is an emotionally-charged one: with the source of her power gone, she prepares to head off. Aoyama’s forward manner allows him to openly declare that he’s in love with the lady, and she embraces him warmly before stepping out into the evening sun. After she leaves, a new status quo is reached. Aoyama is still more or less who he was before, firmly believing he is a genius destined for greatness, but subtle changes are seen: Hanamoto teaches Suzuki to play chess, and the hostility between Aoyama and Suzuki’s group seems lessened.

  • After thirty screenshots, I feel like I’ve given a modestly succinct collection of my thoughts for Penguin Highway. Overall, I enjoyed it for its portrayal of what youth feels like – the adventure that Aoyama goes on during the film’s run is a reminder of what my days in primary school were like. I used to spend a great deal of time drawing, reading and making sense of the world. While I’m nowhere as brilliant or verbose as Aoyama, I think that even now, a bit of that childish desire to know and understand everything endures in me.

  • We thus come to the end of this talk for Penguin Highway, which I think has the internet’s first proper collection of screenshots. With this one in the books, along with Avengers: Endgame, I look ahead into May. I have finished Yama no Susume‘s second season and have passed the halfway point of Valkyria Chronicles 4, which I’ve enjoyed so much that I’m considering purchasing the DLC for it. On DLC, I am also looking to buy the season pass for Ace Combat 7. In addition, Gundam Narrative will release on May 24, giving me a chance to watch the continuation for the events of Gundam Unicorn, and I will naturally be writing about this. Finally, I will need to get my Nagi no Asukara review off the ground at some point: I understand that there is interest in this series from readers.

The art and animation of Penguin Highway are a major contributor to its thematic component; while the theme initially appears to be about the limits of intellectual curiosity (seen in Aoyama’s persistence in attempting to apply logic in piecing together cause and effect), the visually stunning transitions between the real and fantastical appear to emphasise childhood wonder and excitement about the world as a whole. As a result, Penguin Highway is unique in that the deliberate choice of artwork and animation forms a part of the message the film aims to convey, and that in its absence, the theme would have found itself much more difficult to discern. This is likely why there are so few discussions on the thematic elements in the film: most existing reviews are from newspapers, which tend to focus on the enjoyment factor instead, and I’ve not seen any other reviews on the movie. The theme in Penguin Highway encompasses more than the outcome of its narrative and character growth: sight and sound come into play, as well. Penguin Highway therefore comes across as being less of a story and more of an immersive experience whose engaging presentation outweighs the story’s weaker cohesion and direction. Although I do not believe that Penguin Highway is suited for anyone looking for a good mystery or will be useful for those seeking to understand the philosophical ramifications of how children think, the film earns a recommendation for viewers who are open-minded towards a highly visceral and visual romp through the mind of a child – I hope that more people would give Penguin Highway a watch, and look forwards to seeing what others make of the film.

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yama no Susume: Review and Reflection

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” –Sir Edmund Hillary

Aoi Yukimura is a high school girl who would prefer knitting to the outdoors, but after reuniting with Hinata Kuraue, she is compelled to go hiking; Hina won’t take no for an answer and reminds Hinata that they’d once seen a sunrise together after climbing a mountain. Starting Aoi with a simpler walk to Mount Tenran, Hinata encourages her to enjoy the walk up the path. Later, Aoi and Hinata have a cook-off, and Aoi encounters Kaede Saitō, a backpacker who is trying to buy a sleeping bag. The two become friends, and Aoi asks Kaede for suggestions when Hinata proposes they climb another mountain. Kaede recommends Mount Takao, and Aoi returns this to Hinata. They purchase a new backpack for Aoi, and on the day of the hike, Aoi fails to pace herself. After recovering her breath, the two continue on their trek to the summit, where Aoi gives Hinata a souvenir that she’d bought earlier. On the descent, they encounter Kokona Aoba and help her mend her shoes. Two becomes four – Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona decide to visit the Hanno River beach together. As the day draws to a close, the girls look forwards to the adventures they will share together. Later, to help Aoi with her acrophobia, the girls take her to a climbing center.

Yama no Susume (Encouragement of Climb, literally “Recommending Climbing”) originally aired in 2013 as a short form anime – each episode runs for three minutes each, and the total episode count results in the first season being more similar to an OVA in content and presentation. Every journey must begin from somewhere, and Yama no Susume opens with Aoi becoming familiar with hiking. The progression is a gentle one: Yama no Susume eases Aoi into hikes by starting her off with a walk in the park, and then progresses her to a beginner’s mountain. By gradually acclimatising to hiking and the outdoors, Aoi is able to have more fun without becoming discouraged. She also meets new friends in the process: Kaede is highly experienced with the outdoors and brings technical know-how to the table, while Kokona is knowledgable about the outdoors. The first season of Yama no Susume is a season of beginnings, warming Aoi to the wonders of hiking in a gentle manner and showing that with the right encouragement, anyone can get started with hiking. Moreover, hikes are as varied as people: while there are mountaineering trails that demand exceptional experience and dedicated gear, there are also hikes that novices can readily enjoy and complete. These introductory elements set the stage for what is to come: Yama no Susume‘s first season is remarkably short, and viewers are invariably left with a want to see what adventures await Aoi and Hinata now that Aoi’s gotten her first few experiences with hiking up mountains.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I admit that I am nearly six years late to the party: when Yama no Susume came out back in 2013, I was in the throes of my undergraduate thesis defense, and therefore, was too busy to watch anything besides Girls und Panzer. With the benefit of hindsight, something like Yama no Susume would have been a good countermeasure against the stresses of a thesis defense; the anime is very inviting and warm. Hinata and Aoi have known one another for quite some time, and the former’s memories of climbing a mountain to watch the sunrise with a sea of clouds below encourages her to take up hiking again.

