Haikyuu!! simply delivers. I’m not the world’s biggest volleyball fan, but in today’s highly-competitive environment for sports anime where everyone can claim some element that they do best, there’s no question in my mind that Haikyuu’s is this: it does the finest job of actually making the sports itself a visual pleasure. The animation is fluid, the choreography is imaginative and clever and the director’s use of perspective and camera angles is quite brilliant. The games just look great here, and for a sports series that’s no small thing.
I’m still of the opinion that the competitive world of Haikyuu revolves around Hinata and Kageyama too much, to the point where it feels like it’s done for dramatic convenience (commenters have suggested that skipped manga material contributes to that) but apart from that I really have nothing but praise for the last two episodes. It’s all about setting up the rivalry every good sports series has to have, and in this instance it seems as though pretty much every member of Karasuno has a fated soulmate on Nekoma (again, perhaps conveniently, but it works in this instance). This sort of general setup is nothing new in sports anime, of course, but the sense of antagonistic camaraderie is depicted rather more effectively here than in most instances. You can really feel the martial spirit flowing.
There’s a lot of that quality to Haikyuu – that seishun “Ah – youth!” thing that a lot of sports series shoot for but often comes off as a little precious and self-aware. It’s the unpretentious nature of Haikyuu that prevents that from happening here, and it really manages to quite authentically capture the sense of being young, energetic, hot-headed and a little stupid about it. It reminds me of an Ookiku Furikabutte that isn’t quite so obviously written from an idealized female perspective on the teenaged male. There’s a Haruhara Haruko quote from the FLCL manga that really fits here: “To be a boy is to be a fool, and to be a fool is pure bliss.”
Apart from that, there’s not too much to say except that the match was quite a blast. I love way the anime makes the net disappear so we can see the face of whichever player is talking – it’s an odd camera trick, but it really works. My favorite moment was
Hikaru Kenma’s disdainful little flick over the wall – I love it when setters do that. The two teams really are a nice contrast – the full-grown cat and the baby crow – and it’s obvious (even the cantankerous old Nekomata says so) that the story of Haikyuu is going to be the story of that chick maturing into a fearsome bird (one that like all good crows, never shuts up). And since the Haikyuu!! the anime is going to be with us for a very long time, for a change this is a sports journey we may see all the way through to the end.