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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Haikyuu Episodes 26 + 27

Review Episode 26:

I wondered how the transition between season 1 and 2 of this show would be handled and the answer was, they just kept going. Okay, we lost that now let’s train, train, train for the next thing. That isn’t a criticism. It actually was kind of nice to seamlessly move on with the story with just one slow motion flash back and voice over at the start to set the scene (though I have to wonder if there had been a gap in watching whether that would have been sufficient to get back into it).

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Hinata actually had a vaguely cool moment this episode. What I like the most though is that we’ve instantly been given a new target and direction for the series. There’s no floundering or awkward filler. Just straight from that one tournament that ended in failure to the next opportunity.

Review Episode 27:

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This episode spends most of its time on studying and unsurprisingly Hinata is an idiot (though turns out Kageyama isn’t any better). We also introduce a new manager (or a trainee I guess given the old manager hasn’t left yet) and she seems like she’ll be interesting I just kind of hope she stops cringing every single time one of the guys looks at her because that will get old fast.

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I found Hinata’s attitude to studying a little depressing but not unexpected and at least he is putting in the effort (even if it is only so he can play more sport). For a non-volleyball focussed episode, this one was still reasonably entertaining and I’m looking forward to their practice match next episode.


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Haikyuu Episodes 18 + 19

Review Episode 18:

Episode 18 is what I would normally hate from a sport anime and yet I found it incredibly charming. We spend the whole episode finishing the game but the comments from the stands, the individual character moments, and just the emotion in the game kept the whole thing driving forward and it didn’t feel like it was getting bogged down.

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I also liked that while Hinata and Kageyama are doing their thing, the other characters are most definitely holding their weight because otherwise the two person attack would have come to an abrupt end. Asahi in particular got some nice moments this episode.

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Still, Hinata speak is definitely here to stay. I very much appreciated Tsukishima’s comment that he should speak Japanese after this dialogue.

Review Episode 19:

There was a lot of set up before we got to this game and a lot of bravado and discussion about who would win. It’s all kind of a bit petty but at the same time necessary as a transition from the last game and into the next.

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Still, once the game starts its pretty impressive and of course ended at the worst moment given I desperately wanted to just click play on the next episode. We did learn convincingly that Kageyama hates to lose and really isn’t above throwing an opponents words back in their face.

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This was kind of interesting because while Kageyama has been playing well over the last few episodes, his dialogue has been pretty minimal so it was good to see him have a bit of personality again.

Haikyuu is available on AnimeLab.


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Haikyuu Episodes 14 + 15

Review Episode 14:

Okay, I know I’m not a big fan of them doing nothing but playing volleyball for a whole episode, but when we get an episode like this where other than a very brief training sequence we have no volleyball, suddenly I realise how much better this show is when they are playing a game. That isn’t to say there weren’t some amusing interactions between characters as they go about preparations for the upcoming tournament and it good to see they are planning new strategies and aren’t just hoping Hinata being a crazy person will somehow win their way through. Probably the best part of this episode was seeing Yamaguchi actually take some initiative. I don’t know that it is going to help at the moment, but he’s been such a non-entity in this show so far that I was starting to wonder why he was even introduced. It will be nice to see him take some action.

Review Episode 15:

I kind of figured this out. The reason this show works better when they are playing is because the characters come to life once they are all on the court. While they have some good moments off the court, there is always a bit more hesitation and just less personality. Once they start playing everything just clicks and its a reasonably enjoyable experience watching the game unfold even though I’m still not really interested in the sport they are playing. While we only saw the first three points of this game, already we can see how the team have changed during their time training and I really look forward to the next episode.

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Haikyuu is available on AnimeLab.


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Haikyuu Episodes 12 + 13

Review Episode 12:

This is probably my favourite episode so far and that is odd given its pretty much all focussed on the game. I think it’s because the opponents team are acting like a mirror image of Karasuno and the contrast between the two even while there are such glaring similarities is kind of interesting.

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I also like that brute force and talent aren’t winning this game for either team. Both are having to really think to out play the other team and while it still comes down to get the ball over the net, they made me care about the outcome of a volleyball game for at least the duration of the episode so something has gone right in the writing here.

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All and all a fun episode to watch and the last part of the episode with Hinata actively growing as a player and not just trusting the ball will somehow magically land in his hand was certainly a great moment.

Review Episode 13:

I’m looking on the bright side that at least their loss here makes sense unlike their previous win. When you play a team that is actually a team and not a random collection of talented individuals, the actual team should win. I also liked that even though they got better as they played one more game (as indicated by the scores), they didn’t win at all.

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And they were all still pretty upbeat and most of the found a friend. Still, Hinata speak is apparently catching.

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Anyway, looking forward to seeing how they evolve as a team after this encounter.

Haikyuu is available on AnimeLab.

Haikyuu Episodes 6 + 7

Review Episode 6:

Seriously, how is this team not the antagonist of the series? Just look at that picture of them attempting to intimidate the other players. Though Hinata’s insecurity does lead to some interesting daydreams.

