If you’ve been following this site for any amount of time, you know there are certain subjects that pique our interest more than others. Video games, sports, anime, movies, television, music…these are all core principles of what makes the world go round here. So imagine my surprise when some late-night Netflix browsing turned into a show that ticked multiple boxes and quickly became one of my absolute favorites.
Haikyuu is a volleyball anime. Cool, excellent, we summed it up in five words. But despite that simple synopsis, there’s a lot to love about the show.
First and foremost: the characters. In the beginning, it looks like we’re headed toward Stereotype City, population everyone on the show. You have a hot-headed sketchy guy, an overly optimistic go-getter guy, a brooding and conflicted guy…the list goes on. There’s a fanservice shot of the female manager early on. Yet even by the end of the first couple episodes, you quickly see that there’s much more under the hood than that surface-level stuff.
Hinata, perhaps the main character (although the deuteragonist is on almost equal footing), has a sweet charm to him despite his short complex, and you can’t help but root for him. Kageyama really does want to get along with people, but he’s carrying some heavy scarring from an earlier incident that shook him to the core. Tanaka might be ready to fight at a moment’s notice, but he’s actually quite protective and perhaps the funniest person on the show. The seniors on the team are a heartwarming crew. A latecomer rapidly became my favorite.
One of the benefits of a volleyball anime is that the action holds up pretty well under scrutiny. Sure, you’ll see a few different characters doing identical animations over the course of an arc (like the same sliding back-row dig and jump serve that must show up 30+ times in season 1), but you can see the production quality ramp up when it matters most: significant matches, key moments, even pivotal individual points. That goes double for later seasons, when you can see how the show’s increased popularity has led to additional budgeting on animation. It’s crisp, yet pleasing. Even the music is better than I expected.
Perhaps my favorite piece of the puzzle is the pacing. At first, I thought the show was going to be glacially slow: sometimes it takes multiple episodes just to get through a set, or introduce a new character. However, what Haikyuu has done is build up each of the players on the team such that you care about them tremendously, and root for their success as individuals and with Kurasuno as a whole. Important matches get several episodes to breathe. While I won’t spoil anything too much here, the first season essentially introduces the players and their dynamics while giving them a taste of the big-time; the second involves a Rocky-esque training montage as they try to improve; and the third is 10 episodes of wall-to-wall action.
Season 4 is airing in Japan as we speak, while 1 and 2 are available on Netflix and 3’s dub is…available, depending on your methods. As somebody who enjoys both sports and anime quite a bit, this scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. Check it out if you get a chance.