“I take it not only a day at a time, but a moment at a time, and keep it at that pace. If you can be happy right now, then you’ll always be happy, because it’s always in the now” –Willie Nelson
While on break, Koharu Senjuin, president of Mountaineering Club, attempts to recruit Aoi into joining them, having heard about Aoi’s adventures. Despite being surprised about Hinata and Kaede both turning down Koharu’s invitation, Aoi decides to check things out, with Kaede joining her. As it turns out, the Mountaineering Club is a dedicated group, training daily, going out to climb mountains at least once a month and this year, prepare for a competition. To give Aoi an idea of things, Koharu decides to bring her along on a run to Mount Tenran, but also encourages Aoi to run at her own pace. Aoi is rendered exhausted by the run and realises that, while her physicality’s improved, she enjoys mountain climbing most for being able to do things at her own pace, to take in the sights and sounds of nature. Aoi ends up declining the invitation to be a full-time member of the Mountaineering Club, but also decides to stick around and see what she can learn from Koharu and the Mountaineering Club. Her vigour is sparked, and Aoi feels that her goal now is to re-attempt Mount Fuji. Deciding to take a late autumn hike, Aoi accepts Koharu’s recommendation to head up Mount Bukō and, after learning that Hinata’s father is on a business trip, invites her mother along, who consents so long as Aoi accompanies her for dinner later. On the day of the hike, Aoi’s mother asks Aoi to help carry up a few extra items as a part of her training; while this initially slows Aoi down to a crawl, Aoi eventually finds her pacing and makes it to Mount Bukō’s summit, where she, Hinata and her mother enjoy a wonderful lunch together. Aoi’s mother is relieved that she’s grown to this extent, and Aoi thinks to herself that it’s time to prepare for next summer. Marking the first of Next Summit‘s new content, the fifth episode is an encouraging start to Yama no Susume‘s new content; Aoi’s reason for hitting the slopes becomes thrust into the spotlight, and with a little nudge from Koharu, Aoi comes to realise that for her, being able to do things at her own pace means being able to appreciate the details that make mountain climbing worthwhile, from the plants and animals to the gorgeous views that await at the top of every hike.
Two themes are explored in Next Summit‘s fifth episode. The first is the idea of “at my own pace”; through exposure to the Mountaineering Club, Aoi sees another approach towards how people enjoy the hobby of mountain climbing. For Koharu and her fellow club members, climbing a mountain is see as an act of self-improvement, to maintain discipline and constantly push oneself to new heights. However, Aoi quickly spots that this is a bit much for her, and moreover, she’s come to appreciate that being able to take it slow up the mountain opens her up to creating wonderful memories of the sights, sounds and smells that accompany the climb. The higher intensity from the Mountaineering Club’s members is so focused on pushing one’s limits to reach the top clashes with her own goals, and upon realising this, Aoi is able to express this to Koharu, who is completely understanding. The Aoi of Yama no Susume‘s first season wouldn’t have had the confidence to convey this (in fact, this is how Hinata managed to rope her into mountain climbing to begin with), but having now interacted with a variety of people and made considerable strides at her own pace, Aoi is surer of herself, able to determine for herself as to what she wants out of things. Indeed, the changes are apparent as she scales Mount Bukō; although carrying additional gear and, subsequently, some water bottles, on the ascent up, Aoi nonetheless is able to make it because she’s developed a new mindset for mountain-climbing. She’s now patient enough to take things one step at a time, and even with the extra gear, Aoi succeeds. Her mother comments on how youth is the time to be learning one’s limits because, as one ages, one’s limits become increasingly apparent. In this way, Next Summit also nudges viewers towards doing things while they can, while at the same time, also shows that even as one grows older and their physicality declines, there are still ways of having wonderful experiences.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Next Summit hits the ground running, immediately introducing Koharu to the party. Her forwardness and energy is evocative of how Hinata had approached Aoi, and while Aoi’s initially put off, she does begin to feel that her world, which had previously felt a little dull following their last hike to Mount Mizugaki and Mount Kinpu, is starting to become full of life again. Next Summit clarifies the timelines for viewers; Hinata had reunited with Aoi shortly after they’d become high school students, and the pair would take on both Mount Fuji and Mount Tanigawa during the summer. Mount Mizugaki and Mount Kinpu would’ve been late September or early October.
