The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit
How would you rate episode 1 of
Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit ?
Community score: 3.6
What is this?
Hinata and Aoi made a promise to each other when they were very young to climb a mountain. Years later they get in contact again and start acting on that promise. However Aoi has developed a fear of heights, and Hinata has little patience for planning and even less caution.
How was the first episode?
I've never been on for the Cute Girls Doing Very Specific Hobbies genre of spice-of-life anime, though I absolutely see the appeal for fans who can find an interest in whatever particular pastime is the focus of the series. One day, I'm sure they'll get around to making “My Summer With Gunpla", or “Godzilla Girls!! ~Eternal Pastime Destruction~”, and then the trap will have truly been set.
All of this is to say that, while I can't say I'm personally over the moon with Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit, I can absolutely understand how fans could become smitten with these fairly cute gals who are, indeed, doing a very specific hobby—in this case, mountaineering. The show does a good job of communicating protagonist Aoi's adolescent melancholy without going too overboard with the treacle (though I'd love it if whoever is mixing the sappy soundtrack could turn the volume levels down a tad), and Hinata makes for an amusingly lackadaisical foil/friend. It's always fun when a series takes the “nearly forgotten best friend from childhood” trope and twists it just enough to be amusing, which in this instance means that Hinata is more of a proudly stubborn and foolhardy gremlin than a wistful reminder of times gone by (though she is definitely that, too).
The show also looks really dang good, which made a lot of sense in retrospect when I learned that these first episodes are a recut presentation of a bunch of shorts from years back. There were definitely spots in the editing where I could tell that the episode was speeding right along through the gags and edutainment segments, but I didn't mind much. The charming atmosphere and obvious love that has gone into the production were enough to smooth over any rough edges for me.
In all honesty, while I'm hardly at a place where I'm going to commit to watching the whole season, Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit was solid enough that I may very well check out at least one more episode, even if I'm not paid to do it. When we're smack dab in the middle of one of the most stacked seasons of recent memory, that's not a bad place for any slice-of-life anime to be.
I suspect that you would be better served by going back and watching the original Encouragement of Climb shorts and then picking this sequel up at episode five than taking this version at its word for what happened during it. Not that this in any way feels as if it's not giving us the story; it's more like this is recognizably the Reader's Digest version, condensed down to its essentials without any of the bits and pieces that make up a good story. Of course, I say this having never watched beyond the first episode of the original, so this could, in fact, be less piecemeal than it seems, but the rushed pacing and pseudo- eyecatches of still shots make me think that's not the case.
In any event, the execution leans much more into cute girls doing cute things than it does into the hiking angle of the story. That's a shame, because Aoi learning to overcome her fear of heights in order to enjoy hikes up increasing elevations would be a rewarding tale, especially since it's so clear that something happened to her in the intervening years since she last saw Hinata. Likewise it would be nice to get more of a feel for how she and Hinata rekindled their friendship – it's great that at one point Hinata mentions that she knows she's being pushy in trying to get Aoi to engage with her again, but having more of that would go a long way to actually selling their friendship as something real. Instead we have a perfunctory slideshow focused on assembling the cast and making a basic attempt at showing them learning about gear.
It isn't terrible, it just doesn't quite live up to its potential, and it really does lean a bit too hard into the purported cuteness of the cast. The backgrounds are really beautiful and I love the message of “get out and see” (especially since my dog has expressed disbelief that I might want to take him hiking rather than throwing his beloved purple ball in the yard), but this just isn't doing much for me as a whole.
It's probably not too fair to judge this as a premiere. Like yes, this is technically what is listed as the first episode of this new season of the forever awkwardly localized Encouragement of Climb series, but it's not actually new. This is a compilation – with some slight cuts and additions – of the three-minute shorts that comprised the first season of the show. The result is a decent enough refresher for long-time fans who haven't seen the first entry in a while, and is accessible for any newbies (especially with no legal streaming for earlier seasons available right now). But it's also far from seamless.
Mostly that comes down to the atmosphere. Encouragement, especially this first season before they made the jump to 10-minute episodes, is a property that runs off vibes and character comedy, neither of which survive well when everything's edited down into a glorified montage. There are certainly moments that still capture the charm of the material – sequences of Aoi and her friends strolling through lush greenery, or basking in a mountainside sunset – but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. Plus, there's just the fact that these were originally created as individual shorts, and they don't really flow together well. Even if you didn't know this was a compilation going in, you'd be able to tell pretty quickly, and it makes for a rather uneven viewing experience. There's also a problem where a lot of the new soundtrack overpowers the dialogue in the sound mix, and boy does that get really distracting whenever it happens.
In all, this is a pretty scuffed-up version of the original series, and while it's the only legal viewing option we've got right now, it's far from optimal. Some of the charm and energy that drew in viewers nearly a decade ago is still here, and if new viewers watched this and found themselves enjoying it, it's an accurate enough indicator that this franchise – and this new season – might just be worth your time. But I mostly came away from this “premiere” hoping HIDIVE gets those older seasons up for streaming pronto.
discuss this in the forum (317 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history