What’s good guys? I’m not going to lie I’m pretty pumped because by the time you read this, I’ll probably have started playing Cyberpunk 2077 which is released in 4 days! But this post isn’t about gaming, so I’ll save my excitement for my next PS4 best games post.
As you can see in the title, I’m starting a 2part series on sports anime and why they aren’t as bad as people often think. To do that I’ll draw on two of my favourite sports anime Haikyuu(volleyball) and Hajime no Ippo (boxing). What each post will do is seek to highlight what makes these two anime great, why they are good representatives for the sports genre and maybe what other sports anime can learn from them. Lowkey I thought about mentioning Kuroko no basket and Galactic Football but in regard to the latter I watched it very young and in terms of both of them they both contain super power type abilities which makes them hard to rank with Hajime no Ippo and Haikyuu as these anime don’t include such aspects.
Another thing which will also be confusing all yous, probably the main thing really, is why I’m posting on another persons’ blog. Granted, this paragraph will probably be weird and redundant if it doesn’t make it on her page and if so, this is useless but I’ll leave it here as a constant humbling sign for me that I’m still a pup in this blogging thing. If it has made it onto her page, then hello nice to meet yous and please stick around to read the rest of the post if anything to give me feedback because I seriously only started a few months back and this will be like my 7th/8th post. That being said, I would like to say a massive thank you to Irina for giving me this platform and hopefully my writing isn’t so bad that it causes a mass exodus in your community. In all seriousness thanks though and hopefully you’ll let me do something similar in the future.
ED. of course it made it on my page – why would I remove such a sweet paragraph!
So, because I’m writing on another page, you’re probably wondering what my blog is about and what kind of things I write about? My page mostly sets to cover anime and gaming topics. My recent gaming posts detailed the top 5 best games on PS4 which I’ll link below. I also dabble in societal topics such as qualified immunity and disability, if something catches my eye and gives me a chance to be a more academic which suits me well giving a graduated in law in 2019. I will also link the qualified immunity post for those interested in the US justice system.
- Top 5 games of PS4 (Part 1: The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt)
- Qualified Immunity: Why it is hard to convict US police with crimes against the public
‘So, what made me want to write this post ask’. Honestly, I think it stems from all the years I have heard people who watch anime rubbish sport anime and in general just how underappreciated and overlooked the sports genre in anime can be. Thus, I’m here to shed light as to why sport anime is in fact awesome and why more people should put aside their presumptions and give them a try. Similarly, with people still unsure of whether their favourite sport will be paused due to Corona it is only fitting to fill that gap with an anime based on that exact sport
To kick things off, Haikyuu will be taking centre stage, or should I say court, for part one of this two-part series. For those unfamiliar with this series, I’ll do a quick summary which will hopefully mean you are able to follow the post and most importantly raise your interest for the show. Haikyuu primarily follows Shōyō Hinata and Tobio Kageyama the shows main protagonists. Originally inspired to play volleyball after watching a volleyball high-school ace nicknamed ‘Little Giant’, Hinata forms his own volleyball team in middle school who are then destroyed in their first competition match against ‘King of the Court’ Kageyama’s team. After declaring their rivalry the two end up on the same high-school volleyball team where they then decide to work together to make the school the best.
That’s it nothing extra ordinary like they have to win or the world will explode, a simple school volleyball team nothing more nothing less. Whilst on paper this seems underwhelming, it not being anything out of the ordinary may be the best thing about the show as it can be action packed and has edge of your seat action without over-the-top dramatics. Most importantly, for me, the ‘normal’ things are what makes the show enjoyable and importantly relatable. This may not have been the bestselling paragraph, but it wasn’t trying to be, the later sections will explain why this anime is soo great and why everyone should at least attempt to watch it. However, if the thought of watching a volleyball game is simply off putting, I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading now, heck I’d do the same with golf. Yet, I’d urge you to stick around because you may just surprise yourself and fall in love with it like everyone else who watches the show.
