Is this the era of the sports anime? Without doing the research, it really feels like it, more so than at any other point in recent history, and what’s more, most of it’s really quite good! I’ve already written about Ping Pong the Animation, but in short, I love(d) it. Then again, I always knew I would, but Haikyuu!! was a different case. In the past year alone, I’ve watched Ping Pong the Animation, Hajime no Ippo: Rising, Yowamushi Pedal and Kuroko’s Basketball (both seasons,) so you could say that I’m primed for a sports anime burn out. I keep waiting for a show to push me into that abyss and thought that Haikyuu!! would be the one, but spoiler: it wasn’t. Haikyuu!! is really flipping good.
You know it’s the era of sports anime when TV series about table tennis, cycling and volleyball are all being made at the same time. These are hardly the typical fodder for sports drama, right? And yet everything that’s so good about Haikyuu!! is intrinsically linked to it being about volleyball, such an intense and fast team-sport. The keyword there is team. A volleyball team has an ace, but as we find in Haikyuu!!, ‘ace’ is just a word, a trojan, because every player on the team can be the ace.
Case in point, Hinata. Haikyuu!! is a Shounen Jump series and Hinata is the spiky-haired, determined main character. This is his story, so he should be the team’s ace, but he isn’t, mainly because he’s too small. The tall Asahi is the ace and that’s really important because of what it means for the series’ perspective. Everything is less about a team that’s relying on the one hero and more about what a lesser player like Hinata can do to help. It’s okay for him to be an average, fallible person, because superhero or not, we all have a role to play if we’re willing to cast aside our pride.
Watching this series I feel like how the sidelined Sugawara must, looking on as these boys pull together for each other. There’s nothing better in sport than seeing a team fulfil its potential, knowing how deep they’ve dug within themselves to get to that point and reach the summit together. Deep down, that’s what we’re all striving for, right? Those moments of clarity, when everything, everyone, just selflessly slots into place, backing each other up. We should all be so lucky as to experience something as exciting. This is why sports are worth playing, and life is worth living, for these unreal, brief moments when you find out what you’re really capable of. They stay with us forever, and Haikyuu!! is filled with them, each one as beautifully animated as the next.