I can’t say that I was really familiar with this film before watching it but I can safely say that it holds up well. It’s a quality title all around with a good amount of tension and quality characters. The animation style was also very smooth and worked well with what the film was going for. It sounds like a back handed complement to say it’s better than I would have expected it to be but it definitely did exceed my expectations. If you’re looking for a solid mountain climbing adventure then this is the film for you.
The movie starts by introducing us to Makoto who is a reporter. He’s trying to follow up on the story of two climbers who vanished after Everest and we don’t know if they truly climbed to the top or not. One day he’s at a bar when someone tries to sell him the fabled camera of the explorer which would prove beyond a doubt what happened but Makoto has no time for that. The guy ends up being mugged by the mysterious climber known as Habu though so maybe this actually is legit. Makoto must now find out everything about Habu so that he can track the guy down and grab the camera.
So most of the film is actually a flashback as we see Habu slowly become better and better at climbing to the point where he doesn’t need a partner. Habu’s skills are very real but his personality isn’t always the best. Not only does he not have a filter but he really doesn’t seem to respect his partners’ abilities all that much. Certainly not as much as you would expect at least and so this leads to him being isolated. He still wants to keep on pushing himself though and in a way he lives to climb so as long as he can keep climbing then he is happy. The rest just doesn’t matter nearly as much to him.
A good chunk of the film is about trying to understand what is so fascinating about climbing. It’s a super dangerous hobby without a whole lot of upside and things can easily go sideways for you. So with all of that in mind. Why do it? Well I suppose people like what they like but I can’t say that I’d ever be too interested in the hobby myself. I’d enjoy the cold temperatures to be sure but risking my life for something like this just wouldn’t feel worth it. In general few things are so I’d rather stay safe if I can help it.
Habu is definitely the best character in the film either way. He really gets a lot of screen time here and is quick on his feet. Ultimately at least by climbing on his own he’s not really putting anyone else in danger. It’s only when others want to join him that things get a little crazy. Meanwhile Makoto is a good character as well. He feels a little out of his depth the whole time but I do have to give him some credit because he holds his own by the end. He has enough strength and climbing expertise to actually scale mountains and not just get left in the dust. To an extent I do have a little bit of a hard time believing that but since he’s so invested in the hobby I suppose he may have trained at some point.
Mountain Climbing is not a forgiving sport either so even if you enjoy it a lot, you better spend some time in the weight room. There’s no escape and few places to rest once you’re on the mountain so you really do need to see the whole thing through to the end. Seeing the characters just hanging from the to of the mountain with nothing but pure arm strength is extremely impressive.
As I mentioned earlier the animation is really smooth here. I like how streamlined everything appears and it really supports this kind of adventure. The mountain itself is very sleek and the snow stands out. The movie even uses some really creative effects later on for the storm and also has some rather spooky scenes involving a ghost. I would say this looks a bit more like a DC movie than an anime but that’s not a bad thing in the slightest because it’s just so high quality.
Visually the movie keeps up with the pacing and story. I would also say that the writing is very good here as well. It’s very much a slice of life kind of movie as we follow Habu’s adventures and everything makes sense in that context. There’s no random drama, no rushed romance, no super villain here to cause trouble. It’s a story that could have easily happened in real life and even when bad things do happen like a character might die, everyone handles is very maturely. In general you could call this a very mature movie and not in an edgy way. It’s not particularly violent or disturbing, but it is a film that probably wouldn’t be super exciting for a kid. The movie is just confident enough in itself to have a satisfying story without needing to add any fluff or anything extra.
Overall, I thought this was a great movie. It excels in just being a simple, direct movie about mountain climbing. There is a lot of attention to detail here and they don’t hold your hand through how this works. You see the characters setting up their gear and just have to follow along the whole time. You can absolutely do this if you are paying attention and it’s a nice test in a way. The flashback is engaging enough where you don’t mind most of the film not being in the present. Usually I’m not big on flashbacks but as this turned out to be part mystery it worked well. In a way there’s not a whole lot to say about this movie. It’s not a title you will spend a lot of time theory crafting and instead you can just sit back and enjoy it.