“Talent is something you make bloom, instinct is something you polish!”
(Keep in mind, light spoiler warning is in effect)
Since a young age, I’ve been a very big fan of volleyball. I’ve never really gotten into watching the sport that much, but it was always one of my favorite sports to play whenever the volleyball unit would come around for P.E. class in high school. It’s a sport that I’ve grown to adore and as such, I was naturally interested and somewhat drawn to Haikyuu!!. I had initially started it with the /r/anime re-watch before Season 3 aired, but I fell behind and it ended up falling to the wayside until I recently binged through it with a friend. To say I was utterly blown away and impressed would be a colossal understatement. There are few anime I can say have captured me as much as Haikyuu!! and kept me as gripped for a decently long stretch of episodes, with the three seasons combining for 60 episodes. The anime has begun to charge its way into my favorite anime of all-time and everything about it has left a serious impact on me that I can only begin to capture within the confines of a review.
For reasons we’ll get into shortly, I felt it necessary to separate the “Story” and “Characters” into two seperate segments. The story revolves around the members of the volleyball team at Karasuno High School and their journey of growth as players and as people. Karasuno, once a powerhouse school within the Miyagi Prefectural District, has since fallen from grace and failed to make Nationals in recent years, leading people to refer to the team as the “clipped crows”. Enter Hinata Shouyou, a young boy who is significantly shorter than the average volleyball player. Since he first started playing volleyball, Hinata has admired and revered a short player like himself who once played for Karasuno, the “Little Giant”. Like Hinata, the Little Giant was known for his speed and jumping abilities, allowing him to contend with players much larger than himself. Meanwhile, another young middle-school prodigy, Tobio Kageyama, has made a name for himself as the “King of the Court”, not for his play but for his standoffish and pompous attitude towards his team.
The story of Haikyuu!! is simple enough and not terribly uncommon for the sports anime genre: An upstart, underdog team trying to get better and go to the national tournament. It’s a tried and true storyline that is a staple of the genre and Haikyuu!! executes it with aplomb. Through the development and growth of the characters themselves, the team itself begins to shape itself around its players and develop new, unconventional strategies, growing as a whole. Every big payoff within Haikyuu!! felt satisfying because of the work done within the show’s execution to build the groundwork and framework for each storyline, making resolutions feel satisfying and worth the amount of build-up they were given. As strong as the story is, it’s made stronger by arguably the best element of Haikyuu!!…
To say I fell in love with the cast of Haikyuu!! barely begins to capture how much I adored the admittedly large cast. Each member of Karasuno was given their own storyline and growth arc over the course of the series, with each being resolved in different ways. From the starters to the substitutes, even the coaches and the opposing teams received their own backstories and growth as characters within the show. Haikyuu!! showed an incredible attention to detail with its character development as each member of both the main cast and opposing teams were given relatable backstories that tugged at the heartstrings in many cases. It was this eye for character development and growth that makes the entire cast as a whole of Haikyuu!! so excellently done that I don’t even know where to begin discussing different members of the cast. As I’ve already done a discussion piece on the show’s use of ambition in the past, I would highly recommend you check out my previous piece: “Ambition and Karasuno High School” for a more in-depth look at what I adore about the themes the characters present.
To spare myself from having to discuss each character I loved and why I loved them, from Tsukishima to Oikawa to Lev, I’d like to just discuss how well the characters outside the main Karasuno cast were developed. Whereas they could have been generic opposing characters to not detract from the major story arc of Karasuno, both sides of the court were given their own spotlight and time to shine. During matches, you would get glimpses into the past of several players on the opposing team, like the development of Satori and Ushijima given during the third season. The training camps would give a look into the lives and personalities of the players from teams within the Tokyo District, like Fukurodani’s Bokuto and Nekoma’s Kenma. There is such a wide cast of characters featured and each of them feel like they get their own time to shine. There is so much more I could say about my personal favorite arcs within the show, like Tsukishima’s initial indifference about volleyball and Yamaguchi’s lack of confidence and both of their growths therein. There are so many more amazing story arcs than I could concisely cover that I may do future write-ups about certain characters I grew to love.
