We have watched for you the first season of Haikyuu !!, a sports anime based on the manga of the same name by the master Haruichi.
When the spokon genre comes into play, of course, the hearts of manga and sports enthusiasts jump strongly. Since the days of Captain Tsubasa, the sport-manga (and anime) duo has been able to give great emotions, growing over the years thanks to industry pillars such as Rocky Joe, Tommy – the star of the Giants, Hajime no Ippo and Slam Dunk. The latter, in particular, has ended up influencing a lot the work that we will discuss here, which has become in a very short time one of the most popular and renowned in the field of manga and sports anime. Let’s talk about Haikyu !! – the ace of Volleyball, manga by the master Haruichi Furudate, serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine since 2014 and from which three animated series have been drawn, all by the studio Production I.G. Coinciding with the arrival of the first two seasons on the well-known streaming platform Netflix, we have watched the first of them for you, thus putting on a volleyball uniform for the first time and running to crush with all our strength against the gigantic wall of sleepless nights. The result? Incredibly positive! But let’s go in order.
The “little giant”
Haikyu’s “main” story !! revolves around the protagonist Shoyo Hinata, a young middle school student who grew up with an overwhelming passion for volleyball, but not shared by most of his peers. During the three years of middle school Shoyo even struggled to build a complete team to be able to play real matches, since in his school the boys prefer to devote themselves to different disciplines. Only on the threshold of the transition to high school the little red-haired tightrope walker (despite his great dedication to volleyball the boy is only 1.62 tall) will be able to play a real match.
The outcome of the clash against the renowned Kitagawa Daichii middle school, headed by one of the greatest talents in the country, Tobio Kageyama, is somewhat obvious: Hinata’s team is soundly swept away, but the boy becomes the protagonist of an impressive performance, both for the talent shown and, above all, for the big heart, vigorously flaunted to all present. During the match, the two stars of the teams on the field end up creating the usual rivalry-friendship typical of the genre, also characterized by the classic disparity in terms of talent between the two: Tobio is a real genius, while our Shoyo appears clearly more limited, but not for this reason is willing to give way.
Their challenge ends abruptly with the start of high school. Course in the gym to feel firsthand what he will experience in the next three years, Shoyo runs into Kageyama, who has chosen the same high school, Karasuno High – albeit with very different reasons – thus becoming two future teammates. From then on, the plot will open – sometimes too stereotyped – to the slow and progressive introduction of new characters, teammates with the most hidden talents and fearsome rivals from the crystalline class, all characterized by a single dream: reach the national championships!
A close-knit team
Derivative or not, the story told by Haikyu !! convinces and thrills. This is certainly also thanks to the excellent work done in the character design phase, one of the main strengths of the entire production. Beyond Shoyo and Kageyama, Karasuno high school can boast a respectable team, led by the excellent Daichi Sawamura, a real leader on and off the pitch. The boy, now in his third year and nearing the end of his high school studies, would like to try with all his might for the last time access to the national championships, and for this reason he immediately blesses the arrival of the two great talents, forced but to work a lot on their problematic (at least in the first few bars) understood.
In addition to the captain, two other third year students are part of the club: Koshi Sugawara and Asahi Azumane. The latter, in particular, is one of the most crystalline talents of the team, and great importance is given – in the very first episodes – to his “rehabilitation”. After a long series of mistakes, the boy has lost the desire to play, and it will be Hinata and Kageyama to convince him to return to the gym. Sugawara will also always be fundamental for the team: although he is not as good as the others, the young man will be a real glue for the whole team, thus making him a precious and irreplaceable element. To compose the parterre of the “terrible” of the second year there are a series of very interesting supporting actors, who contribute to embellishing the imagination and the writing of the anime.
To tell the truth, including the young coach Ukkei and the beautiful manager Kiyoko Shimizur, the various members of the team all suffer from the same “evil”, that is to say a feeling of deja-vu and a taste of already seen and felt quite strong. We are certainly not talking about an aesthetic or visual discourse, but more a narrative one and, above all, in everyday attitudes. Overall, however, becoming attached to such a rich cast will not be difficult: after a few episodes. you will all be shouting in chorus “Karasuno Fight!”.
Narration and action: the inevitable tip of the balance
What Haikyu has in common !! with Slam Dunk, the work of the master Inoue from whom Haruichi seems to have been inspired a lot, it is certainly the choice to ponder the “sporting” and therefore action part, leaving more space for the narrative and if we want formative part. Consequently, it is very easy to come across episodes in which the dynamic component is missing, in favor of a slower pace in which the characters indulge in long reflections. Monologues, dialogues, quarrels, misunderstandings and clarifications: Haikyuu !! he dwells a lot on the importance of the motivations and dreams that give birth to the whole narrative plot, without ever being approximate, from this point of view.
The result, however, also leads to negative consequences: some moments appear a bit “dead” and this, perhaps, is also due to the absence of a strong and precise antagonist. During the first twenty-five episodes of the anime, which practically act as an appetizer to what will be the continuation of the story, the Karasuno will take on a few thick rivals.
Loyalty and quality
Haikyuu’s animated transposition !! curated by Production I.G. result of the highest level. The animated adaptation follows in a very faithful way the excellent style with which the various characters are modeled, and manages to beautifully convey the same sensations that you feel while browsing the pages of the manga.
Both on a narrative level – the anime always follows the manga almost completely faithfully – and on a visual level, the work done by the production studio has left us very satisfied, in particular with regard to more “technical” discourses, such as the quality of the animations, the very realistic rendering of the movements of the game ball and a great attention to the smallest details, such as sweat, tears, and so on. A respectable result, therefore, capable of enormously increasing the overall quality of a top-class show.