Konomi was once obsessed with gaming, particularly puzzle games. Having overcome that she wants a normal high school life. None of the school clubs piqued her interest until she comes across a rock climbing wall set up at the school. As she's given a few pointers by club members, Konomi finds a new application for her puzzle solving skills when applied to finding her way to the top. Hanamiya Girls School now has a full team with their new recruit but competition is fierce and climbing much more challenging than puzzle solving in some ways.
Anime can make any sport interesting when done well, so how about rock climbing? Iwakakeru! Climbing Girls doesn't go full tilt with sports anime craziness although it has those features in a toned down form. While I thought the grounded nature would make this anime a dud, good character development compensates somewhat. This doesn't push it into awesome territory but makes it an okay watch.
So there is the question of "fan service". Climbing walls are nearly featureless obstacles, so what else can be shown? Since girls have boobs and asses while climbing in tight outfits, obviously you'll see them. Especially considering there are only so many camera angles you could use. I don't think this anime has ill intent due to the way it presents the girls outside of climbing without any leering views at all and I never got that feeling from this anime.
Concerning climbing Iwakakeru mostly works. It's hard to say how much detail would be shown about rock climbing (while not becoming boring) so Iwakakeru cuts a lot of corners here. While it shows characters tackling various climbing obstacles, I had no clue how they actually completed them. Characters are always trying to find grips and positions but it never shows enough to know what they're doing overall. Things are juiced up with some anime flare to make it more exciting. Some girls have personifications of their climbing styles, for example a spider or panther; making for the kind of sports anime flare I enjoy but Iwakakeru doesn't over do this stuff either.
Although Iwakakeru only fairs reasonably in most aspects (animation, sports stuff, etc), the characters help things out. The central character Konomi is a beginner climber but gets off to an incredible start, however although she climbs well she doesn't climb fast - which is farther hampered by the way she likes to analyze problems before climbing. This is probably a controversial take, but I found Jun to be the most interesting character with her uninviting and prickly personality. She takes climbing very seriously, to the point where she's obsessed and has little interest in other things. Jun struggles to make friends and it's pretty clear why she can't. In most shows characters can't make friends because that's what the story demands and it never provides evidence on why that's the case. Jun however isn't especially likable and has severe socializing issues. It's heart breaking seeing Jun wanting to improve this part of her, then watch her push away someone trying to be her friend.
The other two girls don't get much development, which is a big miss in potential with the short girl. Having long limbs is a huge asset in climbing, so having a small frame puts her at a huge disadvantage. She overcomes this with incredible flexibility but I think the anime could have gotten a lot more mileage out of her struggle.
There isn't a single new adversary to be defeated in each episode. Instead the region has various top climbers which make re-appearances. Many of these girls have decent back stories and issues as well.
The story covers enough for the anime to feel like it accomplished something but I don't know if it did enough to be memorable. It goes as expected. Konomi learns about climbing with various obstacles she has to overcome as she improves. This is the kind of anime which I'll probably only vaguely recall watching some time in the future. But it's not bad and I think it's a reasonable watch for anyone into sports anime or maybe just wanting an anime about an odd topic (rock climbing).
Sayo: Climbers conquer walls twice. Once on sight, and once with their bodies.
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