Why You Should Watch/Read Haikyuu!!
Back in 2012, things were certainly looking dire for Boys’ High School Volleyball. The number of students participating in volleyball clubs across the nation had been shrinking. In 2012, the sport lost more than 5% of its remaining players.
But, in 2013, a funny thing happened. For the first time in ages, more players joined the game than graduated from it. The year after that in 2015, the enrollment soared as more boys joined the sport.
Two major events led to these surges in interest. The first occurred on February 20th, 2012, when Haruichi Furudate’s volleyball manga Haikyuu began serialization in shounen jump. The second came on April 6th, 2014, when Production IG and Susumu Mitsunaka’s adaptation of the series began airing on MBS.
Shounen Jump has played home to a lot of popular, successful, and influential franchises in its many years of publication, but few have had a measurable and immediate impact on the world.
In this blog post, I have talked about the face of the sports genre in anime, Haikyuu!!.
The thing I feel Haikyuu does really well compared to other sports anime is that it actually teaches you a lot of things about volleyball. There are lessons embedded everywhere on what constitutes a block, a service ace, and the functions, and positions of each player on the court. It gets more complicated as you learn the technicalities behind the many ways.
Spikers make contact with the ball or how long a pinch server can remain on the court. It is cleverly shown via little cartoon diagrams in the form of a dialogue between characters and through slow-motion replays just like in real sports programs. So it never really feels boring or convoluted.
While volleyball remains at the heart of the series it never eclipses the other more important aspects.
Haikyuu digs into the mechanics and strategy of real-world volleyball. With the same level of detail, other shounen series apply to their crazy magic power systems. It makes for complex believable matches that get more technical as the series progresses.
In the beginning, the matches are fun, simple, and fast, but by the end of the second season, you’ll build up a comprehensive understanding of how the game is played. And what it takes to win.
The anime has a wonderfully endearing cast of characters. One of Haikyuu’s biggest strengths is its character design. No two characters are alike, not in the way they look or even their personalities.
We have clumsy but highly competitive Hinata and the genius Kageyama with Godly skills but suck at making a simple conversation. The goated Azumane Asahi, who looks like a gangster but is actually a big softie.
Within a short span of three seasons, Haikyuu has managed to fully develop the characters. Each with its own distinct quirks, attitudes, ambitions, and motives. This is not just limited to the boys of Karasuno, but the numerous rivals, friends, and mentors they meet along the way.
Many of these characters have their personal connections and equations that have nothing to do with the others or the story’s main plot. But still, add to the viewing experience. Some of them have relevant backstories but those who don’t aren’t away from having a major impact.
Inspiring and Motivating
Haikyuu is entertaing and engaing like many other animes. But, where it differentiates is, it is also inspiring and motivating. That too in a very specific way that makes you get out of bed and go for a run.
Rivalry and Drama
Many great Shounen mangas are built on a great rivalry. When two talented characters are continually driven to surpass one another. It makes for great drama and often gives the story a sense of forward momentum. It forces both of the characters to develop.
Rivalries in an anime are often the relationships in the anime that we remember the most. Haikyuu kicks off by introducing us the to absolute best in anime or manga. On one end of the rivalry, we have our protagonist, Hinata, and the other Kageyama.
Hinata is a loud, spikey, orange variety character, but a good one. Hinata is energetic, impressively cheerful, and naturally athletic. He is also short, so volleyball was just another sport for him. Until one day, by chance, he happened to catch a glimpse of the National Inter High on television. There he saw another shorty, the “Little Giant” of Karasuno High School. The image of Little Giant taking a vertical leap got stuck in Hinata’s mind. He was determined to stand on the same court and dominate wearing the same colors.
In a tournament, Hinata meets the “King of the Court”, Kageyama. Kageyama is a perfectionist, through his game sense and ability to get the ball exactly where it needs to be to score points. The rivals were intimated by his presence.
Hinata declares Kageyama to be his rival and to defeat him in the High school league. But, by chance, they both end up at Karasuno High School. Kageyama and Hinata form a great team which lands both of them in the team of Karasuno.
They both complement each other’s skills and lead Karasuno to various competitions. There they further form a rivalry with different players and the teams. The most highlighted is the “Battle of the Trash heap”. It is the rivalry between Karasuno High and Nekoma High School.
Each team is memorable
Each team is made memorable by giving them a clear unifying theme. Some, like Karasuno’s crow, are patterned after animals, like the cats of Nekoma and the eagles of Shiratorizawa.
Others follow broader concepts, like the Iron Wall of Date Tech, and Aoba Johsai is framed as a Court of Knights supporting their King, Toru Oikawa.
Watching all these characters and teams interact with one another always feels entertaining and fresh.
Build up to the Matches
Haikyuu spends a lot of its time in training arcs and thanks to the strength of these the anime do not feel like a drag. These training arcs are really important because they show all the incredible moves our heroes can pull off on the court as a result of hard work.
It strengthens that success is earned through repeated failure and gradual improvement. And not through the inborn talents that the characters have.
Why You Should Watch/Read Haikyuu!!
It goes for Karasuno’s rivals as well, since they are often shown training together. The training arcs make the thrills in the matches feel accessible. You can feel the way Yamaguchi does when he serves or when Nishinoya pulls off his “Rolling Thunder”. You can feel the way the whole team does when their skills synergize perfectly and the plan comes together.
It makes the game look goddamn intense and beautiful all the time. Haikyuu’s animation is consistently incredible. With a heavily inked art style, the series captures not just how it feels to watch volleyball, but how it feels to play.
The impact of the ball against the flesh, the woosh of a perfect spike as it zips past your ear and slams into the court, the soaring sensation when Hinata takes off from the ground, you feel it all through every frame.
Dynamic cinematography and a rocking background score amplify the excitement. The artists often play up the animalistic elements of their character designs, particularly their eyes. It makes the action feel more raw and primal.
It is best exemplified in the scene where Hinata is made to look like a bird taking flight when he leaps. He has big, glassy eyes that look like they are scanning an open field for prey.
You’ll see a similar style in many shots in the series. Each of those unique teams and each of the distinct players on them have their own aura about them on the court. Their own sense of defense, and their own manner of attacking which reflects in how they animated.
Finding your passion is a phrase that is thrown around a lot. While I feel like it can be overrated. It fits perfectly with the core of what Haikyuu is trying to do. All of these characters have an aligned passion for volleyball.
The collective struggles and triumphs in the sport provide the series nuance. One of the easiest connections comes from how niche the sport is. As you go across the series, you start feeling a bit passionate about volleyball.
Haikyuu focuses on the “defeat” aspect of a match. While many shounen anime show victory being the topmost and the only existent thing. Haikyuu deals with the emotional and mental stress a defeat causes.
You relate to the characters and feel empathetic toward them. Though the victories do not go unnoticed. Combining the love for sports and human emotions together. Haikyuu is certainly one of the best sports anime you can Read/Watch.
You can watch Haikyuu on Crunchyroll and Disney+ and the Manga is available in all the major Bookstores.