Haikyuu Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

Right, so if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t already been told the story of Haikyuu a million times (followed emphatically by people telling you to watch it immediately), it’s the story of two guys who initially hate each other who end up on the same volleyball team. Or at least that’s where season 1 started (thoughts on season 1 here) but by season 2 it really is all about the team and getting to the nationals by going through a really long preliminary tournament. I’ve been posting episodic reviews of this weekly (2 episodes at a time) for a while now so if you are interested in individual episode thoughts click here.

Review:

For those who have been following the blog for a while you will know I am not a sports anime fan. I never used to watch anything that had a sports anime label on it. However, I’ve now tried a very small handful of these titles of currently streaming anime and decided they weren’t all that bad and so, because of the very vocal fan base, decided if I was going to go back and look at sports anime that I had missed Haikyuu would be a pretty good place to start. Then I thoroughly enjoyed my watch through of season 1 and so plunged straight into season 2. So how did it go?

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I found season 2 a bit more of a chore to get through than season 1, to be honest. While I liked learning about the characters in season 1 and watching them get through their various personality disorders to become a team, season 2 was either more of the same or frequently a watered down version of it because they were already pretty friendly.  That said, season 2 did manage some truly amazing character moments for some of the support cast that got overlooked in season 1, and those moments were truly worth watching for.

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Actually, my biggest issue with season 2 is the amount of training games at the camp. These games are practice and while the players treat them like they are life or death, there’s no real consequence for loss other than sprinting up a hill or some other penalty game so there is nothing riding on their victory. Haikyuu shines at its brightest when they take the court, but a lot of those training games really did feel like someone had asked me to watch a real sports tournament and to be honest I don’t watch most sport for a reason.

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So basically, by the midway point of season 2 I was kind of getting a little fatigued with the show and kind of figured that it was to be expected given I’m not a fan of sports anime and the fact that I’d been entertained during an entire first season was pretty good.

Then we started the actual tournament.

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This show really ramped up the action and tension in that final stretch. Throw great pacing, good dialogue, character development, and well animated games all together and the last part of this season is really quite a joy to watch again. You kind of forget those episodes in the mid-season where you started wondering why you were still watching (although when I went back and re-read my reviews of them it all came flooding back).

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The real highlights of season 2 are the opening song used in the second half (that is all kinds of awesome), the actual injury incurred by the captain, every character on the team (or at least all the ones that are ever regularly on the court) getting significant moments in the games, and the effort put into giving the opponents actual personalities given they only really exist for the duration of a game. Yamaguchi and Tsukishima kind of steal the show for a lot of the time right out from under Hinata and Kageyama, though those two also get a few moments (nowhere near as many in season 1). Also the third years get a lot of screen time and the new female assistant manager all make their presence felt. With that many characters it is amazing that it never feels cluttered but each kind of has their moment and then fades back into the team as someone else steps up.

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Which leaves me torn as to my final recommendation on this. It is a necessary follow up to season 1 and ultimately is entertaining, though I’m really thankful season 3 already exists because talk about non-conclusive. While I personally became a little disengaged mid-way along I never really considered dropping it because I did like the characters and I wanted to see where their journey would take them. I don’t think I’ll watch this show a second time, but I’m really glad I finally watched it through and I will be going on to season 3 to finish it off.


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Haikyuu Episodes 48 + 49

Review Episode 48:

The team are all ready to go into the third set and we’re still moving those shining moments around the players from both teams, even spending some time getting backstory on player 16 from Aoba. Tsukishima is also getting his fair share of time to shine even though he kind of got a few good moments in the previous episodes.

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That said, about mid-way through we finally get Kageyama realising they need to use Hinata better and the focus switches to these two for the first time really in this match. As much as I’m not a big fan of Hinata, it seems weird he’s been so quiet for the past couple of episodes so I’m guessing this is going somewhere but I’ll have to wait and see where. My only other thought is that this game seems to be lasting forever (not in a bad way but it has been quite a number of episodes now).

