The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Yama no Susume Season 2

Yama no Susume OVA Reflections On The Edge of a New Year: One Final Post for 2019

“This can only end with one of us dead, and I have never died!”
“That’ll be your downfall, Jaguar: not being open to new experiences.”

– Jaguar and Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Yama no Susume‘s second season actually had two OVAs that I never got around to writing about back during the summer: the first of the OVAs to the second season follows Kaede, who goes shopping for a new bra at Aoi and the others’ insistence when they learn that Kaede had a conversation with Yuuka on the former’s lack of fashion sense; up until now, Kaede’s worn nothing but sports bras for the sake of practicality and comfort. At a speciality shop, Kaede learns that she’s one size larger than she’d initially thought, and one of the staff members helps her to get properly fitted. Kaede is embarrassed, but realises that this new experience was not so different than when she began wearing mountaineering equipment for the first time. The second of the OVAs to grace season two is a best-of countdown that follow Aoi and Hinata’s recollection of the most memorable and exciting moments up until now in the format of a talk show. The only caveat here is that the countdown only vaguely recalls events of the anime: things go into the realm of the fantastical and become increasingly outlandish as Aoi and Hinata reach the top event. As it turns out, this was merely a dream that Aoi was having, and with the second of the OVAs in the books, Yama no Susume would not materialise again until two years later, when Omoide Present was released. While predominantly about mountaineering and hiking, Yama no Susume showed its versatility in covering a range of topics both within and surrounding mountain climbing: as one of my readers put it, the show covered topics relevant to young women that encouraged independence, curiosity and resilience, being both instructive and entertaining.

I realise that this is going to be my final post of the decade, and it seemed appropriate to do something on Yama no Susume, a series which has been remarkably enjoyable precisely because it is honest and sincere in its execution: instructive without being obtrusive, and fun without being frivolous, Yama no Susume struck a fine balance in its execution to create a story and messages that are relevant, relatable. In the first OVA, Encouragement of Bra, the girls’ pushing Kaede to properly get kitted up with a bra was intended to show Kaede that getting a well-fitting bra for comfort and style reasons might seem extraneous to someone who lives for the outdoors, but is nonetheless an experience that is similar to climbing mountains and thus, one worth looking at. Speaking as someone similar to Kaede, who dresses for practicality and comfort over style, I’m very similar, but the reality is that being properly put-together is important in reflecting one’s self-respect: one does not necessarily need to be wearing designer clothing or sport expensive styles to convey a sense of confidence and respect for those around them. As such, taking a little bit more time and placing more care into looking after one’s appearance can go a long way and also impact how they approach other aspects of their life (including mountain climbing). The second OVA, Best Ten!, is more of a dramatised reflection of the anime up until now: the stories told have been heavily altered to be more over-the-top, more comical, and the fun that the staff had in making this is evident, being akin to the Inter-dimensional Cable episodes of Rick and Morty, where the staff had improvised many of the lines. While driving humour above all else, the countdown also reminds viewers of just how numerous Aoi and Hinata’s experiences have been up until this point: all of the characters have grown as a result of their experiences together.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If memory serves, it was July when I finished the main body to Yama no Susume: at the time, I was pushing to keep up with numerous other series, and the two OVAs that I’d not seen fell to the back of my mind. After finishing my talk on The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, I felt that I should at least leave readers with one more post entering 2020, but I did not feel that I had enough time to start a new series; when I began wondering about what to write about as my last post of the decade, it suddenly struck me that Yama no Susume still had some unexplored turf that I could cover.

  • Thus, I sat through the OVAs, thoroughly enjoyed them, and then fortuitously, I could use this series to drive discussion for my last post of the decade; the themes and messages in Yama no Susume certainly encourage that sort of talk. Going through the first few minutes of Encouragement of Bra meant getting a crash course on mammaries and support mechanics: I’ve heard that finding properly-fitted bras is a considerable challenge, and that ill-fitting bras can result in anything from discomfort to back and shoulder problems.

  • Up until now, Kaede never really had an eye for this sort of thing, preferring sports bras for their ease of use and comfort. Yuuka hears none of it and gives her an earful: when Kaede recounts this to Aoi and the others, they unexpectedly side with Yuuka, stating that there is merit to wearing more conventional bras over sports bras. Aoi immediately phones up Kokona and arranges for a trip to Tokyo, where they can go shopping at a store with a wider selection: Kaede’s size makes it difficult for her to find something that fits.

  • Right out of the gates, Kaede gets distracted by camping gear and convinces Hinata to buy a sports bra after showing her their merits. Earlier in the episode, Aoi is shown as being flatter than Hinata, and it’s a common joke in anime for characters to become envious of another character’s bust: the difference is supposed to be more pronounced now than before, and when Aoi becomes aware of this, she tickles Hinata in frustration.

