The walls get even higher, forcing Karasuno High to truly soar in Season 2 of Haikyu!!
The first season of volleyball anime Haikyu!! ended in a devastating loss for the players at Karasuno High. Despite all the progress they managed to make throughout the first 25 episodes, the wall that captain Toru Oikawa and the rest of the team at Aoba Josai erected turned out to be insurmountable. Losses are nothing more than temporary setbacks, though, and ShoyoōHinata and the “Fallen Crows” of Karasuno have another opportunity to take to the skies in Haikyu!! Second Season.
Will they rise to the occasion, or have their wings been clipped for good? In typical sports anime fashion, we’ll find out over the course of 25 more episodes of soaring dramatics, last-second victories, and the team dynamics that make Haikyu!! worth watching in the first place.
Frontloaded with Frustration
It’s tough not to come into Haikyu!! Second Season with anything less than fevered excitement, especially if you’re stepping right out of a binge marathon of the nail-biting first season. You’re going to need to dial that intensity down a notch, though, because practice makes perfect, and Karasuno isn’t going to get anywhere if they just leap into another set of matches right after a crushing loss. Thankfully, Karasuno gets a golden opportunity when they’re invited to Nekoma High’s training camp in Tokyo. The only catch for a couple of our star team members, though? Well, Hinata, Kageyama, Nishinoya, and Tanaka are going to have to buckle down on their studies and pass all of their exams if they want to go.
The real world gets in the way big time in the first half of Season 2, giving us a fantastic opportunity to get closer to some of our favorite characters. Beyond the mainstays, the first 11 episodes also shine the spotlight on others we might not know quite so well yet. First-year student Kei Tsukishima, for instance, has been relatively low key despite his tall, blond, and bespectacled appearance. One of the stories follows Tsukishima as he discovers the truth about his brother Akiteru, who is ostensibly still an ace volleyball player in his own right. As it turns out, though, he hasn’t been playing in matches. He never made it as a starting member of his team, but he couldn’t bring himself to reveal this to his younger brother, especially if it meant tarnishing the way he sees him.
The ups and downs of this brotherly relationship are quietly and subtly conveyed, playing to the demeanors inherent to the Tsukishima family members. They eventually bubble up into an emotional climax, proving that any single character in Haikyu!! could potentially carry their own mini-arc. There isn’t nearly enough time here to cover everyone, though, especially with the spring High School Preliminaries right around the corner! Besides, there’s also the matter of Hinata, Kageyama, and their dynamic, series-defining Quick spike to worry about this season.
The Quick—which is a move that pairs Tobio Kageyama at the Setter position with the wild spiking of series hero Hinata—was off to a hell of a start in Season 1, but it isn’t perfect. Taller, more block-focused teams can still get up in the squat Spiker’s face, and the timing could definitely stand to improve. Taking this move to the next level, while also mending a relationship between the two players that has suddenly become contentious all over again, is another key focus of the first half of Haikyu!! Second Season. It’s a “will they ever get the magic back?” question that takes a while to answer, but the results are well worth the wait.
Speaking of being worth the wait, the anticipation building to the Spring Tournament pays off in full. This bracket-based battle takes up Episodes 12 through 25, and the volleyball action on display is even more stomach-twisting than it was the first time around. Each team Karasuno goes up against has their own strong suit; a special sauce that makes them a team worthy of potentially competing in Nationals. But only one is powerful enough to make it from this particular prefecture, and Karasuno has their work cut out for them if they want to be that one.
Let’s face it, creating dramatic scenarios in sports media isn’t easy. No matter which sport you choose, you’re at the mercy of a particular scoring structure. In the case of volleyball, you have two—potentially three if each team wins one—matches within a set. The first team to get 25 points takes the match, and the team that manages to win two of the three matches gets to claim victory and move ahead. To break it down further, there are many interesting ways to give up or gain a point over the course of any match. Still, this doesn’t mean much if you don’t have compelling characters to serve up the ball at every turn.
That’s what makes Haruichi Furudate’s manga—and Production I.G’s anime adaptation—special enough to succeed. It’s not just Karasuno in the spotlight; every team in Haikyu!! has something interesting about them. It might be a particular player—a standout figure that looms large over the rest of the team—or it might be the dynamics between every member of the club. There are no nasty villains here; just teams striving to be the best in the sport and take their schools to the championship.
Players are far from perfect, too. Even when Karasuno goes up against a powerhouse school, the other team can still make mistakes. There may even be bad blood between players that limits their collective potential. Haikyu!! is fun because of the tension and the exultation that goes beyond a basic game of volleyball. Haikyu!! is fun because it captures the feeling of camaraderie that’s unique to both sports and youth. It’s a fleeting fit of elation before summer ends and reality takes over, and hopefully it keeps the ball in the air for many years to come.
Haikyu!! Second Season is now available to stream on Crunchyroll and to own on home video from Sentai Filmworks.
This story appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Anime USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.