Haikyuu!! – 06

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Never, ever underestimate the importance of simple, straightforward fun.

It would be hard to overestimate just how infectious Haikyuu is.  Six episodes in and it hasn’t lost any of the momentum it blew onto the scene with in the full-bore premiere – there have been a few gradients of success, but no real lulls.  It’s a bubbly, frothy, kind of drink – champagne, or maybe a big old Rum and Coke.  I was a little concerned that it might be the sort of confection that you get tired of pretty quickly but so far, so good.

I haven’t wavered in my sense that there isn’t a whole lot of subtlety here, but I’ll tell you what – making it this easy to see why a show works is a pretty darn good formula too.  And it really is easy: total sincerity in the writing.  Great energy, and solid comedy.  The fact that pretty much all the players are straight-up goofs in their own way, which punctures any possibility of false pretentiousness. There’s definitely something of Ookiku Furikabutte both in the look and content of this show, but Haikyuu is nowhere near as emo as Oofuri was (and don’t get me wrong, I liked Oofuri quite a lot).  And, not to be forgotten, absolutely top-shelf production values – you just don’t see sports animated and drawn this well very often.  If this is a Rum and Coke we’re not getting Bacardi, we’re getting Wray and Nephew.

The first part of the episode is, to be blunt, mostly comedy at Hinata’s expense.  There were times I felt bad for laughing at the little guttersnipe, but laugh I did – especially when he knocked over the umpire’s chair (and we then saw the poor fellow with a bruised forehead).  Hinata is a complete wreck at the prospect of facing Aoba Johsai – squirting from both ends, and everything everyone says makes it worse.  It’s endearing for me that the captain has no clue how to make him feel better, despite the fact that he feels it’s his job – Daichi just isn’t that kind of captain.  He’s a likeable goof with plenty of flaws, just like the rest of them, and the crown doesn’t seem to rest too easy on his head.

Then there’s Kageyama’s old middle school teammates to make things worse.  One of them, Kindaichi – who Hinata remembers from the middle school match and dubs “Turnip Head” – especially revels in twisting the knife.  And frankly, Kageyama’s behavior before and during the first set of the match doesn’t do much to disprove his taunts about The King.  Predictably the first set is a drubbing, with Hinata screwing up over and over.  It ends when he serves directly into the back of Kageyama’s head – which seems to be the moment that defuses the tension for everyone.  The Karasuno teammates find this utterly hilarious too (which I also find very appealing about them) and Kageyama takes the opportunity to logically argue with Hinata that this is certainly as scary as things can get.  It’s Tanaka though – the biggest goof in the goofy bin, probably – who finally manages to loosen up Hinata in his own inimitable fashion.

Fundamentally, the question for Kageyama is whether Kindaichi-kun is right that what he needs are “pawns”, rather than teammates.  If the answer is yes we don’t have a series, and things start to click with Hinata in the second set.  Even Tsuki is a bit unnerved by the accuracy of Kageyama’s tosses  (I’ve seen great setters appear almost to have ESP) and we’re treated to another bout of the (sigh) blind spikes from Hinata.  Hinata’s impact on the game becomes clear here – by roving all over the place he breaks up the formation of the enemy blocks, especially as he jumps and swings as if he’s getting the toss even when he isn’t.  Karasuno rides this pair to a narrow win in the second set, and Aoba Johsai’s coach seems to be rather enjoying the prospect of his powerful team being challenged by an interesting and unpredictable opponent.

The next shoe to drop is apparently this fellow, Oikawa Tooru.  I see he’s played by Namikawa Daisuke and that alone means he’s probably going to be memorable (Namikawa-san is now in 60% of the sports anime I’m covering and yes, he’s probably overexposed – but he’s just so damn good).  I figured – as did Kageyama – that Aoba was probably sitting on a couple of their stars for a practice match they figured to lope through, and Oikawa is the team’s ace setter.  It’s fine if he comes in and leads them to victory – this is just a practice match after all, and you can’t be too good too early in a sports anime (unless your name is Honda Goro).  With Haikyuu, it isn’t so much about the results as it is about putting the top down, feeling the wind in your hair and enjoying the ride.

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  1. w

    I don't really mind if Namikawa Daisuke's overexposed, he's got enough range that he generally sounds different in each role. I also think Tanaka is a great fit as a Mentor character for Hinata, and he's just so loveably silly.

  2. g

    Really readers have told you about subtlety? Even as a fan of Haikyuu!! I can't say it about the manga, it's well crafted and it has a good development of characters. For some we, readers, had to wait a little longer but I think it's a problem of WJS's mangas, because all of them have to start with factor WOW! to ensure they'll stay in a schedule of the magazine. (And the art style. It was a first thing, what caught my interest.)

    Well, a comedy is very subjective. When I like it here, because I'm a fan of the manga (I don't know why it gives me bubble feelings and I'm all giddy after reading), I've seen complaining that Hinata was completely retarded. Maybe is it a fear of his MC's status, that he won't be BA enough?

    I'm a little afraid, because from others' opinions that actions scenes are somewhat for them anti-climatic, I know now that volleyball can be tricky for adapting to an anime.
    I've never thought about it but in the manga I can stare at panels so long as I want, but here actions scene are quick. They're very good action scenes but I can only tell because I'm interested in volleyball and I played it little and I've watched many real matches.
    And in animes action scenes are always prolonged in an artificial way but I can't see, where in volleyball's scenes they could do it. I guess, they would have to stay in the air for a half of minute every time. They resigned from manga's visual presentation of ball's movements too. Everything looks very natural because of that but maybe it would be easier for an audience to see what's going on?

