The exclamation points are back!!
OP: “I’m A Believer (アイム・ア・ビリーバー)” by SPYAIR
I’ll say this for Haikyuu – this is one series that knows how to make an entrance. It blew onto the scene with one of the best premieres of the year in 2014, and it returns with another splashy triumph in its second season (which like the first, will run 25 episodes). The first half of the premiere wasn’t quite as compelling as the series’ best work, but the B-part was vintage Haikyuu all the way – GAR and hilarious and ridiculously well-animated.
As sports series go, Haikyuu may be the flashiest I’ve seen. The fluidity of the movements is spectacular, the facial details impressive, the choreography and cinematography spot-on. This show has a huge budget and gleefully shows it off, but you can’t really hold anything against it because it’s such a straight-shooter – a big puppy tripping over its own feet in its eagerness to make friends. Every element of this production is first-class, right down to the music and the OP/ED sequences. If you want a demonstration of how to get everything you can out of a manga adaptation, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than Haikyuu.
Contest-wise, it would be fair to say not a whole lot has changed. One thing I appreciate about this series is that despite having a huge cast, it never forgets that Hinata is the star – it’s his force of personality that really makes things tick. Hinata has the ultimate Napoleon complex, really, but somehow it never gets old watching him try so hard he practically bursts a vein. As before, it’s not so much the new stuff Haikyuu does, but how well it does the stuff we’ve mostly seen before.
Several threads are unspooling as we begin the season. Smarting from their defeat to Aoba Johsai, Karasuno is excited when Take-chan manages to get them invited to a multi-team practice session at Nekoma. There’s also the matter of final exams, with make-ups for the kids who fail coming the same weekend as the Tokyo camp. Oikawa continues to be a media darling, appearing in Volleyball Monthly to taunt the Karasuno kids from afar.
It’s clear, though, that a very minor player in the first season is going to play a major role in the second – Ushijima Wakatoshi (Japan!!), the ace at Shiratorizawa. He’s made the national U-19 team (Japan!!) and if anything is a bigger star in the high school sports universe than Oikawa. He’s also a local, which means Hinata and Kageyama run into him when they got lost on a training run during practice. He invites them (well – Kageayama basically invites himself) to follow him back to his school and observe practice, Ushijima (which means Bull Island, by the way) making it clear he doesn’t remotely consider two boya who couldn’t even beat Aoba Johsai a threat.
This bit is easily the best part of the episode. Hinata’s wide-eyed reaction to the Shiratori campus, he and Kageyama’s freakout when they lose sight of Ushijima (Japan!!), Hinata’s endless spit-take reaction shots – it’s classic irresistible Haikyuu charm. And the moment when Hinata leaps through the air and poaches the ball before Ushijima (Japan!!) can spike it is the GAR highlight of the episode – with Kageyama’s reaction as the icing on the cake.
Haikyuu is a funny sort of series – like a floppy-eared beagle driving a sports car – but somehow it just really works. It’s a testament to just how far you can go on flawless execution and earnestness, and it’s great to have it back.
ED: “Climber (クライマー)” by Galileo Galilei