Haikyuu!! Episode 1: The King and the Little Giant (First Impressions)

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OH GEEZ THIS IS SO GOOD 

The story starts off with a flashback of Hinata as a middle-schooler. He’s tiny in frame, and the only member of the boy’s volleyball team at his school, but he works hard, aiming to be known as a ‘little giant’ –  a player that will be able to jump higher and farther than any other member of any team. He then participates in an actual volleyball tournament with a group of friends that have no idea how to play the game, but is matched up against Kitagawa Daiichi in the first game, a powerhouse volleyball team led by Kageyama Tobio. The game naturally doesn’t go well, but Hinata himself was able to showcase his fantastic abilities as a jumper, and a player who never gave up. At present, Hinata is now a first-year student at Karasuno High School, joining the volleyball club in hopes of beating Kageyama in court, only to realise that Kageyama is no longer an opponent, but a teammate!

vlcsnap-2014-04-06-21h15m18s245Holy crap. Consider my expectations completely crushed. Haikyuu’s pilot episode was fantastic.

I’m not going to lie, the manga didn’t do much for me. I was charmed by the characters (Hinata in particular who is absolutely precious), but the presentation just felt very lackluster, and the art was pretty sketchy. The anime fixed every single problem I had with the manga and then some.

vlcsnap-2014-04-06-21h18m04s106Haikyuu!! boasts the best visuals I’ve seen in a long time. The art direction of this episode was fantastic. Colours used were beautiful, character acting was done so incredibly well, and there were some MAJOR sakuga moments during the match between Hinata and Kageyama’s middle school.

There were some truly beautiful scenes scattered throughout the first episode, and there was a lot of detail in the animation. You could tell the basics of a character’s personality based on the way they were animated. Choreography of the match was fantastic, off-model shots were nowhere to be found, and there were definitely no awkward pauses either. It just made the whole experience so seamless, and so perfect.

The OST from what I’ve heard is definitely pretty good as well. Not as good as the animation mind you, but good nonetheless. Parts that I felt were only alright in the manga packed an extra emotional punch for me here in the anime because of just how fantastic the presentation of the source material was. The OP in particular was a lovely song, but that’s probably just my SPYAIR bias speaking.

vlcsnap-2014-04-06-21h30m20s40With such fantastic execution, it’s no surprise that the characters in the anime felt much livelier than in the manga. They all felt much more expressive and more real, just because of how much detail was put into every single shot. Of course, I will give props to the source material here – Hinata and Kageyama were adorable. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between the two, in and out of court. Kageyama himself is clearly quite the domineering one, and I regret to say that I’ve seen characters of his type before…just not done this well! He never felt too overbearing or obnoxious, and while he definitely plays towards a certain ‘lone wolf’ trope we see pretty often in sports anime, his relationship with Hinata was so well-presented right off the bat that I feel this isn’t much of a problem.

vlcsnap-2014-04-06-21h33m16s18Hinata himself is so adorable though. I’m going to let my fangirl feels show – I love Hinata a lot. He’s small in size but packs a real punch with his jump, while his optimism and perseverance throughout his losing match was just fantastic and near-inspiring to witness. He had such a wholesome, youthful demeanor to him that really shone through in this first episode, and it is seriously impossible for anyone to not like/love him. Of course, as someone that read a little further into the manga it’s a lot easier for me to say this as I’m already latched on to certain characters, but the anime really brings him to life.

Voice acting was really solid work as well. I’m most surprised by Hinata’s voice actor though. I expected like, Yuuki Kaji to be cast as Hinata (which would have sucked, because I think Yuuki Kaji lacks any emotional depth in his voice) but instead we got Murase Ayumu who sounds exactly like a young boy of Hianata’s personality would. His portrayal of Hinata in the first episode alone was really fantastic, and I could feel Hinata’s love for volleyball through Murase’s voice. The rest of the cast had some solid performances as well.

I’m really impressed by this first episode. It made me feel like re-visiting the manga, which, given my not-so-high opinion of, is a real testament to how fantastic of a job Production IG did with this. The story itself is mostly still standard shonen fare, but with such marvelous execution it could really turn out to be something truly special.

Possibility of Blogging: OH MY GOD YOU BET

Possibility of Watching: YESSSSSSS 

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