- This sets Next Summit as happening in mid to late October. As it turns out, Koharu had also approached Hinata about joining the Mountaineering Club, but Hinata had already declined, feeling that mountain climbing is something she’d preferred to do with those who are important to her. On the other hand, Kaede prefers her solo adventures, as they allow her to explore somewhere to her heart’s content, but thanks to the friendship she’s developed with Aoi, Hinata and Kokona, has no qualms in joining the occasional group activity.
- Koharu is unusual as a club president, in that while she’s very forward about having Aoi join the Mountaineering Club, she’s actually quite understanding of things. Anime typically present club presidents as being very assertive, sending the protagonists down a path where they end up picking up an activity and having their experiences shape them over time. However, here in Yama no Susume, Hinata had already done that, so it seemed unlikely that Koharu would end up winning Aoi over. On the other hand, the Mountaineering Club is presented as being a capable and well-equipped club.
- Thus, it becomes relatively easy to spot that the Mountaineering Club won’t alter Next Summit‘s themes to a considerable extent: characters are not introduced without reason, and so, even if Aoi doesn’t join them, Koharu’s presence and experience simply means she’s got someone else to call upon if she has any questions. For now, however, Aoi decides to see what club activities are like before joining. The old Aoi would’ve never done this, speaking to how over the course of Yama no Susume, Aoi’s become a shade more adventurous and open-minded.
- When abbreviated, Next Summit becomes NS; this reminds me of when I first started out with my undergraduate research, and Objective-C was our language of choice. Because Objective-C doesn’t have namespaces like other languages, best practises there require developers to preface their class names with a unique prefix. The Cocoa frameworks used in Apple’s code are named after the NeXTSTEP foundation, the company that Steve Jobs founded after he left Apple. For me, this meant prefacing all of the classes I wrote with LC, and as a force of habit, I began prefacing all of my classes even in other languages until I did some reading and realised that, since other languages have namespaces, this wasn’t a necessary practise.
- Back in Next Summit, while doing her jog, Aoi runs into Kokona, who’s out and about on her daily walk. Despite her small stature, Kokona is surprisingly fast; she’s able to catch up to Aoi and the pair share a brief conversation before parting ways. Kokona feels like an angel of sorts, with a calming presence and an unexpectedly resilient nature that comes about as a result of her own adventures. Yama no Susume puts Aoi in the company of people with outdoors experience so that she’s never left without support when she needs it, and while pride occasionally slows her down, once Aoi comes to realise she can call upon her friends, she becomes more comfortable with the outdoors.
- Although Aoi is winded by her ascent up Mount Tenran, the fact she makes it at all is impressive; in the first season, Aoi had initially thought the mountain to be a demanding one, but took it one step at a time with Hinata. Come the second season, Aoi makes the climb again and is surprised to find how much easier it’s felt this time around. By Next Summit, in participating in a sample of the Mountaineering Club’s activities, Aoi jogs up the mountain. While showing to herself that she’s come quite far, Aoi is also hit with the realisation here that for her, being outdoors isn’t about the thrill of the challenge, but about savouring the beauty in nature.
- Thanks to Kaede’s presence, Aoi is able to give voice to her thoughts, and this allows her to make a quick decision. In any other anime, this route would not be taken simply because it would outright eliminate the story (e.g. if Hina had given up on fishing in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, none of the events that followed would have taken place). However, because Yama no Susume has such a well-established story, it is able to show these alternate directions with confidence – Aoi is going to continue climbing mountains at her own pace, just not with the Mountaineering Club and their more dedicated, focused methods.
