Style “The Climber,” gorpcore in manga

“The Climber,” gorpcore in manga

Andrea Tuzio

I have often written, because of my great passion for manga, anime and Japanese culture in general, about how manga and anime precisely have inspired creatives in every field and in every part of the globe. Today I continue along this vein by bringing to the attention of you who read, a story that brings together manga and gorpcore, one of the most impactful trends in the world of street style in recent years.

Gorpcore (the combination of technical clothing and essentially everyday items) has become part of contemporary fashion terminology since 2017, and the trend from that point forward has never died down, quite the contrary. From the mountains it has moved to the high fashion catwalks gaining followers among fashionistas around the world, including celebrities.

The story is the one told by the seinen manga – the Japanese term for a generically independent, mature adult man who is not yet independent but not yet integrated into the working world – The Climber (Kokou No Hito in Japanese), written by Shin’ichi Sakamoto and Yoshirō Nabeda and illustrated by Sakamoto himself, which is based on the 1973 novel of the same name by writer Jirō Nitta, a pseudonym for Hiroto Fujiwara (1912-1980).

The plot of The Climber follows that of the book with a few major differences, such as the ending for example, and follows the adventures of Buntarō Mori, a high school student with a passion for climbing who, in order to overcome his introverted and lonely self, decides to join his high school’s climbing club. From that moment on, he will start challenging himself with higher and higher and harder mountains to climb, eventually challenging one of the world’s highest and most dangerous peaks, K2.

The Climber was published as a series starting in 2007 in the weekly magazine Weekly Young Jump until 2012, with a total of 170 chapters later collected by the Japanese publisher Shūeisha in 17 volumes. In Italy, however, publication began in 2011 by J-Pop.

As mentioned, the manga reflects the story of the book of the same name, which in turn is based on the story of a real-life Japanese climber, Buntarō Katō.

Katō subverted all the rules of climbing at the time, tackling very complex and dangerous climbs solo, with the special feature of doing so while wearing his inseparable tabi shoes. At the time, climbing was a sport primarily for the wealthier classes of Japanese society, and the fact that Buntarō was a simple laborer represented a fairly strong idiosyncrasy for the time.
Unfortunately, Buntarō Katō’s story and life came to an end during a climbing trip when he and his climbing partner were caught in a very strong blizzard that led to their deaths at the age of only 30.

The Climber is not just a manga about the outdoors and telling the story of a teenager, The Climber is much more. Themes such as spirituality, confronting oneself, the mental difficulty in coping with physical exertion under adverse conditions, loneliness, depression, and the demons we all battle, some more than others, are at the heart of the narrative of a splendid manga that deserves to be rediscovered.

Written by Andrea Tuzio
Listen on