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?
Set in 2.0 Stereo in Japanese only, the track had no real issues in terms of standard quality or regarding delays to lip flaps or transition to subtitles. It is quite annoying when there is only one track considering the price (and lack of extras, it also doesn’t help that it is quite a popular series so when some series get dubbed and this doesn’t, you have to wonder) however there was no need to change my default settings with the audio so it is more than acceptable, just pretty much standard and that is it.
Video wise, colours were fine and flashy, and no issues in terms of video to audio on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio, no problems video wise with subtitles synching, no video freezing or any slack animation when pausing the show, so overall a quality release – it is in fullscreen format and the colours do come out very vividly and look rather good on a Blu-Ray set up – no problems found so overall very strong.
There was no packing for this test release.
The menus are pretty basic – on the first menu we have a shot of Hinata and Kageyama, and the second disc has a shot of the entire main team of Karasuno – both have the same set up which is the episodes list only on the left-hand side scrolling down, with disc 2 having a special features tab – there isn’t a Play All so you select episode 1 and that is your Play All (and no audio select as Japanese only though you can manually turn off the subtitles from your options selection whilst watching) – there is a popup menu as is no standard but there is no real point as all you can do is switch episodes – it does its job fine but the lack of anything makes it very basic.
The only extras for this release is a clean opening and ending animation, and trailers for shows that are licenced by Sentai in the US but NOT licenced as of yet in the UK so this is a clear transfer from the US version to the UK, which makes these extras mostly obsolete unless you intend to import – the trailers are for Gingitsune, Campoine, Medaka Box, To Love Ru Darkness, and at the start of disc 1, there is a trailer for Super Sonico.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A funny story before I started watching this – I had just been introduced to the series Free(!) by a couple of my female friends – now I knew of Free, but like a lot of people from the images and the fandom, the most I knew about it was it was a shounen-ai style bait series with a sports theme – which is what I thought as well when I heard about Haikyu!! However, after watching a few episodes of Free, I actually surprisingly enjoyed it – it has a lot of good comedy and character development, despite the obvious audience it is playing to with the half-naked men in swimming outfits. Haikyuu is a similar guilty pleasure as I was surprised at how much fun it was, combined with actually taking the sport (volleyball in this case) with respect and seriousness, reminding me a cross of Eyeshield 21 but with the team coming together a little bit of the great Princess Nine as well.
The first episode introduces in different ways our two main characters. Shoyo Hinata, who got inspired watching a volleyball match with someone who wasn’t very tall managing to tower over everyone with his jumping skills, starts a volleyball team in his middle school but doesn’t get interest. Despite this, he trains consistently to the point that in junior high, he manages to gather enough people for a match – however, his first match is against a favourite team, which includes our other main character Tobio Kageyama – a genius setter, but also expects too much of his teammates. At first, Hinata’s team are pretty much dismissed with Kageyama routinely shouting at Hinata AND his teammates, but through some surprises, Hinata actually scores some points on this team with some incredible speed and jumping plays. However, Hinata loses and vows revenge against Kageyama…
…fast forward to high school, and Hinata walks into the gym of the same school Karasuno that the famed ‘Little Giant’ that inspired him played…and who does he say? Kageyama. Yep, they’re going to be on the same team.
Time for the working together part…
So yeah, it is a very classic set up – their personalities clash, and the upperclassmen despite recognising they have two very good talents, set them up to try and work together – this includes off training, and facing off against some fellow freshmen in a 3 on 3 match where if they lose, Kageyama can’t play in his favoured position for a year. Here, we get a good look at all the other characters in the team – the noticeable ones being the kind hearted but don’t get him mad captain Sawamura, the current setter Sugawara, the man with the face of the thug but is very likeable in Tanaka, and the cocky other first year Tsukishima, a tall player who taunts both Hinata and Kageyama, who used to be known as the ‘King’ which he despises that name…as it is revealed very cleverly how he got this name, and how his teammates finally snapped at him…
It definitely gets more sports anime like, with Kageyama learning to trust his teammates, especially getting in synch with Hinata – whose reactions in speed are incredible, and he is able to react to Kageyama’s plays allowing them to do some crazy stuff. They win the match and now we get to explore them being a history – including their history. One thing which is interesting is whilst more players will join the team, they are already established and skilled – it is the coming together as a team part that they need to learn. We get later two characters who were part of the team – Nishinoya, a player shorter than Hinata but is a very talented libero (player focused on recovery and defense) but had history with another player Azumane, the teams ace with great height and powerful spikes, but during a tournament match where none of his attacks went through, he felt responsible and left the team. Again, very clichéd as the two players do return back to the team, but there are a lot of fun moments – which includes as I said, the history of Karasuno – the legendary coach who has retired, and now it is their grandson who is being dragged to be the coach of Karasuno – there are fun moments with the facility advisor Takeda who develops himself from not knowing much about the sport, to becoming more dependable with sorting out matches, and Ukai the grandson of Ukai Sr, and how he gets dragged into it from an old rivalry, but eventually helps out in the end. And of course, we have the beautiful female manager Kiyoko, who is deadpan, serious…and Takeda loves it when she ignores him. Yeah, the show has some surprisingly good comic moments as well.
