Why you should just try that show you’re hesitant about; how I fell in love with sports anime by finally watching Haikyuu!!

{Spoilers for Haikyuu!! seasons 1-2, not each plot point (as always) but some major ones, so beware}

Even as a kid, I remember not getting what’s so great about sports. It’s fun if you’re doing it with friends, I learned in primary school. Not so fun when you’re not as good at it and everyone is for some reason really angry and competitive, my learning process continued in middle school. Safe to say, coming from a country that is almost obsessed with basketball, to the point of calling it our 2nd religion, I didn’t really get that either. What’s so great about a bunch of people screaming at one person or another, for throwing the ball one way or another?

At this point, “the book-worm who doesn’t understand sports” is a cliché and I’m not really proud to be one. Just like in real life, having no passion for outdoor activities due to a hard time making friends near my home and disinterest in the anxiety caused by others being competitive, almost naturally, I avoided sports anime as well. With the stupid reasoning of “It’s all just boring over-hyped screaming with flashes of what the hell is going on, where’s my rule book that has to be illegal”.
What I failed to understand was the hype, investment and the characters. Now I know that I missed quite a lot of amazing shows, not only character or story wise, but also for the amazing animation. Nevertheless, for nearly 12 years I was disinterested and almost avoided any real sports anime. (I love how I’m making it look like some childhood trauma, when in reality I was/am just a confused kid with glasses and a horrible depth perception, who just likes books more).

Up to this day, I have no idea how I passed half of the stuff from gym class, even with most of it being easier (I had and have some eye problems, that called for safety precautions)

I first heard of Haikyuu!! years before I actually sat down to watch it. In my mind it quickly became “that volleyball show which has the fandom who can’t talk for more than 2 minutes without a ship war”, however, it’s way more chill and open than I expected (every fandom has bad fans, they don’t and shouldn’t define all of the fandom though).
I don’t even remember what finally pushed me to watch it? Maybe the fact that I watched and loved March comes in like a lion, which technically has sport elements and some strategy moments? Or was it the surprise of me liking Hidamari sketch- not a sports show in any way, I just remembered trying to watch it back in my “Shaft is the coolest thing ever, oh my god this one has the Madoka art style” period of life and being bored to tears for some reason at that time, despite loving it now (I am baffled by and embarrassed for my younger self).
One way or another, I had a long vacation-trip ahead of me and I was determined to watch anime I’ve had in my list for years, during the hellish bus ride.

Back then I wasn’t cool enough to watch Hidamari Sketch I guess…

I was smart enough to try out the first few episodes back at home, kudos from me to me. Unexpectedly, I was hooked from the very first minutes.
Haikyuu opens up with our protagonist Hinata Shoyo wondering about what lies beyond “the tall wall” of a block before him, introducing the first and one of the main problems- his height and want to play volleyball despite it. Hinata, inspired by the player of a similar height, playing for Karasuno High in the Spring Inter-high, decides to join a volleyball club in his middle school.

Despite being the only member, with the help of his friends from other clubs, he somehow manages to makeshift a team and even make it to their first match. Whatever luck or rather lack of it with, their very first match is against a super strong school- Kitagawa Daiichi Junior High, the tournament favorite. Before the match, Hinata runs into some of their players who are ready for and relaxed about an instant win, before another one of their team members shoots them a glare and says “You’re not even on the bench. You think you’re good enough to look down on your opponent?”. This is Hinata’s first meeting with the “King of the court” or so nicknamed Kageyama Tobio.
The power imbalance among the teams is obvious, especially since Hinata is the only player on his team who is an actual volleyball club member. However, the effort of his friends is undeniably there and Hinata’s skills and talent are displayed early on- he even manages to score against the much stronger enemy team, using his speed and quick reflexes.

Of course a win in this situation is nothing more but a dream. Despite it, Hinata doesn’t give up and promises to defeat Kageyama one day. However this promise is cut short, as upon finally entering Karasuno High and going through the volleyball club’s door… Hinata comes face to face with none other than the King of the court

The following episodes show the slow build of Hinata and Kegayama’s friendship (or them learning to get along on some level in their own way) and the build up of Karasuno’s volleyball team and their strengths. The team is nothing less of a colorful cast of characters, from the serious and somewhat scary captain Daichi, the friendly Sugawara, the scaredy-cat ace Asahi (who looks like a delinquent and often suffers for it), the stubborn and energetic Nishinoya and Tanaka, the snarky yet no-nonsense attitude Tsukishima, to the bubbly and anxious Yamaguchi. It’s impossible to forget the supporting cast as well, as they are quite a key part of both the team and the show.

In the end, why is Haikyuu so good and enjoyable? The answer without a doubt lies in the characters, but also in the story progression. At the end of season one, when Karasuno are playing against Aobajohsai High (consisting of Kageyama’s former teammates who still hold a sort of grudge against him), I was honestly expecting the usual shounen “miracle win”, especially after such of a crushing defeat for Hinata so early on. This wasn’t the case and in the end, Karasuno lost with Hinata’s eager spike being stopped and him unable to save the ball.

The anime portrays clear doubt and frustration over the loss. The team takes the time to take it all in and rise to the challenge yet again, in season 2. Unlike what you might expect, they don’t use the same three moves just in different order, but actually learn new ones from their previous practice/official matches against other teams. One of the episodes even focuses on Hinata wanting to learn a different way to spike and having an argument with Kageyama over it and the two learning a new way to hit instead of it being a perfect toss+Hinata hitting it with his eyes closed. Another huge plus is that the entire team train and improve in their own way.

All of the training they did makes the season 2 finale even more impactful; while Aobajohsai surely put a lot of time in as well, we followed Karasuno from step one. The fight is tense and energetic and the outcome is unclear until the very last moment. By the match point I was on the edge of my seat and the pay off of Karasuno finally winning was incredible, with both teams doing their absolute best and putting everything on the line. It’s fun and exciting at the same time and what’s truly wonderful, is that it can be experienced both by playing and watching others play. I was beyond excited for season 3 and Karasuno’s match against Shiratorizawa, a powerhouse ranked among the top 8 of Japan.

(Another cool thing that I forgot to mention and which probably is a regular thing for sports anime, but I’m completely new so hey this is pretty neat, is that Haikyuu takes the time to explain not only the rules but the positions and moves the characters use)

All in all, Haikyuu!! is an inspirational story filled with breath-taking action and strong characters. It teaches its audience to strive for their goals no matter what circumstances they might be in and the value of teamwork. Karasuno might be not as strong individually, but as a team they can take on any challenge.

With that being said, such is my journey into sports anime and learning to appreciate both it and actual sports and the hype surrounding it, also of me overcoming my own self imposed cliché of a book fan who hates sports.
There are a lot of things which might seem scary, weird or make you hesitate to try them; whether it’s a show or a new hobby, but you can never know for sure unless you try.

What are your thoughts on sports anime? Are there genres you were hesitant to try before watching a certain series? Let me know in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “Why you should just try that show you’re hesitant about; how I fell in love with sports anime by finally watching Haikyuu!!

  1. I definitely avoided sports anime but finally started watching them. Haikyuu definitely made me fall in love with it despite going in with the assumption that I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t seen that many sports anime to really compare, but, either way, I think that depends on your taste. If you’d enjoy a story with action,clear character growth and sometimes funny sometimes insightful interactions between the characters (especially with the team working together to solve a problem), then I’d say give Haikyuu a try!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a really good one! I also love this series and have also been following the manga. Glad you finally got the chance to see the awesomeness in this show.

    P.S. I highly recommend Chihayafuru if you haven’t seen it yet. ^^

    Liked by 1 person

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