Side characters/ teams
One thing Haikyuu does very well is that it is filled with a strong supporting cast which adds to the anime. For example, in some shows you find that only the main characters get screen time or a character development arc whilst side characters aren’t given that same love and attention. This can result in characters who were once awesome like Neji in Naruto, pretty much fail to develop outside the changes he made in base Naruto. Similarly, this lack of care could also result in characters just failing to change i.e Sakura then to fill plot purposes gain a massive power boost so she could fight semi in par with Naruto and Sasuke. Now though it looks like I’m just crapping on Naruto, believe it or not base Naruto is probably one of my favourite anime it’s just Shippuden which at times damages the franchise and let’s not talk about Boruto. Though, I do have to point out they did my girl Hinata a solid turning her into a badarse because she was dead shy then started boxing with Pain in Shippuden.
Yet, in this instance Haikyuu differs as although they have two main characters the show isn’t just focused on these two nor the karasuno team, but rival school and players get plenty of screen time and development. The beauty of Haikyuu and arguably its biggest strength is that you can honestly have a favourite character who isn’t a part of the main team and find yourself routing for these players when they face off against karasuno. For me, I love Bokuto. He has extremes of emotions which make him a character you can’t help but love, especially when the low moody moments are so funny. The fact that they do this so well means even episode where karasuno aren’t involved you are still invested in the episode because rather than being characters you know nothing about, they are potentially your favourites and so are rooting for them to win.
Another benefit of the show not being centred on one or two characters is that it opens the door for anyone in the team to be the hero for a match rather than the protagonists always predictability saving the day. Better yet, sometimes it isn’t one person dragging the team to victory but a collective effort where the team as a whole comes together and wins as a result of their trust and teamwork. As well, as the positive message this produces for viewers it perfectly sums up the essence of and what happens in sports. Rarely will a team win every game because of their one key player. Basketball, for example, is arguably one of the few sports where one player can change a whole team with one generational talent having the potential to turn your franchise. Yet, even the best players to ever play the sport failed to win championships without adequate help. Jordan before Pippen, LeBron before he joined Heat, Lakers and re-joined cavillers are perfect examples of this. Even in football the best players i.e Messi or Ronaldo get wrecked when playing better teams which was evidenced in Bayern vs Barcelona last year. These examples show no matter how good an individual player is, if you are up against a better overall team you can and will lose.
That being the case Haikyuu’s reliance on building up its supporting cast does wonders not only for the anime overall but ties in with the need for an adequate team. Volleyball is one of the ultimate team sports because whilst the primary thing is to not let the ball touch the ground on your side, you also can’t pass the ball to yourself. This means you cannot not use your teammates you have to rely on them whether that be to stop the ball landing on your side, pass to you or score. To summarise what all this demonstrates is first Haikyuu’s ability to create a diverse character pool outside the main team but also by constantly developing these characters, it enables them convey the overall teamwork message of the anime.
How the anime makes you feel
what makes Haikyuu stand out not just as a sport anime but an anime in general is how it makes you feel. I’m sure anyone who has played sport of any level can attest to how hard training can get, the number of hours you spend and how nervous you get before big matches. It doesn’t stop there, I remember finding it hard to sleep before certain competitions or playing rival teams the next day because I was so excited. Most of all, the feeling of waning to win so badly you emptied your tank completely is a feeling I’m sure everyone has experienced and if you lost them what if thoughts you get like what if I made that tackle or pass or scored that shot. Haikyuu’s ability to encapsulate these feelings and bring out them raw emotions is what makes it great. For example, spoiler ahead if you are still in the early parts of the anime. For those of you still here, remember when karasuno lost to Shiratorizawa the first time round when Hinata got blocked to end the game? Well, that was a massive turning point for him to develop because he had that what if thought. He started trying to keep his eyes open when spiking because he believed that if he could see the ball he wouldn’t be blocked like that and the game wouldn’t end without him knowing. The what if thought which sport players go through subsequently made him a better player.
Haikyuu goes out of its way to show both sides of the battle, the joy of the winners and the heartache of the losers, the characters themselves wear that emotion on their face. As a result, when all these aspects come together an atmosphere is created where you start celebrating their wins and reflecting on their losses like they were watching your favourite team. For an anime to bring out such emotion is testament to the creators skills because they make the results feel real.
