If you’d told me one sports anime was going to have a second season end card today, I’d sure have bet on the one that didn’t rather than the one that did. But fans of Haikyuu!! (in honor of the final episode I’ll use the exclamation points, just for today) needn’t worry – this is as big a mortal lock as there is in anime. I suspect they simply want to wait and announce it at an event so they get get those delighted squeals down on tape. It may be six or nine months down the road, but it’s going to happen for sure. I almost left the “End” off the title line, but official is official – for now.
As expected, the climax of Haikyuu!!! was really last week with the match against Seijoh – which went on to lose the final against a powerful team called Shiratori (which can also be read as “foreshadowing”). This week was the epilogue, which is generally the best way to go about ending a multi-cour series. The emotions run on the extreme side, but that’s pretty standard for this series – low-key it isn’t. Like its characters, this is a show that wears its heart on its sleeve.
The big question hanging over the team is the matter of the third-years, and the spring tournament. Turns out volleyball has a spring tournament just like baseball does – not as big or important, but a national event nonetheless – which means a reprieve for Daichi, Koushi and Asahi thanks to Japan’s school calendar. Except that it’s common for third-years to turn their clubs over to the kouhai at this stage, what with exams and getting into colleges to consider and all the really big tournaments belonging to the first and second-years.
There’s merit to this thinking – the experience the third-years would steal from their juniors by sticking around is not insignificant in their development, and they do have the rest of their lives to consider. It’s not surprising that the academic advisors would get involved, but the sentiment in this is obvious – the old dudes want to play, and the young guns want them to stick around. There’s no mystery in how this is going to turn out, but Haikyuu!!! does have the ability to make the expected emotionally involving.
Generally speaking the episode does a very good job of giving us a glance inside the heads of everyone in their emotional hangovers, with Hinata and Kageyama predictably being the most devastated. Running around the gym and screaming might seem like a bit much, but it’s in-character. It does suck to lose, and when you’re 15 and full of restless aggression anyway sometimes all that has to find a way to spill out. At least they didn’t hold up a liquor store (oh yeah – this is Japan…).
We’re very lucky as sports anime fans to have had the year we’ve had (and I’d go back to 2013, when Yowapeda and Diamond no Ace started up and Ginga e Kickoff was in glorious form). Not only do we have multiple good series airing at once (historically by no means a given) but they really span an interesting range of styles. Diamond and Yowapeda will each likely get six cours at the least, Baby Steps probably four (God, it’s good to type that) and as for Haikyuu!!!!! it’s going to keep being produced as long as the manga maintains a lead over it, leading to a complete adaptation just like Kurobas (which isn’t my cup of tea, but that’s neither here nor there). That’s a privilege we as fans should never take for granted – we’ve damn fortunate.
So where does Haikyuu!!!!!! fit in that lineup? I read a sprinkling of the manga before the anime aired, and considerably more since it began – and it’s good. It has a direct, honest charm, wonderful art and a boisterous enthusiasm, and some of the sweetness of Ookiku Furikabutte (which it still reminds me of more than any other series). But it’s not a masterpiece in my admittedly limited experience – it doesn’t redefine realism like Baby Steps or bridge the gap between the old and new sports manga universes like Yowapeda, or deliver a comprehensive character study like Major or Capeta. It’s just a straightforward, loveable sports opera with a winning cast and enough realism to make it stand out among the ridiculousness of Weekly Shounen Jump sports series.
With that in mind, I see the undeniable triumph of the anime quite differently than I do that of Baby Steps. There, it was a matter of being as faithful as possible and respecting the integrity of the material. In Haikyuu!!!!!!! I think Production I.G. and Mitsunaka Susumu (who’s very much not a household name) have absolutely gotten the most they possibly could out of their source material – they’ve maximized the experience. This is a truly fantastic production, sterling from top to bottom and in my view, clearly surpasses the manga in overall impact.
In fact, it would be hard for me to imagine a materially faithful adaptation being better than this one, to be honest – what could the show possibly have done better, apart from tiny quibbles that were part of the manga anyway? How can you more successfully translate a manga to the screen without radical changes than I.G. have done here? I would be astonished if there’s a Haikyuu!!!!!!!! fan out there who isn’t satisfied with what they’ve gotten here – but I’ll leave that up to the hard-core fans to speak to, as I don’t have authority to do so. I don’t know when the next season of Haikyuu!!!!!!!!! is coming, but I’ll certainly be looking forward to the day.