Haikyuu!! is an anime series about a high school volleyball team. It’s a sports anime with a cast of interesting characters who bring a sport I don’t generally care about to life in an interesting way. Let’s delve a little deeper.
The series begins with an episode following our two leads (Tobio Kageyama and Shōyō Hinata) in a middle school volleyball match during their last year of middle school (see my discussion on the episode and faithful encouragement here). Flash to the end of the episode and they’re in high school, at the same school, trying out to be on the same team. The episodes then follow them joining the team as well as the fall volleyball season. What it turns out is that these two former middle school rivals can work together as setter and spiker in a manner few others can and so, these first year high school students end up as starters. We watch the highs and lows of this fall season as the former high profile school, recently on a losing streak, is trying to come back to glory with a new coach and new players.
What makes the show about a sport I generally don’t care about compelling is the characters. You genuinely are interested in the entire group of players. Hinata is the short guy with a huge personality that loves volleyball with every fiber of his being, and can jump like no other. Kageyama is one of the most gifted players on the court, but has a hard time playing well with others and being a team player. Tanaka is a goofy teenager who is arrogant, but loves building up his teammates. Daichi is a born leader and is able to maintain a straight face, solid disposition in the face of severe and intense opposition. In the end, you find yourself interested in all the characters as they focus from player to player, focus on their skills, focus on their interactions, and focus on the game.
What also makes the characters interesting is that each of one of them grows throughout the series. Kageyama’s growth in terms of his willingness to listen and work with others is great to see on the court. Hinata’s realization of his own limitations and what he needs to learn to continue improving is great to watch. Each character in the main cast grows personally as the show progresses. While they are still the same people, they each show their humanity and openness to change as the show moves forward. None of them want to remain stagnant. Each of them want to hone and improve their skills, so they press onward.
Seeing them unite as a team from being a collection of individuals some of whom have no respect for the others is entertaining and interesting to watch. In the end, this series was outside of my usual comfort zone of anime to watch. But, I’m glad I did. What was also surprisingly fun for me was watching the matches. Actually seeing the players on the spot interact, on the spot react, and strive for their best was great. And, I found myself watching a sport I do not normally find interesting intently as I cared about the characters and whether they won! While at times the drama is over the top – you always need to remember, they’re high school students. In high school, all drama is over the top.
I’ve enjoyed Season 1 and look forward to continuing following these students through Season 2. Season 2 is currently ongoing and both seasons can be watched for free in the United States at Crunchyroll.