Haikyu!! Season 1 Collection 2 (Episodes 14-25) (Cert 12)
1 Disc Blu-ray/ 2 Disc DVD (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 303 minutes approx.
It’s time to step back onto the volleyball courts with Shoyou Hinata and the rest of the Karasuno High School volleyball team as they prepare to do battle once more for sporting supremacy.
As this is a two cour series, volume two covers the second half of the show’s run, picking up directly from where we left it last time. The team have secured the full time services of Karasuno alumnus Keishin Ukai after impressing him with their skills and determined attitude during their loss to the team from Nekoma at the training camp practice matches.
The focus in the episodes is on the Inter-High School tournament which sees Karasuno draw some very formidable teams in their bracket. Should they succeed against their first round opponents, they will face some serious competition in long time rivals Dateko High School, whom previous incarnations of the Karasuno team have never beaten.
With most of the character introductions and relationship building explored in the first half, it is pretty much action all the way for this second half. Because of the tournament structure, it is a bit difficult to go into detail about the plot from this pint forward as that would spoil things; suffice to say, however, that since the core theme is the injection of new blood to the Karasuno team, more than one match is played.
But this isn’t your typical fairy tale scenario where the underdog team smashes through the competition to become the new champions and everyone goes home happy – there is a drama to unfold, and our heroes learn very quickly not to take anything for granted, even with a new coach and a formidable young duo upfront. There are no overwhelming victories either, with every point earned through the proverbial blood, sweat and tears.
Every sport is formulaic in one way or another and volleyball is not different, so expect some of the game play to be a little repetitive in terms of the manoeuvres executed, but don’t mistake this to the set pattern for each game – the team on both sides become wise to their oppositions tactics and adjust their own accordingly.
This is where the drama comes into play allowing each game to draw the viewer in regardless of the repetition factor. Each team has its own unique tactic or famed game plan to employ, such as The Iron Wall Of Dateko, a thorn in the side of every Karasuno team, witnessed for the first time by the newcomers Hinata and his rival-turned -friend “King Of the Court” Tobio Kageyama.
Because this is also a character driven series as much as it is a sports show, we are afforded the occasional introspective aside for some of the players, this time extending the scope to the opposition. Kageyama for instance, once played alongside some of his current adversaries in junior school, as recalled in a flashback via Oikawa, the star player for the feared Aoba Johsai team.
Incidentally there is a female volleyball tournament running concurrently with the boy’s contest, which I don’t recall being mentioned in this series before. Unfortunately for any female viewers, the attention this gets is minimal although there is one superbly edited sequence when the action cuts back and forth between the two simultaneous games, adding some unique tension and excitement to the proceedings.
Speaking of the female cast, assistant coach Kiyoko Shimizu actually gets some lines this time. Only a few mind as she admits to not being much a speaker, but she is something a good luck charm and tacit motivator for the team. Meanwhile their protective nature towards Kiyoko when boys from other teams try to approach her still provides some amusing distractions.
As someone who is a self-confessed hater of sports, the power Haikyu!! possesses to have me fully invested in the matches and intrigued by the results is almost voodoo like as one really does find themselves on the edge of their seat. I still don’t understand all of the rules, the various positions or the terminology but it is virtually impossible not to formulate your own game plan in your head for the team’s next attack.
This is down to the clearly knowledgeable writing of Haruichi Furudate and the keenly researched adaptation of screenwriter Taku Kishimoto in creating such gripping yet entertaining displays of physical and sporting prowess, which are astutely observed and replicate with complete credibility yet executed with the intensity and energy of a shonen fantasy battle.
In that regard, while the matches run across many episodes, there is none of the ennui or procrastinating of a Dragonball Z or Naruto here – the time is used wisely and to its fullest and there is never a dull moment. Occasionally we pause for a flashback or a mental deconstruction of the opposing team’s strategy but it is all relevant to the plot and the growth of the cast as players.
Director Susumu Mitsunaka employs a number of film like shots and tight editing to take us into the heart of the action on court, relying on old favourites like slow motion at critical moments to heighten the anticipation of the match result. One superb scene shot from overheard follows the ball’s journey across the net and between the players of the receiving team as they set up their next attack, all in one smooth take.
Production IG’s seamless application of CG and 2D animation is responsible for the verisimilitude of the movements of both the player and the ball, its constant spinning and often unwieldy impact an important and overlooked factor in recreating the minutiae of the game. The sound effects are once again equally astounding in completing the whole experience.
If you are fed up with football, turned off by tennis or care nothing for cricket then the only sport to watch this summer is volleyball, courtesy of this superior and rewarding anime regardless of genre.
Let’s hope Haikyu!! season 2 arrives on UK shelves soon!
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – **** ½
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