What it’s about: Aoi is an introverted middle-schooler afraid of heights, struggling to her new classmembers. At least until her childhood friend Hinata shows up and begins encouraging her to take up the hill-climbing they both enjoyed when they were younger. The show follows the pair as they explore the local sites, learn about mountaineering as a hobby, and make new friends from the people they meet along the way.
Why you should watch it: On the surface, Yama no Susume is just another moe show about a random hobby for cute girls to do cute things. And to a large extent it really is just that. It’s the execution that sets it apart: superb animation quality, characters presented in just the right length of time to flesh them out without dragging on, and a cute, calm and relaxing environment with some gorgeous background art. The extension of the episode running time from 3 minutes to 15 minutes in the second season did wonders for the story. In the end, a Slice of Life show lives and dies with its characters and, while the entire cast start out fairly stereotypically defined by single traits, soon into the second season they get a lot more depth. Hinata isn’t as airheaded as she acts, Kaede isn’t the hyperfocused and accomplished student that she appears, etc, etc. Even when the episode follows the cast not really doing anything, it’s fun.
Caveats: This ties into the section above – while it’s a well-executed example, this ultimately is “yet another” series following cute girls doing cute things. It’s pretty calorie-light in terms of deeper themes and meaning, but if that’s what you’re after, slice of life probably isn’t the best place to look for it anyway.
Themes: Learning to socialise, the beauty of nature.