  • The first season has thirteen episodes, each lasting about three minutes each. It is therefore possible to finish the first season in one sitting, and writing about Yama no Susume weekly would have likely presented me with considerable challenges – while each episode coves a bit of ground, there is no getting around that three minutes worth of footage per episode does not permit a large number of screenshots.

  • After Hinata brings Aoi over and has her set up a tent to familiarise herself with outdoors gear, Hinata proposes that they take a hike on Mount Tenran, a 195 metre high hill that is advertised as being accessible for all individuals. Aoi worries about safety and brings an excessive amount of gear, only to watch in befuddlement as a little girl waltzes by with naught more than a backpack. With a bit of nudging from Hinata, Aoi begins the ascent and finds it to be much better than expected.

  • Hinata’s loud and energetic personality brings to mind a combination of traits between Girls und Panzer‘s Yukari Akiyama and Norie Okazaki from Tamayura. She’s voiced by Kana Asumi, who incidentally portrayed Tamayura‘s Kaori Hanawa, Mio Kitahara of Ano Natsu de Matteru, and Non Non Biyori‘s very own Komari Koshigaya. I suppose that small, loud characters are a thing, and Asumi excels in her roles, bringing to life the characters I’ve seen her play.

  • From the summit of Mount Tenran, Aoi marvels at the scenery, before bringing out a boxed lunch for the two to share. Yuka Iguchi voices Aoi: other roles I know her for include Aiko Andō from True Tears, Norie Okazaki of Tamayura (which is a riot considering that Aoi and Norie are distinctly different in personality), Anzu Shiina from Flying Witch, Mako Reizei of Girls und Panzer, and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Hinata Miyake. The sheer diversity of roles speaks to Iguchi’s skill: from the lethargic Mako to the boisterous Hinata, Iguchi presents Aoi as being similar to Miho Nishizumi in temperment, but with a stubborn streak a klick wide.

  • Yama no Susume is set in and around Hannō, a city in the Saitama prefecture. With a population of around 80000, Hannō lies right on the western edge of Tokyo, and despite its small size, the city’s economy is driven by electronics and pharmaceuticals (something the provincial government back home could do well to follow suit with). The Wareiwa Bridge can be seen in the distance, crossing the Inou River, and here, Aoi and Hinata share ice pops in the days following their first hike.

  • Hinata challenges Aoi to a showdown in cooking only with camping implements, and when she doesn’t take the challenge seriously, Aoi proceeds to lay down a physical beating – she prepares a seafood paella with prawns and muscles that is far more intricate than the ready-to-eat meal that Hinata brings to the table. Despite being adorable and peaceable for the most part, Aoi can be quite stubborn and quick to anger, which makes her a much more relatable character.

  • Yama no Susume‘s first season is only really the tip of the iceberg with respect to introducing the characters and premise. In spite of the inordinately short episodes, however, Yama no Susume‘s first season manages to fit so much into such a short space to create a compelling series that does more with less.

  • While looking at hiking supplies, Aoi runs into Kaede, who is looking for a suitable sleeping bag for the outdoors. Kaede is a senior at the school Aoi attends, and is also experienced as an outdoorsman. Aoi manages to convince her to pick the sleeping bag best suited for her usage, even if it is a little pricier, and Aoi leaves, having made a new friend in the process. Folks who’ve seen my older talks on Yuru Camp△ will have already seen earlier discussions about sleeping bags and their compositions, as well as what temperatures different sleeping bags are rated for.

  • In Yama no Susume, Aoi and Hinata frequent an outdoors good store that is decidedly smaller than the large retail stores such as Canadian Tire. It brings to mind the specialty shops of Banff and at some locations at home, which sell higher quality gear for a correspondingly higher price: Nadeshiko and the others visit a Caribou store in Yuru Camp△ to look at equipment for their own camping trips, and I recall that my Google-fu was initially insufficient to locate this particular store, which was actually modelled on a store in a town some ways away.

  • Kaede is voiced by Yōko Hisaka: she’s K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama, Infinite Stratos‘ Houki Shinonono, New Game!‘s Kō Yagami, Pitohui in Sword Art Online Alternative and Domestic na Kanojo‘s Hina Tachibana, to name a few. Knowledgeable, mature and friendly, Kaede acts as a source of technical advice for Aoi and the others, indirectly providing audiences with various tidbits on hiking the same way Yuru Camp△ occasionally would present viewers with camping tips.

  • Aoi is the sort of individual who takes an inordinate amount of time in making a decision and often second-guesses herself. However, with new friends in her corner, she’s able to work through the process more smoothly: when Mount Tanigawa might be too much of a challenge for Aoi, Kaede helps her pick a more suitable mountain in Mount Takao. Aoi’s seen with an earlier MacBook Pro model here – in 2013, I was loaning a laptop from my lab, but carelessly left it on campus during the Great Flood. The waters never did reach campus, but campus was closed, costing me a week in progress.

  • I retrieved my laptop and ended up working from home until early July, but this machine was in no way capable of running the in-house game engine, so progress was slow. I doubt even my current generation laptop could pull it off: it barely runs The Giant Walkthrough Brain on ultra settings at 30 FPS. Back in Yama no Susume, Aoi ends up choosing Mount Takao – a ways more difficult than Mount Tenran, Mount Takao is still quite manageable, with most climbers able to ascend within ninety minutes depending on the route they take. Because this hike is a bit more involved, Hinata suggests that Aoi get a backpack

  • Aoi initially has trouble picking out a proper backpack for her hike, and it takes some time for her to choose one that fits her specifications. My main criteria for picking a bag is that it has to have decent storage capacity, enough compartments to separate out my consumables from smaller items, and durability. The tare weight is also something I consider: something that is too heavy while empty would make it more of a pain to carry when fully loaded.

