Haikyuu Season 3 Series Review

Overview:

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.

Review:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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 Episode 50

Review Episode 50:

Haikyuu has this issue with season endings. Season 1 ended on a low note for the team and a point that would have driven me crazy if season 2 wasn’t sitting ready to go. Season 2 has ended on a high note for the team but we didn’t get to the end of the tournament and the last episode was called ‘Declaration of War’. You can’t declare war and then end the season. Okay, apparently you can but it isn’t nice for the audience.

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Anyway, other than that, this was a good transition episode as we wrapped up the match with Aoba, saw the fallout, the celebration, the pep talks and the resolve and we walked in for the next match with the guy everyone seems to think is all that but mostly I just think he’s a jerk. I’ll do a full review of season 2 directly and then get to season 3, only I have to change from watching on AnimeLab to Crunchyroll because AnimeLab does not have the third season. Little bit sad about that because the streaming works much better for me on AnimeLab.


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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 Episode 46 + 47

Review Episode 46:

While the first set may have been satisfying but not thrilling, the writers shake things up again with the new player on the Aoba side. He’s a wild card for both Karasuno and the audience and his playing style is kind of intense (if a little erratic).

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It kind of looks like this second set is lost, but who knows. This show has managed to surprise me with an outcome more than once so anything could happen in the next episode. My only concern is that Hinata seems to have just vanished into the team at this point doing little to stand out and that’s probably the first time this whole show where I can honestly say I don’t remember what Hinata did during an entire episode.

Review Episode 47:

Second set was a loss but I don’t think anyone cares. Go Yamaguchi. Seriously a great character moment.

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Hinata has kind of become a cheerleader for the time being and still isn’t doing much but Yamaguchi more than made up for it. And now of course we’re heading straight into a third set so I guess we’re meant to feel really tense. Mostly I just kind of enjoyed watching and I don’t really have a lot of care about who is going to win (horrible I know). Let’s see what happens next.


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Haikyuu Episodes 44 + 45

Review Episode 44:

There’s really not much to this episode. Aoba plays Date and while its interesting enough mostly we’re just waiting to see who wins so we know who Karasuno are going to be playing next.

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After the Iron Wall goes down we see just how concerned some of the first years are about matching up against Aoba again. It’s kind of nerve destroying watching the characters deal with their anxiety but eventually they are ready for the game and move out and that’s where the episode ends. There’s a lot of tension in this episode, though mostly from the anticipation of what is coming rather than what is happening. On that note, next episode.

Review Episode 45:

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It’s good to see that nothing has changed between these two. Seriously, they can be incredibly childish at times. Still, they were off to a good start even if I had to question whether Hinata and Kageyama are on the same team.

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That final point though really does shake things up going into the next episode. Anyway, the game itself was close and unresolved but to be honest not that thrilling. However, what it lacked in thrills it made up for in satisfaction. Seeing everything come together was really nice and while it didn’t make for the most exciting of games it definitely made you feel happy for the characters.


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Haikyuu Episodes 42 + 43

Review Episode 42:

Well Daichi was down and pretty much out for the count. Admittedly he woke up pretty fast but the knocked out tooth and bleeding from the mouth does not bode well.

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So they replaced him with Ennoshita. And at first I had to wonder who on earth that was. Haikyuu once again anticipated the lack this and gave us a contextualised set of flashbacks of scenes we’d seen with this character and as each one came up I realised that we really had seen him a lot off the court. Just to consolidate that though, we then got an all new scene in flashback form just so we know that he’s also got issues, just like everyone else on the team.

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The set finishes with Yamaguchi getting one serve over the net before chickening out and hitting a normal serve. He’s a little bit shattered by his own lameness. I really kind of hope Daichi is okay and I’m wondering if this game is going to stretch to 3 sets given they are 4 down in the second. Okay, onto the next one because no way can I leave it there.

A few reviews ago I said I was getting a little fatigued with this series. I take it back.

Review Episode 43:

Game done. Everyone worked together and they all got a little bit better just in time and now they get to keep going in the match. At this point in time this show isn’t getting any points for twists or surprises but it is managing to be highly entertaining as it goes through its formula approach to a tournament.

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Definitely the best part of the episode were the interactions within the team. Though I wonder who is going to cheer up Yamaguchi?

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And is it wrong that I kind of want Date to win their match because I’d rather watch them play against Hinata than the other team, but I kind of suspect Date is about to lose. Poor guys, getting thrown under a bus for plot convenience. Well it hasn’t happened yet but that’s kind of how I see it playing out.


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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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