“Even if we're not confident that we'll win, even if others tell us we don't stand a chance, we must never tell ourselves that.” -Daichi Sawamura
In today's anime age; a world filled with over-analyzations and deconstructions, it's always nice to see a series like Haikyuu come along as if to passively antagonize critics with its immense amount of hype. I've been quite guilty of it in the past, often thinking there was no other reason to watch a series than to critique how much it made you 'think'. But to all the fault-finding reviewers and critics out there (myself included), I have one thing to
say... just save your words for once. People aren’t watching this anime to tirelessly dissect its story or characters on a philosophical level. Haikyuu is about having fun, comradery and the love of volleyball. The ultimate underdog story. That's pretty much it.
If you told me a couple of years ago that an anime franchise involving high school sports would become one of my favorites in the medium, I probably would've laughed in your face. But I've come to realize that the quality of an anime goes beyond how it makes you think. How it makes you feel is just as important... because at the end of the day, most of us watch anime as a means to escape the repetition of everyday life and just enjoy ourselves. It transports us somewhere exciting, somewhere we normally don’t experience ourselves. Anime should be fun, and Haikyuu is no exception to that.
Haikyuu's third season could almost be viewed as an expansion pack to the main series, or as one reviewer put it, much like DLC for your favorite video game. This is a fair assessment given the truncated 10 episodes compared to the first two seasons of 26 episodes each. Karasuno finds themselves pitted against the powerhouse Shiratorizawa, in a 5 set match no one expects them to win. There is less character development overall, but more than enough action to make up for it. I’d say this season emulates the intense tone produced by the last few episodes in season 2, my favorites of the entire series. The result is a nail-biting, pulse-pounding thrill ride to the match's epic conclusion. It's just what I needed to get me through a relatively lackluster fall season.
There isn’t much in the way of story this season, due mostly to its shorter run time. Being in a 5 set match is unfamiliar territory for our favorite Karasuno team, which begins to show as the series progresses. Exhaustion starts to become a factor, and for the first time I can remember in Haikyuu, players begin to tire mentally and physically. This incorporates an important aspect of playing sports, making the characters that much more relatable to someone who’s been there. We also see a culmination of the variety of new skills Karasuno’s players have been practicing come to fruition when they matter the most. Whether from Nishinora’s jump-setting or Tsukishima’s read-blocking, each player plays a pivotal role in turning the tides at one or more points during the match. The writers of Haiykuu also continue their emphasis on the backgrounds of Karasuno’s opponents throughout the match. It was a tad watered down from last season, and I would still have liked to see Ushijima’s past elaborated on more.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole series up to this point is the sudden mental involvement displayed by none other than the deadpan Tsukishima. Normally Tsuki exhibits a personality as dynamic as a cardboard box, but shocks us all as he begins to become more engaged and driven to help out his team. He emulates the mentality that no one likes to lose, and I found myself actually cheering out loud for him when he blocked Ushijima for the first time. Another refreshing point to bring up about the cast is how passive a role Hinata and Kageyama actually play in this season. As the series progresses, the narrative shifts from the drive and determination of Hinata as an individual to the importance of teamwork and synergy. The result is truly powerful and I’ve begun to really get attached to every member of Karasuno’s team.
Obviously the hype in Haikyuu is beyond unreal, and the third season is the best example of this. Even the relatively stone-faced members of Shiratorizawa get wrapped up in the excitement. Anime has proven time and time again that you can breathe life and intensity into any subject matter. Some people may fault the series for its plethora of overreactions and such, but at this point the viewer should come to expect it based on the precedent laid out by Haikyuu’s first two seasons. It’s the necessary evil of sports anime, but one I have grown to forgive Haikyuu for because I love it the series that much. Even up until the last episode, the result of the match was unclear and allowed me to stay glued to my screen for the entire 10 episodes. Karasuno doesn’t always win, and that vulnerability makes you cheer for them even harder when they do.
