‘Haikyu!!’ serves as an introduction to anime


“Haikyu!!” introduces Netflix viewers to Japanese television and entertainment culture with its stylistic elements.

netflix.com “Haikyu!!” introduces Netflix viewers to Japanese television and entertainment culture with its stylistic elements.

Benjamin Haylett, Staff Writer

Anyone who comes into contact with me on a regular basis is well aware of my taste in movies and television. I practically never stop talking about it. While I will normally say that I will watch anything besides horror movies about demons, there is one area of cinema and television that I have barely touched.
That area is anime.
It’s not that I explicitly have something against the Japanese cartoon format, it’s just that I have never had much of a desire to watch it. I have seen a couple Studio Ghibli films, but that is about the extent of my foray into the wide world of anime. My girlfriend, on the other hand, happens to love anime, and told me to pick one that we could watch together. As a way to dip my toe in the water, I picked one about a subject I already knew about: volleyball.
“Haikyu!!” is an anime series that is available in both dubbed and subbed formats on Netflix. The series follows a young boy named Hinata, who wants nothing more than to be a part of a real volleyball team. Despite his quite short stature, Hinata has natural talent for the game that just needs to be molded by the right coach, or possibly, another teammate. Kageyama turns out to be the prodigal teammate of this story.
Kageyama, while incredibly skilled, is self-centered and arrogant on the court. When it comes time for the two to play on the same team, the unlikely pair aggravate each other to no end, but something happens as they continue to work together. Each of the player’s shortcomings is complemented by the other’s strengths, and the two work together to try and get their team to nationals.
For anyone who speaks Japanese, the plot of the show comes as no surprise, as “haikyu” translates to “volleyball” in English. I really get a kick out of the fact that the sport that the show depicts is the name of the show itself. It would be like if “Friday Night Lights” was simply called “Football.” I get the feeling that something like that wouldn’t particularly sound very interesting as you are flipping through the channel guide here in America, but apparently it worked well enough in Japan, as the show has multiple seasons and is based on a highly successful manga series. Manga is the Japanese equivalent to comic books.
The name of the show isn’t the only element that doesn’t exactly translate well into more Western viewing habits. Each episode is very slowly paced, which my girlfriend tells me is something that is pretty ubiquitous in anime. When Hinata and the team go to a match, it is not unusual for a single set to last the majority of the episode. Between the slow pacing and the constant monologues, it can be a bit of an adjustment for someone who is used to the breakneck speeds of American cartoons like I am.
All that being said, the slow pace does work to the show’s advantage at times. When the action of a match is really heating up, the pacing goes from zero to 60 in no time flat. The sudden acceleration gives the important moments an urgency that makes them stand out as something very special.
You wouldn’t think that you’d get almost anxious watching a cartoon about volleyball, but I am here to tell you that while you may have the entire seat at your disposal to sit in, when the action picks up, you are only going to need the edge. It is that good.
Given that the show is targeted at an older audience, many different character arcs are happening at the same time. Each one is as compelling as the next, and I wouldn’t say there is a shallow character in the bunch.
The entire team is relatable to a fault, and it is really easy to become emotionally invested in their well-being, because you either know someone just like the character, or you are just like the character. There are very few shows that can pull off that kind of empathetic qualities, and the fact that this is a cartoon makes that all the more impressive.
While I may not be the biggest anime fan, I have to say that I am completely hooked on “Haikyu!!.” Strict anime enthusiasts may be disheartened to hear that I am watching the English dubbed format, but I am still having a good time, and I don’t have to read any subtitles. Maybe if I rewatch it I’ll switch to the original Japanese, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. You can watch both seasons of “Haikyu!!” on Netflix now.