Iwa Kakeru!: Sport Climbing Girls introduces Konomi Kasahara to the up and coming sport of climbing. Using her background of puzzling gaming, she transfers her innate ability to problem-solve on the climbing walls.
With the fall 2020 anime season being jam-packed with popular shows and highly anticipated sequels, it’s rather common for some series to go under the radar or even completely forgotten. Iwa Kakeru!: Sport Climbing Girls unfortunately seems to be following in this trajectory. That, however, is to be expected given the anime’s relatively short-lived manga and mediocre ratings.
This will also be author Ryuudai Ishizaka’s first manga to get an anime adaptation. Although that is a tremendous accomplishment for Ishizaka, it won’t help that he has no other past works to attract existing or new fans. Despite Climbing Girls’ underwhelming reception among the anime community throughout the first five episodes, it is still a worthwhile show that explores the up and coming activity known as sport climbing through the lens of a charming group of girls.
The anime begins when high school junior Konomi Kasahara stumbles upon a climbing wall right outside of campus after her first day of class. She was initially drawn into it because of the many different shapes and colours the holds of the climbing wall had. To Kasahara, it reminded her of a puzzle video game, a variety of gaming that she was all too familiar with. Despite being extremely skilled in video games, so much so that she has even won national tournaments, Kasahara wished to move on from her stay-at-home lifestyle and to embark on a new ambition.
Due to her background in puzzle gaming, Kasahara instinctively climbed the wall in a strategic manner. Using the best route available, she made it all the way to the top, hooking the final anchor. As the three members of the climbing club looked on, thoroughly impressed at her first attempt ever, they welcomed Kasahara with open arms and told her about the upcoming sport climbing tournament.
Climbing Girls offers a new perspective on the sport of rock climbing and highlights the athleticism, precision and strategic prowess needed in order to ascend or send a wall. Right off the bat, the anime is quick to dispel any narratives that suggest rock climbing is solely an upper body dependent activity. As the show progresses, we begin to learn more about the subtle techniques and finesse climbers must utilize in order to conquer their wall or route. The climbers are drawn with detailed muscles, especially the abominable section, and glossy sweat that illustrate the sport and its athletes to perfection.
Perfecting the craft
The anime is a delightful surprise for those who aren’t knowledgeable of climbing and quite a refreshing take on a relatively niche sport. Kasahara learns the hard way that arm strength alone will not bring her to the finish line, a great deal of commitment and effort is required, much like any other sport would. Hours upon hours of training are needed to swiftly and safely ascend towards the top, and the anime makes certain that viewers understand this. As she continues her training, she learns how to properly mount holds with her feet, take advantage of her body’s leverages and the best way to assess a route even before taking the first step. Kasahara’s journey from a beginner whose arms gave out after the first climb to a specialist who can contort her body in seemingly any position, is a truly motivating experience that would leave most viewers grinning from ear to ear.
The other girls in the climbing club are still leagues above Kasahara and push the newcomer to her limits every now and then, but all of it is with good intentions as they prepare for the tournament. The girls make sure to give their due diligence in nurturing Kasahara to meet and exceed her untapped potential, even if that comes at her dismay. The friendship the four girls share is the kind of bond many would be envious of, a spiritual connection that allows them to learn, grow and prosper from one another, whether that be in sport climbing or life in general. To the untrained eye, rock climbing is nothing more than using your arms to grab the next hold in front of you.
Not only does Climbing Girls offer an endearing story about four girls competing for a national tournament, but it also provides us a glimpse of the mesmerizing art form known as sport climbing. Regardless of the tournament’s outcome, viewers will be sure to finish the anime feeling satisfied learning about a less than traditional sport, Kasahara’s character development and the unwavering friendship she obtained along the way.
A growing sport
Although rock climbing’s relevancy is still miles away from mainstream sports, such as basketball or baseball, its community continues to grow. For the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, sport climbing was set to make its debut as an official event for the summer games. The new format would introduce three disciplines of the sport, lead-climbing, bouldering and speed climbing.
Climbing Girls combines the appeal of sport climbing with a down to earth main character who every viewer can relate to one way or the other. It brings us into the crafty and newly refined world of climbing and practically teaches us the sport from the ground up. The only thing more entertaining than learning the mastery behind climbing is watching Kasahara get teased relentlessly from her fellow club members.
Climbing Girls may be overshadowed by the other, more popular, anime that headline the fall 2020 season, but there is nothing about it that makes it any less inferior in terms of production, characters and story. Overall, it is an anime that stands completely fine on its own and is certainly worth a watch for those who enjoy the competitive nature of sports, or for those who relish in watching a group of friends strive towards a common goal.