Haikyuu!! Second Season Review

This is review number four hundred and fifty four. This anime is part of the Fall 2015 lineup, and it’s the second season of Haikyuu. It’s a twenty five episode anime about a bunch of people playing volleyball. This review is long, so let’s read on.

Story

Following their defeat at Inter-High, Karasuno goes to Tokyo to train. The team wants to evolve, but they have a lot of growing pains to do. Will they make it in time for Spring Tournament? Or is there truly no growth in concrete?

Taking the Pants Off

This review will be slightly tilted, because I saw this anime before. I saw it while it was airing in a local TV channel, and I kinda got into it so I downloaded the rest. I think it’s the first time I watched something then not review it, because I was clearly prioritizing something else at the time. This review will also be slightly tilted, because I am writing this while on vacation. 2021 is one hell of a year, so I deserve my vacation. On to the show though, Haikyuu season 2. If there’s an initial impression upon finishing the show, then it’ll be underwhelming. The show isn’t as exciting as the first season, but it’s obvious why it lacked the awesome punch of the first one. Simply put, it’s trying to better itself so it can make a better punch in the third season. That’s really why I am reviewing this anime now. I also saw the third season in a local TV channel, and I said to myself that the show will be crowned a perfect score. Yes, Haikyuu season 3 passed my criteria but that’s for another review. I hope you guys are as hyped as I am for that. In order to reach perfection though, the second season had to exist in all its underwhelming glory. It was the necessary transition point of the story, and the show lacked excitement. Some outcomes are matter of facts, and there’s really no way of making it impressive. The second season will be the least impressive of the Haikyuu lineup, but I do believe it needed to pull back to elevate the series.

Reaching Perfection

So what exactly makes this anime underwhelming? Simply put, it lacked the amazing matches that made the first season awesome. I don’t remember much about the first one, but I still have an idea of the iron wall of Date and the mighty setter of Aoba Johsai. The first season will rock your world through its amazing animation and sheer intensity. Those elements are missing in this season, because the characters didn’t do a lot of matches. Instead, they did a lot of training. One thing the second season achieved is that it fleshed out everyone, and I mean everyone. It fleshed out the main characters, the team, the minor characters, the opponents and even the way the game is played. It had to rebuild itself, because the fast paced thrill of the first season isn’t going to cut it anymore. The show planned to go higher than that. It planned to deliver more excitement, more intensity and more three dimensional characters to the court. It’s honestly such a daunting task, because Kuroko no Basket didn’t need much fleshing out. The characters can rumble in the court until one big moment happens. Ah, here I am again comparing both shows. I apologize to fans of both shows but it’s easier to describe this anime’s successes by comptrasting it to Kuroko no Basket. I guess the ultimate goal of why the entire show needed to be fleshed out is because of one important element not felt in the first season. As cheesy as it sounds, the show needed more heart. It needed to add more emotional stakes to the matches, and I think this can only be achieved through a lot of underwhelming practices.

I think half of the second season, so episode one to twelve, was just the characters training. They got invited to go to Tokyo and we follow that training arc. We didn’t just see the main characters train though. Everyone got a chance to be fleshed out, and minor characters had some episodes dedicated to them. A lot of flashbacks are used to develop the characters, and a lot of dialogue is dumped to flesh them out. That was the most jarring thing about this season. The characters just talked to each other. We were pulled out of the exciting fast paced volleyball matches so the characters can exchange dialogue. It kinda kills your mood, especially if you marathon the two seasons back to back. I’ll be frank and admit that it’s cool to see the characters talk it out, but I honestly just want them to smash some balls. It’s taking forever for them to do that, and I honestly got impatient at some point. The second half of the anime does feature the matches, but it takes a long while to get there.

Grinding

It is also plainly obvious that the show is setting up a lot of things down the line. I love far sighted storytelling. The author seems to be smart enough to introduce characters early on so they’ll have a bigger impact in later arcs of the manga. The training arc featured the Tokyo team that eventually becomes their rival, and I think the two teams will eventually fight it out properly in an official match. That’s neither here nor there though, because they just do training in the first half of the show. If I am to describe that training though, then it’d be RPG characters trying to level up and acquire new skills to help them beat a boss that previously kicked their ass. As I said before, everyone gets fleshed out so everyone takes a chance to develop new skills to beat the dungeon boss. Hinata and Kageyama took twelve episodes to level up their quick attack, the Ace is trying to learn service aces, and even the blockers are learning how to block better. Seriously, raising your arms up to block a ball gets fleshed out and developed in such a way that the game of volleyball feels a lot more cerebral than I thought it’d be. I guess that’s another fascinating part of the training arc: we are going back to basics. As they develop new skills, the viewers are treated to concepts on how the characters will achieve their new skills. Some are delivered through clever dialogue, like a spiker describing how a dump feels in his point of view, and some are presented through the show’s glorious animation, like the difference between a first tempo play to a third tempo play. It’s honestly so fascinating how so much is presented in just the training arc, and the more you listen to the characters describe their will to improve then the more “heart” is established. The author’s love for the game is presented through the characters describing their love for the game. The way the characters convey their will to improve and their will to fly high eventually gives an emotional component to the show that was missing in the first season.