It kind of deviates from a number of the clichés – like the old coach hasn’t been down on his luck, he has just retired – and the grandson whilst has to be tempted to get involved has a steady job anyway, he just wasn’t interested until the old rivalries were brought up. Kageyama has good character development but keeps a lot of his old characteristics (rarely smiles, shouts at Hinata a lot) so that the character is gradual in his development. The character of Asahi as the former ace – whilst he is fairly quick in returning to the team, you can feel his pain thinking he had to shoulder the blame in the past, and the idea of his young freshmen basically stepping up to the plate and saying he doesn’t need to keep the team on his shoulders anymore is actually quite inspiring and touching. I also love a lot of the other characters – Nishinoya, for example, is part comic relief but also part serious when it comes to Asahi, and the fact he knows his role and how he helps the others score is also how Hinata realises his position as ‘ultimate decoy’ whilst not sounding cool, is also a huge part of the team and the series getting him to acknowledge that is core for the first half of the series.
The other cool thing is that the team at first aren’t immediately invincible when they get together – far from it, they lose their matches against the Neighbourhood Association and Nekoma, and even in the way against Aoba Johsai, it is highly confirmed that there are players missing and the two will almost certainly meet in a future match (especially as a lot of Kageyama’s old teammates are there – was funny seeing them react to a slightly more humble Kageyama during their match as well). Hinata’s growth (pun intended) also is good because he manages to avoid getting nervous (leading to an initial running gag of always needing to go to the toilet when he gets nervous) and learn new techniques gradually via Kageyama and his teammates. The team itself is still a little rough around the edges (Tsukishima is obviously very talented but seems quite lazy) but that can get better in time – and the potential fun with the rivals as well – if Nekoma return there are some fun moments with the student Kenma who is very quiet and doesn’t seem to enjoy volleyball, but doing the key play that beats Hinata, it is a potential rival situation (as well as Hinata wanting Kenma to enjoy volleyball) and some fun moments with the Takeda look alike who immediately gets a crush on Kiyoko.
The set up is going for the Interhigh, which will most likely occur in the second half of the series, and with the team slowly coming together – this is definitely much better than I anticipated. A lot of series which focuses on the all boys element do have a certain stigma with it – mainly because they are popular with yaoi/shounen-ai fans even if there is nothing official. I never saw anything like that (it is blatant that most of the cast have a crush on Kiyoko for example) – I saw instead a very good sports anime. The character development is gradual and good, the characters are mostly memorable (some sadly not so much as their personalities aren’t as dynamic or some are mostly benched), the rivalry between Kageyama and Hinata is on point, the rival teams are a lot of fun, and it does feel realistic to what a volleyball anime would be about (they even give help in the first episodes of who does what and formations, similar to Eyeshield 21 did in their earlier episodes). It is quite a fun show, not needing the knowledge of the sport but instead enjoy the engagement between the cast, and how well they work off each other. It is hard for me to even call it a guilty pleasure because it legitimately good. And as tempting it is to dismiss it as a boys love fan fest with the obligatory balls joke, it is actually a legit good sports anime, putting it on the same level as Eyeshield 21 for me though still has work before it gets to the level of Princess Nine.
However, definitely worth checking out.
Haikyuu!!! Has to be the biggest surprise for me in this early year – I went into it not expecting much and thinking it is more about the innuendo than the sport…I was completely wrong – there is nothing of the sort, the sport gets respect and the character relationships are legit fun and developed. The two leads clash perfectly, the rest of the team is slowly but well developed, the team isn’t an immediate winner and they need to shake off the past and become a force again, and there is plenty of potential ready for the big playoffs. I really enjoyed this series and am looking forward to the second half – do I have a new Princess Nine on my hands? Not sure but it is damn close.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: February 29th, 2016
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.