Back in 2013, a charming little short-episode anime series with the awkward English title of Encouragement of Climb debuted. In it, we were introduced to Aoi, a girl who had once made a promise to climb a mountain with her friend Hinata, but has since acquired a fear of heights after a playground accident. Now in high school, she reunites with Hinata, who wastes no time dragging Aoi off to start mountain climbing again. Of course, given her fear of heights, Aoi has to start by hiking much smaller summits, but she slowly grows to enjoy hiking again, and makes some more friends along the way. Despite the series being just 12 episodes running 3 minutes each, the show packed enough heart into its short runtime to become a fan favorite, and received a second season of 24 episodes at 12 minutes each, followed by a third season of 13 more 12-minute episodes. And now, four years later, we get the first episode of the fourth season of this series, with the length finally getting upgraded to the full 24-minute length… and it is literally just the entire first season, edited down to fit in one episode.
On the one hand, as someone who has already seen the first three seasons and was looking forward to some new content, this is a disappointment, especially since I now presume it has to go through the content of seasons 2 and 3 (and unless they plan on making this entire season a compilation of earlier content, they’ll have to rush through the story). On the other hand, it does not look like any of the previous seasons of Encouragement of Climb are available for legal streaming anywhere; they were originally streaming on Crunchyroll but have since been removed. So for anyone who was interested in this cute-girls-climbing-mountains series, at least this is a way to legally view the story. So if you’re interested in a series about friendship and mountain climbing, I definitely would recommend checking out this episode, without worrying about how it isn’t actually “Season 1.” Hopefully, the following “recap” episodes (2-4, with new content beginning in episode 5)—and especially the one that covers the notably excellent second season—will show off some of the series real strengths, and then both old and new fans alike can see Aoi and friends climbing new summits.
Encouragement of Climb: Next Summit is streaming on HIDIVE.