  • On the day of their hike at Mount Takao, Aoi is fired up and excited about climbing the path up the mountain, which is lined with shrines. This is something unique to Japan – in the Rocky Mountains, our trails are more rugged, and while affording stunning views, don’t have the same facilities.

  • Aoi exhausts herself when, on the spur of the moment, she attempts to power through the hike to hit the destination more quickly. This is how not to hike – pacing oneself is essential, especially when one is doing a new hike where they are unfamiliar with the route. Having some experience with fitness training, this is how I approach hikes, and last year, when I did the Windtower, it was experience that allowed me to complete the hike without incident. The Windtower leads hikers into a rugged alpine clearing affording a beautiful view of the Spray Lakes below, but it’s also characterised by a very poorly-marked trail that, in some places, is adjacent to a 15-metre drop.

  • While high intensity, Windtower is also a shorter hike: the longest hike I did was Lake Louise’s Big Beehive hike two years ago. Tallying some six hours, I carried my own provisions up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, and we pushed further towards the Big Beehive, stopping at the top for lunch. I can attest to the fact that food simply tastes better mid-hike: in the middle of their hike, Aoi and Hinata enjoy some dango.

  • Being located a mere hour away from the heart of Tokyo, Mount Takao offers a stunning view of the cityscape below, and one aspect of Yama no Susume that impressed me was that, for its exceedingly short runtime, the art and animation are of a high quality, faithfully capturing the locations that Aoi and Hinata visit.

  • En route up the mountain, Aoi picks up a souvenir with the intent of giving it to Hinata as thanks, but becomes too embarrassed to do so. She later summons up the courage to do so, and I note that for the hikes I’ve done, I’ve never seen any trail-side shops selling stuff before. The closest I’ve seen is the Lake Agnes Teahouse, which serves tea adjacent to a lake among the mountains: their supplies are carried up by staff, and occasionally flown up by helicopter, as well.

  • While I’ve not shown it here, Mount Fuji is visible from Mount Takao. Throughout Yama no Susume, Mount Fuji is something Aoi has shown interest in for its majesty, and like Yuru Camp△, is the object of admiration from those who behold it. Mount Fuji therefore acts as somewhat of an end goal for Aoi and Hinata: they resolve to climb it together one day, and so, it would appear that conquering the greatest of Japan’s mountains is where Yama no Susume is headed.

  • On the way back down the mountain, Hinata and Aoi encounter a middle school aged girl fretting about her shoes. With her skills in making clothes, and eye for creative solutions, Aoi cobbles together a short term solution for the girl, whose name is Kokona. A friendship blossoms here, and they accompany one another down Mount Takao. Kokona is voiced by Yui Ogura, whose roles I’m not too familiar with.

  • If I had to guess, Aoi and Hinata take the Omotesando trail ascending Mount Takao, which has all of the temples and plenty of resting spots. This route takes an average of an hour and fifty minutes to complete. On the way back down, stepping stones over a stream are visible: they descending via the Biwa Waterfall trail, and descent takes about an hour. While helping Kokona, Aoi slips and falls on the rocks.

  • The Biwa waterfall trail is heavily wooded, and on conjunction with the stream, offers a cool, shaded alternative to the other trails. Initially, when I watched Yama no Susume, I finished the entire series within the space of three days, and wondered if I could write about it. If memory serves, I actually watched Yama no Susume back in July of last year – having heard about the third season and the series’ relatively short episodes, I decided to push through, thinking that it would be relatively straightforward to watch through both the first and second seasons, just in time to finish the third before the year’s end.

  • The page quote comes from the encouragement aspect of Yama no Susume: by conquering a mountain, Aoi is slowly conquering her own fears. It turns out that her acrophobia stems from an accident where she’d fallen from a jungle gym and sustained a broken leg in the process. Hinata’s “won’t take no for an answer” personality is what pushes Aoi into hiking, and as a result, she’s now met two new friends, as well as discovering that there’s a world beyond her own fears.

  • While I finished Yama no Susume‘s first season on short order, August turned into dumpster fire when I was flown out to Denver to bring an iOS app written in Xamarin back from the brink: flying between Calgary and Denver every other week wrecked havoc with my schedule, and I ended up only writing about Harukana Receive owing to the time constraints. When autumn came, I was occupied with The World in Colour and Anima Yell!, while this winter, a combination of a new job, Ace Combat 7 and Endro! kept me busy. However, with the current spring season looking quiet, I see an opportunity to finally catch up with Yama no Susume. My immediate impression is to wonder why I didn’t watch this one sooner.

  • Towards the end of Yama no Susume‘s first season, Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona enjoy a day at the Hanno River, where they cook French Toast and tomato risotto. It marks the first time everyone’s really hung out together since Aoi met them; thanks to Hinata’s particular enthusiasm in pushing Aoi to hike more, Aoi’s brought people together.

  • Yama no Susume thus sets the stage for more hiking and mountain climbing – we’ve not seen everyone hike or climb together just yet, and Kaede alludes to this: under starry skies, they anticipate spending more time together on the trails and peaks of Japan. It’s a fitting close to the first season, which formally ended in the spring of 2013 alongside Girls und Panzer. Two months later, an OVA was released, detailing Aoi’s adventures at an indoor climbing wall, where she slowly overcomes her fears thanks to her friends’ support.

