What They Say:
Shoyo Hinata isn’t a large guy, but he’s got huge ambitions: to become the next big thing in high school volleyball. Unfortunately, his junior high team was trashed in their first and only match. But now that he’s enrolled in a high school with a top volleyball program, things are going to be different. There’s just one problem: Tobio Kageyama, whose team beat Hinata’s and is already considered a star player, is attending the same school. 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? Get ready for a knock-down, throw-down, ultimate showdown barrage of volleys, spikes, and blocks as two rivals face off!
After originally getting a Japanese-only release, Sentai’s gone back and given us a bilingual release for the show and we’re all better off for it. Both tracks get 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 twenty-five episodes to the table with a nine/nine/seven format that gives it plenty of space to work with as we’ve seen with other similar releases. 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 our two leads together from an aerial view, not always the easiest to work with, that sells it because of the use of the orange below for the court but also the inclusion of the black feathers and the crow to tie into it all thematically. The back 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 the group going through a run that makes you grin with all their expressions. 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 that just ties it all together well so that 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 twenty-eight volumes to date, Haikyu!! is a twenty-five episode first season with this set containing the run in bilingual form, something that the previous half-season releases did not do. 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.
When it comes to the second half there’s a good amount of payoff here and it delivers in the way that I like that sports series do. The bonds that were started in the first half with all of its friction are still here but we see the grudging respect coming along the way, mostly with Hinata and Kageyama as you’d expect, but there’s frictions we see in smaller ways here and there and with other teams, such as the Seijoh arc where Kageyama has some strong connections there. The show does spend a little downtime with things so that the kids aren’t playing constantly but the show is at its best when they are practicing or on the court. But those quieter off-court moments are critically important as well as it lets them interact in different ways. Some shows will be explicitly all about the sport but I’m glad this one doesn’t do that as they’re fun to watch no matter the situation.
One area that I like that gets covered before it moves into the main arc for the back half is that it has the team manager getting things set to bring back their banner. These are important symbols and bringing back the black banner with the crow piece and the word “FLY” on it is hugely inspirational to these kids knowing the past of the team and that they can represent the future. That piece comes in with the seniors a bit more toward the end of the season with the focus on the spring nationals but the show does it well with minimal time devoted to it in order to create a sense of importance about the banner and what this time is trying to do in reviving itself after the problems that it had.
The main match that we get through the final run of the season is definitely good in all the right ways. Sports anime fans can pull plenty of it from what they’ve seen in other shows and there’s certainly a familiarity to it all that plays out. The match against Johsai definitely has some fun to it with Kageyama’s past with Oikawa brought into it but we also get to see the continued growth in how the trust between Kageyama and Hinata is playing out. Both of them are really understanding what they’re capable of and can do but also just how much the friction between them is good as it pushes them to new levels. I liked seeing what the match against some good opponents played out as it did, including their loss, because it showed the difficulty of it all and that it’s not a snap back into place series. Just the exhausted nature of both teams was wonderful to see. But watching how both Hinata and Kageyama push each other, criticise each other, and help each other – and others, ended up really making it a thrill to watch.
While 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 of volleyball 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. I’m also really glad that Sentai course corrected here because this was a crossover show and not dubbing it the first time around was something that I could understand but felt like it was a mistake. So this new edition, bringing the first season in full together, in bilingual form (and a premium edition out there too) is the best of all worlds for fans who want to really enjoy this property. Very recommended.
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: November 14th, 2017
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.