Hello all you wonderful people! I hope you’ve all been doing well. Anyway, I’m back with the Panda Gang for my slotted Monday post! Let’s hop into this one as it’s something I’ve wanted to talk about but never have before–at least not on WordPress.

 

So, obviously, Haikyuu!! is my favorite sports anime, but I’ve never stated why it’s my favorite. There have been many sports anime, and when I say that I mean MANY. MAL has a list of 666 title under their Sports Anime category (so, does that mean sports anime are the devil?) I don’t watch many sports anime, but for some reason Haikyuu!! stuck with me. I’m even reading the manga! Anyway, back on track. Why is Haikyuu!! my favorite sports anime? The characters’ interactions and growth, the way the sport is played out, and it’s intensity and playfulness mix.

 

 

Character Interactions and Growth:

I think it’s fairly obvious what this means, so I’ll skip that. However, when we first start Haikyuu!! volleyball is just something that our main protagonist Hinata is fascinated by. He saw a player from Karasuno High School on tv and wanted to be like him because the player was extremely short and volleyball is for tall people. Now, that’s all great and whatnot, but in the real world, volleyball is really for tall people. It’s almost impossible for shorter people to win any games against players who are close to seven feet tall (or two meters tall).

Hinata got a team together, lost a match against the person who would become his rival (Kageyama) and the typical shounen thing started. MC and rival, blah blah. The two meet at Karasuno High School and join the volleyball team. And then the character interactions begin in full.

Through three seasons of Haikyuu!! we got characters that are quiet (like Kenma and Tsukki) but they’re also some of the smartest players in the show. Kenma and Tsukki’s abilities to see how their opponents are playing and adapt their respective teams to situations is remarkable. It shows leadership and an ability to react to situations on the fly. What I really like about these three seasons of Haikyuu!! though, is that the teams mirror each other. The hot-heads of Karasuno don’t get along with other hot-headed players we come to meet, yet there is also a respect for each other because both teams know that without the opposing side they wouldn’t be nearly as good as they currently are.

There’s the positional battles of the show, too. Kenma of Nekoma is a setter just like Kageyama is a setter for Karasuno. They subtly play against each other, trying their best to one-up the other and get an advantage. There’s the middle blockers of Tsukki (Karasuno) and Kuroo (Nekoma) going toe-to-toe with each other, and other spikers as well (Asahi of Karasuno and Bokuto of Fukurodani).

We get almost an entire season of training between seeing Karasuno practice by themselves and then them being invited to the Tokyo training camp by Nekoma that it’s truly possible to see the growth in each character depending on what they were practicing, who they were playing, and how they reacted to their teammates and rivals at the time. The most amazing acts of character growth came during this training camp, as the simple conversations between teams connected with the players and they seemed to become even fiercer rivals. The Nekoma/Karasuno rivalry (or, Battle at the Trash Heap) became one for the ages.

Still, though, while the teams’ personalities sort of mirrored each other, it was nice to see that each team had characters with differing personalities. Instead of getting static characters to fill a large cast we’re given fleshed out backstories to some characters, clear goals for others that are being driven toward, and goals for the first years that have been stated since the beginning. Everything seems to be completely separate but when you look at the fact that volleyball ties them all together, they bounce off one another, encourage each other to become better, and help people when they’re down.

haikyuu karasuno and nekoma
STARE DOWN!

 

The Way The Sport Is Played:

Sports anime take liberties, I know that much. While I haven’t seen many sports anime in recent years, I saw enough in the years before Haikyuu!! to realize that there seemed to be some supernatural aspect to the anime that took away from what it actually was–a sports anime. Kuroko’s Basketball and Prince of Tennis are two shows that had certain aspects which took away from the sport being played. There were odd abilities in Prince of Tennis that didn’t make any sense with laser noises and yellow lines, and Kuroko’s Basketball had some awkward nuances with how the characters moved and passed and shot the ball that didn’t feel natural. Plus the different colors the show had when things happened based on who had the ball took away from what was actually happening on screen.

In Haikyuu!!, though, there was almost none of that sort of thing. Sure, some of the ways the characters were able to react to the ball, or control just how they were going to toss and hit the ball didn’t make much sense (like Kageyama being able to completely stop the ball while tossing to Hinata is physically impossible), but what I would think as 95% of the show seemed completely viable from a player’s standpoint.

The show went through all six positions on the court, and even had the ability to show how the middle blockers rotate out from the back row after serving. The libero (Nishinoya, my spirit animal) took over for the middle blockers on the back line, and we even got to see the DS (defensive specialist, aka Daichi) in action taking only a back row role. With every aspect of the show the positions played a role, and the physical abilities of the characters were an important aspect. Daichi got hurt when he collided with Tanaka and had to step out for a while. Tsukki got hurt in season 3 when his hand was cut and had to go out for quite some time. The injuries are real, the players need to recover from them for however long it takes.