  • I’ve never gone indoor climbing before; it’s a pastime that seems very popular amongst my peers, and in retrospect, it might’ve been a good activity to balance out my weight lifting. I’ve been lifting weights casually for around nine years now, and are a late-novice lifter now: I’m pushing past being able to bench press 120% of my body weight, and my next goal is to see if I can’t bench 130% of my body weight. My squat is a little weaker, being a mere 120% of my body weight. On the topic of fitness, while I’m not exactly the paragon of fitness, I consider myself in acceptable condition, and earlier this month, I ran a poll on Twitter to see what the lifestyle choices of my readers were.

  • It turns out most of my readers have a well-formed fitness routine, and I figured that I’d share mine, as well as some of my experiences with fitness and how this fits in with the unique hobby of anime blogging. Thanks to the poll’s results, I know to get past the basics and go straight to more of the mental components of health and wellness. Back in Yama no Susume, Aoi falls off one of the walls after getting stuck on a more advanced course, but her friends’ support allows her to overcome a fear of falling. Speaking with Kaede, who similarly had a fear of heights, Aoi resolves to keep pushing forwards.

  • It just wouldn’t be an OVA if there wasn’t some fanservice for viewers, and even something like Yama no Susume is no exception. The OVA wraps up the first season on a high note, and while it was over much too quickly, a second season aired a year later, running with a total of twenty-four episodes, plus two specials. Because this spring season has seen few shows that catch my interest, now is a good of a time as any to continue through Yama no Susume, which has certainly encouraged me to watch it. I also plan on writing about Seishun Buta Yarō in a Terrible Anime Challenge, my first of the year, once we get into May.

Yama no Susume lives up to its name; it is a very encouraging and approachable anime about the process that one takes towards climbing a mountain. While Yama no Susume is very literal about mountain climbing and hiking in that this is precisely what it deals with, from a metaphorical perspective, encouraging climbing is to encourage exploring new directions in life and overcoming them. Yama no Susume posits to viewers that every journey has a beginning, and that it is completely acceptable that beginnings do so in a slow, gradual manner. Despite totalling around forty minutes of runtime, Yama no Susume is very effective in its messages. The series has been compared to Yuru Camp△, which had a similar outdoors premise, but upon further inspection, Yama no Susume and Yuru Camp△ only really share the outdoors and a strong technical component about outdoor know-how as their commonalities – Yuru Camp△ is about the joys of being with others, while Yama no Susume shows how journeys start and progress. With things plainly in motion for Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona now, I am intending to return and write about Yama no Susume‘s second and third seasons, plus Omoide no Present. The manga is still running, and while waiting for Yuru Camp△ to continue with its second season, I have found a superb peer to experience in Yama no Susume.

Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas): Movie Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” –Sir William Wallace

While at the hospital, the introverted Haruki Shiga encounters an unusually-titled book, “Living with Dying”. He picks it up and leafs through it, before coming face-to-face with its owner, Sakura Yamauchi. It turns out that Sakura is afflicted with a pancreatic disease that will in time, result in her death. After Haruki promises to keep her secret, Sakura recruits him to spend time with her, feeling that he represents a balance between the normalcy that her parents want her to experience, and the reality that she must face given her condition. Unlike her doctors, who give a stark view of her life expectancy, and her parents, who are overcome with emotion whenever Sakura mentions her disease, Haruki is seemingly far removed from things to help Sakura live life normally and experience everyday things. While Haruki is initially hesitant, Sakura is persistent; she takes up a position at the library he works at, and later invites him out to a yakiniku restaurant. Sakura is determined to make the most of her remaining time, and drafts a bucket list of things to do before she dies. As the two spend more time together, classmates become suspicious of Haruki. Sakura later books a trip out of the blue, and during this excursion, Sakura and Haruki learn more about one another. After returning home, Sakura’s best friend, Kyoko, confronts Haruki, wondering what’s going on between the two. Later, Haruki visits Sakura to borrow a book from her and leaves following a misunderstanding. He runs into Takahiro, Sakura’s ex, who demands to know what’s going on and knocks him to the ground. Sakura finds Haruki, and after helping him clean up, asks him to return the book that he’s borrowed within a year. Sakura and Haruki push into her bucket list as summer break continues, although one day, she is admitted to the hospital. While they play cards, Sakura reveals that her outlook on life and socialisation is than one’s interactions with others is what made life worth living, and later, she sneaks out of the hospital, taking Haruki to a hill to watch some fireworks. Here, Haruki realises the extent of the impact that she’s had on him, and now, he has a genuine desire for her to keep living. He agrees to Sakura’s request to go to the beach, but when she misses their date, Haruki heads home, where he learns that Sakura was stabbed. Devastated, he does not attend her funeral, but later visits Sakura’s mother and pay respects to Sakura. Here, Sakura’s mother gives him “Living with Dying”. Haruki learns that Sakura had been curious about him and admired him after meeting him. Despite their short time together, Sakura was deeply moved by Haruki’s choice to stick by her. Haruki promises to Sakura’s mother that he will return to visit along with Kyoko, and also passes Sakura’s final words to Kyoko. Despite refusing to accept this initially, Haruki persuades Kyoko to give him a second chance. A year later, Kyoko and Haruki visit Sakura’s grave, before heading off to the Yamauchi residence.

