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Haikyuu!! – Early Impressions (episodes 1-5)

If you’re a fan of shounen and/or sports anime and you’re feeling a void left by Kuroko no Basuke this anime season, never fear, Haikyuu!! has come to keep you company. The chosen sport for this series is volleyball. It features Shouyou Hinata,  a first year player Karasuno high school. Hinata is an undersized player who has dreams of becoming an “ace” or star player after watching volleyball when he was younger. So, as you can probably tell already, this is nothing different from your average shounen (aside from the volleyball).

Hinata is joined by his teammates, the most significant of which is Tobio Kageyama. Kageyama is a player who held the nickname “King of the Court” due to his skills as a setter as well as his domineering personality. Kageyama is a high level player but he is shunned in the volleyball community because of his self-first attitude and the poor way he treated his former teammates. Hinata and Kageyama actually met on the court when they were in junior high. Hinata had put together a make-shift team out of his classmates and had never actually played in a match before playing against Kageyama. As you would expect, Hinata’s team was crushed (which ended his junior high career after a single game) but he did get Kageyama’s attention.

When Hinata goes to high school he’s excited to join the volleyball team only to find Kageyama there. The two are immediately at odds but their new teammates won’t stand for it. The captain ends up throwing them out of the club until they prove they can work together. With their own determination and help from an over enthusiastic upperclassman named Tanaka Ryuunosuke, they start to train together and get a better understanding of each others skills and personalities. It’s a real Naruto/Sasuke kind of relationship with Hinata being wild and physically talented and Kageyama being better trained and more skill based. Kageyama has the ability to control the ball and set it pretty much anywhere he wants and Hinata has amazing reflexes and jumping ability despite his small stature. The two are able to get along because they both want to work hard (harder than any normal person) and, in different ways, they are both what the other was looking for back in junior high. Hinata wanted teammates to play with and Kageyama wanted teammates who were dedicated to keeping up with him.

The club captain decides that they can join the team if they prove their teamwork in a 3-on-3 match. Along with Tanaka they play a match against the team captain, Daichi Sawamura and two fellow first year students, Kei Tsukishima and Tadashi Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi is a fairly average person all the way around and has a very compliant personality. Tsukishima, on the other hand, seems to like to be more laid back even though he has a generally negative or sarcastic outlook on things. He disdainfully refers to Kageyama as “King” and says that he dislikes people that work too hard. Despite his protests, he gives it his all in the 3-on-3 game. Kageyama and Hinata end up winning the game when they discover that they can quick attack by having Hinata out run the defense and Kageyama place the ball in an exact spot so that he can hit it without looking. The victory is enough to get them on the team and, with it’s new members, the squad’s already got a practice match lined up.

The first 5 episodes of this show don’t make me think that this is going to be a runaway hit. However, it looks like its got all of the makings of a show that could stay around for a while. Volleyball isn’t a sport that may be known to as many people as football, baseball, basketball or soccer, but it’s pretty easy to understand. So far, this show is taking the more traditional shounen approach by having the characters not start off with their abilities or team fully developed. With that it’s likely that we’ll see an uptick in the intensity of the action and of the series as the characters improve. I’m looking forward to that because I think the best thing the show has done animation wise occurs during the dramatic moments of the game. So even though I’m not “in love” I’d definitely say this show is worth watching.