Hello and welcome back to Manga Talk!
I was planning on doing an April Fool’s thing, but I couldn’t get it done in time, so today will be a totally normal Manga Talk.
Today we are going to be talking about one of the most popular sports manga to come out in years, the first volume of Haikyuu!!
Let’s get started!
We begin by following the monologue of a young Hinata Shoyo, who after watching a short guy dominate the volleyball court, he has decided to follow in his footsteps.
The issue is that his middle school’s male volleyball club consists of him, two of his friends who are on other sports teams, and three first year newbies.
Hardly a winning team to be sure, but Shoyo is not deterred. He may be nervous, but he is excited to finally be able to play volleyball.
What puts a bit of a damper on things is another school’s player named Kageyama Tobio, who is known as “the King of the Court”, a very talented player who has lofty aspirations as well.
When the two meet, after Tobio scolds some of his teammates for slacking off, Shoyo and Tobio get their rivalry started early, and they just so happen to be playing each other in the first match.
While Shoyo’s team is losing badly, he is definitely carrying the team to have at least a few points on the board. Tobio on the other hand is the best member of his team, and is very demanding of his team to keep up with him.
Shoyo gets a lucky hit in, which shows his speed and athleticism, and even Tobio is impressed to a degree. All in all Shoyo’s team loses, and he and Tobio have a conversation afterwards where Shoyo declares Tobio to be his rival and that he will beat him one day.
Shoyo trains with whoever he can for high school, and he gets into the high school that his idol went to, and he is eager to beat Tobio.
The problem is that Tobio is also in the same school, and they are going to have to be on the same team together.
We meet the older members of the volleyball team, headed up by team captain Sawamura Daichi, vice captain Sugawara Koushi, and wing spiker Tanaka Ryonosuke.
The two first years have a confrontation that leads to them hitting the vice principal in the face. The two aren’t in trouble with the school, but Daichi says that they can’t join the team unless they are able to work as a team.
Shoyo and Tobio talk, learning more about each other, and they decide that they will challenge the upperclassmen to a two on two match, with them being allowed to joint the team if they win, and get whatever punishment if they lose.
Daichi does not want to kick the two off the team. On the contrary, he sees them as valuable assets to get the school back into a championship spot when they have been on a losing streak for a while.
He sees Shoyo for the raw speed and talent, but can also tell that he has issues with the fundamentals, while he see Tobio as a disciplined athlete that knows what he’s doing, but is way too demanding on the court and comes off as a diva.
When the two propose their challenge, Daichi says that they will have a three on three instead and throws Tanaka onto the two first years, with the caveat being that they have until Saturday to practice (while being unable to use the gym) and if they fail then Tobio will be forbidden to get the position that he wants.
Tanaka has the two come in at 5 a.m. to practice before regular volleyball practice starts, and the two work on what they need to work on the most, Shoyo with fundamentals and Tobio with working with others.
It’s difficult and Shoyo is by himself doing a bit of practice when Koushi talks with him, asking what’s the deal. Shoyo says that he doesn’t want to lose anymore because he loves playing and he spent so little time on the volleyball court that he doesn’t want to feel what he did at that time.
Tobio overhears this, and Koushi suggests that since they are on a team, that they should be able to work well together.
Several days pass and the two seem to be getting things going, so much so that Koushi also helps the two with their practices.
On the night before the match, the two other first years come in to mess with the two, though most of it comes from Tsukishima Kei, who is a right jerk the whole time.
When it gets to game day, things are off to a rocky start, especially since Daichi joins as the third against Tobio and Shoyo.
Kei is a good blocker, and it seems like Tobio is not giving it his all. It is then revealed why Tobio has the nickname “the King of the Court”, and why he hates it so much.
It’s because he acts like a tyrant, and he pushed his team away so much that during the last game of the tournament last year, he got so mad at his team that the coach benched him for the second half of the game.
Tobio is aware of why he isn’t a team player, and that is because he has never had a teammate that could catch up with him. Shoyo, in his protagonisty attitude, says that he will be wherever Tobio will hit the ball.
After a few missteps and some strategic rearrangements, Tobio decides that instead of relying solely on Shoyo’s athleticism, he will use a combination of that and his own skill to make sure that they win their match.
Being that volleyball is not as popular as other sports, it is helpful that the manga simplifies how volleyball is played and what is ideal for a volleyball team to have.
It allows the audience to keep up with what is going on, even though they may have no idea what the rules of volleyball are or only know a couple of things about the sport.
Being a sport shonen, I was expecting to have a likeable protagonist and that proved effective with Shoyo.
He ticks all the boxes of a shonen protagonist; determined, not all that bright, talented but not an expert, and most of all quick to make friends.
His ability to have enough skill to warrant him being on the team, but not enough skill to be the best player makes it believable that he has a lot of growing to do, but he needs fine tuning to be great.
Tobio plays his perfect foil. While Shoyo is much more sociable and friendly, Tobio is a lone wolf character through and through, and having the story force the two to work together despite them considering the other as a rival makes things interesting from the get go.
The dynamic that the two have is entertaining and it also helps that Tobio sees that Shoyo has some skills, but he lack refinement in the fundamentals to be of any real help, at least in Tobio’s eyes.
The art, mostly during the actual volleyball scenes, is very action packed and dynamic. Volleyball is a sport that needs the dynamic movement to sell the powerful strikes and speed in a sport that can get action packed and fast.
Out of Bounds
My goodness there is a lot of talking.
There are very few silent panels, with what feels like some sort of dialogue box taking up some portion of the frame. I don’t mind the onomatopoeia, but someone is almost always talking or thinking something that it takes up the frame.
All the boxes make the manga feel cluttered, where I feel like is if some of the dialogue was cut then I can appreciate the art and storytelling more.
The storytelling, does carry the hallmarks of a tropey shonen story, and how you feel about that can affect how you enjoy the story.
While I can sit back and enjoy the relatively simple storytelling, I know that there will be people who would want more from a story.
It’s getting it’s feet off the ground and became popular for a reason, but there are a few rough patches that do irk me.
Repeated dialogue and some shallow side characters are also a downside, but that could be a consequence of it being early in the story and some of the side characters have yet to be developed.
As they stand right now, they are pretty barebones.
While the art is great when there are action scenes, it is pretty standard when not playing volleyball, which again your mileage will vary on how you feel about that.
Provided you can see the art with all the dialogue balloons everywhere.
I would recommend this story if you are looking for an easy story to get into, likeable main characters, and great dynamic art when they are playing volleyball.
It’s hard for me to say that I will follow this, but I have the inclination to at least try the second volume to know for sure if I want to follow it or not.
Tomorrow, I will be taking a look at what makes a good protagonist and what role they have in a story.
So until then,
Heiwa to sayonara!