Manga Adaptation by Blade
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Konomi doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life until she sees a climbing wall at school. A chance encounter with a climbing club member leads her to discover a new love for rock climbing.
Jel’s verdict: Long Way From the Top
This episode cold opens on an animated version of real life pro rock climber Akiyo Noguchi, letting us know right away they mean business. Iwa Kakeru – Sport Climbing Girls has no intention of being more than what it says in the title: just some girls climbing some fake rocks and they are quite serious about it. It would be kind of dry if not for the high quality presentation. The climbing is well animated and directed to look really intense, and I think it just barely crosses the threshold of being fun to watch.
What I don’t understand is why we still feel the need to squeeze these shows into the same, tired school club format we see half a dozen times every season. I mean, you could have even kept the school angle and made it two rival climber girls or something. Instead they opt for the ol’ naturally talented main character that is instantly good despite never doing the activity in question. It makes the hard-ass Jun seem kind of like a jerk instead of a fierce rival. I think they could come up with something better.
Depending on how bad the rest of the season looks, I might be willing to give this another episode. Maybe the chemistry between the four girls will develop into something worth watching beyond the nice animation. Or maybe everything will devolve into a queer baiting fan service fest as these types of shows often do. I would not be surprised either way.
Gee’s verdict: Uphill
I’m not going to lie folks, I sort of feel like I’ve been sold a false bill of goods. I was initially impressed by the cold open which seemed to indicate a show that was actually fairly serious about its depiction of rock climbing, but the rest of the episode left me in a weird place. The climbing itself seems to be well executed, even if it maybe lingers on certain shots a bit too long. My main issue is that the premise is the same tired one we get for nearly every single “girl gets invested in a newfound hobby/sport/craft” show of the last few years. We even have the classic rivalry between the hard working vet and the novice prodigy. Except the hard working vet is even more of an unnecessarily aloof jerk and the novice prodigy has an even dumber reason for being so skilled. As anyone whose read my coverage of Hanebado can attest, no amount of toned thighs and abs can overcome my dislike of maybe one of the easiest tropes in sports fiction to mess up. Look I get it guys, Ping Pong was amazing, but if you’re gonna try and do Ping Pong, you also better have Yuasa level directing and storytelling to go with it.
Speaking of, I recognize this is a somewhat egregious point to bring up, but I can’t help but be a bit annoyed that in a show about rock climbing, a sport that produces some of the most physically fit bodies I’ve ever seen, only one of the four characters has any noticeable muscle tone beyond the standard thin anime girl proportions. Anyway, at this point, like a lot of anime I’m watching this season, my investment in this show will probably hinge on how little else there is to watch this season and if the character dynamics can shape up into something more interesting within the next couple episodes.