Post Reply Still Climbing! - Encouragement of Climb S2
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Posted 8/28/14 , edited 8/28/14
by moonhawk81

After a first-season run of 12 episodes airing from January-March, 2013, Encouragement of Climb began a second season in July, 2014. The series seamlessly returns viewers into the lives of our four protagonists, Aoi, Hinata, Kokona, and Kaede, as they continue to pursue their dreams of mountaineering. But, as witnessed in the first season, it is a dream reborn for Aoi. Years ago as children, Aoi and Hinata watched a sunrise together from atop a mountain, promising each other then that they would do so again. But the girls were separated, and Aoi became afraid of heights after falling and injuring herself on the school playground. Aoi and Hinata are reunited as they begin high school, but Aoi has become a quiet, indoor person quite unlike her younger self as once known to Hinata. And Hinata has trouble accepting this change, constantly reminding Aoi of their promise to climb a mountain together. Aoi, recognizing that the years apart have made strangers of them, is annoyed by Hinata's badgering. Still, she feels a certain lingering affection for her childhood friend--or, perhaps more accurately, a loyalty to the memory of that friendship which was once so important to her. And so, despite her fear and frustration, Aoi agrees to honor her promise.

But the message and genius of Encouragement of Climb has always been the re-invention of self, demonstrated by the two main characters. Previously, Aoi completely transformed herself into the quiet, indoor type (a change explained to the viewer); the series focuses upon her metamorphosis into a more confident, outgoing type. In contrast, Hinata is presented as having not changed at all during the intervening years--at least as seen through Aoi's eyes. That failure to change is one reason why her childhood friendship with Aoi remains such a treasured memory for Hinata; her childishly impulsive and obsessive behavior has made her something of an outcast amongst her peers. Initially, Aoi sees Hinata's return into her life as an intrusion, whereas reuniting with Aoi seems like a long-awaited homecoming to Hinata. And so they each become the catalyst to the other's transformation.

And they are not alone, being joined by Kokona, a middle school student whom they meet during their first excursion on Mount Takao, and Kaede, an older schoolmate who already enjoys mountaineering as a hobby. Kokona is the youngest member of the group, exuding propriety and feminine charm. Kaede is the most experienced of the girls in mountaineering, and enjoys backpacking, which she explains as hiking and camping in the mountains. This experience allows her to give a great deal of practical advice. (Also, in a character-driven show that normally avoids fan-service situations, Kaede's more mature curves and love of sports bras are offered as a sort of sly consolation prize to viewers with certain formulaic expectations.) Hinata's father, who encourages both his daughter's mountaineering efforts and her developing friendships, rounds out the group without ever actually being part of it.

And now the adventure continues, with two big changes this season! First, there will be twice as many episodes, 24 rather than 12. Second, the length of an individual episode has expanded from 3.5 to 13.5 minutes. That said, I have read some concerns that the storylines might not support the new extended time frame--that they might seem stretched. Indeed, that boredom might ensue. Rubbish! Slice-of-life is all about just watching things happen, and the longer episodes allow the audience to explore more nuanced situations and character interactions.

Shiro's manga Encouragement of Climb, upon which the anime is based, appears in Comic Earth Star and began its ongoing serialization in August, 2011. Studio 8-Bit has produced both seasons of the anime version, and season 2 is currently airing on Tokyo MX. Crunchyroll was initially set to simulcast the series on Thursdays at noon Central Standard time, but has thus far only offered the first episode. But keep checking, because this show is definitely worth watching!
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