Konomi Kasahara becomes interested in the wall climbing club, but fellow first-year Jun Uehara challenges her seriousness.
Wall 1 – “Rocky Puzzle”
Wall climbing is a serious sport! That’s the first message Iwakakeru! Sport Climbing Girls sent me in its introduction scenes. This came across as an attempt to join the Olympic spirit since the Olympic Games would have been in Tokyo this summer, but officials canceled it, like other sports broadcasts, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those scenes soured my first impression because I didn’t want to think about all the rescheduled sports seasons and that the Olympics committee only hopefully rescheduled the Games for next year. They could have removed that whole section and just let the high school girls teach us everything about sport climbing.
Compounding the tacky Olympics-related opening scene, in which the point was how sports climbing is a serious sport for serious athletes, Iwakakeru! made Jun Uehara too serious. Of course, this character introduction would not have been a problem if not for the unfortunate tone-setting, so I will need to give Jun the benefit of the doubt for a few episodes. It’s not fair to attribute a bad first impression of Iwakakeru!’s anime adaptation to an important scene at the beginning of the story and how we meet the characters.
Iwakakeru!’s main character Konomi is a gamer girl turned athlete, which is a familiar set of circumstances for the sports club genre. We saw this with Sakamichi Onoda in Yowamushi Pedal and Izuku Midoriya in My Hero Academia, where their otaku traits, which the intended audience identifies with, become their greatest assets in their new pursuit. Iwakakeru! is also like my life since I curtailed my gaming hobby to add in a healthy athletic pastime when I grew older. I treat my sports stats and training time as an RPG in hardcore mode and I loved seeing Konomi treat a climbing wall like a Poppit casual game where choosing the right path maximizes her combo scores.
The way Konomi talked about wall climbing was very much related to her gaming and puzzle solving perspective and I laughed when I realized Iwakakeru! set up a fight over a word. Jun picked a fight with Konomi because she used the word “game” to describe wall climbing. Competitive gaming and E-Sports are very much serious pastimes and occupy a much larger space in terms of sponsorship and interest, but wall-climbing otaku Jun wouldn’t know any of that. I’d like to see Iwakakeru! show Jun expand her perspective with some fun scenes of her playing casual video games, but it looks like we’re going to get more of a Hanebado style sports tournament anime. Hopefully, there will be fewer psychological issues with the main characters in Iwakakeru! than we saw in the badminton anime.
Ach. I didn’t need another reminder that we postponed the Olympics from Iwakakeru!. Konomi could have been a contender! She likes puzzles.
The opening credits focus on abs, butts, and shoulders. Nice.
Track girl. We’ll see her soon. Konomi needs to pick a club. Iwakakeru! gives us the standard sports club anime plot starting point. Konomi is a funny girl. I like her already. She wears a puzzle piece hair clip. Could be important. Oh, there’s the track girl showing butt cheek. Abs. Nice. This girl is a serious stickler. Konomi makes appreciative noises. That’s it. I’m in love. Serious Girl senses interest. Aw. No locker room changing scene.
Yeah, this is the better way to pique our interest in sports climbing. Konomi needs help with her English vocabulary. Ooh. I like the camera angles in Iwakakeru!. I see a problem with the serious girl already. She doesn’t want beginners to have fun.
Fun. Sport climbing color codes the handholds. We’re in the sports anime tutorial phase of Iwakakeru!. Konomi makes expressive faces! Serious Girl says, “sport climbing ain’t a game, y’know.” I do not know this. I know otherwise. Here we go! Konomi knows puzzles! She treats the Wall like a Poppit game! Konomi acts like an elite athlete, using visualization techniques to plan her moves.
Cutaway to something else to build the suspense. Serious Stickler has a name – Jun. She’s the only new member of the wall climbing club. So far! Ha. These senior club members complain about Jun being a “hardass” and not letting people have “fun.” That’s good that Iwakakeru! characters can see obvious things too.
Suspense released! Wall Climbing jargon lets you know Konomi is impressive for a newcomer. I will sound like a looping video praising the Iwakakeru!’s camera angles. The music and sports commentary from the characters put Sports Climbing Girls squarely into the sports tournament anime genre. I’m glad we have goofy Konomi to keep things light. Konomi figured out the “trick” for how the handholds work. That’s gamer geek stuff happening. Wall climbing is a big puzzle game made up of rocks. Haha! She’s so goofy when she messes up. Konomi’s attitude is great.
Captain Sayo is the calm princess type. Nonoka is the redheaded shorty. Konomi is a bit rude for never asking what Jun’s name was. Well, Jun never asked for Konomi’s name either. Also, Jun will get a cramp in her brow if she doesn’t relax that crinkle. Nono is simply happy to get another club member. Uh oh. Konomi said she had fun trying to clear the wall like a game level. Reeee! Trigger alert for Jun. She’s no fun. Nono saw this coming. Challenge to join the team! Iwakakeru! is a sports club anime! Why is Captain Sayo letting the newbie push recruits away? There’s a team psychology reason for this, but I’ll wait to see if Sayo is more of the anything-goes type of leader.
Uh, are we at blindfold play already? Iwakakeru! loves its audience. The rules of handicapping the veteran are exactly like the beginning of Yowamushi Pedal. At least we get to see girls’ abs, butts, and cleavage. Nono is not a fan of Jun’s serious stickler shtick.
Time for the drawn-out contest where two minutes takes 15 minutes. Nono thinks Jun’s hard-ass attitude is worse than usual. Yeah, because Konomi triggered her with the word “game.” There is no fun in sportsball evar! I see from Jun’s serious backstory that Konomi’s character gives her a chance to broaden her attitude and experience with her chosen sport. Iwakakeru! travels over well-worn sports anime paths here. Jun looked like she used to have fun, so I’m looking forward to the part of her past where her attitude turned.
Oho! Konomi was a competitive gamer! Iwakakeru! knows how to draw in its target audience. Playing a “game” isn’t some casual thing to her like Jun thinks. Konomi may even have more competition experience than Jun has! Konomi is a gamer grrl! I’d watch her live stream if she keeps wearing that sporty top… Aw. Konomi needed to give up gaming to study for high school entrance exams. Well, yeah, gaming takes up a lot of time. So, Konomi has an otaku’s predisposition to obsession, so sports climbing can turn into her new “game.” And it’s healthier for her body and social wellbeing. Except for making friends with Jun. No good can come from that. I kid.
That’s enough backstory from Iwakakeru!. Time for watching “backstory” during the end of this first contest. Experience wins out, of course, but Konomi’s superior strategic planning is already an advantage. I didn’t know using the side of the wall was a thing too! Of course, Jun guilted herself into letting Konomi join the club for a “real rematch.” Jun is a serious tsundere. Whoops. Konomi joined a strange group of people. No time for training. First competition is tomorrow!
Fun! The end credits look like a Legend of Zelda map. These are scenes from a training camp. Iwakakeru! is a sports club anime, yes.
Iwakakeru! Sport Climbing Girls streams on Crunchyroll.