Haikyuu Season 1 Series Review

Overview:

Hinata just really wants to play volleyball but his middle-school doesn’t have a functioning male team so despite his efforts he only plays one game. Now at high school, he is determined to be on the team and to stay on the court. However, on day one of joining the team, he encounters Kageyama, an opponent from the one game he played and someone Hinata considers a rival. How will the two of them learn to play together?

Review (with spoilers):

I honestly did enjoy this series more than I expected I would and by around episode 15 or 16 I was very much caught up in this team’s journey as they tried to secure a place in the nationals. But when it comes to reviewing this series I am kind of torn about where it stands. It hasn’t exactly blown me away and made me want to do an instant rewatch (and to be honest I’m not sure when if ever I will rewatch this first season). At the same time I was fairly keen to jump straight into season 2 because this show had really built some momentum by the end of season 1.  So with my thoughts a bit confused I am going to go with a plus/minus approach to the review.

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Plus +

It’s a sports anime that makes the sport exciting. I don’t say that lightly. I hate watching sport. The only sports I have ever actively sought out to watch on TV are figure skating and gymnastics (because they are pretty). And unlike a lot of other sports, I’ve barely played volleyball and found it to be a fairly dull sport (mostly because I stank at it and really don’t like sports where people pelt balls at you). So when I say that this show makes volleyball look fun and inviting as well as fairly complex with actual strategies, know that this show had to work hard to get me to shift my view on this sport. The games are undeniably the best part of watching the show, though that’s only because they link the games so intensely with character development. Just watching a sport by itself, no matter how well animated, would never interest me. But watching characters evolve from one serve to the next as they learn from experiences and from others around them and watching them continually re-evaluate their situation and try to progress is really fun and it is where Haikyuu absolutely nailed its execution.

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Minus –

While I’ll be more specific about particular points later on, literally everything off the court was weaker than the games. The pace of episodes stagnated when they weren’t being pushed forward by the next ball and the characters were never as alive or as interesting when they were off the court. The write up on AnimeLab about this anime actually describes it as a slice-of-life sports anime and that’s probably the best genre description for it. But the slice-of-life aspects aren’t particularly strong. They aren’t terrible or unwatchable or dull (and I’ve certainly described other slice-of-life anime with those words) but compared to the sports side of this anime they don’t hold their weight. It makes the viewing experience a little unbalanced.

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Plus +

The support cast are fantastic. While a lot of the attention, particularly early in the anime, is on Hinata and Kageyama, the other characters slowly but surely make their presence felt and each of them contribute something fairly invaluable to both the team and the viewing experience. I really like Tsukishima for his sarcasm and cynical attitude but Sugawara all the way through manages to be that quiet supporter and just when they need him the most he really delivers. The opponents are also for the most part well characterised. Probably my biggest complaint their would go to Oikawa from the final game. Given how much screen time he had, including flash-backs, he still didn’t really become anything more than a prop. Just another opponent there to push the team forward. Still, with such a large cast of characters, plus coaches, opponents, and spectators, this show has done a marvellous job with the vast majority.

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Minus –

Hinata is just not that interesting. When the story focusses on Hinata himself, you are forced to realise that underneath peppy energy and an absolutely fierce desire to improve and to win, there’s almost nothing else of substance. When every other character, even the ones who initial seem one-note, are delivering fairly nuanced performances, having a protagonist of sorts who is mostly just a standard cut out shonen protagonist (only playing volleyball and not waving a sword around) kind of lets things down from time to time. Hinata gets more interesting when he’s observing others, but when the focus is him it all just feels pretty basic. Of course, we do get to enjoy some Hinata speak where he kind of mangles onomatopoeia into his descriptions of game play. It’s amusing enough but after awhile you have to start wondering just how old he is meant to sound.

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Plus +

While early on we had the win that really shouldn’t have happened given how inexperienced the team was, this show didn’t pull a last minute reprieve and victory just to end the season on a high note. Yet it also didn’t depress the viewer (though the characters are another story). It gave us some incredible character growth and something to look forward to, so I was pretty satisfied with that loss as I felt any other ending to the tournament would probably have just felt like plot armour anyway.

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Minus –

This one is probably petty and is definitely totally subjective, but I really didn’t think much of the soundtrack. It works well enough but it is also pretty forgettable. Given how exciting some moments are and how dramatic the games get, it feels like we could have had something really memorable and amazing and instead we kind of got generic, this will do, kind of music. As I said, it is a petty complaint given there is nothing actually wrong with the music, but I’d struggle the day after an episode to even remember what the OP sounded like let alone any particular music from an episode.

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I’m actually really glad I tried this (it had certainly been recommended to me enough). Again, I’m not certain what rewatch value this will have long term because honestly it feels like once I’ve gone through this journey with the characters that will be enough. But for an anime that combines two genres I’m not made-keen on it is an impressive and highly entertaining watch.

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I know there are a lot of Haikyuu fans out there (and thanks for following my very late watch of this series). Let me know your favourite moments or characters or why you love this show. Or, if you didn’t like it, I’d love to know what didn’t work for you.


