Well, I figured that since my profile’s current header image is of Haikyuu!!, then I should probably write a review and express my thoughts on it. If it’s not evident to everyone yet, the first season is one of my all-time favorite anime (I won’t be talking about the other seasons in this post; if needed, I’ll review them separately later on). So, as usual for my reviews, this will be quite biased. Does that bother me? Not even a little bit. So, here we go!
*Warning: This may contain minor spoilers*
Synopsis: I can literally sum this up in one simple sentence. Haikyuu!! is about a boy named Hinata Shouyo who wants to become the ace of his high school’s volleyball team. That’s it; not that difficult to understand, eh?
Story/Plot: So, for those who are familiar with sports anime/manga, then the plot for this one is pretty much just a copy and paste form of almost every other one.
When it comes to this particular story, we start off by seeing a young Hinata riding his bike to grade school. He stops outside of a local shop and becomes fascinated by what he sees on a television set in the window of that store: a high school volleyball championship match, where the ace of one of the teams is nicknamed “The Little Giant” for being able to jump higher than anyone else on the court regardless of being the shortest one. This sparks something in Hinata, who greatly lacks height himself. Fast-forward to his last year in middle school. He’s at his very first volleyball match with a team he desperately scrapped together with two close friends and a few first-years. This is where he meets his eventual, future rival and teammate, Kageyama Tobio. Fast-forward once more and you see Hinata enter the very same high school as “The Little Giant” and we follow him along his journey of trying to become Karasuno’s next ace alongside his new teammates and friends.
One of the best parts about this story is that, like every sports anime/manga, it has its fair share of drama and tension between characters, but it’s not too much. There are some shows, and there are actually some currently airing this season, that are ALL drama and no sport. For a sports lover like myself, that gets old fast. If I wanted a drama-filled show, I would just watch a sappy shoujo romance or something (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Haikyuu!! knows how to balance its drama with perfectly executed comedy. The comedy never felt forced or out of place. I cannot express to everyone how many times this season alone made me burst out laughing, even after re-watching it several times.
One of the rare ‘flaws’ that I encountered while watching the show, and it’s not so much story-wise as it is more choice of animation, was the fact that the characters would phase through the net. I understand why it’s something that occasionally happens in the manga, but I saw no point in that happening for the anime. It just looked goofy and kind of took your attention away from the story and characters, even if only for a few seconds. I mean, like most things, I eventually got used to it, but I just feel like it was an unnecessary element to have to get used to, you know?
The Japanese voice acting is phenomenal. Each voice actor/actress perfectly executed the right pitch/tone to match their respective character. I’ve watched (and still do) plenty of dubbed shows and bear absolutely no hate towards them, nor towards the people that prefer them over subbed, but I can never see myself switching over for this show. The characters just wouldn’t be the same without their Japanese counterparts, at least for me. Plus, I doubt that some of the hilarious jokes would transfer over very well.
I must say, both of the opening theme songs were oh, so good. I actually put them on every once in a while if I want to feel ‘hyped up’ about anything, or if I just want to listen to a good song. I’m not the biggest ending song person when it comes to anime, but I absolutely fell in love with the first one. The others were fine, but for some reason, I have a hard time enjoying them as much as I do with openings.
Characters: Being the character freak that I am, this show was absolutely perfect in every way for me. Why? Because the relationships between characters is the biggest appeal of this story. Of course, not everyone gets along in the beginning. After all, what fun would that be? And that doesn’t mean that they all start loving one another and skipping down the road together while holding hands all the way to school and club activities every day. No. Some become friends, while others learn to just tolerate one another (especially if they’re on the same side of the court).
I spoke about relationships, but I didn’t mean that in a romantic sense. I’m talking about how they bounce off of one another and make up for the other’s weaknesses, whether they mean to do so or not. So, what I’m essentially getting at is that almost every single character seems to be a foil for another one. Examples:
Kageyama –> Hinata Nishinoya –> Asahi Daichi –> Sugawaru
Kenma –> Kuroo Ooikawa –> Iwaizumi Tsukishima –> Yamaguchi
The list can go on and on, but it’s really not difficult to see why so many people ‘ship’ these characters together; they just blend so well with one another. I’m not into this whole ‘shipping’ thing that such a vast percentage of the anime/manga community tend to partake in, but a little piece of me deep, deep inside really wanted to try it out with these characters as I watched it (I ended up not doing it, though). They work that well with one another.
There’s one aspect of the characters in this story that I absolutely love yet loathe at the same time, and I’m sure anyone who has watched/read Haikyuu!! will agree with me. The rivals. The opposing school teams. Normally, as the audience, we’re supposed to side with the ‘main team’ and cheer them on and wish loss and defeat for their opponents. But not in this story. I loved to hate that the entire season. I’m not lying when I say that I found myself racking my brain, especially throughout the second half of the 25 episode first season, trying to figure out who I should be rooting for. I mean, I HAVE to cheer for Hinata and his Karasuno teammates, right? But, but… Aone and his Dateko teammates deserve to win, too… Plus, their cheer is hands-down the catchiest of all of them (“Go, go, let’s go, let’s go, Dateko!”) Here’s the chant if you’re curious (*Warning: It’s ridiculously catchy*). So, because of not knowing who to root for, I just ended up falling in love with so many characters. A majority of the rivals/opponents were all strong, hard-working, and charming in their own unique ways. It’s honestly difficult not to like at least one character that’s not on the main team.
Favorite Character: Okay, so this one is tricky for me to answer. During my very first ‘watch-through’ of the show, I fell in love with Nishinoya. He was my absolute favorite and no one could change my mind. I think Daichi was in second. Months later, I decided to re-watch it and that was still holding true, with the exception of Kenma and Kuroo inching closer towards the top. Well, all of that got blown out of the water as soon as I started to read the manga. Only God knows why the heck just reading it changed my mind so fast and solidified my answer, but my favorite in Haikyuu!! (season 1 and on) is Kageyama. I still adore Nishinoya, but Kageyama is exactly the type of arrogant person that I love: He knows he’s talented and isn’t afraid to tell people that he is, but he also knows his limits and strives to better himself regardless, acknowledging those he considers to be superior to him. His character development is astounding, as well. He starts off as being regarded as a “tyrant” and “King of the Court,” meaning that he’d rather play all of the positions by himself, which he legitimately says to Hinata once. Later on, he actually begins to trust his teammates and depend on them, and although he’s still the king of the court, it has an entirely different meaning for him and those around him. Plus, his short temper and random outbursts always had me in stitches. OH! And him trying to say “Nice” to Tsukishima: Priceless.
Overall Score: Would I recommend this? I legitimately do every chance that I get. Even for people who aren’t particularly a fan of sports would enjoy the comedy and the bond that everyone shares. For those that do enjoy sports, well, there’s plenty of intense volleyball action that gets the blood pumping, that’s for sure. I would even recommend this to non-anime watchers, that’s how much I love it. But that could just be my biased half talking! So, all in all, I shall give this first season a 10/10, an A+.