Iwa-kakeru: Sport Climbing Girls: Anime Review

Iwa-kakeru kind of got a bad break. This year was the year where we were supposed to get the Tokyo Summer Olympics and with it, as one of the new events, Bouldering – or Sport Climbing. So, Iwa-kakeru would have been placed to perfectly strike when the iron was hot, adapting a manga about this brand new Olympic sport, to rise off of the heat of that Olympic fever. And then COVID-19 happened and the Summer Olympics were pushed back at least one year. So, the question becomes whether Iwa-kakeru can hold up without that boost of Olympic excitement.

Iwa-kakeru is, in short, a more grounded sports anime, with a side of cute girls doing cute things, with moderate fanservice. Yes, you have your assortment of characters here with a variety of extremely colorful personalities – and in some cases character designs. You have a selection of costumes and camera angles that are certainly designed to more heavily accentuate characters midriffs while they’re waiting to climb, and their bust size, butt, and thighs while they’re trying to send a particular wall.

In short, their characters are designed to be attractive, but it feels more like attractive people performing athletic feats properly in tight athletic clothing shot in the male gaze, as opposed to impractical, on the brink of a wardrobe malfunction outfits, with the characters performing athletic feats using positions that no one would actually use solely to make it more porny and to increase the fanservice quotient.

In other words, the show almost does the bare minimum to avoid being super cheesecake-y. Now, I don’t mind cheesecake, but this show is definitely not Yawara: A Fashionable Judo Girl in terms of the lack of cheesecake.

The action itself is pretty straightforward. Nobody has any flashy wall climbing secret techniques, or super moves or anything like that. What makes characters different is generally some character ticks, and the tactics that the characters bring to problems. For example, our main protagonist and audience perspective character, Konomi, has a background doing puzzle games, so she approaches a wall with a very analytical approach, spending a large chunk of time analyzing the wall in its entirety, to find the best route, and then sending it. Another character is very tall, so her height allows her to approach a wall differently, and a third character just brute forces the problem, making lots of repeated attempts until she finally sends it through pure bloody-mindedness.

It’s a very solid sports show, and I’m a little bummed that we’re not getting a second season, particularly since while some of the conflicts have been settled, there are are still some beats and character elements that this season clearly wanted to get to, but couldn’t.

Iwa-kakeru is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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