It’s a pretty safe bet you know what you’re going to get with Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou because, well- it’s Haikyuu!!. What ever changes with Haikyuu, really? You get a few ups and downs with the pacing and an individual arc or game may be better or worse than the one before, but overall it’s one of the most consistent series out there. I think some of the acclaim for the show is a bit over the top, to be honest, but on the whole Haikyuu is a rock-solid sports series with arguably the best production values any long-running sports anime has ever had.
That said, there are a couple of slightly different elements to “Shiratori Gakuen Koukou”. First off it’s a one-cour season, though it’s no reflection on the series’ continuing popularity. And second – and the reason it’s one-cour – is that the focus of the entire season is apparently going to be the titular match. There is a part of me that worries, then, that Haikyuu will suffer just a little bit in the same way Shokugeki no Souma did in giving us a season that was almost entirely competition-driven – maybe some of the character side of the story will be overshadowed a bit and the pacing will get a bit same-y. But at least in theory I think Haikyuu is a little better-suited to this format than Souma is, so hopefully there’ll be no interruption in service.
There’s one other issue that concerns me just a little, and it’s this: it strikes me as totally unrealistic that Karasuno could defeat Shiratorizawa in this match. Shiratorizawa (at least as portrayed) is the standout dominant team in the region, far above any of the powerhouses the Crows have faced up to now. Karasuno is a team of middlingly-talented upperclassmen and a few phenom freshmen that’s been out of major competition for many years. Plus, the format of this match is five sets, just like the big boys play – something Shiratorizawa is well used-to but the Baby Crows have never experienced before. I want to root for Karasuno, but the sports fan in me who rebels at far-fetched developments in sports anime is leery. So I suspect I’ll have rather mixed feelings as this match stretches out to a fifth game (as it almost surely will).
We only get one point played in the premiere, but that’s fine – buildup is a good thing. There is some sense of just what a big deal this is for the chicks, and how much it’s business as usual for Shiratorizawa (right down to their respective cheering sections). As Ukai-san explains to his boys, this is a different sort of opponent than they’ve faced up to now. Shiratorizawa doesn’t concern themselves so much with deception and strategy for the simple reason that they don’t have to. They’re a freight train, you’re the road apple on the rail, and their attitude is “stop us if you can”. They’re bigger and stronger, and they have the baddest hombre in the sport in Ushijima Wakatoshi.
That’s about the size of it, really – it’s the big game, David vs. Goliath, and it’s your entire season of Haikyuu. A big supporting cast has gathered – Hinata’s middle-school buddies, Tsukishima’s aniki, even the vice-principal with the bad hairpiece is here to lead the chants. The only elements I’m unsure of are how an entire season of it will hold up, and what my feelings will be as we creep close to the finish line. But this is Haikyuu!!, so one way or another you can pretty much bet it’s going to deliver the goods.