Heart is also something that is hard to explain. I cannot fully explain to you how much I love anime and how much I enjoy reviewing them without showing a bit of heart. Establishing an emotional connection between you and your reader is extremely hard to do. Haruichi Furudate did that in the training arc alone. By showing the readers the excitement of a volleyball match and then sitting them down to explain his love for the sport is something he did so seamlessly. By sitting you down and explaining the sport, he will now give you more insight on how to enjoy the sport. It’s incredible storytelling. Furudate’s approach is so methodical. Nothing felt forced and nothing feels out of place. Flashbacks are used to great effect, character backstories are used to heighten emotions and their will to improve eventually adds heart to a simple team sport. There are sports anime that has characters trying to become the best at their sh*t, and the audience is encouraged to cheer along. Furudate doesn’t have a character like that in his stories. Instead, he features characters that simply loves to play. No pressure from losing, no grand prize to chase at all. It’s just “I want to play and beat the other team” in the most emotional way possible. I believe the correct term for playing with heart is something else though.

Sportsmanship

Wiki-sama describes it as “an aspiration or ethos that a sport, or activity will be enjoyed for its own sake. This is with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one’s competitors”. This is something prevalent in the anime. There are no cheaters in Haikyuu. There are no evil villains or arrogant players to smash. There are no sort of dirty play or tactic at all. The training arc achieved just one important thing, which is every characters love for the sport. The Tokyo players help the main characters grind because they want better competition out of them. Aoba Johsai’s setter, the eventual final boss, gives advice to others to push them simply because he wants the best out of his opponent. Twelve episodes is gave up for training because the character’s love for the sport needed to be established and the sportsmanship they have needs to be an effective element now. You will see rival teams help each other to improve simply for the love of the sport, and I think that is something unique for this anime. I’ve seen a lot of sports anime, but I don’t really see rival players help each other become better. I think we can also owe it to the uniqueness of the sport itself. Volleyball is a game of teamwork, and the team with the best teamwork wins every time. You score points for every mistake the other team makes as you try to make sure you don’t make any of your own. Through this weird dynamic, I think intense rivalries aren’t really needed. You can get crippled in a boxing match, break a bone in football and get elbowed in a basketball game. In volleyball, there is no clash among opponents. There is just teamwork, and it’s a vital component of the sport. It is something Haikyuu displays at every opportunity, and the training arc eventually develops it some more.

It’s kinda weird that I wrote three pages worth of a review now without actually talking about the anime. While there is an unusual teamwork among the characters, there are also some bitterness at play. Part of the fleshing out involves characters overcoming themselves. The pang of being eaten alive by Aoba Johsai in the first season left the characters blaming themselves and hesitating to move forward. It takes the entire team to level up for them to truly take on the dungeon boss, so a lot of characters are also given focus in the training arc. These are characters that wasn’t given a lot of time in the first season. I think the biggest one featured is the tall midblocker, Kei Tsukishima. There was a huge thing about him being overshadowed by Hinata and how he pulls back because he knows he can never be as good as Hinata. A lot of characters had moments of doubt like this, and it adds to the heart element that makes the show compelling. These doubts needed to be established, because you know the characters will overcome them soon enough and just in time for the big tournament.