Review Episode 49:

There are parallels and then there are parallels and this episode takes it to the extreme in the set’s final moments yet I guess it was kind of needed is Kageyama and Hinata were ever going to get over their previous loss. While there’s definitely a refocus of Hinata, the other characters aren’t forgotten and the whole team work very hard for every point they get (as do the opponents).

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This was a fairly thrilling conclusion to this game and then I had to remind myself this wasn’t meant to be the last game in the tournament but how do you top that?


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Haikyuu Episodes 40 + 41

Review Episode 40:

The tournament starts and for once Hinata doesn’t seem like a complete nervous wreck. After a slow start, Karasuno seemed to get used to their opponents and took the first set.

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Admittedly, Kageyama took a ball to the face and both Kageyama and Hinata ended up sitting out the end of that set. The episode ends after a time-out from the other team and it looks like their opponent is ready to fight back so looking forward to next episode. Mostly this was a lot of fun as it kind of validated that everyone on the team has improved and that they are working really well as a team.

And I mentioned the new song last review (or whenever) but I really like this opening. The previous one was really take it or leave it, but this one actually gets me pretty excited for the episode.

Review Episode 41:

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Well that was going really well until the end. Ouch.

They are playing a challenging team that actually thinks and plans, but they haven’t let them get them down, but that final ball of the episode…

Once again Haikyuu shows off how good it is at building excitement in the game. It gets you into the players’ heads and makes you care about an opponent you’ve usually only just met. In minutes you are caught up in the excitement and waiting for each point. The exchanges between characters inbetween plays keep it from becoming just another round of watching a ball bounce over a net. This episode was great fun. You know, until they inujured the captain.


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Haikyuu Episodes 38 + 39

Review Episode 38:

So 2 metre tall guy was a threat for all of four points and then Karasuno pretty much employed all the skills we’ve been watching them develop and took them out. It wasn’t really much of a match in the end except it did confirm that they had improved, could deal with new threats, and Kageyama and Hinata finally got their quick together in a game. It was also good to see them using their heads for a bit.

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Apparently having won the prelims they now go to the next stage in a month (I think this was September and the next bit was happening in October) so I wonder if we’re skipping to that or if we are in for more training and prep. Please not another round of exams.

Review Episode 39:

Oh, new opening. Nice.

Otherwise, training and prep (and turns out the next stage was just under two months away). Kageyama does some really poor snooping and gets all fired up (or freaked out) depending out how you view it.

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And Tsukishima finally gets serious in general and seeks help from his brother and the coach to improve his blocking. It doesn’t soften his sarcasm a bit but its nice to see him wanting to contribute even if it was only because Hinata more or less told him he couldn’t do something. Sometimes Tsukishima is a little bit childish. You forget that because everyone else is childish most of the time so it kind of catches you off guard.

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Anyway, not a lot happened but by the end of the episode we’re ready to start the next round of matches so on we go.


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Haikyuu Episodes 36 + 37

Review Episode 36:

Okay, finally we finish the training camp and we get to the much anticipated BBQ. They didn’t end up winning their last game but they learned and we got some interesting reflections and conversations following the game as various pairs and groups got stuck into yet more training.

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Then we see the prep for the tournament and end as the prelims are about to begin. This episode is kind of a needed bridge in the story and they do put some effort into the characters considering from an action point of view little is happening, but it isn’t terribly exciting in and of itself. Still, I am kind of excited to see the prelims.

Review Episode 37:

I liked the introduction to this episode where another team is sussing out Karasuno and ends up wondering how they nearly beat the team in the previous tournament. You have to admit, when they aren’t on the court, they are fairly unimpressive looking.

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Still, they wipe out team number one and then effectively freak themselves out checking out the next team they will have to play.

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And the episode ends. Once again, Haikyuu proves it is at its best when they take to the court as this episode was significantly more exciting than most of the training camp even if the game was over quickly.