  • While Hinata does end up appreciating Kaede’s knowledge and has enough information to make a purchase, nothing dissuades her and the others from what they’d originally come for. Kaede wilts in disappointment, having secretly hoped that Hinata would’ve forgotten about their plans. While subtle, this moments shows that despite her appearances, Hinata is disciplined and focused.

  • It is not lost on me that Kaede is voiced by Yōko Hikasa, who plays K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama: in K-On!, Mio was similarly known for having the largest bust out of everyone in the cast. The page quote here comes from Rick and Morty‘s third season, and while Rick is exchanging trash talk with Jaguar during their fight in the Russian safe house, being open to new experiences is the crux of Yama no Susume – the entire story starts because Aoi took a plunge, opened herself up to new experiences, and accompanied Hinata on a climb up to Mount Tenran.

  • As a result of taking up mountain climbing, Aoi’s become more bold, forward and confident, a far cry from her shy, reserved self that we saw at the series’ very beginning – although still easily embarrassed, she has no trouble in recommending a bra for Kaede when the latter becomes indecisive.

  • When Kaede has a bit of trouble, a knowledgeable staff member helps out by showing Kaede how to wear her bra properly. It is here that Kaede learns that she’s a G, up from an F that she’d figured she was. While anime portray ladies as having a bit of trouble whenever clothing is “too tight in the chest”, I note that this issue can exist for men, as well: folks who do chest and shoulder-related exercises can find shirts to be tight in the chest.

  • While usually confident and relaxed, Kaede becomes much more bashful upon learning that her size has increased. This has Aoi curious, and she wonders if she might get a feel for Kaede’s assets. It’s a bit of a bold move for Aoi; as season two progressed, Aoi became increasingly confident after her failed attempt to climb Mount Fuji, and by the time she and Hinata set off for Mount Tanigawa, she’s become open enough to begin speaking with others on her on volition, befriending the shy Honoka as a result.

  • Aoi immediately notices the mass in Kaede’s mammaries after being given authorisation to, as they say, cop a feel: while an extra three to four kilograms out front might not prima facie appear to be much, in the long term, this can introduce problems for people. A proper bra is supposed to transfer some of this weight and distribute it more evenly to reduce the risk of overexerting the shoulder and back.

  • After the store’s staff member returns with a proper size for Kaede, Kaede is able to give things a whirl and finds things to be suitable. The lady explains that a suitable bra will also help Kaede with her posture: she’d been complaining about shoulder aches for a while. Here, Aoi, Hinata and Kokona have a chance to see how Kaede looks – the effects are immediately noticeable, and Kaede seems to stand with a more confident posture.

  • For Kaede, who is most at home on the trails and rocky mountainsides, shopping for a bra was a new experience for her, one that she likens to trying mountaineering clothing for the first time: embarrassing in a way, but also instructive and memorable. It speaks volumes to Yama no Susume‘s writing that such a story was able to be presented in an entirely natural fashion and with a very clear goal in mind; there are anime out there that would have favoured exacting a reaction from the audience over presenting a meaningful story.

  • By the time we’re through here, I would not be surprised if indexing algorithms start sending me more advertisements for women’s clothing and whatnot owing to the presence of certain terms and phrases. We are, however, reaching the end of the first OVA, and readers must now bear with me as I push on through the second of the OVAs, which released a few months later after the first.

  • Yuuka is impressed that Kaede did end up following through and notices Kaede’s new bra immediately. Satisfied that Kaede is on a good path, she pushes Kaede to begin wearing heels. Kaede immediately sees the ramifications what would happen if she were to wear heels into the mountains, and here, Kaede has a point: heels are said to be immensely uncomfortable and can be hazardous in some circumstances. They are already difficult enough to wear on flat surfaces, so they would be outright dangerous if used for rougher terrain.

  • I’m almost certain that readers did not see this post coming: the reason for the choice of topic and suddenness is two-fold. The first is that Yama no Susume‘s OVAs for the second season are related to the upcoming new year, and the second is that I began feeling it to be a bit disingenuous not to leave 2019 without one more post for readers. One of my goals in 2020 is to write about topics that involve a lot more fanservice, just to see if I can still provide interesting and amusing thoughts to readers, and so, Yama no Susume‘s Encouragement of Bra seemed to be a good starting point.

