If it’s one thing that Production I.G knows how to do, it seems to be how to produce sport anime.
Following their success from the likes of Kuroko’s Basketball, as well as their experience in producing other sport anime such as IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix (to a certain extent), Production I.G. clearly have figured out the right formula for creating a good sports anime. That formula has then gifted us all with the volleyball series that is Haikyu!!
After seeing the national championships on TV, junior high student Shōyō Hinata gains a love for volleyball. Despite being quite small in height, he becomes determined to follow in the footsteps of the “Little Giant” after seeing him play. His determination is shown by him creating his own volleyball club, which began with him being the sole member and practicing with himself. Persuading his friends to join so he could participate in a tournament, where they were to be defeated by the championship favourite team which included Tobio Kageyama, also known as “King of the Court”, his determination to be the next “Little Giant” is not quick to be diminished.
The first season begins with the previously said volleyball match before it shows Hinata and Kageyama meeting at the same high school volleyball club at Karasuno High, causing tensions to arrive. The captain of the volleyball club, Daichi Sawamura, and the vice-captain, Kōshi Sugawara, try to improve the relationship between Hinata and Kageyama. It isn’t long until the team realizes how much of a benefit the two of them will be and it isn’t long either until the team’s adviser, Ittestsu Takeda, arranged a practice match with Aobajōsai High, a private high school. Much of the series involves many ups and downs for the Karasuno High volleyball team, including previous members of the team returning, Takeda trying to find a coach for the team and more practice matches, training camps and even the Inter-High competition.
Even with the events of the first season, Karasuno’s determination is still present in the second season with the opening episodes being based around yet another training camp, the determination to pass exams, the introduction of a new manager and an even bigger training camp in Tokyo, ending with a barbecue. Then, of course, the spectacular Spring High Tournament begins and takes up the second half of the season. This is no easy task, however, with the short Hinata, who is only 162cm tall, having to face opponents over 200cm tall on the blocking line and the lineup of teams getting constantly more difficult to beat.
Each of the characters in Haikyu!! are able to be so lovable in their own way. Starting with Hinata, who’s complete personality will capture you immediately, and Kageyama, who contrasts Hinata completely, seems to fill the ‘bad boy’ trope for the Karasuno squad. Then you have the mother-like figure of vice-captain Sugawara, the younger brother-like personality of Yū Nishinoya and many more, including the sister-like characters of Kiyoko Shimizu and Hitoka Yachi, both of which the Karasuno players treasure and protect against any advances from the players of other teams.
The characters in the other teams cannot not be mentioned. From Nekoma High’s team, for example, you have the laid-back Kenma Kozume who actually befriends Hinata – his quite placid personality, some may argue, contrasts that of the menacing personalities and appearances of the other Nekoma players such as Levi Haiba and Tetsurō Kuroo. Another main character from other teams within the series is Tōru Oikawa from Aobajōsai, a character whose skills are referenced throughout both series, especially when Karasuno are wishing to develop their skills. Overall, there are plenty of characters within both series of Haikyu!! so you should be able to find a favourite fairly quickly. It’s also quite nice how the anime is laid out – you can watch an episode each week and are able to follow each character’s progress with someone, or something, making progress each week. As Kaiyaku from NihonReview says:
Each player is given their own character arc and moment to shine, whether in success or in failure.
Based on the manga by Haruichi Furudate, this volleyball anime doesn’t feel like other sports anime I’ve watched, such as Hiroko Utsumi’s swimming series, Free! which is based on Kōji Ōji’s light novel of the same name. To me, the storyline of this series, especially the animated first season, was quite repetitive, with the basic story lines of friendship drama ruining teamwork efforts, the team winning, the team then losing all being repeated excessively. I found this not to be the case whilst watching Haikyuu! Don’t get me wrong, the same events are used but not to the excessive extent that was featured in the two seasons of Free! and this made it so much easier to watch, personally. Just because it’s ‘just another sports anime’ it certainly doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. As The Pantless Anime Blogger says:
From the moment you see Hinata spike a volleyball then you immediately know you’re in for a good time.
This is certainly not a slow-paced anime, although the matches can feel quite dragged out at times – it’s simply just like a fast-pace action anime with the battles taking several episodes to complete. All of the characters are great, the story line is also good and it’s easy to follow along, even if there are quite a few teams to remember, which has proved fairly difficult for me, personally, although that may be due to having a big break in between watching the first and second seasons. As of yet, the series is only available as a sub but if you’re interested in doing some voice acting yourself, you could always try out for the fandub that I found on Tumblr – you can find out more information here or, additionally, here.
The second season ends whilst the tournament featured in the series hasn’t ended. Karasuno still have some matches to play! I did wonder why this was the case and did some research, where I found out that Haikyu!! is due to have a third season coming this autumn. That means, if you haven’t seen either series yet, you’ve got enough time to watch both of them! (The manga isn’t over yet, either, so…a fourth season, maybe, as well?) Haikyu!! is a relatively easy show to watch; ideal for newbies to the anime scene, each episode is fun to watch and you always want to watch the next episode straight away. And if you don’t know much about volleyball, don’t worry about that either – the anime goes through the rules and different techniques throughout the series, so there’s no need to Google the rules before starting!
Haikyuu!! Review. TPAB (2014) At: https://thepantlessanimeblogger.com/2014/11/04/haikyuu-review/ [Accessed 3rd June 2016]
Haikyuu!!. Kaiyaku (n.d.) At: http://www.nihonreview.com/anime/haikyuu/ [Accessed 4th June 2016]
Haikyuu!! Season 2 – 19. Guardian Enzo (2016) At: http://lostinanime.com/2016/02/haikyuu-season-2-19/ [Accessed 4th June 2016]