Spring Tournament

The second half of the show features volleyball matches, but not the fast paced exciting ones featured in the first season. As I said before, this anime is underwhelming. Even the match against the final boss didn’t feel as exciting, and that’s really my main gripe with this anime. It did establish heart and sportsmanship, but it still lacked punch. It lacked the high stakes exciting feeling that made my feet cold in the first season. I believe there were three matches in the latter half of the anime, and they didn’t really stood out for me. I can write long dialogues about big moments, but I can’t really do much for things that didn’t excite me. As I said before, I can tell you the smug face of Oikawa in the first season as his service ace kept racking points for Aoba Johsai. I can tell you the amazing feeling of Hinata overcoming the Iron Wall of Date. For this anime, there isn’t really a big moment to talk about. Everything feels par for the course. I don’t have to spoil it. The main characters beat all three teams and the show ends in a cliffhanger going into the finals. I can tell you all the amazing skills the characters acquired and how they used it for the tournament, but that’s also something expected. They trained and it bore fruit. Is that really something shocking given the flow of the story? In terms of action, this anime lacked a lot of it. The first season was on a steady nine until their defeat, while the second season was going at a steady four til the last episode. Yes, in terms of matches, I’d give the show a disappointing four. I mean, even the eventual rematch of Karasuno and Aoba Johsai lacked the needed punch to bring it over the top. It just didn’t feel as good. It could be because I already saw the anime, but I could argue that I also saw the third season three times before I convinced myself to give it the perfect score. The second season just felt different, and I think it’s because of the new elements the story tacked on. It’s basically like pouring in a new ingredient to a boiling pot only for the pot to cool down and readjust its temperature to boil up again. It will boil in the third season, but the readjustment happened here.

While the action isn’t as glorious as the first season, I do believe a lot was achieved in this anime. I particularly like the character work here. I believe the best moment of the anime happened when Karasuno fought Ohgi Minami, their first opponent in the Spring Tournament. This was the first test for the team to see how much they improved, and this was the best time for them to truly use their new skills. As expected, they crushed Ohgi Minami but the opposing team wasn’t just chump meat for Karasuno. Instead, Furudate flipped the script. We didn’t see Karasuno display their overpowered skills. We saw Ohgi Minami’s point of view slowly being crushed by the other team. In the meaningless match in the first round of the tournament, Karasuno soundly beat their opponent. In the same match though, Ohgi Minami’s backstory as a bunch of delinquents is established, the bitterness of being beaten by a better team is implemented to establish heart, but their will to keep scoring is also featured to feature the show’s sportsmanship. In the least important match for the main characters, a lot of heart was bled out of the story as it signals to the audience that the matches have indeed changed. The fast pace is still there, but character work and narrative is also now in play. The game has evolved and so did the story. If you actually step back a bit, you’d be shocked at how much Furudate accomplished in just this first match. So much emotion was felt and so much character work was done. I know Ohii Minami is a minor team compared to the other teams Karasuno fought, and yet here I am giving them a full paragraph. It highlights just how methodical of a storyteller Furudate is. No detail is left undeveloped. He is such a caring storyteller that it’s no wonder his high effort work graced Shounen Jump.

As I said though, Karasuno fought three more teams aside Ohgi Minami and they are a lot more developed and detailed than the last. Each team has an identity of their own, and each team has backstories to feature. They also have different plays to offer to make the matches interesting, and they have different strategies to counter Karasuno’s leveled up team. It lacked the excitement of the first season for sure, but there is still a lot to enjoy in the leveled up storytelling of the second season. Worry not though, because all elements will come to a boil once we reach the third season. I’m mostly excited to review the third season as well. It’s been awhile since I awarded a show a perfect score.

Mitsunaka, Tsukimoto and Production IG

There is no better show to display Production IG’s titan abilities than Haikyuu. In terms of animation, nothing beats this studio’s style. I appreciate Trigger giving us insane animation but Production IG always had the substance to back up all their style, and I love them for it. You can tell they love animating this show, because they even gave special animation for the commercial breaks to feature the characters. Haikyuu is a Shounen Jump anime adapted by Production IG. It will make you mouth water just how high class this show is, and I have a lot to talk about in the lower sections of this review. I talked highly of Furudate, but I also have to give love to the director and the series composer. Taku Kishimoto made sure the low points of the series happens in one season. The second season featured the under whelming parts of the story, and he made sure it didn’t feel as heavy. Episodes are constructed thoughtfully and dialogue didn’t feel boring despite the lack of action. Sure, Furudate structured it smartly in his manga but Kishimoto had to carry that well detailed style of Furudate onto a moving medium. I think he did wonders here. A lot was accomplished in the second season, and setting up the third season was always part of the process. Susumu Mitsunaka didn’t skip a beat. In terms of directing, nothing changed from the first to the second season. The show is still well paced, the action is consistent and the progress goes in a straight line. He spent a good time working on other sports anime, so I think he rightly deserves giving us this high class anime. While the show is overall underwhelming, you can never fault anyone for it. It was just a necessary step in the show. An expected valley between two peaks, and Mitsunaka proved his directing style isn’t the reason the valley is low.