  • The second OVA for Yama no Susume‘s second season is done in the style of a top ten countdown: this particular OVA was incredibly entertaining, presenting to viewers decidedly overblown, fake moments. The improvisational tone of the OVA brings to mind the likes of Rick and Morty‘s Interdimensional Cable, and one of the things that I found particularly impressive about Yama no Susume‘s presentation of things was that it manages to convey humour without resorting to crude means. The comedy comes from viewers still bearing a strong recollection of what precisely happened.

  • The countdown starts with Kokona searching for the Petaurista petaurista (giant flying squirrel): when she runs into Hinata and Aoi, Hinata remarks that the giant flying squirrels actually aren’t found in Japan, and there are only Pteromys momonga (dwarf flying squirrel) instead. The altered memory has Kokona take on the characteristics of a wuxia heroine, being able to glide through the air in search of her mark, which is doubly hilarious considering that Kokona retains her adorable mannerisms.

  • At some point in Yama no Susume, Hinata and Aoi undergo a Kimi no na wa-like moment, where they inexplicably switch bodies after an accident of some sort. To their consternation, no one seems to notice standing in sharp contrast with Kimi no na wa, where the differences in personalities are so dramatic that it impacts those around Taki and Mitsuha. The outcomes in Yama no Susume suggest that for all of their squabbling and outward appearances, Hinata and Aoi are more alike than they’d care to admit.

  • I do remember a river excursion, but I don’t remember the appearance of a bear that causes the girls to wind up on some remote desert island in the middle of nowhere, turning Yama no Susume into Sounan Desu Ka?. The progression of events is so outlandish, I’d wager that like in Rick and Morty, the voice actresses probably did break into laughter in the middle of a take and required several shots to get things right, whereas Rick and Morty kept some of the outtakes in for increased comedic value.

  • Aoi’s failed attempt at scaling Mount Fuji with her friends was probably one of the most poignant moments in all of Yama no Susume, matched only by the growing rift between her and Hinata during the third season. While Aoi has a chance to meet Prince Shōtoku, a historical figure, her poor condition from altitude sickness means she’s in no mood to take in the moment. Aoi does end up recovering, although as of season three, she still has yet to take on Mount Fuji, and while news of a fourth season is circulating, I do expect that Yama no Susume will conclude with Aoi rising to the occasion and reaching the summit with her friends.

  • When I see shows such as these, I am reminded an obscure comedy music evening show called 香港經典電視|:金像獎歌曲頒獎典禮 1986 (jyutping hoeng1 gong2 ging1 din2 din6 si6 gam1 zoeng6 zoeng2 go1 kuk1 baan1 zoeng2 din2 lai5, literally “Hong Kong Television Classics: Oscar Awards Presentation 1986”), which featured superbly well done parodies of famous Canto-pop songs. The premise of this special is that clips of famous songs are parodied, and the best song’s music video is presented. Famous hits, such as Paula Tsui’s 順流逆流, Sam Hui’s 日本娃娃 and Roman Tam’s 幾許風雨 are featured: the songs are hilarious because they derive funny phrases from homophones, which is a common part of Cantonese humour.

  • We get a little bit of The Polar Express in the next showcase, when Honoka and Aoi go on a train ride across the galaxy, departing from their original plan of visiting Gunma. If memory serves, Aoi went to visit Honoka while Hinata and Kokona did a hike of their own; season three had a very melancholy feel towards the end, culminating in a tension-filled hike that only saw a resolution when Hinata injures her knee and learns that Aoi’s always going to be with her.

  • I think readers will handily agree that Kokona is such a joyful addition to Yama no Susume: warm and adorable, Kokona resembles an angel more than anything. Of the characters, her manner is such that she’s received the least growth of any of the characters, and instead, appears to serve more of a support role in helping the other characters develop and learn. In this manner, despite being younger than Kaede, Aoi and Hinata, Kokona is more mature.

  • In the final few days of 2019, I took the last Saturday to go for a short walk out in the mountains and enjoy one of my favourite poutines around. The morning had been a beautiful and sunny, if moderately cold one, with temperatures hovering around -12ºC, but with the wind chill, it was blisteringly frigid. Fortunately, a short way into our walk, we’d warmed up enough to enjoy the sights of this snow-covered trail on a hillside, which afforded some incredible views of the Three Sisters mountain peaks. Being in the mountains. A lot more snow had fallen in the area compared to home, and under a morning sun, the scenery looked like it’d come straight out of a Christmas card. Our timing couldn’t have been better; the presence of cirrus clouds in the sky signalled the return of overcast weather, and sure enough, the mountains was hit with more snow the day after.

