Anime Spotlight: Haikyu!!

Haikyu!! is an anime based on a manga by Haruichi Furudate. The series is produced by Production I.G and is directed by Susumu Mitsunaka. The series aired on Japanese television from April 6-September 21, 2014.

As of this writing, Sentail Filmworks holds the North American home video rights for Haikyu!!

Shoyo Hinata is the main character of the series. At the beginning of the first episode, we see him catching the National High School Volleyball Championship on a television in a store window. He’s impressed by a small-statured player who made the play that won the game, and it turns out the team is from a high school relatively nearby.

When Shoyo starts junior high, he wants to be on a boys’ volleyball team. Unfortunately, all the boys have is a fan club for volleyball but not an actual team. He’s told he can join the girls’ team, but Shoyo insists he’ll be a team of one. While the girls practice in the gym, Shoyo is working on his form by hitting the ball against a wall and hitting it back. He keeps trying to get his friends to join him, but they decline.

During Shoyo’s last year of junior high, he’s finally able to assemble a team of six players, and they compete in their first match. They’re up against Kitagawa Daiichi, a team with guys much bigger than Shoyo and his friends, and they’re also expected to go on to nationals. They also have Tobio Kageyama, who has been called the “King of the Court.”

Shoyo and his team go up against Kitagawa Daiichi. At first, they’re losing miserably. However, thanks to Shoyo’s desire to not give up, along with the fact that he’s a good jumper, they start scoring points in the second set. Unfortunately, the match ends when Kitagawa Daiichi reaches 25 points.

After the tournament, Shoyo talks with Kageyama. Kageyama tells him that if wants to make it in volleyball he has to become strong. Shoyo takes this to heart, and begins training with the girls’ team.

When Shoyo starts high school at Miyagi Prefectural Karasuno High School, he discovers that Kageyama is also there and plans to join the volleyball team. At first, Daichi Sawamura, the team captain, kicks them off the team because they refuse to cooperate; he only agrees to consider letting them come back if they can defeat Kei Tsukishima and Tadashi Yamaguchi, the other two first-years, in a three-on-three match. Shoyo and Kageyama’s team win the first set of the match, while the other team wins the second; in the end, all four first-years make it onto Karasuno’s boys’ volleyball team.

Over the course of the series, we get to know some of the other players on Karasuno’s team: Koshi Sugawara, Asahi Azumane, Ryunosuke Tanaka, and Yu Nishinoya.

As the series progresses, Karasuno finds themselves in a practice match against Aoba Josai High School, one of the top four teams in the prefecture. It turns out that several of Kageyama’s former junior high teammates are on that team and that they want to play against “The King.” It surprises everyone when Karasuno is ultimately able to beat Aoba Johsai.

After going through a training camp, Karasuno has a practice match against Nekoma; in the end, Karasuno falls a little short. But in the process, the two schools reform a rivalry that used to exist between the two schools.

The remainder of the series focuses on Karasuno’s team participating in the Inter-High matches.

After watching the first episode of Haikyu!!, I thought that the series seemed to be following many of the tropes associated with sports anime. However, the main character of Shoyo, along with his backstory, were intriguing enough that it didn’t feel like “just another sports anime” by the end of the episode.

By the end of Episode Three, I found that Haikyu!! was keeping my interest, even though I’m not a fan of volleyball. At that point, I was already looking forward to seeing what was going to happen in the series as it progressed.

The two practice matches that appeared during the series helped me to get a better understanding of how to play volleyball, and the matches themselves were exciting to watch. These matches also helped to set the stage for the Inter-High tournaments.

When the series hit the Inter-High tournaments, the story was done in such a way that these matches were even more exciting than the practice matches had been. When Karasuno went up against Date Kogyo, I was very impressed by how well Karasuno was able to hold up against them.

But much of the Inter-High focused on the hard-fought match between Karasuno and Aoba Johsai. It was so hard-fought that it extended into a third set. I had anticipated which team would ultimately win the third set, but I still found myself feeling a little disappointed and off-guard when that team actually won. I knew in my heart of hearts that this is how this would have to play out, but the match had been so intense during the episode that I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for the underdog team. While the underdog team takes the loss hard, I think they also learn a lesson in humility as well.

When I first started watching Haikyu!! 25 weeks ago, I never would have imagined enjoying a sports anime about boys’ volleyball as much as I’ve come to enjoy this series. While Haikyu!! may employ a lot of tropes that are associated with shonen series, the characters are engaging enough and interesting enough that the viewer doesn’t necessarily notice the tropes being used.

Haikyu!! is a series that I would definitely want to watch again at some point, and would also add to my anime home video collection at such a time as it’s released on home video in North America. I’m also rooting for Haikyu!! to get a second season, especially since the end of Episode 25 seems to be setting the foundation for another season.

I would highly recommend Haikyu!! to anime viewers who enjoy watching sports anime.

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