The fall anime season this year has many exciting new and returning titles for us to sink our fans into, especially during this Spooky October! All spook aside for this one; however, because this fresh sports anime is all fun, but no games! Iwakakeru - Sport Climbing Girls is an interesting new sports anime about climbing, and it is quite the treat.
The story follows the main character Kasahara Konomi, a first-year high schooler who made the decision to turn away from her excessive gaming habit and channel that energy into an after-school activity! When she sees the Hanamiya Girls’ High School climbing wall, her curiosity is piqued, but she is quickly intercepted by Uehara Jun, a current member of the Climbing Club. Jun tells Konomi that she can only touch the wall if she is a member, but offers Konomi a chance to try it, noting her enthusiasm and soon thereafter, her talent. Climbing Girls is a fun, lighthearted sports anime for anyone looking to watch something fresh and easy to get into!
The most important thing is for the pilot episode to hold, otherwise, it can get really difficult to get into a show. Luckily, Climbing Girls is just the kind of show you don’t need to be part of any niche to find it fundamentally interesting – rock climbing is an extremely unique subject matter for anime; however, that’s word to the medium’s versatility! In episode 1, we are quickly introduced to the main characters and the sport they love: competitive rock climbing. The characters aren’t the most complex; however, they’re well connected by their mutual love for the sport.
Climbing Girls, like most other sports anime, isn’t afraid to get into some of the specifics of the sport in question, which gives it a semblance of authenticity among the dramatic and exaggerated abilities of the main characters. That angle of realism is important especially in a show where the protagonist started their sport one day and had a competition the very next day.
This brings us to Climbing Girls’ one fatal flaw: pacing. The show is a bit all over the place, with Konomi being so talented that she very nearly beats an experienced and talented climber on her first day; before being sent into battle at a tournament the very next day. While a training arc would usually be before the first major competition, Climbing Girls uses this speed-of-light gear shift to introduce some of the major opponents the Hanamiya Girls’ High Climbing Club will come to face in the future on their way to achieving their aspirations of becoming the top climbing team in Japan.
Konomi is the main character of the story and by the end of the first episode, she is a member of the Climbing Club at her school. Her interest was piqued when she saw the walls as puzzles waiting to be solved. Her history of excessive gaming in middle school honed her problem-solving skills to an impressive level, attempting advanced climbing techniques on her first day and very nearly beating the experienced Uehara Jun in a race! Her role is that of the diamond in the rough; an individual with just the right enthusiasm, physical attributes and mentality to succeed in a competitive environment.
Standoffish and unfriendly at first, Uehara is the first Climbing Club member that Konomi meets. She is a talented climber who has been at it since she was a young child, and her love for the sport never faded. She takes her climbing very seriously, admonishing Konomi for seeing the various paths to the goal as some kind of game. Despite her standoffishness, Uehara allows Konomi to try climbing for the first time, giving her various tips that help her improve greatly. Uehara also recognizes the talent that Konomi possesses.
The Hanamiya High Climbing Club’s president is Yotsuba Sayo, a tall climber whose climbing style is seen as one of the most elegant and beautiful, earning her the nickname “Princess of Climbing”. Like Uehara and Nonoka-senpai, President Sayo has an unmistakable love for climbing, as well as heaps of talent and a physique that works to her advantage. She has great leadership potential as far as we’ve seen, given her handling of Konomi’s introduction to the sport, and unlike most club presidents in anime, she emphasized that the final decision to continue climbing fell down to no one but Konomi herself.
Nonoka is the Hanamiya High Climbing Club’s vice-president. Her small frame may be thought of as a disadvantage at first; however, climbing is also about suppleness, of which Nonoka has buckets! She uses unusual grips and maneuvers her legs through awkward positions which wouldn’t be possible if she were taller.
Like Sayo, there are other characters who are introduced as of the second episode, who represent Climbing Girls’ Golden Girls – the super talented climbers who have garnered huge reputations and have canonized nicknames in the sport. This includes… While Climbing Girls can be lauded for the variety of different characters, most of them feel like beautiful, but hollow character designs, which is disappointing because it stems from the show’s fun approach which, in turn, makes it take itself a lot less seriously. Some exposition on characters felt rushed, which greatly emphases the “hollowness” that can be felt from the characters.
Visuals and Soundtrack
Climbing Girls is of a good standard in terms of art and animation; however, there are some stand-out moments that elevate the experience, especially when there is dynamic climbing involved. It's bright and colouful, but not necessarily anything special from the perspective of character designs. The Climbing Girls soundtrack features a high-energy opening, and an ending theme performed by Kasahara Konomi voice actor, Uesaka Sumire, which is a real treat.
You know a good sports anime when it piques your interest in a sport you might never even try. Climbing Girls definitely grabs the attention and hits the right notes as far as a sports anime would go; however, it’s also a fun and light show, which may be to its benefit and detriment. On one hand, it’s a really fun show, but on the other hand, it may feel like it doesn’t take itself seriously enough. It has potential, but strange pacing and hollow characters stand in the way of making Climbing Girls a highly regarded sports anime. Expectations aside, Climbing Girls comes highly recommended, and we’re definitely excited for more!