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First Impressions: Haikyu!!

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Jump like you mean it

If we were ranking these new shows based on animation quality alone, Haikyu!! would be king of the mountain; out of everything I've seen so far this season, only the first episode Captain Earth has better animation...maybe. Possibly. These volleyball-loving kids spike, set and tumble into the scenery with a real sense of weight and inertia, and even the characters who don't move around much are animated with a lot of care. The character designs aren't quite my cup of tea, but still, everyone's facial expressions are invested with plenty of emotion.

The shows charms aren't strictly limited to its visuals either. While this is a standard sports anime in most regards, with stock character types you've seen before, it kicks off the story from a different angle than I'm used to, and even subverts a cliche or two at the same time. Really, Production I.G. couldn't have done much better with this first episode...but for whatever reason, I just don't feel hooked.

Enter rival

First, let's get this out of the way "Haikyu!! puts the Jump in Shonen Jump!" There, now you can say you heard it at Jtor first.

The premise of this show is that red-haired Hinata loves volleyball, even though he's a bit short. How much does he love volleyball? Imagine how much you love your favorite thing -- be it chocolate fudge cake, walking your golden retriever, or snuggling under a warm blanket with your significant other on a cold night. Well, no matter how much you love that thing, you only love it maybe half as much as Hinata loves spiking volleyballs. Hinata loves spiking volleyballs so much that it arguably crosses the line into mental illness, but hey; to each his own.

In fact, Hinata loves volleyball so much that he doesn't let minor details like "My school doesn't even have a boys volleyball team," get in his way. Eventually, a bunch of friends take pity on him (and it is pity) and join together to form a quasi-team, even though they really can't play, and enter a competition -- only to matched up with the tournament favorites in their first match. Serious-business setter Tobio can't believe his school has to play such a sucky team, but he's in for a surprise from Hinata; his reaction to the spunky spiker oscillates between "I hope you die in a fire" and "WHERE have you been all my life!?" and the classic love/hate rivalry is firmly established without a hitch.

RIVALS pt. 2

Of course, this set-up is filled with common sports anime devices: the underdog hero with a huge heart, the snooty rival, the contrast of playing for the love of the game versus playing for glory, etc. But it's not completely rote; for one thing, I appreciated the fact that the old "Just try hard enough and you can win at everything!" trope was trashed pretty much immediately. Plus, Hinata and Tobio's relationship seems to be advancing much faster than usual -- I was expecting it to take 12 episodes before Tobio would even give Hinata the time of day, but one episode in and their rivalry is already well established.

The only problem is that I really don't find volleyball that interesting. The show did give me a more favorable impression of it, but my interest level in the sport was at zero, so knocking the score up by +5 didn't really help much. Plus, with the continuing Yowapeda and now Baby Steps, I'm kind of at my maximum level of sports anime consumption -- and Baby Steps, while not as high quality in many respects, has the advantage because tennis is one of the only sports I'm really familiar with. With everything else about the show being really solid, I think the deciding factor for a lot of viewers is going to be whether or not they like volleyball, or if they'd rather watch an anime that covers a different sport; there's certainly enough to choose from these days.

Still, if unlike me, you're actually in the market for another athletic anime to round out your viewing schedule, you won't do much better than Haikyu!! It's one of those rare shows that I feel very comfortable recommending, even though I doubt I'll be watching much further.


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Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures


 



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