The unusually-titled Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, which is what I’ll refer to the film for the remainder of this talk) is a journey about life that began as a web novel authored by Yoru Sumino, was adapted into manga and then made into a live-action movie. The animated film was produced by Studio VOLN and released in September 2018. Dealing with themes of what life means, and how opposites introduce dramatic changes in one’s world-view, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a sincere and genuine glimpse into what living is about. Haruki begins as an antisocial individual who prefers the company of books over people, but a chance encounter with Sakura changes all of this. Her seemingly boundless energy and optimism despite her imminent death initially has little impact on the stoic Haruki, but as he spends more time with her, he comes to enjoy her company. However, this route has both its ups and downs. Encountering emotions that he had previously been unaware of, Haruki is conflicted by these new experiences; while he becomes closer with Sakura, he must also deal with Kyoko’s refusal to accept him and Takahiro pasting him onto the pavement, Haruki only handles these with a taciturn outlook. However, seeing Sakura’s experiences eventually leads him to realise that he’s now emotionally close with Sakura, and that for everything she’s done for him, he desperately wants her to live. Sakura’s upbeat, outgoing personality stands in contrast with Haruki’s quiet, reserved one, and these polar opposites do much to bring change to Haruki, who begins to understand that life is about interacting with, and caring for people around oneself. While Haruki feels he’s given nothing to Sakura in return, it turns out that being there for her, however reluctantly it was early on, Haruki showed to Sakura that there was someone out there who would come to genuinely care for her, making her feel special and fulfilled. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas reiterates that, time and time again, bringing people together, that are seemingly polar opposites, can result in a synergy that brings about undeniable and profound change in their lives as they come to empathise with one another.

While the topic of Sakura’s death is ever-present in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, the movie is about what life means. That life is finite and fragile serves to give it all the more value – the answer to the meaning of life is infinitely varied and diverse. For Sakura, and by extension, Sumino, life is defined by the meaningful relationships that one forms with others. Whether it be caring for others, giving them joy or support, life is to be treasured because one has the potential to make someone else happy. The emphasis on life, rather than death, is emphasised in every aspect of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Sakura is full of life, with her boundless optimism and acceptance of death driving her to make the most of each day. Despite her days being more limited than most, Sakura is resolved to make each second count. The film’s animation and artwork are deliberately crafted to reflect this – scenes are vividly rendered, and every moment is filled to the brim with colour. In this manner, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas reminds viewers that there’s value in all life, that all one really has to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to them. Even in death, Sakura’s optimistic spirit endures, providing Haruki the motivation to continue living – a year after her death, Haruki has undergone a profound change and nominally gets along with Kyoko, showing just how far he’s come of his own volition since being motivated by his fateful meeting with Sakura. The film’s title gives insight into the sort of effect that Sakura and Haruki have on one another; early in the film, Sakura mentions that some cultures will eat certain organs to heal a related physiological function or take up its strength. Both Haruki and Sakura, by spending time with one another that becomes highly treasured, eat one another’s pancreas in a metaphorical sense, imbibing the traits from the other that help them mature.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I Want to Eat Your Pancreas opens in April, under the blooming of cherry blossoms. It is a foregone conclusion that Sakura will be dying in the movie – Haruki is shown at home, still in grief after her death. However, there is a considerable journey taken to get to this point, and this is what I Want to Eat Your Pancreas showcases. After a chance meeting at a hospital, Sakura takes a keen interest in Haruki, and the movie’s events thus begin. I’ve got a longer talk for I Want to Eat Your Pancreas because there is a bit of ground to cover, and consequently, this talk will have forty screenshots.

  • Sakura explains the film’s title as coming from an ancient belief that eating a particular organ will help alleviate illnesses. She suffers from a pancreatic disease of unknown nature: besides this disease, Sakura is otherwise completely healthy, and in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, is shown to be unaffected by other symptoms that are found in pancreatic conditions (e.g. pain, nausea and vomiting in pancreatitis). Her condition is left ambiguous because it is not relevant to the story; the condition and its fatal nature is more relevant. Despite his initial reservations, Haruki reluctantly agrees to join Sakura to a yakiniku restaurant, where they grill a variety of variety meats.

  • Despite claiming to not be interested in Haruki in a romantic manner, her persistence in bringing him along to finish her bucket list has parallels with Your Lie in April‘s Kaori, who similarly pushed Kousei back into music despite ostensibly not being interested in him. Similarities between Your Lie in April and I Want to Eat Your Pancreas are inevitable, although the latter abstracts away the music component in favour of a more direct message about what living means. Eating well is a part of living, and while we take it for granted at times, being able to enjoy good food adds a considerable amount of joy to life. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas places a great deal of emphasis on food moments for this reason.

  • Sakura is every bit as spirited as Karoi, and while walking through the shopping district, they encounter a worker who is bullying an elderly lady after his wares are knocked over. She intervenes, pointing out that the worker is at fault; bikes are not permitted here. After the shopping district’s patrons and vendors’ attention is drawn, Sakura cans the worker before running off, leaving beat cops to arrest the worker.

  • The artwork and animation in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is of a high quality; settings are simply but vividly coloured, bring every moment to life. The film maintains its colourful scenery when Sakura and Haruki are together, emphasising that each moment is a memorable one for the two even in spite of Haruki’s generally gloomy and pessimistic outlook. Being taciturn and unsociable, Haruki would very much prefer to read books, engrossing himself in the admittedly rich and exciting worlds within them rather than spending time with others.

  • Haruki believes that minimising social interactions with others is the simplest way to live: caring very little about those around them thinks of him, he is content to be ignored and not deal with others. In a manner of speaking, Haruki is the embodiment an extreme – I myself find happiness in solitude, whether it be reading, walking on my own and the like, but I’ve also come to appreciate and respect the importance of close social relationships. No man is an island, and having people to fall back on when things get difficult can mean the difference between suffering and finding enough alternate outlooks to approach problems differently.

