After two seasons of this, you kind of already know this is an anime about the Karasuno volleyball team. Season 3 picks up immediately from season 2 and we see the final match to decide whether they get to go to nationals. I’ve previously reviewed season 1 + 2 of Haikyuu and I have also done episode reviews of seasons 1 + 2. I did not do individual episode reviews for season 3. If you want to find any of my other reviews for Haikyuu, click here.
Like my other reviews of Haikyuu and preface it by pointing out I don’t much like sport and it is only recently I started really trying sports anime. Having found a couple of them quite watchable I decided to start working my way through some of the more popular titles and of course ended up watching Haikyuu. On that note, I will point out that if the whole series had been done the way season 3 was, I would have dropped this series very early on. That isn’t actually saying season 3 is bad, but the entire season (all 10 episodes) follows one match of volleyball. Which means, we’re watching a very drawn out game between two teams. We get occasional flash backs, time out conversations, on court discussions, and the occasional commentary from the spectators, but essentially you are watching a volleyball game play out in almost real time and if that had been my introduction to the series I’d have been out.
So why was I glued to the screen to the point where I didn’t even pause to write the episode reviews I’d intended?
The main reason is this is such a perfect culmination of everything from season 1 and 2. Karasuno have grown and developed as a team and built their skills. Previously we’ve had episodes focussing on individuals but with one exception season 3 focusses on the team as a whole and how they are operating. This is no longer the Hinata and Kageyama show with their weird combination that lucks out some points due to surprising the opponent. This is now very much a cohesive group working with each person’s strengths and the skills they learned through everything we’d watched previously employed for the best possible outcome. Of course, that isn’t to say that Hinata and Kageyama don’t get their moments. They certainly do make their presence in the team felt.
So while if this had been the format for the show back in season 1, when I didn’t know these characters or have a reason to care about that last synchronised attack they just pulled off, I would have been completely bored and disconnected, in season 3, this works brilliantly. You’ve sat through two seasons with these characters. Either you just like animated volleyball or you’ve formed some connections and this series capitalizes on that fact. It doesn’t retread old ground but still manages to highlight the significance of the bonds between characters.
The one exception is Tsukishima. He’s been one of my favourite characters from early on (something about his common sense and sarcasm just really hit the mark) but in season 3 he really becomes a part of the team and he just shines. The coach isn’t lying at the end of the game when he says that Tsukishima is definitely the MVP. Whether it is strategizing, stepping up his own game, finally finding the determination to go all out, to the point where he even questions why he cares so much, everything about him during this game is just perfect and he really steals several moments in this season.
Despite being glued to the screen though, I do have some criticisms or at least some thoughts on things that weren’t quite so amazing. They didn’t take away how great it was to see the Karasuno players from playing this game but they do take some of the shine off the show after the fact when you sit back and reflect on it.
The first of these is the opening theme. It works and the imagery is actually really well done and is on par with previous seasons visuals. So watching it is fine. The song itself though, while not in any way bad, doesn’t quite have the same impact that earlier openings have had and given how hyped up everything else in this show was, it felt just a little bit lacking at the start of each new episode.
Another issue I had was with the opponent. The team from Shiratorizawa are probably the least interesting team we’ve met in this three season run of this show. Previous opponents have had the stand out characters and fun personalities or formed interesting rivalries with cast members. You’ve actually felt a bit bad for some of them when the plot inevitably turned on them so that Karasuno could continue on their way to being the protagonists of the sports show. You don’t get this from Shiratorizawa, although I get from some of the flash backs and things they are trying to help us care about this group. Really, other than the ace and the red head (and I don’t actually remember either name), I couldn’t actually recall any of the players from the opposition even the day after I finished viewing this. They had almost no impact. Sure, they were great at volleyball and some of the rallies and plays were cool to watch. But as characters they were just opponents. The next rock blocking the pathway for the team we actually care about.
Nowhere was this more clearly highlighted than when we saw Oikawa in the stands. Here is an opponent we actually cared about and even as a bystander and occasional commentator, he is still more interesting than the other team on the court. Given how few episodes most opponents got in Haikyuu, it seems a little wrong that the team that had nearly ten episodes actually felt the least fleshed out. And maybe this was deliberate. The coaches were competing ideologically with brute strength vs flexibility so maybe the wooden personalities of the opponents (red head was an exception here) was an actual choice to highlight that difference, but it doesn’t make them any more interesting or memorable.
I’m glad I made it through to the end of this (though is that sequel bait going on at the end of did I just not get that). I enjoyed my time with these characters and had a few laughs and smiles along the way. It didn’t blow me away or become my new favourite anime and I think my emotional attachment to these characters is pretty fleeting, but I kind of get now why so many people enjoyed this anime. It is good fun and there are some really great moments along the way.
Okay, over to you. I’d love to know your thoughts on this anime.
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