Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yama no Susume Season 2: Discouragement of Climb

Some great news came out earlier today when Crunchyroll announced that they have gotten the go-ahead to simulcast the rest of Yama no Susume Second Season, a.k.a. Encouragement of Climb Season 2, and have already added all of the previous episodes as well. For anyone who has been waiting for a legal stream of those episodes, this is your chance to catch up with one of the best shows from the summer, as well as the "second part" of the YamaHanaBara story for which Hanayamata was the first part and Barakamon was the third part.

In celebration of this, expect a number of posts on recent episodes of the show, as well as continuing regular coverage of the show on this blog from here on out. This post will cover material up to and including episode 12, and will naturally contain spoilers from those episodes. If you haven't watched this show up to that point yet, go ahead and do so. Don't worry, this post isn't going anywhere. Or just hit the jump if you really don't care about watching this show, and don't care that you're missing out on one of the best shows currently airing.

You'd also be missing out on these adorable Li'l Fuji dolls, and you wouldn't want that, would you?


Failure and Disappointment

As Aoi continues to grow in her interest in mountain climbing, she decides to take on the tallest mountain in Japan, Mt. Fuji. It's a daunting challenge, one that requires much preparation and having to convince Aoi's mother to not worry so much. (The hike is still technically an entry-level climb, starting from about halfway up the mountain and done regularly by tourists, including one very enthusiastic English-speaking couple in the show.) It's the most physically demanding climb she has faced yet, but as she feels she is growing as a mountain climber, she wants to try it out.
Little does she realize what she is up for during this climb...

As Aoi starts climbing Mt. Fuji, at first she is all smiles with the rest of the group as they go up the mountain. However, the high altitude and exhausting climb eventually take their toll on her, and about two-thirds of the way up, her body succumbs to altitude sickness and she is forced to stop her climb. It's a difficult moment for her, as she has to come to terms with the fact that she has failed to accomplish what she wanted to do. Dealing with this disappointment is not easy for Aoi, but in the end, her ill-fated climb up Mt. Fuji still turns out to be a valuable experience for her.

I have mentioned before how Yama no Susume S2 can be representative of a very particular part of a Christian's walk of faith: the point where a Christian is no longer a "beginner" in the faith, but is still learning about following God. These "growing" Christians are oftentimes quite passionate, sometimes even more so than when they first joined the faith, as they start pushing themselves to doing things that stretch their faith even further. However, "growing" Christians will very likely hit a point where they will face failure and disappointment. They might attempt to do something for God but their endeavor ends up in failure, or they might fall into an old sin; whatever the case, failure and disappointment are aspects of the Christian life we have to be able to face.

By Our Side

Before we go into how Aoi deals with her disappointment, it's worth noting the role of the person that helps her out the most while she is down: Kaede, the experienced mountaineer of the group. When she notices that Aoi is in no condition to continue, she keeps her from hurting herself any further, gets her a place to rest where tourists are normally not allowed to do so, and quiets other nearby tourists that get too rowdy. Kaede has always been the one most helpful to Aoi due to her experience, but her mentorship role extends beyond simply giving advice, as she is able to come alongside Aoi during the times when she feels tired and exhausted, and especially when Aoi is completely unable to continue, Kaede stays by her side and comforts her while the others in their group continue up the mountain.

Of course, it helps that Kaede has had her own fair share of failed climbs, so she can empathize with Aoi's feelings, and can be a comforting presence without saying much. And Kaede's perspective can be an interesting one to look at in a later post. For now, though, it's worth noting just how important a good mentor can be, as well as what a good mentor looks like. While providing advice and guidance are both important parts of mentorship, the most important thing a mentor can do is come alongside the one being mentored when she feels the pain of disappointment and failure. Unfortunately, in a mentorship position, it is all too easy to be critical and even judgmental, even in the name of "tough love", without realizing that, in that moment, what that person needs is not advice or criticism, but simply someone who understands her pain and will be there for her through it. This is important for everyone regardless of faith, of course, but it is especially important for Christians, because coming alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ is how we display God's gracious love to them.

How Far We've Come

So what finally allows Aoi to recover from her disappointment? She decides to visit a nearby hill, which was, in fact, the very first thing she climbed after deciding to try out mountain climbing again, way back in the first season. Going up that hill, she can't help but think how easy it is now, compared to back then. It is a reminder of how she has grown as a mountain climber, even if not quite to the point where she can climb Mt. Fuji. (Of course, Hinata being there by coincidence and also being there for her helps too.)

For Christians who are dealing with disappointment and failure, especially newer ones, it is helpful to think back to how we were before joining the faith, and then look at how far we have come, rather than how far we still have to go. (Having other people around you who can point out the ways you have changed is helpful, of course.) When we think about how God is working steadily in our growth, we can look past our failures and look forward to becoming more like Him, one step at a time. Failure is a difficult thing to deal with, especially in the moment, but we do not have to let one failure (or even multiple failures) symbolize our entire walk of faith. Remember that God's love is not dependent on what we do, but on what He has done for us; if we focus on the latter and let that define our walk of faith, we can see failures not as roadblocks but as stepping stones to greater faith.

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From here on out, expect more regular posts from this show, including an upcoming post on a recent episode. And if you aren't watching this show yet, I definitely recommend you do so. The first season is very short and all of the second season episodes are only half the length of a normal anime episode, so you can catch up quickly on what has been an amazing show so far. In the meantime, I am looking forward to blogging more about the final part of YamaHanaBara without having to worry about whether or not you can watch the episodes I'm blogging about legally.

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