The second collection of the hit volleyball anime picks up in the midst of vigorous training under coach Keishin Ukai’s tough love approach, whipping the Karasuno boys into shape ahead of the interscholastic preliminaries where only one team in 60 makes it through to the nationals. In between bouts of ball-time, the team talk strategy and the roll call of attack plans, enemy teams and positioning is like a military exercise, making the court a battlefield.
Shoyo Hinata, “the greatest decoy” and the “King of the Court” Tobio Kageyama both share in the fevered vision of again playing against rivals Nekoma following the ‘friendly’ match in the first half. But to get revenge, they must take the fight to the Nationals, a feat accomplished only by winning every one of their preliminary matches.
Haikyu!!, and other entries into the swelling sports subgenre, are marked out by a distinct lack of the toxic bravado that mires so many real life sporting events. Instead there’s a real team spirit, an affection that draws you into the drama on court and off, but it’s where the two intersect that the series is at its best. The collection is made up of two matches, the first against the “Iron Wall” of Date Tech and the other against Blue Castle, both leaving the viewer with bated breath.
Of course there’s still plenty of intimidation, one-upmanship and a few smarmy players (Date Tech, I’m looking at you), but it’s all in good spirits, especially with the flashbacks fleshing out players’ entry points and progression in the game. When Karasuno’s ace, Asahi Azumane, first came up against the daunting Iron Wall, leaving his strikes deflected, his confidence was ravaged. Feeling he’d compromised his own team, he quit volleyball altogether. That is, before Shoyo’s infectious enthusiasm brought him back to the court. His comeback victory over the opposing team is a real fist pump, tear-jerking moment – one of many that make up the collection.
Both matches have all the excitement of a full blown brawl, with a giddiness in each receive, serve and spike. The sound design sells the realism of each match, with echoing voices in the gymnasium imparting the sheer scale of it. The animation, likewise, makes every sweat drop and stress line an exercise in design. With the spike in sports anime, Haikyu!! is hardly unique in expressing the hard slog and camaraderie universal across all games. But with its distinctive visuals and stellar writing, it is the one leading the pack.
For our review of part one, click here.
Clean opening/closing animation; also available from Sentai Filmworks.