Haikyuu is one of my favorite sports anime by far. In general, I’m a fan of the sports shonen formula. The biggest reason being that you get to spend time with characters who in video games terms, have or soon will, maxed out their professionalism, ambition, determination and work ethic. Reading or watching a title with such characters can only have a positive effect on a person. It certainly does on me. It helps me stay focused and motivated to stick to my goals. Being in a lull or “lack of form” lately, finally reading Haikyu the manga was a no brainer.
Haikyuu means volleyball and that’s just what this manga by Haruichi Furudate is about. It follows the volleyball dreams and ambitions of the Karasuno High boys, especially focusing on Hinata Shoyo and Tobio Kageyama. One of the more interesting twists that the author does is turn the manga on its head right in the first few chapters. In a typical sports manga, you would usually get introduced to a talented kid who gets discovered by a coach. Eventually, we would meet his rival and slowly but surely branch out and create a whole cast of characters. Furudate doesn’t do that. We meet Hinata as his middle school team is about to play his first and it turns out only volleyball game. Hinata is short for a volleyball player, but he is gifted with incredible athleticism, just incredibly explosive and agile. Even tho his athleticism is impressive, what really sets him apart from the rest is his passion and enthusiasm for the sport itself. He lives and breathes volleyball. But sadly, he didn’t really have an avenue to truly enjoy it in middle school. The school he went to was on the small side, without a proper volleyball club. This means that he spent most of the time practicing himself, in and around his house, in parks. He even joined and played with a local women’s rec league team. It is only in his final year of middle school, that he somehow managed to patch up a team without subs, mostly made up out of his friends who usually play other sports.
But his long-awaited debut didn’t turn out as he hoped it would. Apart from the perpetual stomach cramps induced by nervousness, his rag tag team play a prefectural powerhouse and they get destroyed. On the other side of the net, Hinata meets Kageyama, a supremely talented setter, who has one flaw, he is a tyrant on the court. They nicknamed him the “King of the Court”. Not because he is amazing at what he does, but because he acts like an absolute monarch and tries to micromanage every single possession on the court. Hinata vows to play him again in high school and taking revenge for the defeat he suffered. Then Hinata joins the once famous Karasuno High School, who were a powerhouse, but fallen on hard times. Hinata’s idol was a famous Karasuno alumni nicknamed “The Little Giant” and his career is one that Hinata looks to emulate. And, on his very first day, just as he opens the Karasuno Gym for the first time, who does he see there but Kageyama. Both are in shock, as are most readers who expected a formulaic sports manga. But from the start, we get two rivals who must learn to play with each other, especially Kageyama who has clashed with teammates again and again in the past, trying to impose his will onto others.
The art is fantastic. The author manages to find his own distinct style. While there are a lot of sports manga that try to attract readership with creating bishonen characters, Furudate is more interested in conveying just how dynamic and explosive the sport is. He shifts perspectives constantly, without sacrificing the realism of the moves, something less and less sports manga do, opting for a more shonen based, almost superpower like approach to playing sports. Kuroko’s basketball comes to mind as one such manga, where some of the characters have straight up superhuman level of ability. The quality of art never fluctuates. Every single panel is drawn well to the last detail, both the foreground and background. Every single chapter has a few panels that look like individually commissioned drawings.
And finally, to top it all off, the manga is hilarious. The majority of the humor is based on the clash of personalities between the characters, especially Hinata and Kageyama. They also manage to turn Hinata’s struggles into comedic relief, as well as his perpetual stomach aches. I don’t think there is a single character that we meet in the first volume who won’t make you laugh at least once. Excited to read through the whole thing and review review it once I’m done. (Which will be in over a year from now, given my chapter or two per day pace!).