“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.