Look out, it’s a protagonist!

Shoyo Hinata always wanted to play volleyball, but all through middle-school he was never able to form an actual club – having to join the girls club instead. Despite this he continued to practice, always working towards being able to play in a match. His first and final match of middle-school ends in a defeat due to the skill – and size – of the opponents, and in particular the skill of one Tobio Kageyama, known as the ‘king of the court’. Even having defeated him though, Tobio sees surprising talent in Shoyo, although Shoyo himself swears to eventually take him on again some day and win. Now starting high school, he immediately joins the volleyball team there…to find that Tobio is already a member of that same team.

How dare he be good at a sport!

It really is the season for sports anime, isn’t it? Haikyuu! is probably the most anticipated, due to its Jump pedigree. I feel a kind of connection to Haikyuu! because – like Nisekoi – the manga started in Jump when I was buying it in Japan to read on my commutes, thus I got to read it from the beginning as it came out. I haven’t read it in a long time, but I found it cute and pleasant enough, albeit nothing particularly special. It’s clearly riding on Kuroko’s coat-tails, the anime adaptation especially so, but there’s nothing wrong with that I suppose; and I don’t really know of any other volleyball series. I was looking forward to the anime because even though I found the manga merely okay, I was hoping the anime would be more fun to watch – after all, I wasn’t interested in the Kuroko manga at all yet the anime was a lot more accessible from what I saw.
Unfortunately I don’t feel that Haikyuu‘s first episode was a strong one. Like the manga, it dumps us straight into these character’s lives without really letting us get to know them first, which makes it hard to root for them in this Big Important Match. Even though not a great deal happened in this episode it still somehow felt as though it went too fast. By the end of the episode, we still don’t even really know who Shoyo is other than the fact that he’s a Spunky Jump Protagonist who likes volleyball.  If the second episode lets the story stop to breathe and introduce the characters a little more, things will really improve.
I do kind of like the visual style, although it can take a bit of getting used to, and the character designs are pleasant enough. One does wonder why every shonen sports anime needs the Brooding Dark-haired Rival Prodigy Who Is Mad At The Protagonist For No Reason who seems to look almost exactly the same every time, though. (Well, in Kuroko, he had red hair.)
As I said in the Baby Steps review, its characters that make sports shows good, and Haikyuu is going to need a few more episodes for people to decide if these characters are good enough for them. It’s definitely worth a look if you like sports anime about highschool boys and so far it’s the best of the new sports anime this season… but so far Kuroko and Yowamushi Pedal have done it better.

How dare you go to a school!

Out of 5,