- While Aoi ends up turning Koharu down, the loss of a potential member is lessened by the fact that Aoi’s still curious to hang out with the Mountaineering Club. Despite not gaining a full-time member, Koharu is still enthused by the prospect of getting to know Aoi better and sharing any knowledge she has about climbing mountains; Aoi expresses interest in visiting from time to time, and in doing so, this keeps the doors open for conversations. Koharu is voiced by Emiri Iwai, a voice actress whose roles are those I’m not familiar with.
- Aoi keeps her word and even brings Hinata over the next day, as she’s curious to know what sort of hike would strike a balance between acting as training and being a route that won’t put her on the ground. Here, viewers have a chance to check out the new winter uniforms that Aoi and Hinata’s secondary school outfit their students with. The design appears to have changed a little: the girls now have green shirts, whereas in the first season, the winter uniforms consisted of a long-sleeved white shirt. The Encouragement of Climb Official Setting Documents Collection artbook indicates that the winter uniforms did indeed have a white shirt, so the only way to reconcile the changes is that the school changed their uniforms, which can occasionally happen.
- After speaking with Koharu, Aoi learns that there’s a mountain that is well suited for her requirements. Unfortunately, the trailhead is a ways away by public transit, making a car more convenient, but it also happens that Hinata’s father is out of town, working on a project on Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Aoi ends up asking her mother to come along with her and Hinata, promising that the hike will be reasonably straightforward, and Aoi’s mother agrees, so long as she and Aoi get to check out a kurumi soba place afterwards.
- Mount Bukō is a mountain with a maximum elevation of 1304 metres, and as Yama no Susume portrays, half the mountain sports a distinct terraced appearance because of limestone mining on its northern face. The hike itself has an elevation gain of 345 metres, a shade over half of the elevation gain at Prairie Mountain, and I must admit that mining the upper side of a mountain for limestone is impressive. Here at home, the nearest limestone mine is located at the Graymont Quarry near Exshaw, about 40 minutes west of the city.
- During my Prairie Mountain hike, I ended up carrying twenty-five pounds of additional materials (lunch, ice packs, water, extra clothing, sunscreen) – this had made the ascent up unexpectedly difficult, and my knees started cramping up when I was about half a klick from the summit. I ended up shaking off the pain and pushed on ahead, but because it’d been so windy up there, any plans for a lunch on a mountain top was dashed, compelling me to carry all of that back down the mountain. Compared to even the members of the Mountaineering Club, I’d be counted as out of shape; while my bench press is back to where it’d been two years ago, my cardio’s not quite what it was.
- For Aoi, the unexpected challenge of carrying extra initially slows her down, but once Aoi settles into the mindset of taking things at her own pace, she begins to find her footing and slowly, but surely, makes her way up the trail. The way Aoi approaches things here is mature, and in fact, is how I approach my hobbies. I lift weights not to compete or break records, but simply because I like being in shape. I play video games not so I can make a living off it or amass an impressive number of followers, but simply because they’re fun.
- Of course, when it comes to work, I give no quarter and take things more seriously, but outside of this, I’ve always believed in doing things at my own pace. There’s a certain maturity to paying no mind to other’s judgement, and in reminding herself of this, Aoi’s showing that she’s no longer a novice. Upon arriving at a curious sight a shade over the halfway point up Mount Bukō, Aoi, her mother, and Hinata stop for a moment. It turns out that there’s no running water at the top of the mountain, but to keep the facilities going, visitors are asked to help take some water up. Aoi is surprised her mother’s giving her more to carry, but to Hinata’s surprise, she ends up with a much larger bottle.
- Slowly, but surely, the three end up reaching the summit of Mount Bukō. While the trek proves exhausting thanks to the water they’re carrying, the exhaustion soon gives way to anticipation as they pass by trail markers. There are fifty-two markers along Mount Bukō’s main trail, and as the numbers begin approaching the summit, Aoi, her mother and Hinata begin to push past their fatigue. Of the trails I’ve hiked, most of them aren’t marked in this way, and one of the challenges which make hiking fun is trying to keep track of where the trail is.
