Haikyuu!!, by Haruichi Furudate
Genres: Shonen, Sports
Favorite Characters: Tobio Kageyama, Shōyō Hinata, Hitoka Yachi
As long as I’m here, you’re invincible.
For all of the times that I’ve mentioned Haikyuu!!, I’ve never reviewed it or gone into depth on why I love it so much, even though I’ve been reading the manga. The reason behind that is because I usually like to review manga when I’ve either finished the series or am close. A manga usually shows its merit around the halfway point, but there are times when it can completely spin out of control and plummet toward the very end. Some examples include Bleach, which everyone is pissed about, and Attack on Titan. (I know everyone loves the anime, but the more I read the manga, the messier it gets.) Because I hate reading anything electronically, I have been patiently waiting while the manga for Haikyuu!! is translated into English and published in volumes.
I am almost at the halfway point, and I cannot wait any longer.
You have to understand that getting into the Haikyuu!! fandom is a trap. It will absolutely devour you. I got into it last autumn, and the way it affected me changed my life. I have never been athletic, and I’m not good with working in teams. There is absolutely nothing about sports that interests me whatsoever – and yet, October of my senior year of high school, I remember working in the elementary library and being so consumed with the need to play volleyball that I wanted to scream.
Haikyuu!! is intoxicating and all-encompassing. Its energy is insanely intense, its humor is sharp and on point, and it’s more motivational than any self-help book you can buy. The crazy thing is, though, is that the story is not that complicated at all. It follows Shōyō Hinata, who, after seeing a player known as the Little Giant play at Nationals for Karasuno High School, becomes obsessed with volleyball. He has a meager middle school career and only plays one game in one tournament against Kitagawa Daiichi, who crushes them. It is there that he meets Tobio Kageyama, Kitagawa Daiichi’s star setter and the King of the Court, and vows one day that he will beat him and stay on the court the longest. However, the following school year Hinata attends Karasuno High School and discovers that Kageyama is now his teammate.
The two of them are always fighting, but on the court they are compatible, with Hinata’s athletic reflexes matching up with Kageyama’s skills into a freak quick-set that’s extremely hard to receive. Along with the rest of the members of the team, they set out to return to the national volleyball finals and stand at the top of Japan.
Haikyuu!! has a lot of gameplay, and a lot of commentary that could easily go over a person’s head. For someone that’s unathletic, it’s hard to understand the appeal. What is it that makes Haikyuu!! so popular? What is the secret to its insurmountable success?
It’s the characters.
Besides the obvious sports aspect, Haikyuu!! is primarily character-driven. There are so many that it’s impossible to keep track of all of their names, but Haruichi Furudate never lets a single one become a backdrop. He creates backstories, aspirations, and vibrant personalities not only for Karasuno, but for every team that they face. He makes it so that the reader can feel every ounce of emotion, every shred of victory or defeat. Though Karasuno is the focus of the story, centering on them only would be a big mistake. A tournament is not just about one team, after all. By expanding the story outward and bringing in so many names and faces, Furudate broadens the reader’s perspective as well as their sympathy.
The reason why Haikyuu!! impacted me so much is not because it made me want to play volleyball. It’s because sometimes, it is the only shard of light in my day. It’s because there are times when it is the only thing that can make me laugh – and it’s because it reminds me every day not to give up. This is a story about overcoming obstacles and reaching for the top; about not accepting defeat, but remembering how it feels and how much you hate it, and pushing harder next time so as to never feel it again. Even if there is only a fraction of a chance, there still is a chance, and so long as you have it, you have to push yourself to your utmost limit.
Exceeding limitations, overcoming doubt – that is what Haikyuu!! is all about.
I love Haikyuu!!. I love it with every ounce of my soul. If it weren’t for Haikyuu!!, I don’t think I would be able to believe in myself as strongly as I do now.
Because people don’t have wings, we look for ways to fly.