OP: 「I’m A Believer」 (アイム・ア・ビリーバー) by SPYAIR
“Let’s Go To Tokyo!!”
It’s Back! Hype for Haikyuu!!
It’s been just over 12 months since the first season of Haikyuu!! ended, and I’ve been waiting for my favourite sports anime to return to my screen with unobtainable excitement. In case you haven’t noticed, Divine isn’t blogging this time around (he only appears once in the blue moon – or is it red moon? – after all), so you’ve got me instead!
You will probably notice my style of coverage will be different from Divine’s – who focused on the technical aspects of volleyball and spoke from his own personal experience, having grown up playing it. My experience with Haikyuu!! (and volleyball) is a little different. I’ve been reading the chapters weekly for 3 years now, back when it was a baby competing against the titans of Weekly Shonen Jump. In the beginning I didn’t want to get too invested in the series in case it got cancelled (like at least 85% of their serialisations do), but Haikyuu!! found its audience and has since grew into this massive success story. It’s surpassed the peak popularity and sales of Kuroko no Basuke, which is often considered the biggest sports anime of the current generation. However, despite its youth, Haikyuu!! went even higher: it was the 3rd best-selling manga of 2014 (just shy of the near untouchable One Piece and Shingeki no Kyojin), and its blu-ray/DVD sales were also through the roof, among the best of the year. Not only that, we’ve got two film adaptations, two Jump Festa Specials, and now an upcoming stage play. I feel like a proud parent seeing one of my personal favourite manga getting all the appreciation it deserves, so having it return for a second season is nothing less than a blessing.
All that considered, you can expect me to get pretty pumped and emotional when it comes to Haikyuu!! I love every single character, I love all their dynamics, and I love what Production I.G. has done with the source material. I mean, this episode was basically them flexing their animation muscles, putting shame to all competition. All in all, I have immense appreciation for this series, and even though I already know what’s going to happen, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying every minute of this adaptation. If anything, I’m bursting from the seams just from knowing what this second season will deliver. Oh, it’s gonna be goooooood.
Hinata & Kageyama – Puppies on the Loose:
Hinata Shoyo (Murase Ayumu) and Kageyama Tobio (Ishikawa Kaito) are back – the best unlikely pair in all anime (maybe)! If you’d forgotten how likeable these two were, then this episode serves as a friendly reminder. Whether it be Hinata prancing around like a puppy, Kageyama slowly getting used to camaraderie with his teammates, or both of them bouncing off each other and delivering devastating sets and spikes when it matters most – it’s all great fun, and shows how far they’ve come from the very first episode. Sure, they’re bound to bicker and argue at any given point, but that’s just what happens when two headstrong teenage boys get so invested in what they’re doing.
That’s one thing that Haikyuu!! does so well: you really understand what these characters are thinking and feeling, and if it connects with you on the same level it does with me (and millions of others, evidently) then you’re probably feeling the same adrenaline rushes, bursts of excitement, and giggle fits whenever the characters themselves feel them. It all just fits together nicely, packaged with an animation budget that any studio would envy.
While Hinata and Kageyama were the main focus of this re-introductory episode, their end-game district rival got a bunch of screen-time as well. Ushijima Wakatoshi (Takeuchi Ryouta) is ace of Shiratorizawa High School, the best in the region, and the school where Kageyama couldn’t get into. Hinata’s “Japan!” reaction should be enough proof that he’s already at national level – plus, it was pretty damn hilarious.
We didn’t see too much of Ushijima in the first season, but you can expect him to be the ‘goal’ for the Karasuno boys for the foreseeable future; he’s incredibly strong, stoic, and has that intimidating presence off the court that you can best believe comes across when he steps into the game. Though Hinata and Kageyama aren’t near his level quite yet, seeing Hinata jump up and snatch the ball from him was a fist-pump moment if I’ve ever seen one (we’re sure to get man more of them – I promise)! That, along with Hinata’s serious face was enough to raise the bar for this upcoming season. Get strapped in, cause it’s gonna be one hell of a ride!
Funny story: this is the first time that Production I.G. has strayed from the source material. Last season was pretty much a panel-by-panel adaptation with some extra oomph for good measure, but this episode took some liberties, picking material seven chapters apart and combining them into this one episode. You wouldn’t have thought so, right? I didn’t either until I looked back at the source material, but the different parts of this episode were quite spread out in the manga; I guess that just goes to prove that this is stellar adaptation – even when it’s not obeying by the letter, it still feels completely natural.
Without going into too much detail, the encounter with Hinata, Kageyama, and Ushijima would have happened around episode 4 if it followed the manga, and would have involved a fourth character. After mulling it over, I do think it makes sense that they’d move this big moment forward, as it sets the tone for the rest of the season and kicks it off with a memorable promise: the promise that Hinata will one day defeat the best of the best, and get Karasuno to nationals!
Let’s Go to Tokyo!!
That brings us back to the start (and end) of the episode, with Takeda delivering the news that they’ve been offered to train with the Fukurodani Academy Group, a group of powerful volleyball teams in the Tokyo region, Nekoma among them. There’s also some unfamiliar faces in this in alliance, who will be revealed in due time. However, there’s one problem: if any of the boys fail their upcoming exams, they won’t be able to attend the Tokyo training camp. That puts Hinata, Kageyama, Tanaka, and Nishinoya in a bit a pickle, as they realise in the final minutes of this episode. Gotta love those reason faces!
Overview – First Impressions:
It’s back, and it feels so good to not only be watching it once again, but to now be blogging it! It’s like Christmas come early for me, as I’ll be able to gush about Haikyuu!! for the next six months, and hopefully you readers – whether manga-readers or anime-only watchers – will be here with me to enjoy the ride.
I’m looking forward to reading your comments, talking about our favourites parts of the episodes, and who our favourite characters are. It should be obvious that Tsukki is my bias, but Hinata is up there as well. As for the third spot… well, you can expect her to make an official appearance next week (after showing glimpses of her in the OP and ED, which are both amazing, for the record – it’s great to have SPYAIR back to do the opening; hopefully that becomes a regular thing). I cannot wait for next week to roll around now. See you all then!
In other news: I posted an Anime Summer 2015 Review on my personal blog. Feel free to check it out and see what I thought of the past season – I even ranked all 24 shows I watched in order from worst to best.
ED: 「Climber」 (クライマー) by Galileo Galilei