There’s no question in my mind that Haikyuu is the spiritual successor to Ookiku Furikabutte (which is actually still ongoing). They’re both series that celebrate the loveable goofiness of the teenage male to the point of rather lavish idealization, and in both cases the result is pretty successful. There’s even quite a similarity to some of the character designs. Frankly, I find it almost hard to believe Haikyuu is written by a man, because I’ve seen very few male writers depicts boys the way these two series do – until I see a picture of this “Furudate Haruichi” I’m going to have my suspicions…
In any event, the Haikyuu OVA is very much in the Haikyuu mainstream – with the caveat that the center of gravity is the fan favorite Nekoma team, who didn’t get much run in the first season of the anime. That means mopish genius setter Kozume Kenma of course (about as well as I’ve seen Kaji Yuuki cast), but in this case it also means Haiba Lev (Mark Ishii) – a gangly, athletic overgrown puppy of a hitter who’s half-Russian. Lev is brash and confident, which is entirely unsupported by his current ability level at the sport of volleyball. But he’s a freakish jumper and eager as hell, which catches the eye of Nekoma’s wily old coach Nekomata (who I rather like – and in fact, I quite like all the coach characters in this series, as they’re all moderate-tempered and don’t remotely seem like drill sergeant wannabees).
You can pretty much guess where this story is going to go – the coach wants to see what Lev can do in a meaningless practice game, and assigns Kenma (who’s definitely a member of the “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to do it, I’ll make it quick” school of adolescent boys) to feed him until he figures out how to eat. I won’t call Haikyuu a “cute boys being cute” series, because that wouldn’t do it justice – the sports side is excellent, the characters have genuine arcs, and the plots are coherent and, well… exist. But the show does spend an awful lot of energy on cute boys doing cute things, and this OVA is no exception – it’s just that it’s a different group of cute boys than usual.
Fittingly, the OVA also manages to work a cat story in (boys and cats – that’s hitting the target audience where it hurts). And it manages to find a little time for our usual group of heroes, too, through a subplot where they’re all stumped by a PSP game that appears to be built around taking on a triceratops with a short sword. They never do figure it out, but Kenma (playing the same game at the same time) does – with the help of his observant BFF and captain Kuroo. And of course, between these two events Kenma learns how to synch with Lev (more or less). It’s all good fun, as Haikyuu!! usually is, and serves as a nice appetizer as we wait for the main course of a second season sometime later this year.