It’s very rare to find a great show among animated shorts. Many of them produce situational one-shots with the same characters in the same setting. While some of them do have a serial timeline, shorts often lack the details of storytelling. The short series Encouragement of Climb (Yama no Susume) counters these claims by creating situations chronologically with wonderful progression and development for its protagonists.
Encouragement of Climb follows two high school girls and their adventures in hiking to mountain summits across Japan. Aoi, the scared and unsure of the two, learns to overcome her anxieties while being accompanied by Hinata, the tomboyish enthusiastic one who appears to have some experience in hiking. With each episode, audiences learn a little tidbit on activities and ethics in camping and hiking as they watch the girls learn to hike together.
The visuals for this anime consist of more simple drawings with “watercolor” effects, faded coloring that’s not nearly as bright or vivid as most anime. I personally like this style because it does not distract the audience from appearances and fan service and forces them to focus mainly on the situation the characters are in. Visuals for animations and films like this one accompany the story rather than make it the main reason people watch it. I certainly love the characters this way for who they are, rather than how they look.
One thing I did enjoy about this series is the reality displayed when one goes on a hike in the mountains. Being somewhat of a hiker myself, I have learned that not all mountain trails are steep, scary, or even arduous, as Aoi originally thinks when it comes to climbing mountains or hills. In fact, their first trail blaze was on a neighboring hill that took them less than a day to reach the summit! The trials Aoi and Hinata face are not only literal in climbing mountains, but figurative in climbing our lives’ scariest moments. All progress in life is a hurdle that many of us face with fear and anxiety, as Aoi had done; but with the help of good friends and a little encouragement from within, we can climb our way to the top.
Encouragement of Climb is a beautiful short series, not only for its story and characters, but it also showed me that I can climb the “mountains” in my life.