This series I knew was going to be a mixed bag of things from the start. Between the premise being a non-conventional sport but with girls, promos, and eventual first episode I did my best to remain positive about the series. My hope was that Hang On! Climbing Girls (Hang On!) would be several steps above prior season’s trash fire that shall not be named. Thankfully in many aspects it was, but it also had quite a few slip-ups. Before all that though, we first need to talk about the premise!
Our story centers around Konomi Kasahara, a former competitive puzzle gamer. In high school she ends up seeing Uehara Jun on a sports climbing wall, and becomes fascinated with the real life puzzle. Completely new to the sport, Konomi is welcomed into the world of competitive sports climbing.
The series can be divided pretty well into it’s good points, and it’s bad points. I’m going to start with the bad points that can be summarized without going into too much detail. Clothing details; wrong, and sexualized. This was coupled with all the pandering fan service shots of boobs, butts and more! Disappointing but not unexpected. Kurusu Anne and Uchimura Akane’s speech patterns were annoying and overbearing every time they talked. Konomi, a step below the typical Mary-Sue, but with a bit more substance. The naming of Konomi’s talent as ‘murder observation’ was awful, and not remotely something relatable to the series. Animation wise, there were a handful of frames per episode that the animation was iffy, characters were off model, or body proportions were visibly incorrect.
I expected most of the above, but what really ground my gears and made me stop every time, was how the series was linking ballet to sports climbing. I’ve never done sports climbing in my life. I did do ballet for 15 years so I do have a bit more of a leg to stand on here. The comparison and translation of skills is simply incorrect.
Ballet and Sports Climbing do seem to have the commonality of core strength, flexibility and endurance. However, how that’s applied in both sports is not as parallel as Hang On! would make it seem. I’ll hand them endurance, as that’s key in any sport. Core strength is more variable. Ballet the emphasis is to be toned, but no ab definition. You don’t want your abs to show through your costume, same with other muscles. Sports Climbing seems to have more variable in body types, and how they can look.
My biggest gripe is Konomi, ballet and her ‘flexibility’. Point blank; it makes no sense and does not contribute to the story in any meaningful way. I would have preferred them just saying Konomi is naturally flexible verses the ballet bullshit they chose. The flexibility needed in Sports Climbing, in comparison to ballet are two different types of flexibility. I’m going to rant about next paragraph, so skip if you don’t need specifics.
-Rant starts: There’s no clarity on how long Konomi did ballet (I’m guessing about 9 years based on what we do know), or how high her skill set within ballet was. Flexibility isn’t as important in ballet so much as having the fundamentals down, sense of space, and body control. Konomi downplays her ballet run as a ‘for fun’ kind of deal. Oba Kurea, her rival who also did ballet, makes it sound like Konomi was a prima ballerina in a semi-pro company. Those are two different world’s of ballet, and do make a difference for how this should translate into the story. Flexibility, especially the type used in ballet is that it is lost quickly if not consistently used. Konomi, if she started gaming at middle school (age 13), and didn’t train for flexibility again until high school (16ish in Japan), lost 3 years. That doesn’t mean she’s stiff as a board, but she probably should have cramped up way more then it did. It was very painful as an ex-ballerina to see this comparison made when it was just completely wrong. Rant Ends-
With that rant over, we can move into the series positives. The biggest being the obvious teamwork, makes dream work message, and girls supporting girls (mostly). There does seem to be a lot of technical language used with Hang On!, in relation to sports climbing. They take the time to break down sports climbing, verses rock climbing/free climbing. Then they break down the different skill categories for competitions as well. The characters do all have distinct designs showing the diversity of body types within the sports, and how things such as muscle mass and height can play into the outcomes of competition. The conflict that say, Konomi had from her lack of muscle and endurance was different than Nono, who had experiance but not height.
Probably the two biggest highlights was how they connected puzzle games to sports climbing, and the development of Uchimura Anne. I’ve seen the puzzle game/sports climbing comparison before, but in Hang On! this was smartly done. I don’t think many people have much knowledge about sports climbing, but most everyone has played a puzzle game at least once. Connecting something relatively familiar to most, to the unknown was well done. Seeing it connected to Konomi a newbie to sports climbing and puzzle game expert, and then Kikuko a semi-climbing prodigy but puzzle game hobbiest was also pretty slick. It got overdone when Konomi would get into a Tron suit rip-off, but helped relate it to a subject that an anime watcher would know.
Additionally, while I will never forgive Uchimura Anne for being annoying every time she talked: Hang On! did actually give her more substance then you would be led to believe at first glance. She started out as just a ‘rookie killer’ type, the girl that would trip up all the newbs and weed out the ones that couldn’t handle being serious about climbing. However, given her history with Jun, she actually ended up helping both Jun and Konomi through some major roadblocks within their climbing. I was actually very impressed by the time the series wrapped about the 180 opinion I had about her as a character.
Overall, Hang On! Climbing Girls, is about par for the course when it comes to sports anime where the girls take center stage. The series is run of the mill in premise, generous in fan service, with one or two surprises packed in there to make it pop. If you’re looking for a break from the usual star sports of anime, this series is an okay-ish series to break up your watching habits. With all that written, I’ll see you next post! Let me know if you watched this series too and your thoughts on it I’d love to know!