Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Anime Review: Haikyuu!! Season Two

Apologies for going AWOL, last week was a bit rough, and there was a wedding involved, so I'm just shuffling around my book reviews so that I stay on track. Although, out of all of the material that I review, I have more books waiting to be talked about than anything else so that is a bit of a problem. I really don't have the energy to do additional reviews every week but at this rate it's going to be a race until the end of June for that "best books of 2015" post (yes I know I said initially it was going to be earlier but I'm still reading books!)

To the topic at hand, hurray, more sports anime that's fun above all else.! I feel like Haikyuu is also a really great example of how to make a shounen sports show for women, just give the characters personalities and the fans will flock!

Haikyuu!! Season Two

The once praised and now dismissed club boy's volleyball team at Karasuno High School is making a comeback and it seems like everyone has noticed. The team always had some great players but freshman duo Hinata and Kageyama sometimes feel more like a force of nature than two, book-dumb but passionate teenaged boys. They collide with each other, old rivals, and new foes as they once again try to make it to Tokyo as the best volleyball team in Japan!

The adorkable cast returns and once again I think that the very easy, comfortable way everyone interacts is the biggest draw to the show. Oh there are conflicts and rivalries along the way but the character interactions are so snappish and constantly moving and so nothing ever gets stale or feels awkward. For the relationships anyway, there are a few characters who need a bit more development by now, Hinata and Kageyama are both a bit flat for shounen sports leads, with Hinata it works, Kageyama less so. Funny enough the show gives the most development to a brand new character, Karasuno's new manager Yachi, so the writing can certainly make the characters a bit more fleshed out if it tries! Overall it's doing a fine job (and we even finally meet the last few members of the Karasuno volleyball team) but it's one of the details that makes me worried for the future of the show.

While the first season had the good luck that the original story fit into a two cour slot very naturally, this one was a bit of a more awkward fit with the season starting with a couple of training camps before going into full tournament mode for the back-half. It works but it's simply not as graceful, although graceful is an odd word to try and apply to this show anyway. However this is another thing that makes me a little worried for the series longevity, how long can it sustain a tournament arc? A third season has already been announced for the fall, manga readers have said that the anime is very close to being caught up and even they don't know what's going to happen beyond the immediate next match (and since the show is animated fairly well in advance the staff have even less time to see where the manga keeps going) which is one worrying thing. 

The other is that, unless Karasuno becomes the best team in Japan during Hinata and Kageyama's freshman year (which could happen but even most sports anime aren't quite so ballsy to say that a team gets that good that fast), eventually we're going to have to move to the next year, let go of a few characters, and the story is so not ready to do this yet. It's early in the school year for them yet (it's still summer) but it was mentioned in the first season that there are only two big tournaments in the year, this should be the last time Karasuno faces off against some big-name players and yet it's clear the story still has other ideas for them. It's most noticeable in Oikawa who, at the very last minute of that match, reveals to the viewer that there might be even more going on about why he's so incensed by Kageyama in some ways (I had thought he was a bit too intense about it but Oikawa is an odd duck to start with so it was hard to say). Yet I don't think that Aoba Josei and Karasuno are supposed to have anymore official matches and I don't know where the story is going with all of this build-up (don't tell me my headcanon college AU is actually going to happen!).

For the most part I was able to watch the show without worrying about any of this however, it's delightfully addictive and an immediate mood booster. There were some points where my work was getting incredibly stressful and, even though this was one of my favorite shows of the season, I was sitting on the episode for days, waiting until Monday nights from hell came along and used it to cheer me up and calm my nerves in the process. There's something infectious about how earnest all of the characters are and it makes you want to hug all your friends and go run a marathon at the same time. I'm watching the third season for sure, worries or no worries, but please show, don't over-stretch yourself and ruin what you've got going!