Is it better than Season 2? Unfortunately, the abridged format coupled with less interesting characters cause it to fall short of the brilliance surrounding the second installment. Many of the training camp episodes from last season did more to add to the story than I realized, causing viewers to really bond with the opposing players that much more. Not to mention Oikawa being the character you wanted to cheer for but couldn’t. Another aspect of the series I didn’t find to be irritating until this point was the lack of family members from Karasuno’s players being shown in the stands. Instead we are limited to a select few that are grouped together while the rest of the crowd seems to consist of the student body. From attending many high school sporting events in the past, it can be somewhat hard to fathom how the parents of these kids aren’t even in the picture in their matches. A small complaint, but one I just don’t understand. Maybe Furudate (creator) though Haikyuu had enough characters already!
Voice acting is still solid and the music is consistently upbeat and powerful. There are quite a few recycled tracks from the earlier seasons, which I actually found comforting more than stale for the series. The sound editing and effects are some of the best in the business, as Haikyuu delivers again with its realistic gymnasium sounds and crowd noises. The animation also seems like it received a significant upgrade from the show’s debut season, rivaling other sports series like Ping Pong in its level of “over-the-top-ness”.. Granted, only having to edit together one setting for the entire season probably allowed the animation team to expand their skills in other, more intricate areas.
To sum up this season in one sentence (as recommended by one of my MAL pals), Haikyuu S3 is “A white-knuckled underdog story driving 100 mph over the speed limit, wearing a huge grin the entire time.” It’s a series best viewed in one binge-watching session rather than enjoyed week by week, and is only bested by it’s previous installment. If you’ve seen the first two seasons, you’re already behind the curve by not picking this one up... it’s a hell of a good time! Thanks for reading and be sure to look out for more of my Fall ‘16 reviews!
Given the monumental amount of hype that Haikyuu seems to have within its own fan base, I hope that this review will not come across as more negative than I intended it to, so I would just like to start by saying that Haikyuu is for sure one of the better traditional sports anime I have seen, but even so it is still far from perfect.
This third season picks up right where the last one left off, throwing us right into the Spring Tournament regional finals between Karasuno and Shiratorizawa. And that is pretty much the entirety of what this season is about as it
is significantly shorter at merely 10 episodes, and all of that is spent on this single best-of-five finals. However, the shorter length also means that there is very little downtime, and thus pretty much every single episode of this season is action-packed and engaging, unlike the second season which spent its entire first half on nothing but lackluster training arcs, so I definitely consider this to be an improvement on paper.
Now I will admit that generally speaking I am not really a fan of hot-blooded shounen series, nor am I particularly fond of sports outside of real life, so this definitely has an impact on my enjoyment of Haikyuu as well. In short, this anime is very predictable. It is one thing to be able to guess the eventual winner, but for example I should not be able to so easily say in which order the sets are going to be won by the respective sides, because it is all made to play out in the way which creates the maximum amount of hype for the viewers. It just... feels pretty fake. And even the rallies within the sets themselves are generally pretty predictable; the camera focuses especially on one player for a bit and lets you see things from his perspective, at which point you can rest assured that the next point or two is going to be decided by him. Eventually the other players will adapt to whatever strategy he is using and then break his streak, at which point the focus will shift to someone else where the same thing will play out. It feels like it is all following a script. That said, I do have to admit that even though it feels pretty unnatural, it is undoubtedly quite effective. Thanks to the stellar directing that Haikyuu has, it really manages to make every point feel important and engaging, and the amount of emotion stemming from the players is not to be underestimated. You can really feel how much this means to everyone and how badly they want to win, no matter the cost. However, that still does not change the fact that the progression of the actual sets is simply too clean and perfect, and feels like it is following too much of a rigid pattern rather than portray the chaos that volleyball so often becomes in real life.
