Story/Art: Haruichi Furudate
Translation: Adrienne Beck
What They Say
Ever since he saw the legendary player known as the “Little Giant” compete at the national volleyball finals, Shoyo Hinata has been aiming to be the best volleyball player ever! He decides to join the team at the high school the Little Giant went to-and then surpass him. Who says you need to be tall to play volleyball when you can jump higher than anyone else?
After losing his first and last volleyball match against Tobio Kageyama, the King of the Court, Shoyo Hinata swears to become his rival after graduating middle school. But what happens when the guy who is supposed to be his rival ends up being his teammate?!
The front cover here provides a nice, dynamic image of Shoyo and Tobio lunging for a volleyball. It’s a well done, rather striking image. Unfortunately, the same can’t quite be said about the back cover, which instead offers a plain background, a synopsis, and the main two characters staring stiffly at the reader head-on. It’s an awkward stance, and to be honest the proportions just don’t look right. Like someone sliced a few inches off their torsos or something. Which is made all the more awkward by the fact that the book looks consistently great on the inside, and I’d have to say this is probably worse than literally every other depiction of the characters offered throughout the multitude of panels present in the volume. It’s really baffling, and puts the book’s worst foot forward on one of the two covers instead of playing to the strengths of the art, like the front does. Paper quality feels solid, text reads smoothly, sound effects are translated in stylized text, and in an absolute rarity for Viz, honorifics are actually left intact. In fact, there’s even a nice little page explaining them, so that’s neat, even if it probably would’ve been more helpful to readers who need it at the front rather than the back of the volume. As far as extras go, there are some nice little sketches and profiles in between chapters.
On the basest level, the art in the book can look just a tad crude, with proportions looking slightly off. Fortunately for the reader, though, the book doesn’t spend much time on such simple or awkward shots, and instead we get a lot of dynamic motion that comes across great. Be it wild expressions or the absolutely lovingly crafted action shots, this book is constantly throwing out great panels that are bursting with energy and some truly beautiful shading. In other words, you may be able to pick out some panels that don’t look so hot if you wanted to, but on a whole this is a gorgeous book with a ton of shots that absolutely know how to play to the strengths of the creator.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Kicking the series off, we see a young version of our hero, Shoyo Hinata, being inspired by a volleyball player for Karasuno High School nicknamed the “Little Giant”, who was able to dominate the court despite his diminutive stature. Lacking in height himself, Shoyo became obsessed with the sport, even though his size would prove a disadvantage. And in middle school, we see that he was able to just barely scrape together enough of a team to enter a tournament in his last year. As luck would have it, his slapped together team ends up against that of the “King of the Court”, Tobio Kageyama, in the first round. It’s a hell of an underdog tale, as our energetic hero is pitted against this cocky and self-absorbed genius. Despite his lack of on-the-court experience and obvious disadvantage, Shoyo actually manages to impress with his crazy jumping skills and unrelenting determination. But fate does come crashing down in the end, and his rookie team is absolutely pulverized, bringing his middle school volleyball career to a close after just one game.
Leaping ahead, Shoyo ends up achieving his dream of making it into Karasuno, where he hopes his volleyball dreams will be fulfilled. Instead, he finds Tobio of all people there, making his supposed rival into his teammate! And honestly, this makes for a pretty great swerve, as the book set things up such that both the characters and the readers would think of them as destined rivals, but instead they’re forced to work together. Anyway, it seems that in their time apart something happened that knocked Tobio down some pegs, meaning he was rejected from his other choices and had to settle for Karasuno. Oh, and he’s also come to hate any references to his nickname as well. Needless to say, the two don’t mix at all, to the degree that they’re actually immediately banned from team activities until they can learn to work together.
This leads to a “deal” that’s the focus of the volume, as they choose to prove their teamwork by challenging their teammates to a match, where if they win the ban is off, but if they lose, Tobio won’t be allowed in his preferred position of setter. After some serious practice and an introduction to their (somewhat obnoxious) opponents, the game finally kicks off. Will the two finally manage to click enough to pull through, or will their high school volleyball careers implode right at the start?
Though this book at first seems like it might fall into a somewhat samey trope filled setup that could be seen in many sports manga, there are actually some great little swerves to help keep things feeling fresh and interesting. And the big one here is that we may get the setup of your average rival far above the hero… but they actually end up on the same team. This creates a really interesting dynamic between our dual protagonists, and there are already some great interactions between them from the start. They just mesh well together, despite their vastly differing skills and personalities, meaning that they play off one another fantastically. And though they’re not too developed just yet, there’s also some definite potential showing here in the extended cast as well. Adding further to the pile of positives, the book strikes a very nice balance in terms of pulling you slowly into the sport of volleyball while never getting too heavy in its explanations, which could easily be a danger in the first volume of a sports manga. It still remains to be scene just how much the creator will be able to push the sport to its limits to help keep things fresh, but for now this is an absolutely wonderfully crafted first entry into a promising new series, so be sure to give it a shot.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: July 5th, 2016