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The issue being that about half the time I’d love to see that actually happen to him. Which is probably why Tsukishima is definitely starting to grow on throughout this episode.

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Mostly this was a fun but necessary episode if they were ever going to start being teamlike but I’m still not invested to the point where I actually care if they win or lose (though all things considered if they win that might snap any last thread of credibility that was hanging in there).

Review Episode 7:

And there we have it; credibility shattered. Even if the other team was without their main setter for most of the game, they were all experienced players who were clearly used to working together in a school that’s apparently strong at the sport. How does a patched together team that’s missing points as often as getting them manage to even come close let alone actually win? Fictional sports logic.

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And after winning the adviser has some weird epiphany which goes on way too long to say very little and other than introducing a new character for next time nothing else really happens.

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But at lest we keep setting new goals. First it was get into the gym, then the practice game, and now some other tournament with the dangling possibility of nationals.

Haikyuu is available on AnimeLab.


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Days Series Review

Overview:

Tsukishi Tsukamoto doesn’t really have friends and doesn’t really have much going on but he’s a nice guy. One day, after starting high school, Kazama invites him on a whim to play and soon after Tsukamoto decides he wants to join the Seiseki Soccer team. Problem is, they are a really good team and Tsukamoto has never played before. Can raw enthusiasm and determination really help him overcome his weaknesses and allow him to become part of the team? I reviewed this week to week if you want to check out those thoughts.

Review:

I’d be lying if I said the story of Days isn’t trite and overly generic drivel that’s been the basis of about a million stories before. I’m not even a fan of sports movies and shows and even I know the one about the loser who becomes the star player of the team. Something about hard work overcoming all difficulties or some such nonsense that writers seem to think is inspiring. Not that some people don’t have their hard work rewarded but there are plenty of others who will put in the time and effort and still get a big fat nothing for their efforts.

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Despite this set up which sounds like it should make me want to roll my eyes right outside of my skull, and a main character who normally I would call a pathetic doormat and find truly irritating, and being based on a sport I could not care less about, I really enjoyed watching Days. I found it genuinely charming and at times vaguely inspirational until my usual cynical self kicked in. That didn’t stop me wanting to call out with Tsukamoto as he cheered on his team mates and it didn’t stop me smiling when he finally intercepted the ball or realised what he should be doing on the field and it didn’t stop me nearly crying when he failed and felt the utter and complete devastation of that failure. It also didn’t stop that big cheesy grin spreading over my face when he got right back up again and continued to try his hardest.

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It would be great if  I could say that there was a single concrete reason for this show working for me and yet that would also be a lie. There are pacing issues, animation issues, at times characterization is an issue as someone we barely know is suddenly important and you’re left rummaging through your head for any information you remember about them (large cast of soccer players from main team and competitors). From any objective standpoint this show is average at best.

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But maybe that’s enough. It’s a story we all know so they don’t waste time trying to be clever about the premise. There are no real unexpected twists and turns in the story and while there is a large cast this works in the show’s favour as we never really get sick of any one character and even those with obnoxious personalities aren’t around long enough to bring down the overall show.

Besides, there are some fun characters in this show. Mizuki (the Captain), the other first year players, Kimishita, the manager, and many of the opponents really shine in their moments before fading back into the background. This is Tsukamoto’s story and we are seldom allowed to forget that but that doesn’t stop us learning about these characters and falling in love with them as Tsukamoto really wants to be included in their world.

The animation isn’t amazing but were we tuning in to watch animated soccer or were we watching Tsukamoto and how he develops as a character. There’s a clear correlation between his improvement on the field and his mental state and yet even at the end he is riddled with insecurities about whether he ‘deserves’ to be part of the team.

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Probably my real criticism of this show would be Kazama. He is the one who leads Tsukamoto into the world of soccer and at times it looks like his journey should be significant as well but we get so few glances at this other side of the story. Kazama is talented and confident but has some real issues with trusting a team. He’s the opposite of Tsukamoto and giving their stories equal time so the moments where they intersect and help each other could have had more meaning. Instead Kazama ends up almost like a fairy god-mother hovering around the edges of the story and giving Tsukamoto the tiniest of pushes when needed. The one moment of conflict between the two was resolved almost instantly. This is probably the weakest part of the series in my opinion.

So if you want to watch a trite (wondrous) journey of a wimpy (driven) character going from nothing to vaguely competent but still developing this first season of Days will probably be a fun watch. It’s full of warmth and heart and by the end you really will support this team in their push for Nationals – which of course we still need season 2 to find out what happens next.

Yep, season 1 leaves us without even knowing if they got to Nationals. I expected them to qualify and then if we got another season to see the Nationals but instead we still have the finals to qualify to go before we get there. Fortunately season 2 has already been announced and this one I’ll be continuing because as much as this review probably seems needlessly critical, this show made me smile and made me care about whether the ball went into the net at least for twenty minutes each week.