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Haikyu! Season 1 Collection 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

HaikyuHow far will Hinata go to get on the court that draws him so?

What They Say:
Shoyo Hinata isn’t a large guy, but he’s got huge ambitions. Ever since seeing a small player score in a National Championship, he’s been determined to become the next big thing in High School Volleyball. Unfortunately, the one time he was able to pull enough players together to form a team in junior high, they were completely trashed in their first and only match against a team led by up-and-coming setter Tobio Kageyama.

Now, enrolled at the same high school where his idol once played, Shoyo’s finally going to get his shot to join and play with a top team. There’s just one problem: Tobio Kageyama’s decided to attend the same school, and he’s already considered one of the best players in the game. Can a kid out of nowhere hold his own against the King of the Court? Or could the rivalry and competition actually be the best thing for both of them?

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
As expected with a sports series, the audio presentation for this series is presented in its original Japanese language audio track and only that. It gets a solid DTS-HD MA lossless mix here in stereo that brings the play of the game to life well throughout. The show works the full forward soundstage well here to bring an engaging mix to the table where the squeak of the shoes, the impact of the ball and just the woosh and swoosh of everything as it goes along. Sports shows definitely need a solid presentation in this area and it gets it here to make this a very fun mix. The dialogue works in a similar manner where needed when there are multiple characters on the screen and across the net as well, giving it some good depth and placement at times. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set brings thirteen episodes to the table with nine on the first and four on the second, giving it plenty of space to work with since it’s a monolingual release. Animated by Production I.G., the series has a very strong look and design here that blends in the CG side in a great and smooth way that really elevates the content. Production I.G. is definitely the right studio for this since they went all out as the colors pop vibrantly and there’s a great smoothness to the play and blending of the animation itself. It’s one of those shows that just reveals its quality the more it goes on and the end result is striking in a way that doesn’t feel like it should be for a school sports show. The transfer captures it beautifully and it’s a great looking release all around.

The packaging for this release is presented in a standard sized Blu-ray case that works pretty well when matched up against the heavy oranges of the artwork. The front cover gives us a solid and engaging piece of artwork where we see four of the lead characters on the other side of the net getting ready to push back against the viewer, which gives it a good sense of motion and dynamic about it. Hinata is pretty much front and center, drawing the eye, and with his energy and intensity coming across it catches the eye well on the shelf. The net along the bottom has the logo across it, which has its own energy about it, and the strip along the bottom provides for the episode number and disc count along with Sentai’s logo. The bakc cover plays the color design well with the black, white and orange stripes and framing, making for a good looking release that does the rare thing of making orange as a dominant color work. The shots from the show are good, we get a fun action shot of Noya long the right, and the premise covers things well with black text on orange. The production credits along the bottom are in white but still legible, while the technical grid covers everything very well in a clean and easy to read format. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release definitely fits the right look with the design and theme of it all as it draws in the colors well while adding in the court and a green look about it as the navigation along the left breaks down the episodes by numbers and titles in a clean and very easy way to read it. The mix of colors works better than one might think it would, but it provides the right contrast that just screams sports. The menu beyond that shows off some great artwork and promotional imagery, such as the first disc where it has Hinata and the others leaping upward towards the viewer while in their uniforms and the mix of orange and white in the background. It’s all smooth and clean looking, very vibrant and appealing with minimal need for the submenus since there’s no language selection.

The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Haruichi Furudate which began in 2012 and has over fifteen volumes to date, Haikyu!! is a twenty-five episode first season with this set containing the first thirteen episodes. The series is one that definitely stands out well in terms of animation and design coming from Production IG, which is always a bit of a crap shoot when it comes to sports shows since it can either get a good budget or it’s done on the cheap side. Here, we get a show that has some great designs, smoothness and excellent animation throughout which helps elevate the show overall. When you get a show about volleyball though, what are the odds it’s going to get treated so well?

The series revolves around Shoyo Hinata, a middle school student that became enamored with the sport of volleyball after seeing a competition on TV. He was so taken by it that he managed to get a club going at his middle school and proceeded to put through a couple of years of it, though it was one that never had enough players and never played any games or competitions because in truth, it really was just Hinata. We get some good time seeing him going through everything with his first actual game, and the way that he and his friends lose, but it reinforces that his friends would go the distance for him even though they weren’t playing themselves when you get down to it. Hinata’s first and last game comes to a close quickly at the start of the series, but we’re introduced to his passion, and in the end also his rival with the setter on the opposite team, Kageyama. Kageyama’s a challenge himself because he’s so intense with the game and that’s closed off a lot of paths for him since few want to really play with him due to his nature. But for Hinata, even though he really doesn’t like the guy from what he sees of him, he also realizes his ability.

Not that it helps for a bit, when the two end up enrolling at Karasuno High School and join the team and encounter each other there. The two are on a familiar path where they’re rivals and enemies in a way, but also the fact that if they work together they bring out the best in each other. Early on, we see them referred to as the demon and his club since Kageyama sets things up for Hinata, but there’s a good exploration of Hinata’s skill as well that could end up turning him into a demon too. It’s familiar sports material because it’s not often that you have a lead character that’s terrible and remains terrible, but for Hinata what we get is that he’s a diamond in the rough that needs to be molded into the right form. And as bad as it sounds to both him and Kageyama, the two do realize, relatively quickly when you get down to it, that they are good for each other in a lot of ways and actively work to get better and improve. Not necessary to bond as best friends, but rather to be solid partners on the court where things matter. The show spends the bulk of its time on the court, so that works really well, though I’m hoping we get a bit more of their personal lives in the material ahead.

Haikyu!! follows a familiar pattern where a lot of the attention is focused on these two, and rightly so because they make for a good dynamic in their interpersonal interactions and also the way their play on the court helps to liven it up a lot. There’s a lot of fun in watching them figure each other out when you get down to it as it’s also done in a good way to take the diamond in the rough of Hinata and introduce the viewers to the game itself and all its dynamics. But Hinata’s not a rube at least, so we get some good stuff out of him in how he interprets things and plays at it. The show also spends some good time with the rest of the team too, allowing us some fun with Tanaka, a loud and strong personality type that often is aggravating in other shows but stands out well here. The team captain is a minor character to be sure, though he does bring things together well as the season goes on and the team comes together for the first practice game as others come out of the woodwork and have their issues dealt with.

This first half of the season moves things along well here and we get the expected team building, some connections to the past and a good push towards the future with opponents and past rivalries coming to the surface. The show plays well to the larger world of the game in a way as we do get there are larger goals, but they’re not focused on it as the end all be all of what they’re trying to do. It’s kept pretty humble here overall as they’re moving forward and learning about each other and how to play as a team. The cast grows well and we get more personalities coming into play with it, but they all – as expected – add something to the larger notion of what this team is. Hinata and Kageyama are definitely the heart of it, but it’s easy to start picking out favorites with the supporting side, which isn’t always possible with a lot of the sports shows out there as the main focus is on the core group.

In Summary:
While Haikyu!! has done well enough to merit a second season and is growing in popularity, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this show because it is about volleyball. Granted, I’ve watched a lot of sports shows over the years so I certainly expected the basics in terms of structure and approach, but I wasn’t sure if they could make the game and the characters playing it engaging enough. What we get here is a really, really fun show that’s all about the blending of personalities and the way they react to each other as they train, train and practice some more in order to become a functioning team. It’s a whole lot of fun that’s beautifully animated which comes together smoother than I expected it to. The end result is an addictive show that leaves you craving more when the last episode is over, something that’s harder to achieve when you watch as much as I do.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 2nd, 2015
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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