What’s this? An anime based on sport? Wow, what a rare sight. In recent years the only shows I can recall watching, which featured athletes, were Stella Women’s Academy and Bamboo Blade. It’s a real shame that sporting shows rarely get localized, because back during my teens I remember enjoying the escapades of Captain Tsubasa. Said soccer themed anime was a lot of fun, albeit rather unrealistic (players would routinely burst the goal net with their powerful shots and teams played on pitches that seemingly stretched on for miles.) Sport starved anime fans can however rejoice because Animatsu has ended the animated sporting famine with their UK release of Haikyu.
Despite being vertically challenged Shoyo Hinata has always dreamt of playing professional volleyball. Unfortunately for the orange haired midget he didn’t play much of his favourite game during his younger years, as his middle school lacked a volleyball club. He was forced to train on his lonesome and his only taste of competitive play came during a junior high tournament. During said playoffs Hinata’s ragtag group of friends were eliminated in the first round by an exceptional side containing a talented setter nicknamed “King of the Court.” Advance ahead a few years and Hinata enrols at Karasuno High School. His first order of business is signing up for the academy’s volleyball squad, which much to his surprise has just recruited the services of Tobio “The King” Kageyama.
The rival freshmen must now patch up their differences and learn how to work together, in order to make Karasuno High’s starting line-up. Easier said than done though, as the quick to anger Kageyama has little patience for a clumsy teammate who has yet to grasp volleyball’s fundamentals. Through sheer enthusiasm Hinata does however manage to earn Kageyama’s respect. The half-pint’s speed and prowess for high jumping more than make up for his other physical deficiencies. Finally Kageyama has found a partner that is capable of reaching his meticulously placed passes. Thus the Hinata/Kageyama bromance was established. I can hear the shrieks of yaoi fan girls shipping them together already.
My rating for Haikyu (collection one) is five stars. From the offset I found myself invested in plucky Hinata’s underdog tale, which is impressive given that I know next to nothing about volleyball. Thankfully knowledge of the six-a-side game isn’t mandatory to appreciate the show, as Karasuno club advisor Ittetsu Takeda does a fine job of explaining positions and rules to clueless audiences. Collection one’s thirteen episodes deliver an entertaining mix of thrilling matches and the amusing banter one would expect from testosterone fuelled teens who cannot resist ribbing on each other. Most impressive of all is how the script intermingles sports drama with character development. Through vigorous training and exhibition matches Hinata improves as a player whilst Kageyama matures past his prima donna phase.
When I first heard that a volleyball anime was coming to the UK I half expected a show chronicling the adventures of an all female beach volleyball squad. Haikyu thankfully bucks the trend of using eye candy to ensnare male viewers. The cast list only contains one girl of note and she is portrayed in a respectful manner. Gasp, who would have thought that solid storytelling is all you need to keep guys invested in a series? Sadly the same cannot be said for the opposite gender. From what I have read online Haikyu has a fair share of female fans and they no doubt tune in to gaze at sweaty blokes leaping around a court. Really ladies? Can’t you be a bit classier like us chaps? One of the reasons why I sometimes avoid recommending anime to family/friends is because every series on the planet is embarrassingly saturated with shirtless hunks and pretty boys. For shame!