ヤマノススメ Next Summit Yama no Susume: Next Summit
Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit start while reminiscing about her journey so far, Aoi Yukimura finds herself eager to go mountaineering once more. A likely opportunity arises when Koharu Senjuin invites Aoi to check out the Mountaineering Club after school. As the head of the club, Koharu speaks enthusiastically of the activities she and the other members partake in, especially as they strive to reach the top in various competitions.
Although impressed by the club’s dedication to its goals, Aoi feels reluctant to join, preferring to learn and enjoy mountaineering at her own pace. Her experience during this brief visit, however, leaves her wondering why she climbs mountains in the first place. With the support of her friends, Aoi searches for the true motivation behind her hobby, all while continuing to train for the highly anticipated second trip to the summit of Mt. Fuji.
There are lots of “hidden gem” anime that everyone knows about and are often… unpolished, but Yama no Susume is a real one. It seems nothing short of miraculous how many incredibly talented animators, artists, and directors were pulled from across the industry to make this series and it shows as just about every other frame looks like something you’d hang above your living room fireplace (if you have one of those for some reason). Between this and an entirely loveable cast who you can’t help but root for as they interact and grow, Yama no Susume stands among the best in the Iyashikei/CGDCT genre.
Next Summit seems likely to be the final entry to the series and starts off with 4 recap episodes. Aside from a scene at the start of each one, they don’t contain new content if you have recently seen the previous 3 seasons. If it has been a while, they are very well-done and worth a watch.
As a show about cute girls climbing mountains, you’d be correct to assume you’ll see some metaphors relating the mountains to life and slopes to character growth, etc. Presented mostly from the perspective of a reluctant and grounded protagonist, Yukimura Aoi, Yama no Susume strikes a perfect balance for the people who eat that shit up and the people worried its going to get too cheesy. Aoi herself, initially only begrudgingly admits the appeal of mountain climbing and starts making such connections as she is coerced into the activity by her long-time (temporarily forgotten) friend Hinata. However, the handful of moments where Aoi does realize her own growth as a person (often in the form of a mountain climbing metaphor) are surprisingly emotional and even hard-hitting at times.
While the pretty art/animation and nice life metaphors are great, the strongest suit of the series is likely the characters and their dynamics. To put it simply, they are just a ton of fun. As the main characters, Aoi and Hinata in particular show a range of interactions from genuine fights to encouragements and exchanges which feel borderline romantic. Each facet of their relationship presented to the viewer, though, is believable, entertaining, and consistent with their respective characters. Over 4 seasons of new members being carefully added and providing their own unique flavor to the group and creating new dynamics, the end result is a solid cast of well-developed characters with plenty of novel interactions to keep the viewer entertained for the course of the show.
It is impossible not to make a mountain pun here so I’ll just say it: Next Summit is the peak of the whole series. With emotional climaxes to our characters’ growth, the most stunning cinematography yet, and a real big mountain, it is hard to think of this season as anything else and there isn’t much better than seeing a series come together like this in the (probable?) last stretch. Beyond happy that this show exists, and I highly recommend you check it out!