Hoop Days was an anime I wasn't expecting much going into. It doesn't have a particularly outstanding score here on MyAnimeList, it's not exactly a new anime and while it may have been my first proper sports anime, I had people left, right and centre telling me that sports anime in general aren't very good. On top of that, the voice actors in the English version were those who work for Blue Water Studios, Ocean Group's cheaper sister studio which isn't exactly known for quality dubbing outside of a couple of notable exceptions (i.e. G Gundam and Cardfight Vanguard.)
With that said, I was pleasantly
surprised from the very first episode with how much I really enjoyed Hoop Days.
The story of Hoop Days is nothing too complex. It's the story of a High School student named Kazuhiko Aikawa and the basketball club of Mizuho high school. To start with, Mizuho only has 4 players, with their captain, Takumi Fujiwara being banned from playing for a year due to punching out the team's coach a year prior. Slowly but surely, however, Aikawa's positive attitude begins to rub off on the rest of the players in the basketball club, and slowly but surely the boys' basketball team gets back together, regains their passion and begins to win games in their quest to be the best basketball team in Japan. Again, nothing too complex, but it works. The characters are so well-written and likable that you genuinely want to root for them to achieve their goals and succeed. Aikawa in particular is such a nice guy that you can't help but feel his positive attitude rub off on you as a viewer.
As far as voice acting goes, I was pleasantly surprised and a little annoyed. Surprised because while I had fears coming in due to my own past negative experiences with Blue Water Studio dubs, they did a really good job dubbing the characters in Hoop Days. Each voice actor was cast appropriately for their character. Mark Gatha in particular turned in another strong performance as Aikawa. The voice acting suited the characters perfectly. On the other hand I was annoyed because as a fan of the Gundam franchise, I wondered where the quality voice acting was in such Blue Water dubs as Zeta Gundam where the voice actors seemed to really phone it in. If they'd been this good in Zeta Gundam, it more than likely wouldn't have left such a sour taste in my mouth. But this isn't a Zeta Gundam review, and I really can't complain about the voice acting in Hoop Days.
Animation-wise? Nothing too spectacular. A lot of gratuitous CG on the basketball during games and the hoop in games, but as the same studio that created Hoop Days created Initial D's anime, it's to be expected. There are a lot of Initial D elements present to be honest. The same goes for the soundtrack. Very urbany, very hip-hoppy and europoppy, nothing that wouldn't sound out of place in Initial D. Failing that, the animation is nothing overly spectacular. If you're expecting high-quality HD-quality animation, you won't find it here. Hoop Days is *definitely* a product of the mid-00's.
All-in-all, Hoop Days is a fun anime. While it may take itself a bit seriously at times, the characters are enjoyable, the story (while simplistic) is enjoyable and the soundtrack and voice acting are very good. If you're looking for an anime full of complex, mind-blowing twists, you won't find it here. But if you're looking for a light-hearted, fun and entertaining sports anime, Hoop Days is a good place to start. At only 24 episodes, it's not overly long either. Highly recommended.