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In a universe where humanity is dealing with the twin existential threats ofand a host of increasingly terrifying COVID variants, I’m not sure I have the time, energy or impulse to consume complex, award-winning TV.
No thanks. I’d rather watch disposable, easily consumable shows like Haikyu!!
Haikyu!!, currently available to watch on Netflix, is an anime. A sports anime to be precise. Much like Slam Dunk, the show it’s most clearly inspired by, Haikyu!! focuses on a ragtag group of high school students: Teenagers who are obsessed with volleyball.
Wait… volleyball? That niche sport no one really watches or plays?
Yes. Volleyball. That niche sport no one really watches or plays.
Indifferent to volleyball? That’s understandable. It’s hardly the most compelling or popular sport. As someone forced to play volleyball for one incredibly painful semester in high school, I hated volleyball, but I love Haikyu!!.
And in Haikyu!!, the volleyball barely matters. Despite being a show that spends a significant chunk of its runtime in volleyball training arcs and intense volleyball matches — in Haikyu!!, volleyball is almost inconsequential.
More than anything, Haikyu!! is a show about the people who play volleyball.
Following Hinata Shoyou, a shorter-than-average high schooler trying to succeed in a sport where height is placed at a premium, Haikyu!! — much like most sports anime — is first and foremost a show about overcoming adversity. Despite being vertically challenged, Hinata is blessed with incredible jumping power and athleticism and drives his high school team the Karasuno Crows to new heights. Much of Haikyu!!’s power comes from watching Hinata dismantle the giants he has to compete against.
If you’ve watched any anime, you’ll know exactly what to expect: long, drawn-out flashbacks, slow motion, drama, contests that go down to the wire and numerous, endless crowd reaction shots as protagonist Hinata lands incredible volleyball spikes against all odds.
I love it. Can’t get enough of it. Drip feed this serotonin directly to my veins.
Inspired by an expansive canon of high school sports anime, there’s a comforting familiarity with Haikyu!!. The aforementioned Slam Dunk provides the template, but Haikyu!! borrows elements from almost any sports anime you could name: Prince of Tennis, Ping Pong, Hajime No Ippo. Much like those shows, Haikyu!! takes the humdrum of high school life and elevates it into something dramatic and spectacular.
Points are won and lost. Rival teams and enemies are introduced. Crushing losses are navigated and glorious victories are secured. It’s all done with the studied efficiency of creators who have clearly absorbed a legacy of this type of storytelling and refined it to a razor sheen. Haikyu!! is the end product of decades of sports anime and, as a result of this, is incredibly easy to consume. Every second is a condensed, hedonistic joy.
But what elevates Haikyu!! beyond run-of-the-mill sports anime are the characters themselves. Every member of Hinata Shoyo’s team, the Karasuno Crows, has their own struggles and doubts and volleyball is merely the thread through which these issues are overcome. The team’s “ace” Asahi is timid and wrestles with feelings of inadequacy. Kageyama, the team’s setter, is single-minded, but riddled with anxiety after a previous team abandoned him mid-match.
Even members of the opposing teams are incredibly well drawn. Tōru Oikawa, the outwardly friendly, yet manipulative captain of main rivals Aoba Johsai is perhaps the most compelling character study. He’s designed to be the show’s primary villain, but is ultimately rendered sympathetic. Oikawa, who overcomes his talent deficit by lifting the level of the team that surrounds him, has his own demons to slay. You can’t help but root for everyone in Haikyu!! and it drives the stakes of every single match to fever pitch.
On a few occasions I’ve found myself on my feet, punching the air in glee during matches.
The first two seasons of the show are available to stream on Netflix, but there are four seasons in total. If you’re impatient, you can watch seasons three and four for free on Crunchyroll.
I took it a step further. After watching all episodes of the show, I needed more. I’ve now read every single chapter of the manga source material the anime is based on. Folks, you’ve got a lot of great stuff to look forward to. The rabbit hole runs deep.
But, for now, every single journey starts with a first step. The first step of your Haikyu!! journey begins with episode 1 on Netflix. You won’t regret it.
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more
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