What’s it about? First-year high school student Kasahara Konomi is looking to join one of Hanamiya Girls’ High School’s clubs, only to find that she’s not sure where her place is. A former game addict turned serious student, Konomi’s feeling listless: that is, until she comes across the school’s new rock climbing wall, and sees a new future open up before her.
Iwa Kakeru! Sports Climbing Girls (hereafter Iwa Kakeru!) is a BLADE studio production. Anime fans will recognize BLADE as a notable key animation studio who’s done work on My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, Food Wars! The Second Plate, and The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Staff for the anime include Amino Tetsuro (Macross 7, Shiki, Rainbow Days) as the Series Director, Machida Touko (7 SEEDS, Boruto, Inari Kon Kon) on Series Composition, and Ito Tsubasa (Akame ga KILL!, Record of Grancrest War), who is handling music. Additionally, Hosoi Tomoyasu (Arte, Kino’s Journey – the Beautiful World –, Scum’s Wish) is serving as the series’ Art Director.
Kasahara Konomi is a first year student at Hanamiya Girls’ High School, and she’s on the hunt for a school club to join. Problem is is that she doesn’t really feel like she fits anywhere. In a huff, Konomi heads outside and see her future: Hanamiya’s new rock climbing wall.
Konomi–much like most of the viewers–knows next to nothing about rock climbing. Still, she’s intrigued enough that she touches the wall, only to be scold by Uehara Jun, a fellow first year student and the Climbing Club’s newest member. One thing leads to another, and somehow, Konomi finds herself in climbing gear, ready to touch the wall as a potential member of the club.
Initially, things go a bit sideways: there’s a lot that Konomi just doesn’t know, and a lot of ways she doesn’t know how to move. In her excitement, she thinks she might have a special hidden talent for climbing…only to realize that she doesn’t have some innate ability to make it to the top. In fact, her attempts to scale the wall result in her flopping back to the ground.
Yet she doesn’t let that stop her: in fact, Konomi gets right back up on her feet and faces the wall again, determined to find her niche as a member of the Climbing Club.
Iwa Kakeru! joins the ranks of sports anime with minimal splash: there’s not much impact in episode one outside of the basic premise, a bit of action, and some basic character development. It’s all set-up for the first arc of the series and the cour as a whole. While it’s still too early to see how the show will develop the relationship between Konomi and her fellow club members, I foresee things arcing towards the “close female friends” route as they overcome climbing challenges. Unfortunately, it’s way too early to predict whether or not this will pay off.
One thing I did expect was fan service, though Iwa Kakeru! surprised me by limiting how often the camera leered at the girls. In fact, Iwa Kakeru! seemed more focused on showcasing the girls actually climbing and doing a sport rather than trying to sexualize them, to the show’s credit.
There were a lot of chances to take the low road and zoom in on every single butt and breast in shot: instead, by and large, the show just…doesn’t, which is a plus in my book.
Another plus about Iwa Kakeru! is how it approaches the technical aspects of climbing.
As someone who knows next to nothing about rock climbing–I didn’t even know that the colors of the rocks denoted different levels of difficulty–I found that aspect incredibly helpful.
Rather than throwing a ton of jargon at viewers, it finds a good middle ground: use a technical term and demonstrate it in action. It’s simple, but effective, and meant that viewer don’t need to have a terminology page open in another tab. The show doesn’t necessarily hold your hand: it just shows, then tells.
I expect that this will remain the case for the show as more characters are introduced and the climbing walls get more complex. This definitely seems like it’ll be the case for episode two, which will introduce Konomi’s first climbing competition, a mere day after she official joins the Climbing Club.
The art direction for this series is really, really pretty from jump. Even better, the art direction really shines during the climbing sequences, adding a bit of tension to a premise that, honestly, isn’t terribly exciting for non-climbers and enthusiasts. Truly, there’s a lot of polish here, which –as I said– really lends itself to a series that isn’t going to excite everyone who watches it.
And admittedly, this show isn’t going to be for everyone, in large part because…you need to have some kind of interest in climbing. Climbing, in and of itself, is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea: unfortunately, Iwa Kakeru! Does lean on the viewer being interested in climbing, or at least interested in learning about climbing.
Post-premier watch, I get the sense that many fans just won’t connect with the series, and while I plan to stay on until at least episode three, I’m aware enough that this premier…probably won’t captivate most viewers, largely due to being an okay show. It might ultimately not even captivate me.
Iwa Kakeru! is a solidly “okay”, if not a bit plain, first episode. However, the animation is beautiful, the music is solid, and when the pace picks up, the charm starts to shine through. Fans of sports anime like Keijo!!!!!!!! will feel right at home in terms of this being a majority female-centric show. However, viewer beware: this isn’t the same caliber as Keijo!!!!!!!!: Iwa Kakeru! is still finding its footing, and may not have it for a while yet.
Iwa Kakeru! Sports Climbing Girls will probably be a solid, middle of the road series about girls who like rock climbing that’s cute enough to keep viewers entertained. Right now, the show has just enough action to keep me entertained and interested in seeing it grow the proverbial beard, if only to see four girls develop a good friendship around climbing and competition.