This obsession with winning and utmost desire to not experience the crushing feeling of defeat is always emphasised in the anime which makes it so relatable. Similarly, Volleyball is a sport where only a certain number of players can be on the court at any given time which means for those not deemed good enough to play, they are forced to watch their peers take centre stage. For many, this is probably the worst feeling losing whilst not being able to do anything or even feeling like you have cost your team the match. Interestingly, these two factors are seen within karasuno because the protagonists’ obsession with the sport they are constantly getting better. This means where once the position of the team’s ace was secure, due to Hinata’s growth it, like every other position, is up for grabs. Moreover, those on the bench train and push themselves in order to secure a staring place in the small line-up. This therefore creates a loop where in order to keep your place you have to train hard which means those who want to take your place train harder and so forth.
The best thing about Haikyuu is you see this development in the players every season and every match. For example, at the start Hinata closed his eyes when spiking but now in the recent season has shown the ability to receive, block and read an opponent. Like I said before when an anime is able to get you excited about a win or an awesome move or proud in a characters development (Hinata) you know it’s a great anime. I think a part of what makes the anime great and a pretty good example of what all anime should strive to copy is how characters Hinata and Kageyama changed through the seasons. I’ve already touched on Hinata’s development but Kageyama also showed remarkable growth. He went from being a person whose teammates disliked him due to his demanding nature which was evident by impossible to hit passes, to someone who adapted his passes to suit the skills of his new teammates and started trying to read his mates emotions so as to better serve them.
In addition, what is probably underrated in this anime is how the creators manipulate and emphasis time in the anime. Time, in my opinion, is an overbearing element in the show whether that be how time can be elongated to make each game lasts episodes or how they slow down time at pivotal moments in a match such as when the ball about to drop on the floor or when a player is making a big time receive. Make no mistakes yes arguably 3 of the teams top 5 players are rookies but at the same time the team’s captain and ace are in their final years which means this is their last chance to win that grand prize. Whereas it could be easy for the first years and maybe second years to take it easy knowing they have another year, the final years are not given that chance hence being on a time limit. Better yet, the younger players know this and so push themselves for their older teammates. This creates an interesting dynamic within the anime in that they only have a certain amount of time to perfect moves and get better if they want to continue winning games. Which translates to practice sessions and training arcs which are just as intense as the matches played in the high-school tournaments.
Finally, tied to the previous paragraph on how the anime can make you feel is how realistic it is. As someone who grew up around sport, either playing or watching it, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that not only is sports/training one of my main interests but something I still partake in even though I left university last year. That being said, I have often tried to get friends into watching a sport or training with me to varying degrees of success. What I have found however, is that some of them argue that they don’t understand the rules or it doesn’t make sense to them and so if they get involved they’d just be confused. This line of reasoning can be used for people hesitant to watch a sport anime also because if they don’t get basketball then how will they keep up with the powered up version in Kuroko no basket.
Yet, Haikyuu stands out in this instance which makes it an ideal representative for the genre of sport anime. This is because the creators don’t assume people watching the anime know the rules about volleyball, heck I didn’t and still probably have a lot more to learn, because if we’re honest volleyball isn’t really a mainstream sport or as popular as football (non-American) and say basketball. Therefore, at times the anime will literally explain to you the rules and regulations of volleyball or how certain plays work by using diagrams in the episode. Better yet, this isn’t some quick 1 minute explanation but actually quite detailed because by explaining the rules or plays to a character in the anime, you are subsequently being taught the same thing. In all this makes it easier for viewers to understand the basics before the show introduces more complex stuff. Whilst not every sport anime does this, I find that those I enjoy like Ippo and those I want to watch like Baby Steps, go some way in explaining the dynamics of the sport in digestible chunks. This adds to the overall enjoyment of the anime because the more you understand what is going on the more fun it is to watch.
I want to be careful with how I phrase this next paragraph because I’m not one to rubbish one thing in order to praise another but draw attention to a potential fault in one to highlight what is good about another.