This is where I should probably mention that I am by no means an expert on volleyball and my knowledge of it is limited to what I have learned in PE class and from watching it on TV. However, this also proves a point of mine even further because despite my lack of expertise on the subject matter, I still find that I legitimately know more about the sport than these players do a lot of the time. I feel like Haikyuu oftentimes treats me like an idiot. Why is it that these supposedly national level athletes are just now taught what certain basic positions and tactics like angle blocking are? That makes no sense at all. I mean yes, I realize that the mangaka wants to teach things to the readers/viewers who have little to no understanding of volleyball whatsoever, but could you not have done so in a way which does not straight-up lower the story's sense of realism? For example, you could have just thrown in some short non-canon tutorials for the sake of the audience without interfering with the plot progression at all. On top of that there are also a couple points which are just plain implausible, like that it is supposedly harder to play against left-handed players than right-handed ones. What kind of sense does that make? This is volleyball, not football. The ball reaches its destination in less than a second when spiking so there is absolutely no way the opposite spin direction would have time to curve the trajectory in any relevant way at all, and given how lightweight the ball is I do not see how the spin would make it any harder to pass or receive either.
Another thing that really annoys me about this third season (which is a problem which actually did not exist in the prior seasons) is the complete lack of preparation from Karasuno prior to the finals. I mean think about it; Shiratorizawa is supposed to be the most famous team in the entire region for their age bracket, and they have won multiple big tournaments over the last few years already. On top of that they have a superstar ace player in Ushijima who seemingly everyone knows about. So why is it that Karasuno are seemingly learning who their opponents are during the actual finals itself? They should have tons and tons of easily accessible information about every single one of the starting players they're facing since ages ago, and should thus have been appropriately prepared for what was coming well ahead of time. Especially considering that this is a shounen series where pretty much every player has some super specific skillset like Ushijima's raw power spikes and Tendou's "Guess Monster" gimmick, rather than just being all-round solid players like you generally expect high-level players to be in real life. In other words coming up with hard counters should be much easier here than in reality as long as you know what you are dealing with ahead of time, which again, Karasuno really should have known. Like I can sort of understand the opposite scenario with how Shiratorizawa may have been confident enough in their victory to not really care about researching their opponents, and similarly Karasuno's matches in earlier rounds and tournaments have been against lesser opposition so I guess that excuse might somewhat apply there too, but for this finals, not so much. It is like taking a college exam without studying for it and just hoping that your raw talent will be enough for you to figure out the answers on the spot. Sure, maybe that will work out for you, but it still seems a hell of a lot smarter to just study ahead of time instead. The same logic applies for Karasuno in this tournament finals.
Speaking of skillsets, I also have to say that the aforementioned abilities in particular are pretty ridiculous. Does any professional volleyball player base their moves around trying to read their opponents' eye movements and similar like Tendou does? You think you have time to do something like that in a sport as fast-paced as volleyball? I highly doubt it. And as far as Ushijima goes, I find his ability to be really dumb. For one it is rather uncreative with how it is basically all power and very little strategy involved, but more importantly that kind of strength makes no sense at all. As briefly mentioned earlier, a volleyball is pretty lightweight, and even the most forceful spike can only generate so much kinetic energy as a result. So the fact that Ushijima's spikes could be so strong that they can just go straight through blocks is just ridiculous. There is no way that should happen. In summary, there are quite a lot of aspects of Haikyuu which are just plain unrealistic, which is ironic given that one of the common praises I keep seeing for the show is its supposed realism.
All that said though, I still consider Haikyuu to be a pretty good anime in general because despite its flaws, it is a lot of fun to watch nonetheless, and it is both addictive and engaging. The problems with it mostly lie with the details, but the more general aspects are all quite solid. For one, the production value is extremely good. I am not sure if I have ever seen a sports anime with as fluid animation as Haikyuu has, so Production I.G definitely deserves a large part of the credit for the show's success. And similarly, the soundtrack serves to both severely ramp up the level of intensity of the matches as well as enhance the emotional impact when need be, with all-round crisp and stellar timing. The characters are perhaps not utterly amazing in terms of writing but they have a lot of development, and discounting the part where they sometimes seem clueless to things they really should not be, they generally do feel quite believable and admirable. In this particular season I think it is especially Tsukishima who gets the most development as something that had been building up since almost the very start of the show ends up paying off in full, which was quite satisfying to see. Looking back at how he used to be, it almost feels like watching a completely different person by the end of this season.
