Encouragement of Climb - Second Season
Having reignited her interest in hiking, Aoi and her friends go on to seek bigger challenges. Maybe even Mt. Fuji.
But even beyond that horizon, Aoi and Hinata also have a childhood promise that needs to be fulfilled, and maybe now would be the time to do it.
Isn't it nice when your wish gets granted?
See, my biggest wishes when watching the first season were longer episodes, and preferably more of them as well. So, how about 24 episodes, 14 minutes apiece? Sound good?
I love when I'm proven right about things like this.
The weird thing is; I don't think Encouragement of Climb was made to impress, at least in the more conventional way of shonen or shoujo. The show is -- well, still -- as laid back as the Aria series, and almost solely dedicated to its main topic; hiking and climbing. And how?
Once again, we have our cast of four totally adorable girls leading each hike with their usual gusto. With this being the second season, we've already gotten to know the girls, so they can get right on to business. Granted, I would be lying if I said the girls weren't endearing me to the show at all, but the main draw is still the amazing scenery, now better than ever. Instead of having character development, in some cases, we get more of a character insight. Aoi is the one who develops as she regains some kind of composure of her former self before the fall that instigated the biggest change in her life. But with characters like Kaede, we get some kind of look back instead, which works as a pillar of support for the other girls, Aoi in particular. Hinata and Konoka remain their energetic and adorable selves, respectively. If you look at the cover/promo art, you might've noticed a fifth girl joining the main lineup. In a rather sneaky way from the show's side, I kept waiting for her to show up, but that didn't happen until the last couple of episodes. As such, we didn't really get to know Honoka all that well yet, other than that she seemed like a softspoken, somewhat introverted girl, but not with -- or because of -- Aoi's initial crippling shyness. We also get to meet Aoi's parents more properly, as well as a brief introduction to Kokona's mother (in one of her near-standalone episodes, and a gem at that.) Hinata's father had already become a mainstay in the show, but it was still nice to meet some of the other girls' parents too, if only briefly.
I don't know this for a fact, but I'm pretty sure that the places and the mountains in Encouragement of Climb are places that exist, that you can actually travel to. Granted, Mt. Fuji is obviously so, but the girls -- sometimes with parent in tow -- go to a lot of particularly named places, where the show often goes into mapping mode, pointing out where they lie in relation to Mt. Fuji. In a sense, it makes the show come across as a travelogue for hiking enthusiasts, or even just those with a mild interest in going on walks, and as one who lives on the west coast of Norway, I can really appreciate that sort of thing.
In fact, I can't stress this enough; the scenery in this show is amazing. It looked nice in the first season, but they really pulled out all the stops on the scenery porn in the second season, to the point where I have a sneaky suspicion that some of the background aren't as much drawn as photographed and filtered to make it look like they're drawn. You only have to take it all in; the small cabins, the way the paths are prepared for hikers and all the cabins built for those who undertake the larger journeys. It's.... a little unusual, I have to admit -- there are cabins you can rent or borrow in Norway too, but not in the same way as in here. The thing is, despite the fact that I feel the public offerings for hikers are a bit exessive in numbers -- but the series itself give a clear impression that it knows what it's talking about, as if the creator of the original manga didn't want to make a manga as a source of escapism, but rather portray something they loved doing. In that, the show was -- and still is -- a warm, gentle experience that is made solely to make its viewers feel good, to share in its experiences. And watching a night hike to the top of Mt. Fuji to see the sunrise above the clouds? That is an experience.
To borrow a phrase by Jason Huff in his review for Aria the Animation that I feel suit this show just as much: "You have to want to go on that vacation", because that's what Encouragement of Climb is. It's made for those with an interest for the outside, especially mountains. Its only contribution outside of its target audience is courting the fans of moe, and while one could wish it didn't, it doesn't really hurt the show either. And I can certainly respect a show that neither shuns nor throws itself at maximum appeal, but comes across as more inviting. That said, if you aren't interested in hiking, or you're more of a city person, then Encouragement of Climb: Second Season probably won't have much to offer. And it shouldn't be expected to.
Are there other downsides to this show? A few minor ones, yes. The show has always courted the moe audience, which I didn't mind, but this season made the strange decision to throw in a hotspring scene where the girls have a short chat about Kaede's breasts for some reason. A whole episode is centered around scenes where Hinata accidentally pulls Aoi's skirt down (thankfully kept offscreen), but still, was it really necessary? And a whole episode at that?
Encouragement of Climb: Second Season quickly went to work solidifying it as not only my favorite show in 2014, but also one of my all-time favorites. It's just that good. The best part is; the first season ended with a "see you again", and that it was allowed to honor that statement. This season did not do that, but I kind of wish it did. I would still like to see more.
For all you hiking enthusiasts out there, this one is for you. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show does occasionally go into some mild fanservice stuff, like the aforementioned breast talk (which happened only once) and a few scenes where we get to see Kaede in her sports underwear. There is also a swimsuit episode... sort of... which, for all it throwing around the word "sexy swimsuit", isn't really all that off-kilter about it. It just feels more alienating in this show because of what it is.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Encouragement of Climb - Second Season © 2014 8-bit, Earth Star Entertainment.
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