  • Use of space as a visual brake is a common element employed in visual arts. Towards the beginning of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, there is a spatial gap between Haruki and Sakura whenever they meet up. As the film advances on, the time that the two spend at opposite ends of the frame is lessened, indicating to viewers that the two have become very close despite Haruki’s seeming lack of interest in getting to know Sakura better early on. These cues are immensely valuable in giving viewers subtle hints as to what’s going on; Bill Watterson utilised space as a way of conveying an idea in Calvin and Hobbes, where the medium was static and therefore, even mire dependent on placement.

  • Kyoko is very close to Sakura and is disapproving of Haruki, viewing him as an outcast unworthy of Sakura’s time. Sakura’s optimistic and level-headed approach in dealing with Kyoko’s reactions shows that she views both Sakura and Haruki as important: she chooses neither over the other and simply does her best to make things work, befitting of her outlook on life. Sakura is unfazed, and presses on ahead: after running into Kyoko at the desert café, she brings Haruki to the beach.

  • Sakura’s jacket, in conjunction with the subdued hues, suggest a cooler spring evening. It’s much too early to be enjoying warmer waters, but here, Sakura asks Haruki to spend additional time with her and mentions that on her list of things to do before she snuffs it is to become closer to a guy in a romantic fashion. Sakura teases Haruki from time to time about it; from Haruki’s perspective, Sakura’s intentions are ambivalent, and audiences will similarly be unsure of whether or not she’s teasing Haruki or not because he’s so unresponsive. By leaving audiences to guess what’s going on, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas compels the audience to keep watching.

  • Sakura convinces Haruki to take an excursion with her to Fukuoka. With a population of 1.6 million, Fukuoka is the sixth largest city in Japan. While Haruki is initially set up for a day trip, it turns out that Sakura had intended for an overnight stay and arranged for accommodations to be made so their absences could be explained away. En route to Hakata Station, Sakura asks for Haruki’s name, and I suppose now is a good time as any to mention that this entire discussion is one big spoiler – I understand that the choice of names underlies the theme of connectedness and fate in the movie, hence the decision to keep his name unknown, but for discussion, it would have been difficult to mention Haruki without his name.

  • Hakata Station is the largest in Kyushu; with over 120000 passengers a day, it acts as the access point from Kyushu to Honshu. The station seen in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas was built in 2011 to replace an older station, and even has its own department store. It forms the starting point for Sakura and Haruki’s trip, the point in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas where Haruki’s character slowly begins changing. After the warm-up, things begin accelerating as Haruki gets to know Sakura better.

  • While exploring Fukuoka, Sakura and Haruki stop at a ramen shop, having what I eyeball to be a Hakata ramen, which features cuts of pork in a milky white broth and thin noodles. The food in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is rendered in great detail, and one feels as though they were there with the two. On the topic of food, Poutine Week is in full swing right now, and last Saturday, I stopped by a steakhouse downtown to try their Big Smoke poutine: this poutine consists of smoked brisket, a special in-house gravy, crunchy bacon, truffle mushrooms, jalapeño, and Chimichurri sauce. The richness of the gravy, brisket and bacon pieces was complemented by a tang from the Chimichurri, as well as a mild spice from the jalapeño. This poutine was accompanied by a refreshing ginger beer, and I subsequently stepped out to pick up Marie Kondo’s The Manga Guide to Cleaning Up.

  • Enjoyment of the smaller things in life is one of the reasons why I can be happy with an afternoon spent browsing through a book store. I feel that amongst my peers, I stand as being a bit unusual in that I believe that experiences and memories (something that Millennials greatly value) can be found even while doing the ordinary. There is value in everything, no matter how trivial, and different scales of an experience simply confers different kinds of happiness, which is ultimately happiness all the same. The montage of Sakura and Haruki exploring Fukuoka shows various snapshots of the two having a good time, with Sakura taking the lead in all of the frames.

  • As the evening wears on, Sakura and Haruki walk through a yatai (night market) – Fukouka’s night markets are known for their food, being counted as one of the best in Asia, and the stalls serve a diverse array of foods, from Japanese street food to French items. Night markets have an exhilarating atmosphere: I went to Kaohsiung five years ago and walked through their night market, which was a spectacular experience for the sights and smells alone. At the time, my constitution was not at full health, and so, I did not eat anything – one of my longstanding goals will be to go back to Taiwan, for the singular purpose of eating the grilled squid at their night markets. While I’m there, I would also love to rent a scooter and overnight through Huadong Valley, waking up in a countryside inn and finding a swift sunset awaiting me.

  • An error in booking results in Sakura and Haruki sharing the same room. Haruki immediately decides to sleep on the couch, giving the bed to Sakura, but Sakura counter-argues that a bed this nice must be experienced. I imagine that some minds immediately wander towards what could go down next, but the context of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, something like that was never going to happen. It was interesting to see how Haruki immediately picks his course of action and how this parallels mine.

  • Sakura and Haruki stay at the Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk: facing west, the Fukuoka Tower is visible, with its distinct profile standing tall in the Fukuoka skyline. Standing at 234 meters, it is two meters shorter than The Bow, the second tallest building in Calgary, but unlike The Bow, Fukuoka Tower has an observation deck, and its glass façade gives the impression that it’s a full office building: the tower only resembles an office building, and actually has no floor space for offices. Rated for magnitude seven earthquakes and 233 km/h winds, the Fukuoka Tower was completed in 1989.