- Admittedly, the thought of ascending a mountain for the purpose of seeing a fantastic view is reason enough for me to get out and hike: after my experience at the Big Beehive, I developed a love for the outdoors and, although the mountains over here are no slouch, there are plenty of trails and places with stunning views. Having said this, I would like to climb a mountain that’s well-known, and Ha Ling Peak fits the bill perfectly. This time, I’d also get to try out the Photonic Engine; I’ve been playing with the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera, and are slowly acclimatising to taking food photos with it. Landscape photography has changed completely for me, with shots coming out far sharper and more vivid than they’d been with the iPhone Xʀ’s camera.
- Aoi’s mother raises an excellent point about knowing one’s limits and operating within them. The body is at its prime in one’s mid twenties, and after that, it becomes a little more difficult to push oneself with the same intensity as one could before. However, with the right mindset and discipline, it is absolutely possible to keep healthy even past one’s prime; I do take pride in the fact that physically, I feel as good as I did back when I’d been in university. Here at the top of the mountain, Hinata shares lunch with Aoi and her mother. It turns out the stuff Aoi had hauled up Mount Bukō was everyone’s lunches, and in this moment, Aoi is glad to have taken this effort.
- Besides showing Aoi that she could do it, the hike at Mount Bukō also shows her mother that Aoi’s committed to her hobby, is willing to put in the effort to improve her experience, and above all, sees the world Aoi does for herself, allowing her to understand why Aoi’s so fond of the mountains. Aoi herself begins to enjoy the descent, feeling a lot lighter now, and by the end of the hike, she’s all smiles. This episode proved to be a pleasant way of starting off Next Summit, firmly establishing a clear goal for the fourth season of Yama no Susume and introducing new characters into the party to liven things up.
- Overall, Next Summit‘s all-new content was worth the wait, and now that we’re here, I’m excited to see where things are headed. I will remark that I’ve not seen much discussions elsewhere, whether it be blogs, forums or social media, on this series. This is, in part, thanks to the fact that Next Summit is airing during an especially strong anime season, but because for me, Yama no Susume is a series I enjoy greatly, I’ve decided to prioritise this series and write about Next Summit on a weekly basis; there’s much to talk about here, and some of my readers have already enriched the discussions by sharing their own stories, making it a worthwhile endeavour to keep up with Next Summit in an episodic fashion.
Next Summit‘s new content hits the ground running, and because Aoi did formally join the Mountaineering Club, Yama no Susume represents a break in tradition; ordinarily, most anime of this genre will have the protagonist join a club to accelerate their learning. However, here in Next Summit, it is shown that, while the Mountaineering Club and Koharu will be a valuable asset for Aoi, Aoi’s intentions are still to learn and explore at her own pace. This is a bold direction that shows how people can have superb experiences in all manners; similarly to Super Cub, where Koguma had taken the initiative to broaden her horizons without outside influence and enriches her own life as a result, Yama no Susume is a reminder of how, regardless of how one gets into an activity or chooses to go about pursuing it, so long as one is doing so of their own volition and remains open-minded to different facets of their chosen activity, one will mature from their experiences. With Aoi’s raison d’être now solidified, Next Summit is in an excellent position to portray Aoi’s rematch with Mount Fuji. This time, Aoi has more experience and more knowledge in her corner; in conjunction with an improved fitness level and mindset, Aoi’s success is inevitable, and what makes Next Summit so exciting to watch is what steps Aoi and Hinata take towards this goal will contribute towards this success. With the year’s first major snowfall, and the fact that a snowfall warning was issued for my neck of the woods, I am glad to have Next Summit around – I don’t have the gear or experience to climb mountains by winter, and owing to the local climate, mountains and hills can become very icy and slippery during the winter. Watching Yama no Susume will continue to keep my excitement for the outdoors alive, as I begin making my own goals of conquering Ha Ling Peak in the new year.