Combining volleyball with its two polar opposite protagonists, this is a sports manga that's intense, yet a ton of fun.

Haikyuu!Title: Haikyu!
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Shueisha (JP), Viz (US)
Story/Artist: Haruichi Furudate
Serialized in: Weekly Shonen Jump
Translation: Adrienne Beck
Original Release Date: July 5, 2016

While the start is a bit slow, Haikyu! is “intense fun”– intense in that it’s sports and it’s gonna be intense, but fun in how the author clearly showcases his love for volleyball.

Shoyo Hinata picked up a bunch of different sports growing up, but after seeing “the Little Giant” compete in the national volleyball finals, he became determined to become a volleyball player. The problem was no one in his school was interested in it, so it took until his last year to finally field a team.

That team promptly got crushed by one of the tournament favorites, and Shoyo ended up meeting his biggest challenge who was nicknamed “the King of The Court”, Tobio Kageyama. Shoyo resolved to defeat Tobio in high school, so after training wherever he could, he attended “the Little Giant’s” school, Karasuno Public High…only to discover his rival is on the same team! Now he has a new challenge on his hands, and if he doesn’t do anything about it, then he’s gonna have to forget all about becoming like the Little Giant.

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And just when you thought you’d be seeing your rival on the other side…

Haikyu! has been that one anime that I’ve been meaning to watch but haven’t because who knows why, but I remember this got announced at New York Comic Con last year to much praise. The obvious challenge though, is that most sports titles that get licensed don’t sell well…at all. If nothing else though, Haikyu! can at least change that perception because it’s a really good title.

My biggest problem with Haikyu! is yeah, the side characters aren’t too memorable at the moment — like if you polled me randomly on the characters aside from Shoyo and Tobio, I’m not gonna remember them, they’re just not that distinctive. You combine the lack of side characters to then them interjecting in moments where they’re just pumping up the main characters, then it’s unfortunate since we don’t know much about them and they don’t get seen much again. Though understandable why it was set up like this, I was lukewarm on the first match between Shoyo and Tobio.

But once they arrive at the high school, it’s more or less an adrenaline rush towards the end and once you get to the end, you’re wondering why it had to end like that. It’s pretty clear the author was building up towards this moment where Shoyo and Tobio had to overcome their biases and egos, and it worked like a charm.

The part that captured me the most was when they both had to practice and Tobio was lobbing balls to Shoyo, who had to receive. Because of Shoyo’s training, or lack of volleyball training in school, the only thing that he had going for him was his jumping skills and athleticism. His desire to win, and the general “never give up” shounen moniker, also emerges throughout Haikyu!. It’s something Tobio wishes he had back at his school — someone who went past their limits to win, but as he’s setting the ball with Shoyo, he finds that person determined to give his all.

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It’s clear Shoyo’s determined to play bigger than his listed size.

It’s not just that dynamic that works, but it’s how it’s abundantly clear how much joy Furudate has with volleyball, and the best way to express that is with his art, which works well whenever it gets funny or serious. I feel like Haikyu! achieves that balance between funny or serious.

If this is just the first volume, I can only imagine it’s going to get more intense and more fun as this series continues. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.