  3. I'm not a huge volleyball follower, and I have no problem with the action scenes – in fact, i think they're fantastic.

    I don't see how anyone can not like Hinata, personally, but to each his own. Yeah, he's a bit daft – but shit, everyone on the team is so why should he be any different? Should a kid who never played in a real match walk onto a high school team and be the ace?

  4. g

    Well, Hinata giving me whole heartily moe feelings, which I don't experience so often. His antics are mostly cute and funny (but sometimes he's so BA), especially mixed with his yandere face. We had a sample of the one in the episode 1. I guess, an author showing an experience from his previous horror manga.

  5. m

    I love the action scenes here. They have a sense of flair while still being realistic. They don't have some pause that denies gravity, and then some move that denies the laws of physics. Real sports are very fast paced, and if you watch sportscenter (or any sports clips) they always run things in slow motion so you can see exactly what happened.

    I agree with Enzo that I find it hard to believe that anyone could dislike Hinata. Yeah he isn't a genius, but he's straightforward and hard working. He has talent, but that doesn't immediately make him the best on the court. He messes up a lot, and works hard to fix those problems. I've known quite a few people like him over the years in sports. Maybe not as extreme, but things are stretched out a bit for entertainment value, (which is what makes Baby Steps so amazing that the characters are 100% realistic) and that's ok. Even the quick strike with Hinata and Kageyama isn't over the top unbelievable. This show has a straightforward honesty in the way it has the character's approaching volleyball that I find hard not to get sucked into. They have this sense of camaraderie that I find so realistic, and I think anyone who has devoted themselves to a team sport will recognize as something they've experienced as well.

  6. R

    Goofiest goof in the goof bin is now my new thing for this show. Thanks you Enzou.

    In other news, my biggest roll on the floor laughing moment was Hinata beaning Kageyama right in the back of the head. I knew it was coming but it was gloriously animated.

  7. w

    I'm really starting to understand why you call them the stupid volleyball dorks.

  8. R

    I know right? XD It is my sincere desire that everyone who watches this show gets drawn in by the power of stupid, adorable volleyball dorks. They're the hilariously likeable type of goofs here 😀

  9. S

    Honestly, I’m still waiting for this show to become good. Even annoying things I’d normally overlook, like the faces that appear through the net when the players are obviously behind it and the blind spiking, are starting to tick me off.
    There is simply no hook: The characters aren’t interesting, there is no tension during the games, the action isn’t riveting and the humor isn’t funny. Most of all, the show lacks any form of depth. But even so, I think these drawbacks can be overcome by introducing a rival/rival team or a tournament like most sports anime do and it needs to happen fast.

    I rarely drop sports anime, but Haikyu is getting close to it.

  10. g

    Then honestly, drop it. If you still don't like show after the first quarter and you don't find absolutely any element of the show you can enjoy it then you won't like it. I'm telling you as a reader of the manga. A tone and an atmosphere won't change.
    I mean I've dropped shows for less. I've found more positive elements in them than you in Haikyuu!! and because of that I was sitting on the fence for couple episodes, yet I dropped them at the end.
    You will suffer watching this, what for? Drop it like it's hot. You can always return to it, when you will able to watch later episodes randomly to see how you like it.

  11. p

    It's funny, I understand the feelings behind your criticism because there certainly isn't much depth to this show, but I still find it incredibly fun and engaging. If you really just watch sports animes for the rival team, then perhaps you should drop it. For me, the hook is the focus on what makes a team. Of the current sports animes, this one seems to be dealing with that most directly (even Yowamushi Pedal focuses mostly on individual battles), and there's all kinds of interesting questions about how a super-talented player deals with less talented teammates, what qualities besides sheer talent are important on a team, and how do you work as a team if you don't even like the guys you're playing with.

  12. m

    This is a show that I liked enough to actually jump ahead and go read the manga. After reading it I can tell you that you are dead wrong about the lack of tension. Maybe it's bc they haven't played a real game yet, but the tension runs high and the games are realistic. It also has a lot of depth. It's a sports anime, and one that attempts a realistic approach as well. It's not going to have things like KuroBas where your future is on the line, or you're battling to prove your volleyball is the correct volleyball. The problems they face are real ones that anyone who has played competitive sports will have faced.

  13. l

    Haikyuu has some subtlety here and there but it is never going to be a show with bags of subtlety. It wasn't written that way. That said, it is a well constructed show with good writing and great production behind it to keep it moving at a good pace. Watching it one episode at a time, it just pulls you along for the ride with a deftness of touch that makes it fairly seamless and fun to watch. Take a step back to look at it in a macro view on what it has covered in the first 6 episodes, it's actually even better in what it has done – developing the main characters, their chemistry and dynamics, the team camaraderie, throwing in a few bits here and there as seeds for later development, playing a regional top team which effectively makes that team a rival (Aoba Joshi's real ace server-setter and trump card showing up at the end), keeping the volleyball matches focused on the points that matter and where there are moments for further development and moving at a good pace instead of dragging out the action. It has a good dose of comedy scattered around to keep it fun and not make it oh-so-serious-like-it's-life-or-death.

  14. m

    That was a very astute review on what the show is/does.

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