Haikyu!! is a great down to earth anime about a highschool boys volleyball team. From the get go we are introduced to a young and spirited Hinata Shouyo catching a glimpse of Karasuno Highschool’s Volleyball team at the interhigh championships. This inspires him to play volleyball, and after a dismal middle school attempt, they are absolutely defeated at their first tournament which isn’t surprising with the makeshift team Hinata dragged together.
On the opposite team there was a fierce and experienced player with the position of Setter, who shouts orders and berates his team mates when they miss a toss or just don’t try hard enough. He is Kageyama Tobio (The King of the Court), and Hinata decides that he will challenge Kageyama again and win in against him in high school. When Hinata finally joins Karasuno High’s Volleyball club, he hits a massive wall in the form of Kageyama (his arch enemy) standing in the gym!! Kageyama in in fact an exceptionally advanced player and he soon catches on to Hinata’s raw agility and natural talent to evolve, but it takes a while as they are so reluctant to work together as Hinata is infuriatingly inexperienced in Kageyama’s eyes. This awful personality trait has caused issues with past teams, and they slowly reveal the path that bought him to Karasuno.
The team starts out incomplete and compromised of two other first years Tsukishima and Yamaguchi, along with Tanaka a second year with an interesting attitude. Apart from Tsukishima and Yamaguchi, pretty much none of the first years get along. The 3rd year seniors Sugawara and Daichi carry the team as they are incredibly stable and level headed and the other team members aren’t revealed much as they are not in the starting lineup. It’s several episodes before we are introduced to another Second Year Nishinoya, and the Ace of the team Asahi also returns, despite his huge size and adult appearance he is quite mild mannered and timid. They gain Coach Ukai who’s experience helps give them direction and focus. This opens up a whole new level of plays, and gives them a fully functioning team (although rough around the edges), which we get a glimpse of in the last few episodes.
The characters are actually very relateable and down to earth, unlike other series like Eyeshield 21 where every second person is over the top and bizarre, Haikyu!! focuses on the characters as real people, with very small advantages to make them unique and formidable while on the court. Their Manager Kiyoko is also a Third Year, and has been with them for a while now so most of the second and third years are familiar (or a little too much) with her. Not much is revealed about her, so I am interested in continuing the series as she is quite interesting.
The characters grow emotionally and in their performance, and not just Hinata, Kageyama and the other first years, but the seniors and second years too all have close attention paid to their personalities and emotions. Hinata’s first panicked practice match brings out the best in the team as they back him up as a whole. Suguwara faces being replaced by the prodigy Kageyama as the leading Setter position and you can just feel his frustration at this. Asahi and Nishinoya also have a bit of strained history together, and they overcome their fears and regrets through Volleyball and the bonds they created and wish to continue.
They do brief explanations on player positions and formations but not long enough that you get bored of it, and it is simply explained to anyone can understand. The opening theme (by SPYAIR) has already made it’s way onto my ipod, and the ending theme (by Nico Touches the Wall) is also floating around on there too. Guaranteed you have heard them before as they have multiple hits on anime shows like Naruto, Bleach, Gintama, Fullmetal Alchemist and Heroic Legend of Arslan. The animation is quite clean throughout, and the action is really smoothly done so there are not too many “low quality” moments. The animation style mimics the original manga, but not exactly so it has a fresh look if you have hit the books previously.
Set 1 covers the first 12 episodes split between two DVD’s. There is no English, just Japanese subtitles and the second DVD has some nice extras like textless opening and closings as well as some Madman series trailers.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.