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22 thoughts on “Haikyuu Season 1 Series Review

  1. Haikyuu was the first sports anime that I watched completely (I saw a few seasons of Prince of Tennis years ago), and I was hooked from the start. This was the first time a sports anime resonated with me like this show did and honestly I can’t imagine my life without Haikyuu in it…

    As much as I love season 1, it’s really all about set up, establishing the individual characters, the team dynamic, etc… But, season 2 and 3 are really where this series shine.

    *Putting away my Haikyuu fangirl glasses* I agree with a lot of the shortcomings you brought up in this review, Hinata on his own is a rather so-so character, but that’s kind of the point, since the series is about the team and not so much the characters as individuals. But, I will say that he does get a bit better in the subsequent seasons, then again my eye was always on Tsukishima so Hinata didn’t really register all that much when he wasn’t doing his freak quick with Kageyama.

    *le gasp* You didn’t really like the soundtrack! For shame! JK, I didn’t really notice the soundtrack the first time around, but the second time around it really grew on me.

    Great review and I’m curious to see what your thoughts are on season 2 and I look forward to reading more of your reviews soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve been told the sound track is actually good and I’m trying to pay more attention in season 2 and I’m still finding it fairly forgettable outside of the opening, though it isn’t bad. It fits but I just don’t remember it after the episode finishes.
      I probably do have to give a few other sports anime a go after I’m done with this one. Not sure what I’ll try but clearly my blanket not watching sports anime from a few years ago is well and truly gone so now I have some catching up to do.

      Like

  2. “And unlike a lot of other sports, I’ve barely played volleyball and found it to be a fairly dull sport ”

    I barely played volleyball too and honestly didn’t have much interest in it at all before watching this series. Now with it in my past I have a greater appreciation for the sport and its players.

    Hopefully you’ll watch and enjoy the remaining seasons too down the road.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Already into season 2. Going to be honest, as much as the show made me appreciate there was some sort of point to volleyball, I still have no desire to stand on a court and let people slam volleyballs in my general direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. im with you on not watching sports series too often. i honestly respect this series deeply for saying “sports are interesting without insane superpowers”. it’s made me really rethink other series ive watched like prince of tennis or kuroko no basuke. i also agree that hinata’s not the most spectacular lead character in the world, and i think the supporting characters more than make up for that. i have to disagree on the soundtrack, though. i found the on-court music very memorable and ive still got them on my playlists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair enough. Maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention but I’d really struggle to even describe the music at the end of an episode.
      I’m still not sure I’m up for watching a lot of sports anime, but the occasional one might be kind of fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m on the fence about this one. On one hand, I’ve found that I really enjoy sports anime despite having zero interest in most sports in reality. But on the other, most longrunning sports shows I’ve watched till now (Prince of Tennis and Kuroko no Basket) have fairly atypical protagonists who’re nothing like the usual shonen underdog and they’re why I loved the shows so much. I’m not so keen on Hinata as a result.

    But maybe I’ll give this a go one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you haven’t tried it, I would suggest giving it a go. I hadn’t touched this (or any real sports anime until recently) but curiosity finally got the better of me given how much gets written about it and how often the characters appeared in my twitter stream. It’s perfectly watchable and by mid-season I was actually pretty caught up in it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Haikyu!! has a special place for me because I found the anime in a difficult period of my life and the characters always managed to cheer me up, make me laugh and forget reality a bit. Thus, I’m very grateful to this show. I rewatched the three seasons twice, planning to do it again and I’m also buying the English release of the manga. Not too long ago I got my first Haikyu!! figure too, plan to buy more, so yeah, I’m very obsessed with this show but it offers me so much joy and fun. You probably remember my other reasons for liking it from blog posts but to put it shortly: relatable and funny characters whom I care for, exciting matches, it gives me energy and motivation. I’m a big fan of the music too. I have a lot of favorite moments and a lot of favorite characters but if I have to mention one or two then it would be Oikawa, Kageyama, Yamaguchi. All of them are very relatable characters to me and I felt a connection with them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I was a bit hesitant at first because I thought a sports series is better animated and in color but fortunately the manga gives me the same experience the anime did/does. I like the art too, I think it suits the series.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Lol as you know I am so completely obsessed with this show! With that said I’ll admit that while I enjoyed the first season it was after the end of the series that I became super into it. While it took me a bit to watch season 1 I had season 2 done with in a few days! I was so invested. I love Oikawa though ❤ Him and Noya are my two favorite characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having watched season 1, I kind of get why there is so much hype around this show. While it still didn’t grab me as an absolute fan, the fact that I finished it and want to watch the second season when it is well and truly outside my usual kind of viewing kind of says a lot for how they’ve paced this show and constructed the characters (even with my petty complaints). Going to have to thank pretty much everyone for telling me to watch this.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m really curious as to how you will react to season 2. I’ve noticed that it tends to be season 2 that grabs people into absolute fan territory lol. I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as you did though! Nothing worse than watching a bunch of episodes on a show you can’t get into.

        Liked by 1 person

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