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?
The only language track on this set is Japanese in 2.0 Dolby Digital. English subtitles are provided for non-native speakers like myself. As far as quality goes, I didn’t notice any problems, but when I’m watching a subbed title, I find that I pay far more attention to the visual than the audial.
Haikyu is presented in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen, and it’s quite a pretty show. The colors pop and everything looks clear and distinct.
The thirteen episodes come housed in a standard DVD case. Discs one and two rest in a center inset, and disc three sits on the back cover. The DVD’s front cover shows four of the main characters: Shoyo Hinata, Tobio Kageyama, Koshi Sugawara, and Daichi Sawamura. They all stand behind a volleyball net in various action poses. The spine only shows Hinata underneath the show’s title, and the back cover features the standard format. The show’s synopsis takes up most of the real estate and is surrounded by pictures of characters and screenshots from the show. Underneath it rest the show credits and the DVD specifications. Overall, it’s a good, eye-catching design.
All three menus follow the same format. The episode list and special feature options reside on the left-hand side of the screen while an action shot of one or more of the characters take up the right-hand side of the screen. The show’s main theme plays in full in the background, which is much better than the five-to-ten second loops that most menus provide.
Haikyu skimps on the special features, only offering clean Op/Ed and trailers for other Sentai shows. I didn’t really mind, but fans of DVD extras will be disappointed.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ever since he watched a small player score in the National Volleyball Championship, Shoyo Hinata made volleyball the alpha and omega of his life. Small in stature himself, Hinata wants nothing more than to be this “little giant” he saw on the television screen. Unfortunately, while he does possess raw athletic talent and a will to succeed, his junior high school afforded no opportunities to develop his skills in a structured environment. Still, when Hinata sets his mind on something, he does it. He practiced every day, during class breaks, after school, whenever he got a moment, and he finally cajoled some friends into playing with him in a small intermural match. Despite his heart, he loses badly to a team lead by the setter Tobio Kageyama—the “King of the Court.”
Once he graduates from junior high, Hinata gets accepted into the same high school the Little Giant attended. Unfortunately, Kageyama was also accepted and the two both desire to join the volleyball team. Their rivalry threatens both their dreams of playing in the National Championship, and it’s up to them to find a way not only to coexist, but to utilize each other’s skills to become better players than they ever thought possible.
I’m a funny guy. I’m not a big sports fan at all, but I love a good sports story. I think it’s because they’re structurally similar and dependent upon some very basic—and vital—storytelling elements. You’ve got a clear goal, internal and external obstacles that stand in the way, a desire to win, and a real sense of change. Those elements just seem part and parcel to a sports story, and they’re certainly present in Haikyu.
What makes Haikyu different is that it mixes many of the standard elements of an anime school drama and it features two protagonists: Hinata and Kageyama. The two different dramas—sport and school—work well together, and at its heart, Haikyu is really a bildungsroman, a coming of age story. The crux of the protagonists’ emotional journey centers around their ability to put aside their differences and work together (which is not easy given that Kageyama is an aloof SOB and Hinata is about as jumpy as a Chihuahua that just drank a double espresso). Much of the fun of this show lies in seeing them interact and develop a burgeoning sense of respect for each other.
Although Hinata and Kageyama take center stage, each character has his or her own journey to fulfill. They each have their own inner life and drama they must overcome, making this a rich cast and adding a greater sense of depth to the story. It’s not surprising, really, as sports (and dare I say coming of age stories) rely on character just as much as they do plot.
Much of the drama takes place on the volleyball court, and I wish real volleyball was as exciting as this show portrays it. The animation is kinetic, fluid, and dynamic, knowing when to stretch reality just a bit to help create the proper emotional tone of the moment being portrayed. The animators’ ability to convey speed and power are particularly impressive, and it helps make the sometimes overly-dramatic manner in which the kids act seem appropriate to the moment.
I’d love to know what adults think of this show. The characters act age appropriate, and to an adult, many of their actions, statements, and feelings could come off as melodramatic. It’s easy to forget once you reach a certain age the immediacy of childhood and the significance that’s imbued into everything. Part of growing up is gaining perspective, but in the process we lose the perspective of childhood. Offhand, I could see high schoolers react better to this than adults, but if you can approach it with an idea of what childhood was like, and with the idea that this is a coming of age story, then I think that adults can get just as much out of this.
Haikyu is a fairly by the numbers sports/school anime, but that’s not to say it’s bad. I quite enjoyed the show and am looking forward to watching the next collection. While this is a simple show, there exists beauty in simplicity, and this series benefits from a clear, no-nonsense attitude. Dr. Josh gives this a…
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Released By:Sentai Filmworks
Release Date:2 June 2015
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection