As far as anime goes, sports shows are pretty neat. When they really hit the sport show sweet spot, they have a serious passion that they’re able to convey.
As far as sports shows go, Haikyuu is showing the potential to reach high into that territory.
Going into this first episode, I ain’t even gonna deny that I had fairly high expectations. Nearly all of the running Weekly Shonen Jump series fill up my “currently reading”-list, and among those Haikyuu is more than easy to regard fondly. Which I totes do, since it’s hard not to with a cast and style like it. Managing to be both passionate and full of energy, while lacking the elements (super powers, overt special moves) which can easily accompany an experience like that. Combine that with Production I.G, a studio easy enough to trust to bring a quality product on a technical level? This was shaping up to be a show with some serious promise behind it.
It’s nice to see trust like that ain’t misplaced.
Haikyuu’s first episode was all it needed to be for a series of its kind. Just really solid execution with an eye for what counts, putting on stage exactly what needed to be there. A clear sense of direction both from the show and from main character Hinata Shouyou, who’s equal parts empathetic and enjoyable with a pinch of slightly terrifying in there. Having been impressed by the jumping ability of a small volleyball player, Hinata has spent his middle school years trying to play volleyball without much success. Sadly for him, the sport isn’t so widely spread on the male side, so Hinata’s middle school prospects to getting to play at all are low. Though when he finally manages to gather a rag-tag team made up of friends and first year students, his prospects simply grow from not getting to play to not getting to play for very long. Yet the kid is simply excited to play on the court with no intentions of losing. The balance struck here by his energy and desire is great, and it’s hard not to like Hinata in his perseverance and positivity.
The counterbalance is set in by one Kageyama Tobio. A strong player celebrated as the “King of the Court” who plays in an already strong team. And while he shares a similar desire for victory as Hinata, he has a total inability to handle the people playing on his court due to his temper and strive for perfection. But it’s this nature of his which let’s him even consider Hinata as a legitimate player and somebody who needs to be taken seriously, even if the outcome of the match is never in real danger. Kageyama’s team wins in quick fashion over the team which barely knew the rules. Hinata is off the court, and Kageyama continues onward. They both leave a considerable impression on each other however, with Kageyama questioning what Hinata has been doing for his entire time in middle school, and Hinata taking to heart what he needs to do next. It sets the stage for these two characters and it simply works, even more so when you include the last moment of the episode and an all too soon reunion.
Take all of the above, and mix it with I.G doing a very splendid job of transferring the style of the manga into animated form. My greatest worry was that it was going to work smoothly, but those worries were clearly unfounded when taking in the general art style chosen for the show as well as the beautiful moments in both the action such as the final spike and directing such as in the change in seasons or the flashes back to Hinata’s younger years. Really, what we got here was by all means fairly basic and straightforward, but it’s pulled off with aplomb. If Haikyuu can keep this up, then this ride can seriously take us higher than I could have expected. “First” impression well made, I.G.