Finally found season 2! (Crunchyroll had it but then it disappeared.) They extended the length to 13:30 but without the intro and extro, the actual running time is 10:30. This time 26 episodes, a real testament to how well the original went over.
Still enough sugariness to make one go look for psychological insulin. Cute girls are starting to do difficult things on difficult mountains.
Spoilers ahoy there, matey!
First, we have Mt. Mitsutogi. At 1786 meters it is the highest they have attempted so far. On the way, Aoi gets a splendid view of Fuji. Aoi is a bit obsessed over Fuji and this view was a gift from Hinata. The trek leaves Aoi exhausted. She is not in as good a condition as her partners.
At the bottom of the mountain, there is a developed hot spring. (I feel a trope coming on.) Yes, you have to wash first and then get in naked. But Aoi is insecure over her undeveloped bust. The others gently tease her a little about her shyness and she overcomes yet another obstacle on the road of life. Kaede even has a moment to talk about the disadvantages of a large bust.
The hot springs trope was kind of sprung on one. It does follow in the CGDCT theme. They are still “cute” girls and this really is a “cute” thing. I am not an expert on Japanese culture but I do understand that communal bathing isn’t at all uncommon. At the same time, the “girl who is bashful about her flat chest” trope is also flung at us. So, is this fanservice?
Looking at the anime in its entirety, my feeling is that it isn’t. But also that people who get turned on by naked girls will think it is. It fits in well with the nature of this anime which is to be didactic on two levels. One level is pretty obvious – a pretty good instructional manual on hiking up mountains. I have a couple of minor things I would quibble but overall it is well done.
On the other level, it is teaching girls to dream big and then work hard to achieve it. Aoi’s life is going nowhere until she gets the lift of a driving dream. One that demands physical exertion, will inflict pain, yet the reward will be well worth the effort. There is the victory itself, pride in besting another mountain and then there is also the joy of experiencing nature up close and personal. Rising to the challenge and emerging victorious even if you didn’t reach the top. You are a better and wiser person for your effort.
Along the way, there are many mini-lessons. The hot spring scene is one. Your body is just fine, no matter what your measurements. You may not think it but that is a VERY important lesson. Body dysmorphic disorder is all too common among girls (and to a lesser degree, boys). Whatever you have, it is all good. You don’t need to be a nudist to understand how toxic body shame can be.
So this is not fanservice. (Nor is the separate OVA where Hinata discovers the merits of the sports bra and Kaede gets sized for something more elegant than the sports bra which is all she ever wears.) These are things of interest to young girls. Just because some 14-year-old boy (or some obsessed elderly lolicon) might fap off in his parents’ basement if he stumbles onto this ep. doesn’t make it fanservice. These are life lessons for the shoujo market and what everyone else thinks is irrelevant.
This show is disgustingly wholesome.
Back to the story. Another mini-lesson is on the hazards of mountain rivers. Then we come to the big arc: Mt. Fuji.
These children actually have parents. Nothing more inconvenient than to have your mother tell you that your adventure is going to be too dangerous. Darn! But Aoi convinces her. Mom and Pop realize their little girl is growing up.
The plan is to bus to Station 5, hike to Station 8, spend the night and complete the hike during the am darkness to see the sunrise on Mt. Fuji.
Mother may have a point. Going from station 5 to 6 to 7 was a bit rough but doable. Station 8 is a female dog. This is not “trail” to hike, it is boulder hopping and climbing. Exhausting work. Hinata is slowing down but Aoi is beat. Early symptoms are dismissed as resulting from lack of sleep the previous night. She pushes on, getting ever more tired and developing a headache and blurry vision. At station 8 and 3100 meters (10,230 ft), it is all over for her. She has full-on mountain sickness. So close! Only 3 hours to the top but it ain’t gonna happen today.
Kaede will remain at station 8 with Aoi while Hinata and Kokona will push to the top. Despite their fatigue and the thin air, they make the summit, see the sunrise and circumnavigate the crater.
Oh yeah, mountain sickness is real. I’ve seen it as low as 7000 ft. I’ve felt it as low as 8500 ft. when I pushed too hard with zero acclimation. OTOH, I’ve hiked well over 14000 ft. with no problems other than shortness of breath. It is all about acclimatization and proper pace. People can die from mountain sickness’ lethal cousin, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. Good reason to bring some Viagra with you.
Hinata and Kokona are jubilant. Kaede isn’t disappointed she didn’t make it. Her friend needed her. There will be other days and other hikes. Aoi, however, is facing a long dark night of the soul. She worked so hard, pinned all her hopes and expectations on reaching the top at sunrise. She begins to doubt the meaning of what she is trying to do.
But that only lasts until she receives the letters Hinata and Kokona wrote her from the top of Fuji. She has learned a couple more lessons. Some days, the dragon wins. And if the horse bucks you off, lick your wounds for a bit and climb back into the saddle.
The rest of the season goes on from there. Getting her mother back on board. Memories of a former friend. Acrophobia. Getting a part-time job to pay for all this mountaineering.
I guess that’s just the reality of being a young girl in the Japanese labor force.
Wait… I feel an anime trope coming one. The summer is progressing. Only a few days until the next hike. Summer homework hasn’t even been touched. And I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I have to complete it before I go. Oh no!
Don’t worry, there will be plenty of other life lessons and a mountain to climb before the summer vacation is over. But Aoi will still look like a middle schooler and sound even younger. Season 3 has hardly begun.