[Warning: Contains Season 1 Spoilers]
If you haven’t seen the first season of Haikyu!! (or Haikyuu!!, however you spell it), go watch it now. It’s a sports anime done right, very much in the same vein as Eyeshield 21 or Prince of Tennis. The sport is volleyball, which means a cast of 6 regulars and 4-5 benchwarmers, plus a manager, coach, and a couple of side characters. Not too few and not too many. And after you’ve watched the first season, you will come to appreciate and empathize with every single one of them.
The first season was amazing, which meant I was super excited for the second season. Would it live up to the high expectations set by the first season? Would it be worse? Could it possibly be better?
Here are my impressions after watching the first four episodes of the second season:
One of the main concerns I had for the second season was that the character interactions would become stale and predicable and that the character development would slow down. After all, in the first season, the team already scheduled practice matches and experienced a whole tournament. Emotional limits were stretched and walls were overcome.
In the very last episode of the first season, we found out that the next arc would be about the spring tournament rather than next year’s tournament. The seniors were staying on to play again, which is something to be happy about, but this also meant there would be no fresh faces, no new and promising first-year students joining the team. The most one could hope for was a transfer student, maybe two.
While I’m okay with sticking with the same team, I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be any new obstacles to overcome. To illustrate my point, let’s take Kuroko no Basuke. It’s a great basketball anime, but at one point, I decided to hold off watching it because so many of the plot points in the first season revolved around Kuroko and Kagami’s mutual trust. In one episode, Kagami “learns” the value of working together with Kuroko as a team, but some episodes later, he goes into Lone Wolf mode again. It makes a viewer feel that no progress has really been made.
As Haikyu!! also revolved around two main protagonists, there was the danger that Hinata and Kageyama would fall into the same trap Kuroko and Kagami did. If Kageyama reverting to his Lonely King state of playing becomes a recurring theme in the show, things could get old real fast.
So far, though, the second season has managed to keep things interesting. I have yet to see anyone relapse and fall back into a character fault that had been resolved in the first season. Moreover, the one solid addition to the cast seems like she can manage to keep character interactions from becoming stale anytime soon. (On a side note, the Townsperson B episode plot and character development were super endearing.)
One of the most impressive aspects of Haikyu!! is that the show manages to keep the sports aspect of the show fairly realistic. Hinata, while having quick reflexes and impressive stamina, does not have much experience playing the game, which shows in his occasional missed serves and receives. Other members of his team and of other teams make similar mistakes, and sometimes, points are gained without much fanfare.
The most amazing feats shown so far have been the main duo’s quick attack and possibly Nishinoya’s dramatic foot save. For the most part, the action has been fairly realistic, and strong players are strong because they have a quick serve or a strong smash, not some special move that pushes the limits of physics.
Contrast this with Prince of Tennis or maybe Saki (Mahjong is a sport, right?). The special moves in Prince of Tennis became increasingly unreasonable as the show progressed. What began with players being able to hit very strong smashes or very accurate lobs quickly turned into over-the-top abilities to produce a doppleganger or to hit a ball that does not bounce upon landing. Saki takes abilities to the supernatural level, eventually introducing players that had the ability to always draw certain tiles from the wall and even the ability to see a few turns into the future.
The somewhat realistic volleyball portrayed in Haikyu!! is a good thing. It means that viewers who have played volleyball or any sports in the past can relate to at least one of the characters. Also, it means any noticeable skill development that occurs become all the more impressive since we know characters wouldn’t be able to pull random abilities out of a hat in some particularly heated moment on the court to get out of a sticky situation.
Fortunately, it seems that season two follows in the footsteps of the first season in displaying realistic volleyball. There are a few signs that outlandish volleyball abilities will soon appear, but my guess is that nothing too unrealistic will be shown in the second season. Karasuno’s volleyball team is still working on solidifying their basics, so it shouldn’t take an opponent with over-the-top powers to make for an exciting game.
The teams from various schools have stayed fairly static. Karasuno has yet to gain any new regulars, and Nekoma and Aoba Josai both seem like they will make only a few team changes, if any at all. Yet, utilizing the few fresh faces that we do get, the first few episodes of the second season of Haikyu!! make it clear that we will see aspects of the existing cast that had never been previously touched on and that there is a ton of unexplored territory just waiting for the right moment to be unveiled.
Season 2 is off to a great start, and if the first few episodes are any indication, it may even shine brighter than the first season.
Note: Haikyu!! can be viewed on Crunchyroll.