Animation and Sound
Animation for Haikyuu!! was done by the acclaimed studio “Production I.G.” and it shows immediately. The animation within Haikyuu!! is crisp and beautiful, making for many amazing “sakuga” moments. The movements within matches are smooth and crisp, bringing an amazing realism to the movements of the characters. The backdrops and use of colors is absolutely amazing throughout and it makes the show extremely interesting to watch. While staying in a realistic style for the art of the anime, each character design is different enough and unique from one another to stand out in their own right. Some sets of frames are seemingly re-used for certain moments throughout the series, but the action is intense enough that I didn’t really find myself minding that much.
Now, I’ll make a bit of a confession: I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the Haikyuu!! soundtrack. There are a plethora of fantastic tracks, especially with the match tracks being some of the best “battle music” I think I’ve ever heard. There are so many amazing tracks that do an amazing job to get the listener/viewer pumped up, like the often-used Breakthrough and A Black Team. The use of both piano and slapped bass throughout both of these tracks is absolutely breathtaking and it takes the tracks beyond amazing for the show and making them spectacular in their own rights. Tracks like Above, Direct Confrontation, and Battle of Concepts accompany some of the series’ most iconic moments and they are the kind of standout track that will go down as some of my favorite soundtrack pieces and songs of all-time. Each of the show’s OPs and EDs are amazing in their own right, making it tough for me to really even choose a favorite for either. You owe it to yourself to check them out for yourself as I wouldn’t want to leave out any of these fantastic pieces.
As if it’s not what I’ve been doing this entire time, I’m just going to take this segment to gush a bit about how much I adore Haikyuu!! Coming in, I had expected to like the show based on my enjoyment of volleyball and I figured it would be a fun ride. I had never expected to get out of this show what I did. There was a whole plethora of amazing, deep, and well-written characters with extremely interesting backstories that tugged at the heartstrings and I was able to relate with on a personal level. There was just so much that I felt this show did right that I feel like I can’t help but keep moving it further and further up my list of favorite anime. It’s rare that a show has this kind of impact on me and I’ve barely been able to listen to anything but soundtrack pieces from the show for the last week. In my favorite anime ranking, I referred to Higurashi as one of the most gripping shows I have ever watched. Haikyuu!! has easily joined the ranks of that show and I almost want to start rewatching it right now, after only having finished it recently. Each moment of tension was executed fantastically and for sure, the final rallies from both the Aoba Jousai match during Season 2 and the Shiratorizawa match will go down as two of my absolute favorite scenes from anime. Each of these were the pinnacle of everything the show had done before and will leave a lasting impact on me.
To re-iterate, I firmly believe that Haikyuu!! is one of the best anime I have ever watched. The story is gripping, the characters are masterfully created and fleshed out, and the audiovisual aspects of the show are jaw-dropping and worth being praised. When a show is able to come along and grip me so wholly like Haikyuu!! has done, it is definitely something I consider very special and have no regrets moving up my list. Along with the soundtrack I mentioned listening to, I’ve already begun planning to dive into the show’s merchandise and hopefully pick up the manga where the show leaves off. Haikyuu!! is a masterpiece in my opinion from every angle and it has definitely left a strong impact on me as a viewer and a fan of the medium.
Story: 9/10, It’s nothing groundbreaking in terms of sports anime, but Haikyuu!! manages to masterfully execute a genre staple
Characters: 10/10, the characters were the strongest aspect of an exceedingly strong show. Hinata has grown to be considered one of my favorite characters in anime.
Animation: 9/10, beautiful animation that is visually spectacular with only a few spectacular scenes being re-used
Sound: 10/10, the soundtrack has become my staple casual listening the past week or two and will continue to be
Enjoyment: 12/10, I don’t even care about going over 10, that’s how much I absolutely adored Haikyuu!!
Taku Recommends: Absolutely watch it, I can’t stress enough how much I think everyone should watch this show.