Well, if Naruto ever decided to play volleyball, he would probably be Hinata, as Production I.G. adapted Haruichi Furudate manga that has transferred the notions and aesthetics of the shonen category to this particular sport.
The script follows the usual shonen path. A boy named Shoyo Hinata, who happens to be very short, wants to become a great volleyball player, like his idol, another short guy, who has made a career in professional volley, nicknamed “Little Giant.” To pursue his dream, he enrolls in Karasuno Highschool, which Little Giant also attended. In there, he must face internal competition, improve, and with the help of his newly acquired teammates face other schools and players. Among his teammates are Tobio Kageyama, a peculiar player who was ostracized for being very strict to his teammates, ironically nicknamed “King of the Court,” and one who Hinata vowed to surpass after his team beat his in Junior High. The two of them eventually form a very strong friendship through their antagonism, as the team improves more and more with time. The other members of the team are Kei Tsukishima, a seemingly detached, very tall rookie, Tadashi Yamaguchi, who seems to follow him everywhere, Tanaka Ryuunosuke, who has distinct yakuza style, Sawamura, the captain and the most composed individual in the team, Yu Nishinoya, an also very short player, and Asahi Azumane, the team’s ace who refuses to continue playing after getting destroyed in a previous match. The team’s staff includes Ittetsu Takeda, the professor in charge, Kiyoko Shimizu, the gorgeous manager, and Keishin Ukai, who eventually becomes the coach. In the second season, Hitoka Yachi, who is to replace Kiyoko when she graduates, also becomes a member of the team as an assistant.
“Haikyuu” makes a very good job of explaining the sport, both in terms of rules and tactics, to the point that it becomes very fascinating watching it, even for those that aren’t interested in the particular sport. Apart from that, the title does a great job of introducing the characters and analyzing them, as they are shaped through their adolescence and the competition. In one of the most interesting episodes, it does a very “deep” and disillusioned comment regarding failure in sports and how to face it. Additionally, themes about team work, team spirit, the effort needed to achieve your goals and the psychology of the game are also examined. The rest of the anime is on par with shonen titles, as it involves training, battles with opponents who become stronger as time passes, and of course, much slapstick humor, as exemplified by the hyperbolic face-pulling, in my opinion, one of the most hideous characteristics of the category. Another tiresome shonen characteristic also present is the long pauses during the games, in order to present flashbacks or someone to explain how he feels or what he is thinking, that actually worsens the magnificent impression those scenes make.
Technically, “Haikyuu” is a masterpiece, starting from the drawing, which offers great detail in the anatomy of the characters, their faces and their clothes and continuing in the surrounding and the depiction of the sport. The animation is astonishing, particularly in the games, which are presented in astounding speed, but also with realism. The colors are also impressive in their vividness, and the sound matches harmonically the various images.
“Haikyuu” is a shonen anime packed in volleyball wrapping, which will definitely impress the spectator visually. For the rest, someone must be a fan of the category to appreciate it.