Let’s be honest: how many Haikyu!! fans actually care about volleyball? I doubt the number is all that high. Granted, if I’ve learned anything over the last two years, it’s that I’m very often wrong.
For years, I never understood the hype behind this show. I mean, come on! It’s a show about volleyball! Sure, that’s the most tolerable sport out there in my opinion. But it’s still a sport! How good can an anime about it be?
Still, as the show continued, my curiosity surrounding it grew larger and larger. Then, one boring Sunday afternoon, I finally bit the bullet and started watching it. What’s the harm, I thought? If I don’t like it, at least I’ll be able to write a fun review.
And then I fell in love.
Story: The Little Giant Flies
Plot-wise, this show is as simple as you can get. There are no world-shattering plot-twists. No convoluted backstories. No massively overly complicated fantasy setting. This show, much like its main character, is exceptionally simple and easy to understand. However, that doesn’t stop it from being genuinely surprising and unpredictable!
Haikyu!! stars Hinata Shoyo, a short young man with a passion for volleyball. In middle school, he played one match in one official tournament, in which his team was annihilated by the so-called King of the Court: Tobio Kageyama. Devastated by the loss, Hinata swore revenge upon him. Unfortunately, on his first day at Karasuno High School, he hits a snag: Kageyama, his sworn rival, is on his team! Can the two set their differences aside and help their team bring Karasuno back to its glory days?
It’s a sports show. The genre excels in simplicity. And this show is no different.
The characters in this show are rarely all that deep. They are, however, distinct and likable! Each member of the cast adds their own little touch to the group dynamic, which makes their interactions a joy to watch! The cast has so much synergy together and practically every scene they share puts a smile on my face!
The show also pulls a nice little trick with its antagonists. See, no one in this show is outright evil; they’re all just high school kids playing volleyball! But the show doesn’t just brush them aside; rather, each team that Karasuno faces gets their own time to shine, their own bit of character development, and even their own emotional scenes! They all feel truly human rather than just being meat sacks for our heroes to defeat and discard! Not only does it make the world feel alive, but it also makes each match incredibly interesting to watch! You want Karasuno to win. But you also can’t help but root for the other guys!
In terms of story arcs, this show is super repetitive. It breaks down into a simple formula.
- Team trains, either alone or together, and becomes better at volleyball
- The team goes to a tournament/ participates in a practice match
- The team wins or loses a match; they react accordingly and the story continues
Sounds like it would get repetitive and dull, right? Well, no. Each match not only has its own little moments that make each one completely distinct, but they’re each paced perfectly! Non-important matches only last about an episode or two while the more important, dramatic ones can last much longer! Hell, the most dramatic/important match in the whole series so far took up the entire third season! And it was incredible!
It helps that you genuinely don’t know who is going to win the bigger matches. Not a single match is a one-sided beatdown for either side. There’s always an intense back-and-forth, which makes watching each match super tense! It’s impossible to tell who is going to win until the match is over!
It’s not complex and it doesn’t do anything especially new. However, it’s so well executed that it doesn’t matter! The story is paced perfectly, the characters are fun and likable, and each match is intense and engaging! Sure, it’s a bit repetitive. But it’s still so much damn fun!
Although it wouldn’t work even half as well if not for the amazing visuals.
Presentation: ALL THE SAKUGA!!
Holy fucking shit, this show looks amazing! Although they do recycle quite a few shots. But you have to cut corners somewhere!
This show has everything I look for in an anime. A bright color pallet that doesn’t murder your eyes? Check. Smooth animation, between both the small and grandiose moments? Check. Phenomenal music? Hell yeah! This show looks and sounds so damn good!
Now, let’s get this out of the way. This show does reuse certain shots throughout various matches to cut corners. The list of reused shots isn’t super huge, but they’re reused super often. Particularly the shot of Daichi receiving a ball from the back, which is often recycled for other characters. Thankfully, they do look very good. But you’ll see them a lot.
I’m also not huge on the CGI volleyball. I understand why they do it; 3D animating the ball allows them to animate its movements much more easily than 2D would allow. This approach lets them capture tons of minor details in how it moves, such as its rotation after a powerful hit. I’m not saying it’s bad. But it does sort of stick out.
And that’s about the only piece of real criticism I can give to this segment. Honestly, everything else here is amazing! The animators fucking killed it with this show, delivering some of the most impressive shots of sakuga I’ve ever seen! They managed to make serving a fucking volleyball look better than the entirety of most Shounen battle series!
Then there’s the music. Holy shit, dude! This show’s soundtrack gives me some serious My Hero Academia vibes and I fucking love it! It makes even the most hype moments even more insane! The animation and writing already had me on the edge of my seat; the music just made me shout like an animal.
So this is how real sports fans feel.
Now, I do feel the need to mention that there was an art style change in season four. Honestly, I haven’t analyzed it enough to tell which one I like more. But I do think the new style is very visually appealing. I’ll have to get back to you guys on whether or not I think it’s better.
If you told me a year ago that I’d fall head over heels for a sports show, I’d have glared at you and asked if you’ve ever met me before. The idea would have seemed completely alien to me. I had always hated sports, ever since I was a kid and my dear father nearly broke my nose with a baseball.
He still hasn’t apologized for that.
Haikyu!! has everything that I love in a show. Sure, the narrative and characters are simple. But they’re a ton of fun! The show is beautifully animated and scored, leading to some of the hypest looking moments in anime history! Combine that with the excellent writing and you have a show that I’ll be watching again and again for years to come! One that you should absolutely give a chance!
Just be sure that your schedule is clear. Because this show is super easy to binge!