Viz Media has brought a brand new sports series to the West: Haikyu!!, a series about a high school volleyball team! Let’s give it a look and see what it is all about. Is it good?
Haikyu!! Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written and drawn by: Haruichi Furudate
Translated by: Adrienne Beck
Lettering by: Erika Terriquez
Ever since seeing a volleyball player nicknamed the Little Giant on TV as a child, Shoyo Hinata has been a big fan of the sport and always wanted to put a team together to play. However, he never really got much a chance during middle school, being the only member of the boys’ volleyball club until his last year. When he did finally get a chance to play in a real volleyball match, he was crushed under the power of Tobio Kageyama, nicknamed the King of the Court. He declared Kageyama his rival and was determined to beat him in high school. However, in the coincidence of coincidences, the two of them ended up at the same high school and on the same team…
The Initial Impression
While not being that athletic or really into sports, I do quite enjoy sport manga series. There’s just something about the characters, their dynamics, the way the art depicts the action, and the energy of series like this that really grabs me. So, I was hoping Haikyu!! would do the same for me here, even though I don’t know much about volleyball outside of what little I played of it in gym class years ago.
Happily, I am able to say that this was a stellar debut for the series due to a strong introduction and a great cast of characters, especially the leads.
This has to be one of the strongest first volumes for a series I’ve read in a while. It introduced the main and rival characters right away in the first chapter, but threw in a fun twist with them ending up on the same team as each other. It introduced a lot of the supporting cast right away and established the goal of the series: To essentially bring their volleyball team back to its original glory after falling from grace years ago. On top of that and what’s especially good, is that the creator, Haruichi Furudate, provided characterization for almost everyone introduced by the end of the volume. It allows you to start caring about and get invested in the characters right away.
Focusing on that in particular, the characterization is terrific. Starting with Shoyo Hinata, he has a lot of the familiar traits that we’ve seen before in Shonen manga and he’s also not particularly deep, but he just comes across as both very likeable and sympathetic. His desire to play volleyball may seem silly, but it does feel genuine and I admire his desire to get better at it, even playing with his middle school’s girl team or a mom’s club team. He just gives everything his all, and he also has some funny lines.
I dunno. I’d rather not walk up to someone and sniff them.
The other members of the volleyball team are all rather distinct in their own ways. Daichi Sawamura is the volleyball captain who is nice, but also smart and takes things very seriously. From what little we’ve seen of his abilities, he’s very good at using his intelligence and years of experience to his advantage. Ryunosuke Tanaka is an utter goofball and likes tries to act big and mighty. He seems like a jerk, but he’s very amusing and pretty nice at times. Koushi Sugawara is the vice-captain and is very friendly, but is rather easy to worry. He’s not good at making speeches, but he’s quick on the uptake and knows the right thing to say usually. Then there’s Kei Tsukishima, who is just this huge jerk to the other members and likes getting under their skin. While he seems good and knows quite a bit about volleyball, he doesn’t seem like he’s that much of a fan of it and doesn’t really take it all that seriously.
However, the true standout in terms of character has to go to Tobio Kageyama. In middle school, he was referred to as the King of the Court, which people interpreted to mean he is an incredible player that just rules over the opposing team. While he is a very good player and everyone knows it, the nickname and his biggest problem stems from the fact that he is a terrible team player. He bosses his teammates around and commands them to keep up with him. This backfired on him majorly and he ends up having to go to Karasuno High School. This entire first volume almost acts as a complete character arc for him, as he needs to be humbled and learn to change his ways. It’s very well handled overall and hopefully the other characters get this level of development for them as well.
Furudate’s artwork looks pretty good overall too. He’s good with drawing the characters and making them distinct from one another in their heights, faces, and hair styles. The layouts are put together well, with good use of angles to showcase the energy in the characters. The detail in depicting the action and movement of the characters and games is very nice. Now, the thing about the action is that it’s static looking and we’re always just seeing snapshots of it, so the movement and flow is a tad stiff at times. However, Furudate emphasizes the moves and action in the panels with a lot of detail, making the snapshots more powerful and dynamic looking when someone hits the ball, moves around the court, or even just takes a step forward. It really adds a lot, helping make this a fine looking sports title.
The big thing about sport series, and what I consider to be most important, is how well does they do in acclimating people unfamiliar with the sport into its world. After all, some people may not know a lot or anything about the particular sport the series is based around. If you don’t know much about the sport, the rules, or the terminology, you may not be able to follow the series as well as you hope. Haikyu!! is half and half–it explains the rules well enough so that you can understand what’s going on in a volleyball game, but it tends to either to dump way too much information on you all at once instead of easing you in, or it doesn’t explain anything at all.
But besides that, there are really not many problems with this first volume. Even though it has trouble explaining things sometimes, it never really hurt my personal reading experience due to the series’ focus on characterization. There’s occasionally an awkward transition from one scene to another and the artwork is stiff at times depicting the action like mentioned earlier. But again, that’s really it and it is all nitpicky small points.
Haikyu!! Vol. 1 is a very pleasant and enjoyable surprise. It does a great job establishing the characters and setting up the story, with good writing and artwork backing it all up. It’s only problem at the moment is that it isn’t very good at being accessible for people who are not familiar with volleyball, but it isn’t too big of a problem that would stop someone from enjoying the series. Overall, if you are a fan of sports manga and are looking for a new series to try, this is definitely worth your time.
Haikyu!! is currently available from Viz Media. The series has had three anime seasons so far, with the third season set to debut in October of this year. Season 1 and 2 are currently available from Sentai Filmworks. Also, as a fun fact, the series has recently this year won an award for Best Shonen Series (a series aimed at teenage boys).