Also, the way the ball is hit is actually pretty real as well. Float serves actually do react in the air like that some times (not every time, but some times), and being able to attack the way Karasuno does is a truly viable way of going about winning a point. However, Nekoma’s way of being a true defensive team and keeping the ball alive until the other team makes a mistake is also a way to play volleyball, but it’s much harder in the long run and you need an insane amount of stamina to continually bend your knees like they do.

haikyuu teach me rolling thunder

 

The Intensity Mixed With Playfulness

Now, the above portion of this post went into how the game is played and seems to be more true and real than other sports anime. That actually goes into the next part of why Haikyuu!! is my favorite sports anime. We mix the two previous portions into one. It’s an intense show when the characters are playing the sport with the characters berating each other and joking, but outside of the sport, the characters’ personalities are on full display. We have Nishinoya and Tanaka being ridiculous and protective of the “eye candy” of the show; Kageyama and Hinata messing with each other because they trust each other so much; Daichi’s seriousness in trying to control his team when they completely disobey what he tells them; and to top it all off, a coach that is kind of too laid back but who also wants the best for his team and players.

 

Now, sure, most sports anime may be super similar to Haikyuu!! in the fact that what I’ve listed above happens in most of them, but I think Haikyuu!! did a better job than the other sports anime I’ve seen. With everything mixed together and fairly solid animation, especially in the close-ups, Haikyuu!! has solidified itself as my favorite sports anime in recent years.

Oh, also, uh…the OPs and EDs are pretty freaking great to top it all off!

October should be pretty cool, too, right? We have more Haikyuu!! coming in some form! I can’t wait! I’m really hoping it has something to do with the national tournament that the manga has been covering. That would be freaking sweet!

 

If you enjoy sports anime: do you have a favorite? I’d love to find out, so let me know in the comments!

 

That’ll do it for me today, everyone!

Thanks for reading!

Alexie 🙂

 

 

Concurrently we have seen a recent spike in sports anime the last couple of years. From the ever popular Haikyuu!!, Yuri on Ice, Kuroko no Basket, and Free!…all the way to more recent shows like Welcome to the Ballroom, Megalo Box, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby and Hanebado. There is no doubt that sports anime are becoming more and more popular amongst the otaku community. So is it safe to assume that sports anime has become the new “norm” with anime fans?

While the sports genre isn’t anything new, considering it started to appear in 1983, it HAS made a more recent climb in today’s popularity charts. Well known titles such as Captain Tsubasa, Kyojin no Hoshi (Star of the Giants), Ashita no Joe, Tiger Mask, Mach 555/Speed Racer, and Ace wo Nerae (Aim fot the Ace) really paved the way for the sports genre we know and love today. Captain Tsubasa’s themes and many other stories from sports anime during this time were a formula that would be used in many sports series that followed, such as Slam DunkPrince of Tennis and Eyeshield 21. 

As Sean O’Mara states over at Otaku Magazine, “The most common perception of sports anime (or manga) tends to be the typical shounen sports saga, wherein a determined underdog overcomes his own insecurities and shortcomings to eventually become the best. Usually told in long, drawn-out story arcs driven by the need to sell more and more issues of weekly manga magazines, it’s a formula that has existed (and thrived) for decades.”

What Sean states is absolutely true! Sports anime/manga is a formula that is both consistent and substantial in the otaku community. It is something that everyone and anyone can enjoy without having to be too deeply invested in the characters or possibly even the sport itself. I even asked some of you guys over on Twitter what you favorite thing about watching sports anime was and I really surprised by some of the answers I received!

Karandi stated that while she isn’t hugely into sports anime she still enjoys watching the protagonist and their interactions with others around them. The sport itself is just a setting for her. MelinAnimeLand also agreed that she liked watching sports anime for the characters, but also how they help each other in order to develop their skills and potential. LacklusterStuff loooves the ridiculously large cast that sports anime tends to have. Again, another person who is a fan of watching the characters interacting with one another and the slice-of-life moments that happen in-between competitions.

Raistlin tends to dislike sports anime, but is happy to see that the current show Hanebado! is focusing more on the characters than the sport itself. Lastly, InfiniteZenith stated they like when sports anime becomes a facilitator for the characters to learn more about themselves.

I find it rather compelling that all of these people watch sports anime not for the sport, but for how the characters grow and develop throughout the series. I think all of these answers definitely tie into the concept of character relatability. I dove into this topic in an old post of my back in August of last year. It was essentially a collective narrative on why anime villains are so alluring to their respective audience. If you want to check that post out you can do so here: https://kawaiipaperpandas.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/topic-tuesday-why-are-anime-villains-so-alluring/.

I don’t think sports anime is going to stop anytime soon. I believe sports anime is going to have a snowball effect and continue to grow larger and larger over time. Which I am not opposed to! As a person who didn’t play any sports in middle school or high school, I can live my sports fantasy vicariously through these anime characters. I am also super into the drama elements that sports anime tends to bring to the table. Just like everyone of my fellow anime bloggers, I also watch sports anime for the characters progress and improvement. I ALWAYS get hyped when I see how good the main character gets as they hone their skills or when a new rival challenges them. Pushing a character to their limits is what makes me root for them even more. I mean…who DOESN’T love a well-developed and articulated underdog story? I know I do!

If you missed my question over on Twitter then tell me what your favorite thing about watching sports anime is in the comments section below! Do you think we are going to get more sports anime in the future? Do you think sports anime can become widely popular like other genres such as fantasy, shounen, or comedy? I would love to hear all of your thoughts. As always, thank you guys for joining me on this lovely Sunday afternoon. I hope everyone is having an amazing weekend ❤


Disclaimer: All imagery and photos come from searching for them on the internet. I have no claim or right to them.