Finally, before ending this I would just like to touch upon something concerning this anime's fan base which has always annoyed me and I did not know where else to put it. Time and time again I see people (especially those that have not actually seen it) label Haikyuu as "homosexual volleyball". In a sense this is understandable given the unbelievable amount of Haikyuu-themed male-on-male romance fan art and fanfics there are out there, often sexual in nature, so clearly in terms of how the fujoshi treat it this is not incorrect. However, the actual anime itself is not gay at all. It is not like Yuri on Ice which has blatant homoerotic tension shoved into your face pretty much every episode; Haikyuu has nothing of the sort. I have never seen the guys in this show stare deeply into each other's eyes, be bashful in each other's presence, end up in any compromising positions with each other or shown any signs of being interested in one another beyond mere friends and teammates. I may not be a volleyball player, but I did play football for many years so I can at least say that there is nothing remotely homosexual about simply playing in the same sports team as a bunch of other guys and passionately wanting to win together. So please stop trash talking Haikyuu for supposedly being yaoi-bait and avoiding it solely because of that, because it is not only a silly reason but also just plain incorrect. Blame a certain obsessive minority of the fan base if you so desire, but not the show.
In any case, the third season of Haikyuu is an overall solid addition to an already well-established franchise which for the most part maintains the same strengths and weaknesses as its prior seasons despite being less than half the length. It is also more straight to the point than ever before as there is significantly less fluff, and as a result every episode feels fast-paced (but not too fast) and important. And while I wish that it had done a couple things differently, as a whole it is nonetheless a very enjoyable anime which is definitely worth checking out. Not that I see why you would not watch this season as well if you have already invested enough time to get through 50 episodes of it previously. If you have seen and liked the first two seasons already, there really is no reason to not watch this one as well.
“You are only an amazing ace if you can create a miracle.”
Scratch that cheesy quote! If there is one idea this anime solidifies, it's, “You are only an amazing anime if you can create perfectly timed miracles!”
Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou is literally, as the synopsis on MAL states, an anime where the whole plot revolves around the over hyped game between Karasuno and Shiratorizawa. This is the third installment in the Haikyuu!! franchise and I recommend you all to watch how a studio who lacks enough manga material to field a full 25 episode season, manages to show their over-hyped
fans one match in 10 gruesome long episodes. Let’s be honest, they know the fanbase would’ve watched it regardless being padded with endless flashbacks to justify the “miracles” during the game.
There really isn’t any story to this anime. It’s just an anime about one game. The difficulty lies in how can you make one game super interesting when you’ve used up pretty much every possible curveball scenarios a team must overcome in the past two seasons. Simple, throw in Mr. Super Android Perfection, Ushijima, Wakatoshi, whose major difference is he can spike with his left hand. Did I mention, he is also mister Perfection? How will the mortal humans of Karasuno overcome this new hurdle? Maybe they will have to use their cliché secret weapon aka the power of friendship, bonding, camaraderie. Top that with over use of flashbacks to justify why one player is able to block one single spike or net a point. Being the final game in the competition, there are 5 sets, so logically, viewers would think 2 episodes per set. WRONG. Another slider the studio throws at the viewer is they made one game over in the blink of few seconds and spends 4 episodes over another game. The pacing of the show is damaged tremendously by the amount of flashbacks explaining every little strategy and over usage of slow-mos. We get it, you want the viewers to understand volleyball, but you have to stop dumbing it down so much, especially when it is the 3rd season. Nevertheless, you can legit create a drinking game out of the amount of times Mister Perfection is in the air trying to take a spike. Be warned though, Production IG is not responsible for your hospital bill. The best thing about the story is that they knew when to stop from pulling a Naruto level filler.
