At last the Northern world has thawed and the Spring Equinox is here! Finally our days are growing noticeably longer and warmer, and the woods and hiking trails are no longer filled with mud and drippy coldness. This is the season to wake from your hibernation, throw off your giant Winter parka, and venture out into the great outdoors once again. The air is fresh, the weather is mild, and the forests and mountains are calling! And if you’re anything like me, that means that it’s finally hiking season! Though the hiking trails at higher elevations are probably still filled with snow (they usually don’t clear of snow until June) the trails in the foothills and forests are mostly clear and no longer flooded with half frozen mud. So let us go out and commune with Nature! Or if you’re not into that, there are plenty of excited and cheerful anime characters that have already done all the hard climbing for you! So whether you’re one of the Outdoorsy Folks or part of the Indoorsy group, there are anime for everyone to fall in love with forests and mountains!
Slow Loop is a simple anime about girls and fishing. But it’s the relationships that grow between the girls as they hone their fishing skills that really adds depth to this sweet and simple anime. The main character (Hiyori) learned to fish from her late father and often returns to his old fishing spot. She even uses his old fishing gear. Three years after his death Hiyori’s mother decides to remarry and wants Hiyori to meet her new step dad and sibling over dinner. Not knowing how to feel about this (because Hiyori is still quite attached to her father’s memory) she retreats to his old fishing spot to think things through.
That’s where she meets the cheerful and energetic Koharu, who’s very interested in learning about fishing and seems to love the sea (she even tried to jump into the sea the moment she saw it!) . Hiyori is surprised, but cautiously delighted to finally find a girl her age that also likes fishing and enjoying the bounty of the sea and rivers (a new fishing buddy maybe?) but one thing leads to another and it ends up that Koharu is not just Hiyori’s new water loving, fishing friend but also her new step sibling!
Encouragement of the Climb
Encouragement of the Climb is an anime about Aoi Yukimura, a quiet high school girl that has spent all of her middle school years staying indoors and doing crafts alone. Now that she’s in high school, Aoi fully intends to do the same, but when her friend from elementary school returns, Aoi gets pulled back into the world of mountain climbing whether she likes it or not! Her old friend Hinata has fond childhood memories of climbing a mountain with Aoi and she wants to relive them! There’s just one little problem, over the years Aoi has developed a fear of heights and climbing. Even steep hills give Aoi pause. But Hinata is not about to take no for an answer, but she does eventually agree to start out slow and work their way up to seeing the sunrise at the top of the same mountain they climbed as children. So climb by climb, the girls strength and skills grow together.
Though Mushishi isn’t exclusively an anime about hiking or mountain climbing or camping, it is mostly set in the forests and mountains. Also the main character Ginko spends a surprising amount of his time hiking! Most of the villages he travels to and from as he deals with paranormal problems are in remote mountainous areas deep in the forests of Japan. Indeed, it is often the spirits of those forests that are causing the problems for the villagers that live there. The backdrop of forest is more than just scenery in this anime, the condition of the forest is often an indication of the state of the spirits in that area. In the bleak dead forests of Winter the spirits are more secretive and lethal, in the whisper filled moon lit forests of Summer the spirits are a bit mischievous, and in the sun filled forests of Spring the spirits might actually be trying to be helpful in their own way.
Somali and the Forest Spirit
Somali and the Forest Spirit is a sweet melancholic anime about a little girl who gets lost in the woods after the wagon she was traveling in was attacked and her parents were killed. She was found by a huge humanoid robot “Golem” that is a guardian of the forest. In this world humans have been condemned and hunted to the point of extinction and the world is now ruled by elves, witches, goblins, and other fantastical creatures. Even the fact that Somali (the little girl) is a human makes her a target. Though his mission in life is to protect his forest, the golem decides to travel across the world to try and find a group of humans for Somali to live with so she can be safe.
The beautiful and mysterious forest that this series begins in, and the wondrous lands that the duo travel to are a feast for the eyes. It’s clear that the creators of this anime loved nature and wild places, and most definitely were one of the Outdoorsy Folks. This is a wonderful, heartwarming, Ghibli-esque anime with a bitter sweet ending that can’t be missed!
Honorable mention goes to Hotarubi no Mori e (Firefly Forest) this is a really great movie. It’s about a little girl that gets lost in a forest while on Summer vacation and a strange boy that never ages finds her and helps her get home. The story takes place over several Summer vacations as the girl returns to the forest to see the boy. This movie is what lead me to Natsume yujincho, one of my favorite anime. It definitely wouldn’t be the same without it’s beautiful forest setting. Though it is an amazingly sad story!