  • Our original intent had been to see the hoodoos in the area, but we were on a bit of a schedule: I had purchased tickets for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker for the Saturday, and this trip was hastily thrown together. Upon reaching the end of the trail, I struggled to find the hoodoos, not knowing they were on a steep hill that was covered in snow. The decision here was to turn around and get lunch at the best poutine shop in Canmore, and while I’d already warmed up from the walk, there’s nothing that can warm one up quite like a hearty and tasty poutine topped with Montréal smoked meat, Canadian bacon, sautéed onions and mushrooms. It’s become something of a yearly tradition to go here for their poutines. This time around, I noticed that their smoked meat was more thickly-cut and flavourful than before.

  • We’ve come to it at last: the top moment in all of Yama no Susume, or at least, what is supposed to be the top moment, which turns out to be Aoi and Hinata’s fulfillment of their fateful promise to one another on the top of Mount Tanigawa. This was the apex of the second season, the big finish that Aoi and Hinata had been working towards. Both Aoi and Hinata had spent the days leading up to the hike worried about what the future would entail if they did end up fulfilling this long-standing promise, but reassurance from their friends sets them on a path towards new discoveries and excitement.

  • In Yama no Susume, Aoi and Hinata did indeed ascend Mount Tanigawa in time to see the promised sunrise, per their original intentions. In the Best Ten OVA, however, their climb was on a sound stage for a show called Yama no Musume (“Daughter of the Mountain”), and it would appear that principle photography had just wrapped up for the show. With this, my post is about to wrap up, as well, and I understand that around the world, we’re already into the new decade.

  • As I happen to be in North America, it won’t be 2020 for several more hours. I did a half-day today at the office and then returned home to unwind: besides hanging out with an old friend from my health science days later this evening and then welcoming a new decade with family, I have nothing major planned out besides taking it easy. I think that as a last post for the decade, while this one might not represent my best work, it does broadly capture the style I’ve developed and come to embrace over the years.

  • Having finished this post, for the foreseeable future, I do not believe that I’ll have anything more to add to Yama no Susume until additional installments are announced. For 2020, given all of the unexpected delays in series I had been following during this past season, I’m going to wrap up talks for Kandagawa Jet Girls and Rifle is Beautiful, as well as Azur Lane, during January. As well, I have plans to watch Koisuru Asteroid (and offer my own insight into backyard astronomy, a hobby I’ve occasionally participated in since I was a primary student), Magia Record and Yuru Camp△: Room Camp in the coming season, so those anime will likely be written about to some capacity. Finally, I have much to say about Halo: Reach and The Division 2, so I’ll need to allocate time to write about those, as well.

  • It turns out the entire series of events in Best Ten resulted from a dream that Aoi had, and she returns to sleep shortly after, looking forwards to whatever lies ahead for her, Hinata and the others. As we enter 2020 (or for folks in time zones ahead of mine, welcome 2020), there will be new sights to see, new mountains to climb and new solutions to develop. As Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes said, the new decade represents a fresh, clean start. Like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on, 2020 is going to be full of possibilities, and I definitely encourage everyone to go exploring!

No Yama no Susume experience is complete without these two OVAs: having now written about them, my discussions of the series is complete, and just in time for the conclusion of this decade, as well. It’s surprising how quickly time has passed, and it only seems like yesterday that I had just finished the first term of my undergraduate programme and was spending the winter holidays unwinding and gearing up for my second term. That winter break, I remember best for building my first-ever Gundam model (the HG 00 Raiser+GN Sword III) and for watching Red Cliff. Since then, I spent my summers on research projects that would culminate in me gaining the requisite experience for my honours thesis, sat an MCAT, enter graduate school and then take the path of an iOS developer. Along the way, I became a second degree black belt, wrote the Giant Walkthrough Brain software for Beakerhead that would come to form the starting point for my graduate thesis and travelled for reasons beyond unwinding: to learn and serve. This past decade also saw me stumble, make mistakes, fail, and each time, learn to improve. Yama no Susume similarly showcased the highs and lows that Aoi and the other experience; life is about both the successes and failures, the falls and the rises: this is why Yama no Susume stands out so strongly as a series, for being able to portray the bad alongside the good, and more importantly, how people might go about recovering during difficult times. As we roll into the New Year, and given what’s occurred in the past ten years, I believe that the two virtues to carry close in the next decade will be commitment and resilience. One must be committed to honesty and truthfulness in the face of deception, and resilient against those which would see us deviate from a proper course of action. While this seems a tall order, shows like Yama no Susume show how optimism and companionship can help one make new discoveries, broaden their perspectives and above all, regroup from setbacks. With her friends, Aoi’s become far more resilient, independent and confident than when she began her journey, being prepared to handle and enjoy the new experiences that come her way.

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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