Haikyuu!! Episode 2: Karasuno High School
Hinata and Kageyama meet again, this time on the same side of the net! The two continue to be unable to get along on any level, and Karasuno High’s volleyball club captain eventually kicks the two of them out of the gymnasium until they’re able to settle the disputes between them. The two decide to go all-out and bet on winning a match against the other first-years to fight for their re-entry into the club as proper members.
Everything’s going just as predicted with Haikyuu, but it’s not a bad thing. This is pure sports shonen and there’s no shying away from that fact, but what makes Haikyuu stand out amongst the other entires into the genre in recent times is definitely in its execution. It’s a cheap word to use I know, but I really think that’s the best way to describe it.
This week we’re introduced to the senior members of the Karasuno High volleyball club – Tanaka Ryuunosuke (my favourite!), Sugawara Koushi and of course the team captain Sawamura Daichi. With the exception of Sugawara (that I’m sure we’ll get to understand a little better as the story progresses), the seniors are a group of fun side characters that are engaging on their own, even without Hinata or Kageyama gracing the scene. Tanaka seems like the typical bully, going full-force with a scowling face worse (and more amusing) than Kageyama on a bad day, but he turns out to be the fun senpai that is willing to go a little easy on his underclassmen when he thinks necessary. Sawamura was amusing to watch too, he seemed to be quite the pushover at first, but when he gets pissed he’s clearly an intimidating presence of the team.
Aside from the array of brand new characters introduced (we’re getting even more next week, I’m especially looking forward to the introduction of first-year Tsukishima Kei) we get a clearer perspective of the current relationship between Hinata and Kageyama, as well as what drives them as players on the court. Hinata is willing to go all-out and jump as high as he can, while Kageyama just wants to win with his own ability alone. It’s not a dynamic we’ve never seen before in sports anime, but it’s handled brilliantly here – dialogue remains straightforward but snappy, humorous and serious whenever necessary without the dialogue ever feeling choppy.
But what continues to stand out is still just how darn good the art and animation is. Geez, everything is just so animated! It sounds stupid I know, but the fact remains that a lot of anime don’t seem to be able to really nail body movements in animation well to really convey the intensity of the sport and the liveliness of the characters. Haikyuu excels in this. Every little movement of the hands, the way the characters walk and move so naturally…the characters feel so alive, so real. It helps make the series more grounded, which is important (to me at least), since I like my sports anime to fall under the believable category, not the superhuman ability one. The presentation of it all is stunning as well. We have some fantastic imagery to help amp up the drama considerably, ocassional changes in animation style to highlight a certain scene, it’s all used fantastically, yet never feels overbearing or incredibly cheesy. It’s that great.