While I am a cosplay enthusiast, my miserly nature strictly limits my cosplay-related purchases. However, the instant I came across Haikyu!!, which began simulcasting on Crunchyroll last spring, Karasuno High School uniforms fell into the “must have” category. And now, both my husband and I can show our spirit for the Karasuno volleyball team in our latest outfits.
For those unfamiliar with Haikyu!!, it’s a sports anime centered on a high school volleyball team. The story follows two freshmen: Shoyo Hinata and Tobio Kageyama. Hinata is the eager raw talent who couldn’t truly play the sport due to the absence of a boys team at his middle school. Kageyama, on the other hand, is a seasoned and genius player, but his high-handed attitude cost him the respect of his middle school teammates and a championship victory. The two wind up at Karasuno High School, and though they start as rivals, they learn how to work with one another and, more importantly, what it means to be a team.
Although the fall anime lineup remains to be revealed, I’m fairly certain that Haikyu!! will be my favorite anime of 2014. This is fairly unusual for me since my taste leans heavily toward shojo, fantasy, and historical, and Haikyu!! is none of these. However, even if you’re not into the sports genre, even if you dislike volleyball in real life (like me), even if you’re not really into anime, give Haikyu!! a chance. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it sucks you in.
For one, the cast is immediately relatable. Whether it’s Hinata’s nerves sending him running to the bathroom or discouraged ace Asahi’s reluctance to return to the sport, you definitely get where they’re coming from.
For another, the pacing is excellent. Volleyball requires a large group of people, but characters get introduced in a way that really establishes their personalities and how they connect with the rest of the team. The show also makes volleyball rules, strategies, and tactics comprehensible for the uninitiated. At times, explanations border on info dump, especially with faculty advisor Takeda-sensei referencing a “how to” guide for volleyball during practice. However, if you don’t know your wing spiker from your float serve, it’s quite helpful.
Another huge plus is that I can recommend Haikyu!! to viewers of all ages. The subtitles do include a few cuss words (though I think that’s more of a reflection of Crunchyroll’s translation choices than the content), but there are no giants eating people, no end-of-the-world devastation, no fan service. Yes, there is the one cute girl whom a third of the team is crushing on, but she is NOT a panty-flashing airhead, her breasts aren’t the size of watermelons, and she’s not a wacko sadist who can’t cook. What you get instead is an overwhelmingly positive vibe from a bunch of boys, each with his quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, as they go through ups and downs yet strive to bring out their best in the game. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I fell in love with a cast like this. Even among Karasuno’s rivals, no one is truly hateful, and several are worthy of their own fan followings.
And while Team Karasuno’s goal of winning the Nationals is what drives the plot, there’s plenty of humor to be had. Between ill-aimed balls, snarky potshots, and hilarious visual metaphors (my all-time favorite is Kageyama holding the Hinata bazooka), Haikyu!! manages to be fun and inspiring and gripping all at once. Add to that cool character designs, excellent action sequences on the court, catchy opening and closing themes, and you’ve got one gem of an anime.
So check it out! Even if you don’t have a Crunchyroll subscription, you can watch the with-commercial version for free. And perhaps you’ll find yourself joining me among the ranks of the Haikyu!! cosplayers.