So, another reason Haikyuu is such a good anime is because, as mentioned previously, at its core it is realistic. For example, even though you would expect sport anime to mirror its real-life counterparts albeit a little more dramatic, there are some which contain players who have abnormal abilities which makes them such good players. Kuroko no basket is the perfect example of this as the Generation of Miracles pretty much have what is equivalent to basketball superpowers and can do things not even Jordan, Kobe or LeBron would dream of. Furthermore, let’s not forget someone can shot from one end of the court to another which even the greatest shooter (Curry) can’t do. Now I know this appeals to some people, and I won’t lie it is for sure awesome at times, but in my opinion by the end of the series I was done with the whole over-the-top moves because the over-powered nature of some moves dampened my overall enjoyment.
Though, some may argue anime like Boku no Hero is unrealistic because they have powers I would argue that like Dragon Ball Z the show isn’t trying mimic a sport and shows like that are centred on powers being a common thing whereas in sport anime it appears that things are based on real life. As such, for me, the fact that Haikyuu doesn’t rely on such things is one reason why it is such a great representation of sport anime as everything about it is based on volleyball from the techniques to training and if something isn’t related to volleyball it isn’t really shown. In all honesty, I have only seen volleyball played in the Olympics so I’m by no means an expect on what it is like in real life, however a part of me feels like Haikyuu, all things considered, is a good representation of volleyball. When I’m watching the anime, because everything they are doing seems humanly possible, although probably impossible for me, it feels like a normal volleyball match albeit with exaggerated effects on serves which highlight its power. You see the physical exhaustion from long rallies on the players which impact their performance and better yet teams picking on this weakness. Overall, it’s this ability to see something in the anime and potentially mimic it is what gives Haikyuu the edge over other types of anime because all you need really is a ball and a friend to help you practice setting and spiking. Gone are the days of anime fans being known as people who copy Naruto running or Kamehameha without anything happening. Now, due to Haikyuu, kids can start to learn how to play volleyball which I am sure has boosted the rates of the sport in Asian countries in line with the release of the anime. Moreover, if they actually get good at it, they could turn it into a professional career if they so wished.
Before I wrap things up, I have to touch on the animation in the show because it would be criminal if I failed to mention them considering the time and effort which clearly went into it. What people view as beautiful animation in an anime is relatively subjective for example off the top of my head Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works though not the best amine I have ever seen, has by far some of the best animation and character designs which bumped up the overall enjoyment and quality of the animation. On the other hand One Punch Man season 2 is probably the best most recent example of how the animation of a show can worsen what is a well written story and already extremely popular anime.
I say all this stress that the animation in Haikyuu is extremely good, the way the animators is used to emphasis actions in the show helps bring that anime that much more to life as it helps the audience understand what is going on. For example, you can see the movement of air whenever a powerful server such as Oikawa or Mad Dog serves the ball or the way the ball slams on the floor and cannons away before players even get a chance to react. Animation like this helps reinforce just how powerful the shots are and just how good the player who done it is.
Importantly, the animation isn’t just kept to within the anime but also prevalent within the show’s opening song particularly opening 4 Fly High!! And opening 5 Hikari Are. These two for me are just miles apart in its animation, the song itself and the excitement it creates when watching compared to the other seasons. Specifically in referencing opening 5, my favourite, the opening 20 seconds of the song with its quickening pace and rise in volume along with the background beat creates an atmosphere of anticipation and almost chill like sensation which perfectly wraps up the tension in that mini season . I’m going to link both of these tunes down below so yous can see for yourselves.
Overall, due to the reasons stated, Haikyuu is not only an amazing anime but provides a good representation of what sport anime should aim for. If anything, the anime’s success is demonstrated by the impact it has had on sport within Japan and the popularity increase of volleyball worldwide. Considering that Haikyuu is able to have such impacts without buying into the obsession with superpowers says a lot about the overall content of the anime.
Put in the comment section if you’ve already seen Haikyuu, you’re interested in watching it and really anu Haikyuu related comments I’d love to read them. Also, if any of yous are interested in seeing what I write on my personal blog I’ll attach a post below. My page mostly sets to cover anime and gaming though I’ll also write about societal topics, such as qualified immunity if something catches my eye.
PS. Below is a link to a video which helped motivate me to create this post and gave me some ideas. He probably does a better job than me in talking about the greatness of Haikyuu so for sure check it out, I’ve only see the first one so far so tell me what you think.