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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are you a fan of 100WordAnime.blog?
If you like this site and you like what I do, please consider becoming a patron.