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Haikyuu Episodes 34 + 35

Review Episode 34:

Kageyama and Hinata still aren’t getting their attack working properly and early in the episode this is a source of tension before once again they both reflect, train harder, and get enthused. I do have to say that this pattern is becoming just a little predictable (not that we’ve seen them succeed yet but I’m guessing that’s coming).

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All the players are a bit worn out but the inspiration of a barbecue is enough to get them all ready for the final game of the training camp.

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While this episode works and is kind of needed as part of the ongoing progression, it was kind of just there. Nothing really stood out or was overly interesting about it. Onwards to the next one.

Review Episode 35:

There’s quite a lot of celebrations going on this episode, at least early on, as both teams show what they are capable of.

However, things go downhill for the opponent with their ace having a little bit of an emotional crisis as we near the end of the game.

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This actually was a fairly satisfying episode to watch given all of the training is starting to come together. They aren’t perfect and there are still small missteps, but you can see that everything is starting to come together (pre-Hand Shakers I might have said things were starting to mesh). However, I think I’m starting to get fatigued with this show. I’m not much for sport in the first place and its all starting to feel samey even though it is nice seeing the players hard work rewarded. I’m not thinking of dropping this but I’m definitely starting to enjoy it that little bit less.


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Haikyuu Episodes 32 + 33

Review Episode 32:

To continue with the egg anology from earlier, I think the team has turned into scrambled eggs rather than an omelet. There’s a lot of focus on their evolution but they’ve yet to actually get it together as a team.

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Though, this episode also sees Tsukishima get a lot of focus, mostly because he’s about the only one on the team not expending large amounts of energy running around and trying to collapse from exhaustion. I get from a team point of view Tsukishima’s attitude might be frustrating but to be honest he seems like the only sensible person on the team. He plays, he trains, he rests. Just because he isn’t killing himself doesn’t seem like reason enough to get annoyed at him (though then you have to compare him to the rest of the team dynamic).

Review Episode 33:

The focus on Tsukishima continues as we get angsty backstory. I don’t know why every character with an attitude problem has some terrible childhood realisation or disappointment (some people just have bad personalities, but apparently that isn’t possible in anime).

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Anyway, props to Yamaguchi this episode for finally just confronting Tsukishima rather than letting the problem for the team linger. They still aren’t winning anything but they are getting closer.


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Haikyuu Episodes 30 + 31

Review Episode 30:

Hinata’s lost the plot a little bit this episode. Admittedly, his frustration is understandable but his approach is really wrong and all its done by the end of the episode is pretty much upset everyone on the team. Of course, I’m guessing the phrase ‘you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs’ is applicable in this situation and this is the egg breaking phase. And as the other team members say, it isn’t the first time Hinata and Kageyama have fought so let’s just assume they’ll get over it and move on to the next episode.

Review Episode 31:

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Well here’s an anomaly. The team spend most of this episode fragmented though all independently working toward the same goal. While training montages are great and the individual achievements of players were great to see, I have to wonder what the team’s cohesion is going to be like when they take the court again given we essentially haven’t seen them together since the fight. I still can’t really believe Kageyama asked for advice and I’m kind of impressed he listened to it, but we still haven’t seen him and Hinata on the court together to see if any progress has been made.


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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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Haikyuu Episodes 28 + 29

Review Episode 28:

Hey look, we didn’t belabor the whole new manager has issues thing and just kind of dealt with it head on in the next episode. That was kind of a novel experience when watching anime. That said, it also didn’t feel like they just brushed it under the rug. It actually felt like it was given the attention it needed and now we’re moving forward.

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And I have to admit, the poster she made is pretty impressive. Then again, Hinata’s jump has always been visually impressive. The only lingering issue is that they handed the exams back but didn’t tell us the results. Okay, on to the next episode to find out.

Review Episode 29:

That was kind of cheating. Hinata and Kageyama both failed an exam but still got to go (admittedly late). It kind of takes some of the tension about passing in order to go away. Though I guess the mode of transport was problematic.

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At the end of the day they are back playing and while they are playing well, as Hinata’s figured out they aren’t getting much better. I wonder what the next revelation will be to change their game play.


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