  • It turns out that Sakura’s managed to buy alcohol, and the two immediately set about playing “Truth or Dare”. Haruki presses his turns to learn more about Sakura out of curiosity, while Sakura is a bit more coy and asks questions that gauge Haruki’s impressions of her. Haruki’s choice of questions shows his concern for her, which grows after he helps her grab a bottle of shampoo from her bag; the quantity of medications and needles is a powerful reminder of how serious her condition is, but from her happy-go-lucky attitude, this is not always apparent.

  • Eventually, bored with how straightforward Haruki is, Sakura puts a “rock and a hard place” option onto the table: either put into words what he finds attractive about her, or bridal-carry her to the bed. Haruki goes with the latter option, and they wind up sharing a brief conversation before retiring. The next morning, an irate Kyoko calls, and threatens Haruki with a physical beating if anything happened to Sakura.

  • The excursion to Fukuoka marks a turning point in Haruki and Sakura’s friendship: Haruki’s reluctance to hang out with Sakura evaporates, now that he’s gotten to know her better and also understands the extent of her condition. On the train ride back home by sunset, there’s a sense of melancholy, of departure and longing: I’ve got a sizeable collection of anime wallpapers portraying nearly empty trains, and there’s a certain appeal to them.

  • While I am a PC gamer with a respectable level of skill, on console, I am terrible by all counts, and I’m sure that most anyone could take me out in even shooters. Sakura schools Haruki here in a game while he’s visiting her, on the promise of picking up a book. Sakura is surprised to learn that Haruki’s not read a certain book and decides to lend him a copy on the promise that he finish and return it to her in a timely fashion.

  • Sakura’s feelings towards Haruki is probably tempered by the fact that she doesn’t really feel as though they’ve connected yet, hence her sending mixed signals to him. Confused by this, Haruki is at a loss and responds with frustration, but being kind at heart, he never crosses the line, and runs off into the rain. Here, he runs into Sakura’s ex, whose jealousy prompts him to strike Haruki. Haruki is not the sort of individual to fight back, and Sakura arrives to find Haruki on the ground. After angrily telling her ex off, Sakura reassures Haruki, who comes to understand what Sakura is feeling.

  • After returning to her place to dry off and retrieve the book, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas shifts into high gear as summer vacation kicks in. There’s still a large number of items on Sakura’s bucket list, and with classes over, the two turn their time towards making the most of summer, when long days and beautiful weather make everything seem possible. I’ve always wondered why people, especially those in newspaper comics dealing with workplaces, called them bucket lists – I initially thought they were buckets in a hash table, data entries in a fast-access location, but as it turns out, it refers to “list of things to do before kicking the bucket”, where “kicking the bucket” itself stems from a 17th-century euphemism for dying.

  • Being Good Friday, I had a day off today to really sleep in and regroup: I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn for work, and so, opportunities to sleep in are rare, so when they happen, I aim to make the most of them. Having time off means being able to take a day on more slowly, but as it happens, today is also the second last day of Poutine Week here at home. Hence, I spent a bit of the morning working from home, validated my taxes and then geared up to head downtown.

  • I’m getting up there in the years now, and high on my list of things to do is to spend a brilliant summer day with someone special, even if the probability of something like this happening as I grow older lessens. This moment captures what that might look like in a succinct manner. Besides enjoying various food, Sakura and Haruki bowl, partake in karaoke and eventually, make plans to visit the beach together.

  • I entered I Want to Eat Your Pancreas with no existing knowledge of what to expect, and having avoided all spoilers for the film. This resulted in a more complete experience, and I appreciate why folks are so adamant about avoiding spoilers – not knowing what to expect means that one can get a much more authentic experience. I am generally more tolerant of spoilers in video games and for series I do not have a strong interest in, but for films, I prefer finding things out for myself. Keeping clear of spoilers for anime movies like I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a relatively easy task, since there’s next to no discussions of it elsewhere, but I imagine that for something like the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, it will be a considerable challenge.

  • While hospitals are typically quite saddening places to be, there’s a calm here as Haruki visits Sakura, who’s been admitted after some tests showed a false positive that her condition was worsening. She’s still optimistic and joyful: even a hospital cannot dampen her spirits, and the two continue on with Truth or Dare here. During this game, Haruki learns that Sakura believes life to be worth living based on the time one spends with others, and the emotional worth of the relationships one builds up. For Haruki, this is a bit of an epiphany moment, wherein he comes to realise that being with Sakura has allowed him to open up for the first time and learn about the importance of forming meaningful connections with others.

  • For Sakura, being with someone who is willing to follow her to the ends of the earth in her desires made her feel particularly special, and one evening, having snuck out of the hospital to watch the fireworks, the two share an embrace that captures the warmth and gratitude that they feel towards one another. This is the apex of their friendship; Sakura and Haruki both understand one another now, and both their lives have changed dramatically as a result of the fateful meeting that brought them together.

  • The changes in Haruki’s character are apparent when he accepts gum from his friendly classmate while en route to the beach. Having declined up until now, accepting gum visually represents accepting friendship. It’s an uplifting moment that makes it clear how far Haruki has come since the beginning of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and audiences will invariably want to see what happens next. This, of course, foreshadows what occurs next; Sakura is late, but she exchanges messages with Haruki that keep him in the loop.

  • Haruki decides to stop at the teashop he’d first visited with Sakura, but as afternoon turns to evening, he heads home and learns that Sakura was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. Earlier in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, news of a violent criminal in the area was presented, and it is likely this same individual perpetrated the crime. While the authorities capture the suspect, it is too late for Sakura, who succumbs to her injuries. Haruki is left in shock and grief in the aftermath, missing Sakura’s funeral.

