Hello dear readers! There has been some delay since the last anime review, and that is not without reason. This reviewer has recently been going through some big life changes, new job, new hours to adjust to, and so on. As such, the format of the reviews are going to be changing to something that is a bit more manageable with the schedule that will be worked with! For the next few weeks, the reviews will be on finished series, be they good or bad, and the reasons behind why this reviewer feels that to be true. There will still be new series that will be covered from the seasons that are recent, but for the moment it will be after the series has completed, instead of waiting for episodes to come out and doing the review completely around the schedule. This week’s series is one that is currently on its third season, with hopefully more to come soon. That series is, as the title would suggest, Haikyu!!
Haikyu!! is an anime adapted from an original manga written and illustrated by Haruichi Furudate and is serialized in the weekly Shonen Jump magazine. The first season of the anime was put out the Production I.G. and is 25 episodes long. Currently there is no english dub, but the studio has stated that if enough interest is shown by the community then they will work on making one. The main focus of the series is no two boys fresh into their high school days who both have a strong love for volleyball, and want to make a name for themselves in their own respective way. The animation from Production I.G. is superb, which is to be expected from their previous track record. This review will primarily focus on the first season, and if there is enough demand for it the following two seasons may also be touched upon. It should probably go without saying, but there will potentially be several spoilers throughout this review, so if this is a problem then perhaps skip to the end for the simple overall opinion on the anime. With that out of the way, the true review can begin.
The season begins with the introduction of the first main character, Shoyo Hinata. While on his way home from school, he sees a volleyball match airing on tv through a shop window that shows Karasuno High School winning a match, largely in part to a very short member of the team that everyone refers to as the “Little Giant”. As Hinata is very short, he immediately relates to this and is swept into the mindset of wanting to be just like him, succeeding in a field that is meant for gigantic guys. Unfortunately for Hinata, his middle school’s volleyball team is basically non-existent. He throws together a rag-tag group of his friends, none of whom really care about volleyball but all seem to be swept into his energy and persistence. Finally, Hinata gets to live out his dream and takes his team to their first ever volleyball tournament, even though nobody but himself on the team really has any idea what they are doing. Sadly, this same match introduces another of the main characters, Tobio Kageyama. He is called by his team and all the other teams there “The King of the Court”, a title that is both a compliment and a little jab as he is known for demanding things from his team like he is their king. They decimate Hinata’s team with very little effort, crushing his dream of winning a tournament in their very first match. His team feels devastated for letting him down, but Hinata is still at least happy that he had a taste of a real match, even if he is sad they were defeated so easily. At the same time, Kageyama is blown away by Hinata’s ability to run faster and jump higher than anyone he has seen at his age, no small feat for one so small. The episode ends with Hinata swearing revenge on Kageyama once they reach high school, and Kageyama welcoming the challenge.
Most of the setup for the primary parts of the series happen in the first few episodes, which works out quite well in exlpaining the state of the team and everything. Hinata signs up to attend Karasuno High School, as his dream is to follow in the footsteps of the Little Giant. Much to his dismay, however, upon arriving and meeting the other first years, he is appalled to see that Kageyama is also at this school. He is blown away, as he figured the king of the court would be able to pick from any of the top schools for volleyball, and Karasuno hadn’t won a game since the team that Hinata had watched win. This is also the episode that introduces many other members of the team. One of the best things about this series is the characters. Each person on the team gets attention instead of just being focused on one character. the leader of the team is Daichi Sawamura, who wants to have his last year as captain be a successful one, despite the team’s current standing. Despite the clashing personalities and attitudes of Hinata and Kageyama, the pair of them with the other muscle this batch of first years is bringing gives him hope that they may succeed in putting together a winning team. However, at the beginning of the series the team is not whole as of yet, even with the new members. Due to things that happened in the previous season, a couple of the members of the team had quit, and it takes a couple episodes for them to come back. The reasons for their leaving are understandable, as seen in episode 8 when they find the “Ace” of the team, who quit after every single one of his spikes was blocked by a team they played against, and his confidence was shot.
This brings up the main focus of the seasons, which is a little cliche, but really works well for the growth of everyone. That focus is “teamwork”. Kageyama’s nickname became derogatory because he could not work with his previous team at all, and tried to force them to work at his pace rather than trying to adjust and learn their pace in a way that worked best for everyone. Asahi Azumane, the team’s ace, takes full responsibility for their loss because he feels that he must carry the weight of the team’s points on his back rather than relying on everyone to win. Yu Nishinoya, the team’s “libero” (guardian of the court, basically returns and blocks any spike) blames himself for not being able to recover the points that Azumane continued to miss. Each person in the first season feels that they have to take on the full responsibility of winning, rather than allowing themselves to accept that they are on a team, and the team as a whole wins, not just the player. This becomes the driving point of the season, with every crucial moment of character development revolving around their either learning to accept that they are on a team, or suffering in their own way for worrying too much about doing things on their own. Sometimes, cliche is acceptable when it is done well.
The biggest things outside of the team themselves that show this point well are the teams that they go up against. First with Date Tech high school, or Dateko as they are known. This is the school that so badly defeated them before that two of the teammates left the team (who have since returned). Around episode 16 this comes to a head, as they are paired against Dateko in their second match in the big inter-high tournament that takes place every year. The team does a great job of showing how they have grown, and shows how the newest members of their team can be assets against these old enemies. The biggest rivalry, and the biggest case for the point of teamwork comes in the team that they face next, the primary rivals for this season, Aoba josai High, led by the setter Oikawa Toru. Oikawa was at the same middle school as Kageyama, though he graduated sooner, and saw the raw talent that Kageyama had. he was infuriated to see someone who had the potential to be a better all around player than himself, and the fact that they both saw the setter as the heart of the team and so both were in that position certainly did not help this. Throughout the season they butt heads a few times, first around episode 6 when they have their first practice match against the team, but since Oikawa did not show up until the very end of this match, the rivalry does not truly come to head until the inter-high tournament, where they finally have a real match against each other. This final match makes up the last part of the season, and is a fantastic case for teamwork, as Oikawa understands his team so well that he can set the ball perfectly for anyone, and is himself a seemingly unstoppable force when it comes to serving and even returning the ball.
This final arc of the show is handled fantastically well, and in a way that not a lot of sports shows really go. The biggest difference here is that, even though they show tons of potential and grow a lot in this season, the main team is far from perfect, and the lessons they must learn are not learned easily. They all struggle, they all persist in their own way, and eventually they all come together as a team. The outcome of the match will not be revealed here, but suffice to say it is a great match, and a great end to the season. The things that really make this anime great are the growth of each character, paired with stunning animation and some really deep moments that would not be expected from something centered around volleyball. Each character is important in their own way, another thing that sets this apart from the typical shonen series, where one character almost always stands above the others in importance. In the end, even for someone who does not know or care to know anything about volleyball, this is a great series. The animation, the voice acting, the character growth, even the rivals all come together to tell a brilliant story that shows growth for everyone. If there were a letter grade to give to this season it would definitely be an A in all fronts.
With that, dear readers, we reach the end of the review! Apologies for missing a couple weeks but sometimes life can be quite a pain. Thank you all for reading, and sticking through it to the end. Do you have any anime that you would like to see reviewed here? List it in the comments and it will be taken into consideration! For now though, thank you for reading, and as usual, keep on watching.