In some way or another, we can all relate to the feeling of wanting to win, to the insatiable desire to prove ourselves worthy and lay claim to victory. That feeling of victory is all the main character of Haikyuu, Shoyo Hinata, wants. Hinata was blinded by a volleyball match he watched in middle school, and its star player, nicknamed the Little Giant. This one moment spurred him into the sport and started a journey of hard work coupled with a desire to play the game. Despite his hard work, Hinata was only ever able to play one official match in middle school. This one match gave him a lot: the taste of defeat and, more importantly, the desire to win, to stay on the court, and keep playing. Upon graduating Hinata decided to go to the high school of his idol and that’s where our story really begins, at Karasuno High School.
Hinata is by all means an unusual candidate for the sport of Volleyball. At 5’4”, he is the almost the shortest member of the team, only being beaten out by the libero Yū Nishinoya who is 5’2.6”. There is only one truly remarkable thing about Hinata at the beginning of the series, his ability to jump. Hinata’s jump is impressive and gives him the edge he needs to compete in a sport dominated by those taller than him. But Hinata’s time to shine doesn’t just come with the advent of his jumping ability, no, it comes when a genius volleyball player also ends up at Karasuno.
Known as The King of the Court, Tobio Kageyama doesn’t get along well with others. During middle school he was shunned by his team for erratic behavior and his domineering personality. After failing to get in another school (one much better known for their volleyball team), Kageyama comes to Karasuno in the hopes of training under a famous coach. Unfortunately the coach gets sick and is unable to come to Karasuno. Now these two are put together by fate and it appears that they’ll need to work together in order to succeed.
The story of Haikyuu!! is one that is as old as time; a group of dedicated students want to win. This is the same general plot you will find in all sports based anime. Volleyball is the name of the game this time and the school of Karasuno is our setting. Karasuno is a school who was once well known for their volleyball team but hasn’t done well in a long time. With the deadly combination of the setter Kageyama and Hinata’s jumping ability the two are sure to bring the team back to greatness.
Hinata and Kageyama are just two members of this shows large cast. The captain of the volleyball club is Daichi Sawamura, a dependable but tough leader. Our vice-captain is Kōshi Sugawara the previous setter for the volleyball club, he is displaced when Kageyama joins the team. To round out our third years is the ace, Asahi Azumane, a shy and easily shaken boy. The second years include Ryūnosuke Tanaka, a loud and ridiculous member, Yū Nishinoya the previously mentioned shortest member and libero of the team, as well as a few other students who we don’t really see. Besides Hinata and Kageyama there are two other first years; Kei Tsukishima, a rather rude boy who doesn’t get along with Kageyama and his friend, Tadashi Yamaguchi who isn’t a regular but tries his hardest to get better at volleyball. You will also see Kiyoko Shimizu, the manager, Ittetsu Takeda, the faculty advisor, and Keishin Ukai, an alumnus of the Karasuno volleyball team and current coach.
Realize that this story will start off slow. You will not enter the Inter-High tournament until episode 14 but trust me the wait is worth it. Some sports anime will show an underdog team who wins more than they lose but this isn’t true of Haikyuu!!. They go through match after match trying to perfect their playing, losing more times than not, and winning only thanks to Hinata’s crazy ability to do quicks with Kageyama. Fear not though, the Hinata/Kageyama duo does not win every game for Karasuno. When Karasuno wins a game you know that it is through hard work and determination. This motto of hard work is really the central theme of the show, that hard work and experience will allow you to win.
Still, Haikyuu!! is at its best when we are watching the characters grow. Throughout the first half of the series that is the true focus. Winning takes a back seat to creating a real team that will be able to stand up to the challenges that come with competing in tournaments. We watch Kageyama attempt, several times, to come out of his shell and start to rely on his teammates. Asahi has to overcome his own anxiety caused by a defeat in a previous match. Yamaguchi tries to find his own way to support the team. Sugawara has to come to terms with no longer being the regular setter for the team. All of these little moments really add up as we watch the team try to win and compete.
The characters aren’t the only great thing about Haikyuu!! as the art and sound are also on par. Each character has their own look to them, you certainly won’t find yourself confusing them. The art itself offers each one a unique eye shape, which is something that really impressed me. Intense moments during a match are always beautifully handled. Each jump, spike, and hit are gorgeously animated and are definitely the best moments of the show. The soundtrack is a homey country style that really blends nicely with the feeling of the show and the laid back nature of a lot of the characters. There are two opening themes as well as two endings all of which are enjoyable. Each one adds a good feeling to the show and provides a nice beginning and end to the episode, nothing feels out of place. Overall the soundtrack is a definite plus to the show.
By and large Haikyuu!! is a fantastic show. The easy to follow plot and well developed cast of characters make the show a fun one to watch. Be aware that this show will be getting a second season so if you feel some characters don’t get enough attention, it’s probably because their time to shine just hasn’t come up yet. Even acknowledging that I feel that Haikyuu!! is a really enjoyable watch that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys shows based around the characters. Haikyuu!! may be a sports anime but it definitely has its merits beyond that classification.