If an anime lacks story surely the characters would be memorable right? Wrong. Other than maybe one or two characters, no one else really went through any major growth or change. Heck the fans had more character growth than the players did during this game. The anime tries to stray away from the main characters, Hinata and Kageyama, and focus on Tsukki and Mister Perfection (Ushijima). But the major refreshing character to come out of this anime is Tendou aka Guess Monster. It is really hard to attach yourself to any characters and it feels like if fans enjoyed a certain character prior to this season, they will closely identify with that character. It’s good that every character pretty much gets similar screen time so it adheres to the concept of winning or losing as a team except for the bench players. Let’s be real, why would both team’s coach even put them in such a crucial game. One major issue is that most players still lack the ability to jump serve this late into the competition. Aside from the characters being pigeonholed into having yaoi moments for the fandom/fanfiction most of the characters will be easily forgotten.
Up to this point, it might feel like why should we watch such an abysmal show that suffers greatly in story and character. Well if there is one thing Haikyuu!! franchise gets right time after time, it’s their art and soundtrack. By utilizing hand drawn animation and bold vibrant colours, the studio is able to provide a rich realistic style of anime that is unique and memorable for the viewers. The animation stayed true throughout the series. Regardless, being a sports shounen anime where you will come across multiple players that pretty much look the same. It makes you wonder did the studio do it to make the major character stand out or the only way they know how to differentiate one character from the other is thick or thin eyebrows. Although the OP and ED song for this anime didn’t really stand out like in previous seasons but keep in mind that OP/ED tends to be subjective. However, the background music was spot on during the games. They were able to create the necessary hype and cliff-hanger the show requires to further along the plot episode after episode.
Overall, criticisms aside, Haikyuu!! 3 is a great sports anime whose primary goal is to showcase the epic David vs Goliath story of Karasuno and Shiratorizawa. They did execute that really well except they took two too many episodes to show it. Instead of stretching it to 10 episodes they could’ve released a movie or make it a 6-7 episode short anime due to lack of manga material. Regardless, I would recommend watching the first two seasons prior to watching this anime and don’t forget to binge this season. I had fun watching it, provided me great laughs and memories but tbh I wouldn’t rewatch this particular season. Although the ending of the anime did promise another sequel and here’s to hoping the next season will be far better than this season!
Thank you for reading this review. Be sure to check out my other reviews as well as Haikyuu!! S2 review. I hope you all found it helpful and if you have any helpful feedback/criticism hit me up on my pm. I don’t bite :3
P.S. Fav quote: "If you are going to stare at someone, atleast stare at a girl" – Coach Washijou, Tanji
The match point is finally there. You’re the one to take the first step in securing the final point. You start your way to behind the serving line. Your whole body is warmed up, but somehow your hands are still ice-cold, initiated by the sheer thought of failing in this crucial moment. The pressure is immense, yet you still don’t waste a thought on not giving your all. If you make than one more point you’ll win the match. Just one more point and all your hard work will be rewarded. With that thought you toss the ball in the air and set off for
your final jump, not even thinking about not hitting it with full strength.
These or similar thoughts almost everyone did have when playing competitively and funnily enough, while watching Haikyuu (HQ) I got thrown back to similar memories of mine. Even though HQ is definitely a show which bends reality and pulls of moves which are not possible in real life, its' narrative is absolutely able to pull me back to when I was playing on the court during tournaments.
The third season of Haikyuu had really high expectations to fulfill for its fans, since S2 did the utmost best to develop every single character of Karasuno appropriately and with reason. They were not afraid to show the slowly escalating fight between Hinata and Kageyama in its fullest, giving both of their points of view valid facts to understand them and I simply loved how they came on a common consensus in the following episodes. Season 2 for the most part was rather laid-back, but when the long-awaited rematch with Seijoh happened in the last five episodes, the tension rose up significantly in just a couple of minutes. It was almost as if the tone of the series changed, when they were to play their archrivals once again.
