Sports anime are some of the rarest releases in the entire medium. The great ones are even rarer as they manage to strike a fine balance between both educating its audience about the sport, but also making sure to tell a strong shonen influenced story full of highs and lows. Funny enough, it doesn't really matter what the sport is really. A good series can turn any activity into an intense one with some of the standouts highlighting more action focused fare like boxing, bike riding, tennis, football, soccer, but the best sports series will surprise you.
Haikyuu is one such series. Haruichi Furudate's take on volleyball turns this high paced sport that can often be tough to follow from the audience's perspective and hones in with a laser focus into just what makes the intense game of back and forths such a popular one. With a glorious presentation, fun characters, and natural progression of growth, it's the perfect gateway into sports anime.
What makes Haikyuu stand out from many others is that it's not the story of one character growing and eventually becoming the best at the sport (though that admittedly plays a huge part), but how a team is helping each grow to make themselves better overall. The series follows the boys' volleyball team of Karasuno High School, a school that used to be a big name school for the sport thanks to the exploits of the legendary player, "Tiny Giant," but no longer has the same shine. The team's even referred to as the "Wingless Crows."
The series introduces the young duo of Shoyo Hinata and Tobio Kageyama, two kids who are really good at what they do, but are pretty rough around the edges. The two formed a fierce rivalry in middle school, but surprisingly find themselves having to play for the same team when they both choose Karasuno as their high school. With this new blood sparking the fire of the third years of the team (who have their last shot at playing volleyball before having to graduate and join the work force), now this ragtag group of boys must mesh all of their styles together in the hopes of going to Nationals.
Now a great sports series can take a single character's story and inspire the audience as they grow through each adversity, but Haikyuu's strength is in the variety of its central cast. Like volleyball itself, the series isn't about any single one character. Every member of the cast is bringing their own past to the court, their own hangs ups, their own ways to get better. And this fuels each game. There's an extra layer of intensity for each character, and that's not even including the opponents.
There's a hefty amount of attention paid to building the world of each match. Each team has a significant amount of character development going in, and there are plenty of distinct personalities that somehow continue to evolve with each episode. It's like taking a single sports story and multiplying by it ten. By the end of each season, you're bound to have multiple favorites.
The drive to succeed and win is pure, and more importantly, it's infectious. That's thanks to the incredible presentation of the series. Produced by Production I.G., the series has tons of visual flair and punctuates some notable spikes and serves with a burst of erratic and energetic animation. That's not even factoring the series' musical score, which always makes sure to kick in the violin heavy main there for especially great shonen moments.
Heated rivalries, fantastic animation, tons of fun and lovable characters are all encompassed by the pure love of the sport. Haikyuu is the perfect encapsulation of what makes a sports anime series great, and has tons of avenues to follow and love. If you're looking for a great way into this fan-favorite genre, this is the perfect gateway into the sports world. If something here doesn't connect, then you probably wouldn't like sports anime at all.