Sight and Sound

Takahiro Kishida’s character design is something the anime greatly treasured. In the manga, his style is a lot messier with thick lines and an abundant use of shading. His quirky shading style is adapted in its tamest with line work shading the characters necks. In terms of the overall design, the show completely overhauled his style. The anime version is a lot cleaner than its manga counterpart, but I think that’s where the differences end. Every other detail is still present in the anime. From the unusual head shape of the characters to the wonderful detail of their body build, Kishida’s style is front and center. I particularly love how small changes in the character template can make a character stand out. Some of the minor characters have simple designs to them, but Kishida is able to give them intensity and speed in the pages of the manga. Furudate also injects character development in them to make them stand out even more. I think the last time a duo like this made a manga, the country of Japan was banning a notebook.

One thing I love about the manga is how busy the panels are. It will be overloaded with text and wooshing motions to capture the play of a volleyball match. It’s kinda impressive how a volleyball match is told with just pages of a manga. That complexity is something the anime made sure to match. Character movement is something the show doesn’t take for granted. You can tell a lot of rotoscope was done to different characters. Nuance differences in their style is so noticeable in the matches. The way they serve all feels different as if they take into account the height and the girth of the character. Even the way they block a ball and the way they receive them are different for each character. This kind of insane detail work is something Production IG is known for. I think they’re the only one to truly capture the messy and frantic progression of the manga panels into a smooth volleyball match in anime form. You also have to take into account how they made Furudate’s storytelling present in the matches and they also have to ensure that the heart and the sportsmanship is present in the animation. It’s insane how much work is done just to bring the manga to life, and the animators were clearly up to task.

Mitsunaka doesn’t let up as well. He employs different camera angles in the matches to capture the frantic panels of the original source. He uses POV shots for different scenes, and he uses slow motion at certain points to heighten up the emotions of the matches. He knows when to keep it fast paced and he knows when to slow it down. It’s truly a marvel to experience the high class directing at work here. The manga might’ve made a volleyball match on paper, but Mitsunaka made sure the flow was normal. It is a volleyball match you can watch anywhere else, but it had moments for storytelling and character work. This entire experience would’ve been awful in the wrong hands, I know that for damn sure, so I am glad Production IG gave justice to this top notch manga.

As I said before though, the animation is consistent. Dialogue heavy scenes are still given enough care and attention despite the lack of excitement. The pacing for these scenes are so compelling and character work is employed to keep the viewers engaged. Facial expressions is on point and consistent throughout, and I love how the intensity of the manga is smartly delivered in these moments as well. I believe even mundane scenes of characters just gathered around having a meeting had enough care in terms of animation.

The anime has two OP, and I don’t want to talk about each one. They’re good. I mean, they’re really good. The montages are pretty great as well. They feature the strong character work and the intense animation the series is known for. I didn’t watch the ED songs, but I bet they’re good. Ah, damn it, let me just go watch it real fast.

I suddenly realized I was on vacation, so this part of my reviewed is a little bit low energy. Let me fix that by discussing the ED songs properly. The first ED song is “Climber” by Galileo Galilei, and I think it’s a pretty underwhelming song as well. I was kinda shocked Galileo Galilei made the song, because they punched me hard with AnoHana’s OP. Hearing them with this song feels a bit lacking. I do love the montage of the characters running. It features the top notch animation and it highlights the training arc beautifully with a shot of Hinata flying to close the montage. I like it. It’s pretty cool. The second ED is “Hatsunetsu” by tacica. I like this song better. It stands out a lot more, and I like it more with the stunning ED sequence. It features a manga filter for the animation as it highlights the impeding rematch of Karasuno and Aoba Johsai. It’s pretty cool as the show even tried to make the ending sequences special in their own way.

Overall Score

8/10 “It is still underwhelming, but its transitionary pace doesn’t affect the overall quality of the series. In fact, I think it made it more amazing.”

I think I scored the first season a nine, and I will be scoring the third season a ten. The second season will be the lowest rated season of this series. I think the underwhelming quality of the story and the action is felt throughout, but it didn’t really made the show less special. Instead, it tried to elevate the series to make it reach higher places. Consider the second season the cocoon phase of the series, and you better get your sh*t ready for its stunning butterfly. I recommend it.

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One thought on “Haikyuu!! Second Season Review

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