The mixture between high tension volleyball-matches, glorious development of a cast with numerous very likeable characters and absolutely hilarious comedy has made me loving the previous two seasons of Haikyuu. But, coming into Season 3 I was rather sceptical, since the title already stated, that they were only going to cover the final match against Shiratorizawa. Adding further insult to injury, it was only going to be 10 episodes long! My past-self was convinced, that no way in hell it would be as good as the previous seasons, furtherly negatively assured by the fact, that KnB’s 10 episodes long final game was painfully over-stretched, no matter how I thought about it. Unsurprisingly, I was right from the get go, that the successful mixture of the reasons why HQ is that great will be a little off-balance, however surprisingly it did not bug me in the slightest, since season S3 was the ultimate embodiment of HYPE. The creators somehow managed to deliver the same tension Seijoh’s rematch in S2 had over a total of ten episodes, adding more and more intensity from episode to episode, to finally explode in the final two episodes.
I won’t lose words to the show’s premise, since everybody already knows of what this season is about, when watching the two previous ones. The first few episodes (essentially the first set) was not as enthralling as the ones to come, since it both teams were testing the waters and each other’s abilities in the beginning of the match. However, it quickly became better when the first set ended, getting more and more exciting to see, how Karasuno were facing every single hardship they were thrown at by the defending kings Shiratorizawa.
One thing a lot of people criticized HQ for doing in the past, was for not showing the entirety of a match and rather picks crucial moments to show to the audience. While I can definitely see the problem a lot of people are having there (it did bug me in S1 as well), in S3 it would be absolute madness to show the more than half of every set, since it would just lead the series to become boring and the meaningful moments to feel anticlimactic. HQ’s narration is perfectly adapted in explaining all the happenings, feelings and reasons why a team falls behind/catch up perfectly (usually explained by the coach or important and known members of the audience), so there is no need to show more than it is necessary.
While I mentioned the lack of character development in S3 in comparison to its predecessor, it’s not like they were skipping it entirely by any means. Characters of Shiratorizawa are introduced effectively during the match with flashbacks and chain of thoughts, making them to feel almost as real and likeable, as Karasuno’s line-up.
In terms of the audiovisuals, the final season of HQ is an absolute blast. The production-values are constantly incredibly high, making it almost impossible to find any lazy artwork/animation in the entire series! Production I.G. did constantly pour more and more money into making Haikyuu as it was progressing, mostly due to the (maybe kind of unexpected) large audience and fanbase the series was developing. The artstyle is superb, the animation so fluent you’d think it runs on 60 FPS+ and the directing is constantly top-notch as well.
As this season is only 10 episodes long, there’s no second opening this time. However, that’s no reason to be sad about since ‘Hikari Are’ is EASILY the best opening the series has up until this day, both music and animation-wise. The symbolism between ‘the fight of the black crow and the white eagle’ is omnipresent in the show and used magnificently in the opening as well, making use of a darker color-palette and an incredibly detailed art-quality.
The OST of the series constantly delivers, no matter what situation it has to accompany with appropriately.
The third season of Haikyuu does not disappoint in any way, as some people maybe have expected it to. While it is a little inferior to S2 due to the lack of incredibly effective conflicts within the main team and glorious character development resulting of it, it tops all the thrills I got from the previous two seasons. S3 is adding more and more fuel from episode to episode, until it finally explodes into pure awesomeness and hype at the finale, which resulted in me jumping through the entire room because of how pumped up I was. It offers maybe four of the five best moments of the entire series and in combination with the high-quality audiovisuals and the feeling of absolute importance during the whole match, it earns a spot in my favourites as well. So if you’re a fan of HQ already, go watch it right now, you probably have to marathon it anyways. And if you’re not already…GO WATCH THE FIRST TWO SEASONS!
Art (9/10), Animation (10/10)