I like volleyball. I enjoy playing it for recreation. I especially like it because my height can make up for something aside from my lack of skill. But this series revolves around competitive volleyball. And while I am somewhat versed with the basic rules of the game (unlike other sports out there), playing on a competitive level is new to me. But of course, this show does incorporate some of the other things I value beyond just the game, and for the most part stays faithful to the technical aspects of the sport. Long story short, I thoroughly enjoyed this anime, and I am very much looking forward to the second season, coming this Fall.
But until then, it’s time to get pumped and spike a few, as I serve another review to your court!
Haikyuu!! focuses on Karasuno High School’s boys volleyball team on their way to make it to Nationals, after several years of being relative unknowns. More specifically, it’s about the rivalry drama between Shouyou Hinata and Tobio Kageyama who had been on opposing teams in middle school, but now have to face a new challenge: being on the same team!
On the surface, it’s about an underdog team making its way through the challenge of a standard volleyball tournament. But deeper than that, it’s a series about what’s at the heart of volleyball and to the people who play it. Volleyball, like many other sports, is competitive, but it is also cooperative. So working together is a must if you want a successful team.
Karasuno’s first-years don’t seem to get that yet. Kageyama (I am using his surname because the team calls each other by their surnames, which is standard in Japanese culture) is known to others as the “King of the Court,” something that once made Hinata jealous. But what started out as an intimidating nickname actually stemmed from Kageyama’s poor reputation of making high demands for his teammates, despite being his middle school team’s server. Competitive sports often have a lot of ego involved, especially when it comes to those holding very important positions on the team.
But when it comes to volleyball, one of the things Karasuno’s team values most is not the importance of a single player or position. Rather, the most important thing to remember is that every position matters, and every player matters.
No one can doubt how important Nishinoya is to the team. As a libero, he switches out with one of the players throughout the game to save balls whenever the opposing team spikes the ball into their court. But while his position is crucial to volleyball’s most important rule (that is, don’t let the ball touch the ground), everyone from the wing spikers, the middle blockers, and the servers make up the entire team. Nishinoya had to learn how to work as a team just as Hinata and Kageyama had to learn; and they will.
Yes, the guys of Karasuno work together as they should, whether it is through personal rivalries or by having a good time.
But as the team continues to play against other teams, even a well-rounded team isn’t good enough to win against the toughest of opponents.
One thing that I think makes Haikyuu!! somewhat unique is how much solidarity happens between opposing teams. I realize that other sports anime have a tendency to make us feel for even the directly opposing team, but Haikyuu!! takes it a step further, by reflecting on teams we never even get a chance to see play.
We know very little of Karasuno High’s girls volleyball team, other than we know that they lost in the first round (uhm SPOILERS); and yet, their experience is exactly the kind of experience so many other teams had on that first day of the tournament. To drive this point across of how easy it is to get your hopes up so easily in a competitive sport, the series runs through a montage of players we never got a chance to know, crying over that first loss. We love cheering for our team, but how often do we stop and think that so many others at the same time are losing, just as our winners could have?
True, volleyball is a competitive sport like many others, and like most sports, the majority of those who play it in high school will never move on to become pros. But for Karasuno’s seniors, volleyball has become something more than just a way to pass the time, regardless of when they aim to be the best.
Ultimately, what guys like Sugawara learn from volleyball is more than just being the best at playing the sport. It’s that sense of brotherhood and working as a unit to achieve a common goal that’s most important to them. Very few academic activities will teach that to students, if at all. It may not be the skill necessary for getting into the right university, but it is an invaluable skill that is necessary throughout anyone’s life. And it is best cultivated in one’s early years into adulthood.
Suga appreciates that he will be leaving the volleyball team after he graduates in the coming months, but he doesn’t just roll over and become a mentor just like that. In fact, all of the third-years have a strong kinship for the team in hopes that someday they might reach the top together. That bond was made through volleyball, and it will go beyond volleyball as they continue to move forward.
But Haikyuu!! isn’t all serious as I just make it sound. Sure, it’s got a lot of heart, and we feel terrible knowing that Karasuno could have done better at certain points. But there are plenty of points that were funny moments of relief.
And in case you were wondering where all the girls are in this series, not to worry. I haven’t forgotten about the one that matters the most to the team. And that is, the Karasuno boys’ volley team manager, Kyoko Shimizu! The guys all love her so much, and that’s okay. She’ll find ways to dodge them, figuratively and literally!
So if you like volleyball, or you like to watch a good story about sports with a lot of heart and building a team, watch Haikyuu!! And like I said, look forward to its second season, coming this Fall!