Encouragement of Climb (Yama no Susume) is a series of shorts (3 minute episodes), featuring Aoi and her friends on their adventures mountain climbing. There is a second season, but it’s markedly different from the first owing to its 13 minute episode run time. I may cover this separately in the future when I finish watching it.
Yukimura Aoi used to be interested in outdoor activities when she was young, but after falling from the top of a climbing frame and breaking her leg, she developed a fear of heights and preferred to pursue solitary indoor hobbies. On starting high school, her childhood friend Kurarue Hinata reminds her of their promise to watch the sunrise from a mountaintop and together the two of them start simply and work to overcome Aoi’s fears and reach their goal.
On the way, they meet Saitou Kaede, a girl who is quite experienced with climbing, and Aoba Kokona, a middle schooler who is interested in animals. Together the four have fun and face mountaineering challenges together.
I find shows with a short run time really interesting because there’s a limited amount you can achieve with such a short runtime, and I think that Encouragement of Climb does really well at creating a simple, cosy atmosphere with friendships which feel natural for high school girls. Aoi and Hinata are occasionally petty or immature, but they value each other’s friendship enough to make it up if they upset one another. Another feature which I enjoyed was seeing the girls interact with their parents. So often you see high school students make decisions without any parental involvement, and seeing the girls actually speak to their parents was pleasant. It feels like cute girls doing cute things boiled down to its simplest elements in an effective manner. It’s by no means original, but I found it a comfortable show to watch.
The visuals of the show featured character designs which are fairly standard for cute girls doing cute things shows with round faces and shiny eyes, and verdant outdoor imagery which was flooded with sunlight giving the impression of inviting outdoor spaces. It certainly made the thought of climbing mountains seem appealing. There’s not a lot of dynamic movement and the animation appears to have a low number of frames as at times the characters felt a little jerky in their motions, but it’s cute and of a standard which I’d expect of a short (shorts in general tend to not have the same animation quality as shows with full-length episodes).
The soundtrack helps contribute to the relaxed, cosy nature of the show featuring pieces with simple instrumentation. There’s also outdoor sounds when appropriate like the ever-present Japanese cicadas and running water, adding to the experience of relaxing and inviting outdoor activities (as an aside, I wonder if Japanese cicadas are slower than Australian cicadas. While I can hear cicadas or crickets frequently in warmer weather, they seem to have much faster chirps. It may just be a choice for sound effects though to make cicadas stand out in anime).
It was encouraging to see Aoi work to overcome her fears with assistance from her friends. While I think in real life overcoming your fears may not be as straightforward, having people who care about you by your side is helpful in stressful situations. The English name of the show, Encouragement of Climb felt highly appropriate.
Overall, while the show was not ground-breaking, it was pleasant, peaceful, and had surprisingly natural human interactions. I’d suggest it may be enjoyable for people who are fans of the cute girls doing cute things genre.