  • I ended up skipping over those moments in the immediate aftermath of Sakura’s death for this talk, primarily because I had very little to say on said moments. This was one of the toughest parts of the movie to watch: Sakura’s death came out of left field. Having spent much of the movie building up to the inevitable, audiences are initially expecting Sakura to die from her illness, and so, seeing her life end at the hands of some petty criminal was completely unexpected. The aftermath of this is that Haruki eventually regroups and heads off to the Yamauchi residence to pay his respects.

  • Speaking with Sakura’s mother, Haruki is given Sakura’s diary, and reading through the entries, Haruki reaffirms that Sakura was optimistic and a free spirit akin to Kaori Miyazono. However, after the entries come to an end, it turns out there’s an epilogue. Rather like how Kaori left Kōsei a letter, Sakura’s letter explains that she’d long admired him for his dedication to books, and the quiet sense of mystery he evoked in her that compelled her to learn more about him.

  • While most romances and feelings go unfulfilled, Sakura’s condition drove her to live life fully, and this included getting closer with Haruki. Thus, when fate made it so that the two could meet up and talk for the first time, rather than watching from a distance, Sakura seized the moment and set about fulfilling one of the biggest items on her list. The result of this nascent friendship made Sakura feel wanted and cared for, which deepened her feelings for Haruki. Meanwhile, Haruki feels his first emotional connection with someone, and views Sakura as the agent for this change. To have had all of this occur, and then crueley wrested from him made this part emotionally intense.

  • The quote for this post is from Sir William Wallace, a Scottish Knight who was the Guardian of Scotland until being defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Seven years later, he was captured and executed, but in death, he became a larger-than-life symbol. His quote simply means that not everyone truly lives their lives in a fulfilling manner, even though death is inevitable for everyone.

  • While Sakura believed that life was defined by the quality of relationships with others, I personally believe that a meaningful life is defined by what positive impacts one can bring about in their relationships with others – I am at my happiest when I am doing something meaningful for someone else, and for better or worse, I’m drawn to helping people out. Having said this, I have less patience for people who act in their own interests even with the knowledge that doing some will come at someone else’s expense.

  • Understanding the extent of Sakura’s feelings for him, and the extent of his impact on her, Haruki allows himself to cry in sorrow and grief for her. He thanks Sakura’s mother for bearing with him, and she makes a request of him: to bring Kyoko over, as well. The final part of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas has Haruki doing his best to honour his promise to Sakura’s mother and reconcile with Kyoko.

  • The reason why Haruki’s name is not given until I Want to Eat Your Pancreas‘s denouement is because taken together, Haruki’s given name in kanji is 春樹 (“Spring tree”), and Sakura’s given name is 桜良 (“Beautiful cherry blossom”). When one puts them together, the names are related to one another: Haruki can be seen as the tree from which cherry blossoms bloom during spring, and this is meant to tie the two characters together by fate. Spring is when cherry blossoms bloom, and they bloom from a tree. A tree looks much more beautiful with the blossoms, and the blossoms depend on the tree: this symbiotic dynamic mirrors how Haruki and Sakura mutually benefited from their friendship, however short their time together was.

  • Kyoko is initially resistant, even hostile, towards Haruki’s request, and becomes embittered when she reads Sakura’s diary, wondering why Sakura would keep it from her. Running off, she rejects Haruki’s explanation, but Haruki pushes on, managing to catch her before she takes off. From here, a reluctant friendship develops, and the changes in Haruki serve to make him more sociable and attuned to those around him.

  • A year later, Haruki and Kyoko visit Sakura’s grave to pay their respects before visiting Sakura’s mother. While Kyoko is still somewhat disapproving of Haruki, they get along much better than they had during the course of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Haruki has evidently turned over a new leaf: his new haircut gives him a cleaner, more mature look, and he astutely responds to Kyoko when she asks him whether his words are a kokuhaku. It turns out that Kyoko’s become interested in the friendly fellow who frequently asks Haruki if he’d like any gum, and has also begun finding her own happiness.

  • The greens and blues in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas‘ final scene create a peaceful mid-morning that shows two individuals who’ve come a long way since the film’s beginning. While I shed no tears during the film, I won’t deny that I enjoyed this one immensely: movies dealing with life lessons can come across as being melodramatic if emotions are too forcefully conveyed, but I Want to Eat Your Pancreas manages to keep everything consistently believable. Between this and the character dynamics, growth and technical excellence, this film was definitely worth the wait.

The setup in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and Haruki and Sakura’s characters are by no means unique; Your Lie in April‘s Kōsei Arima and Kaori Miyazono met in similar conditions, with Kaori suffering from an unknown disease and sharing Sakura’s desire to be closer to the quiet, taciturn male protagonist. However, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas abstracts out the musical component and simply has the characters interacting in the absence of a common, shared hobby: Haruki and Sakura do not particularly align or have any common interests, allowing their personalities to be the sole factor in driving their dynamics, and in this way, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas can be seen as a more general perspective on the themes explored in Your Lie in April. The end result of this is a highly relatable film not dependent on music, that is unique and moving in its own right. As a story, and as a film, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas stands firmly on its own merits, telling a profoundly moving tale of life, of carpe diem and ultimately, what makes life worth living. In addition to a cohesive, focused story, the production values in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas are also of a high standard: landscapes are beautiful, and the sakura blossoms are animated with great detail to convey a mystical sense for audiences. In conjunction with a collection of strong incidental pieces, the movie’s audio and visual components bring to life a story that I’ve been waiting quite some time to watch I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Having sat down to finally see it, I can decisively say that the film was well worth the wait: I can easily recommend this film to all viewers, who will walk away from I Want to Eat Your Pancreas with a reaffirmed sense of what living really means.