[My thoughts on the existing seasons of Haikyū (the anime).]
I want to stop watching sports anime, I really do, but shows like Haikyū keep bringing me back. It was pure chance that I found this show because I was quite done with the genre and all the sorcery that comes with it. Then I stumbled across some anime recommendation video where Haikyū was featured and thought it looked interesting. Of course, it took me one episode to realise that ‘interesting’ is the wrong word for Haikyū; it’s intense!
There are a great many things that Haikyū does well. Let’s start with how it doesn’t just depend on mindless magic tricks and actually involves something resembling volleyball. Yes, there are countless moments of super-powered shots and blocks but there are also many moments of strategy, practiced moves and realistic responses. Haikyū also concentrates on team effort rather than one individual’s strength, showing that every player is valuable. It’s refreshing in that sense. The characters develop their skills steadily rather than evolving inexplicably. A fantastic example of this is Tsukishima from the protagonist team, Karasuno.
He starts off with something akin to apathy towards his teammates and volleyball but we see how he progressively changes his attitude and improves. Then there’s that moment when he scores against an almost invincible opponent – shocking his teammates, opponents and everyone else watching the match. What made that moment powerful was that it was neither miraculous nor magical. Instead, it was inevitable. The story, and in particular, Tsukishima’s character arc had been building up to that very shot and we, as the audience, probably sensed that he was going to make his move. When he did, it was like a dream come true. I actually hugged my laptop.
I like the way Haikyu builds on its characters to move the story forward and I genuinely like almost all of the characters in Haikyu. I think the last sports anime I watched that had such a diverse and complex cast of characters was Prince of Tennis and that was a long time ago. I adore the many characters in Haikyū but none as much as the protagonist, Hinata. He really, really reminds me of Luffy. He has the same exuberant personality, confidence and penchant for simplicity (read idiocy). That kind of positive energy makes it easy for me to watch and enjoy the story. His rivalry and partnership with Kageyama, the setter, is also something different compared to other shows in this genre.
There’re a couple of wonderful adversaries as well and their characterisation show just as much effort as those in the protagonist team. There’s Oikawa (he initially reminded me of Atobe from PoT, but they’re different enough), who’s rude and childish, afraid of those who possess more innate talent than himself, but also proud and resilient, driving his team with every ounce of his abilities. One can’t help but cheer for him, even when he’s the “enemy”.
What makes Haikyū especially enjoyable for me is that it isn’t just funny; it’s hilarious. Haikyū pretty much nails comedy. It builds up the characters, getting us accustomed to their idiosyncrasies and then blows us away with their responses to situations. It’s a straightforward approach but it worked quite well. I think I laughed more watching this show than I did when watching One Punch Man.
With a shonen manga/ anime on sports, we’re probably going to get a cookie-cutter plot – with the underdog team of little guys (puns intended) overcoming seemingly invincible opponents. So what matters here is the story-telling: The characters, the circumstances they’re put in and their courage when they stand up and fight back. So far, Haikyū shamelessly follows every cliché in the sports anime trope and that’s okay for me because I want them to win. I’m rooting for the Karasuno boys to pound their opponents into dust and eventually clinch their sweet victory.
The anime adaptation gets me completely absorbed in the matches and it’s kind of like being drunk on the pure thrill of the game. Watching these boys claw their way to the top is exhilarating and intensely fun. Haikyū is the most enjoyable sports anime I’ve watched so far and it’s probably going to be my favourite in this genre. Anyone who likes sports anime/ manga should give Haikyū a try (if they haven’t already).
If you’ve watched Haikyū, and wish to share your thoughts, do leave them here! How do you think it compares to some of the other material in this genre? Where would you rank it?