HAIKYU!! TO THE TOP — WEEKLY REVIEW 1&2

After my sappy (and maybe a tad embarrassing now that I think about it) intro to Haikyuu’s 4th season, second cour, I was finally able to complete my real life tasks for the week and here to actually write about the first two episodes, Rhythm and Found.

As a disclaimer, my love towards the franchise which I showcased passionately but embarrassingly can also lead me towards overlooking or not minding some of the aspects that would otherwise be annoying or deal-breaking. Additionally, having read the manga, my mind tends to complete missing parts and it becomes hard to discern whether the adaptation makes sense to a new audience or not. Clearing that up, let’s talk about these two episodes.

We dive right into the season with Miya Atsumu’s famous crowd-shutting fist clench. Even though episode-wise it’s a continuation, since time has passed between, I’d appreciate a short recap of sorts at the beginning but it’s not a major inconvenience. The new OP and ED theme songs are from groups I already knew and enjoyed, it’s something I always look forward to! My favorite moment was the following in the opening.

However I do prefer more symbolic scenes rather than just having characters passing from the screen. I somehow expected for respective teams’ representing animals to be incorporated, Furudate Haruichi shared an amazing illustration for this season. For example, what they did for season 3 opening was right on point, both in artistic terms and impact.

I’m not playing games when I tell you I became a big fan of Burnout Syndromes!

As I mentioned, I am already finished with the manga. Comparing the two, without spoilers, what I enjoyed being fleshed out is Inarizaki team’s accents! Translated text had a small variation compared to, say, the way Karasuno members talk but hearing them was an experience I was looking forward to. Inarizaki is from Hyōgo Prefecture, and what Wikipedia tells me is that Hyōgo is the biggest region in Kansai and is home to 3 different dialects depending on the region. In short, I don’t know which it is but I sure loved hearing it!

Now, the animation style. When I’m reading a manga, I pay additional attention to bodies and angles; how they are presented in action, in space and to artists’ distinct style. What I reveled in manga was this aspect and as the series progressed, animation got closer to what I loved in manga. You know when practicing anatomy, at first you start out with stick figures in different poses, then you draw geometrical boxes over the sticks, then comes the muscles that are round and continuous. Furudate Haruichi’s way of drawing bodies/flesh is in somewhere between those boxes and real muscles. You can, for example, see that members’ calves have edges, their feet are usually triangular, everything about their bodies are discontinuous and edge-y! Since this is very much to my taste, anime closing in a bit more on the manga’s style and leaving their scrawny designs back in first two seasons is a big yes from me.

This doesn’t mean the animation overall is seamless, funny edits of ‘animation shortcuts’ (meaning the disproportionate and bad animation pieces when the characters are not in the center of our attention, I gave it a nickname) and memes have already started making rounds. I don’t make a big deal out of it if the key scenes and close ups get the attention they deserve during production and deliver the impact. Plus, fandom memes are always welcome! The second episode, unfortunately, seemed to have a lot of those shortcuts but I’ll stick around for a bit more and see how it will go.

If I were to sum Haikyuu up, or choose one word for its concept it would be “challengers”. You can see I’m no genius, being a challenger/challenging someone else/challenging yourself continuously is a recurring theme in the series and it’s at the core whichever character or team the plot focuses on. Currently, in the Haikyuu universe, Inarizaki is the ultimate challenger for the previous title contender Itachiyama. It is fun seeing the stark difference in two team’s preparation for the occasion, starting from their entrance to the gym to perfectly coordinated cheering squad. It was very apparent in Karasuno-Shiratorizawa match as well; being used to big stages is something that takes time and something you have to get used to by experiencing. For Karasuno, it’s always trial and error or last minute solutions but that haphazardness or rather than being organized, these aspects stemming from acts of love, volunteering and support gives a certain warmth to it all.

As for the second episode Found, I am somewhat on board with the criticism I saw on Twitter and it also made me think about why we have the “90’s anime are better.” as the staple complaint. Adaptation has always been up to debate and there will be a portion of people unhappy about the outcome no matter what; I’ve already mentioned this somewhere else so I won’t be repeating myself. However, during the process one is left with two choices: you either have to completely stay on course of the material and adapt it completely OR carefully (or not) pick what to tell and what to leave out. Currently, the latter seems to be in favor.

One of the major reasons to this might be the cour length and the status the industry is in. Anime is indeed a huge industry that only continues to grow. As the workload of the studios keeps increasing and new artists emerge every day, including the growing audience, cutting back on either the pays of their employees, or the quality, highly probable that a bit of both seems like the only outcome.

You can see it in music industry as well; artists keep releasing singles and when you finally get the new album more than half of the songs are those singles. It takes a lot of time to complete a full length album and only a handful of artists have the fame or power to stay relevant without constantly releasing new work. In a similar vein, this is a big contributing factor to the reasons we started getting shorter cours, packed seasons or many important moments left out for the sake of completion.

This was the complaint for the second episode; many building blocks like Asahi’s service ace or Yamaguchi’s reset point were either left out or rushed. I agree that all of these points are crucial to those characters’ development and Furudate Haruichi takes their time to cover each character’s story. This is also the reason why all the characters are appealing in their own way. Not including their stories, of course, is disappointing. However, and this is just a guess on my part, the production team may have decided on a course that mainly highlights Hinata and Kageyama’s dynamic and sprinkle others here and there. This might confuse new audiences as to how a character reached a certain point and dampen the experience of those who know of the original material. We shall see how it will progress in the upcoming episodes. I’m excited nevertheless!!

Since this was a two-episode review and I touched up on more general topics it got quite lengthy and I’ll make a separate post for my favorite moments but the following posts will be much shorter. As always, thank you for taking the time to read. I’d love to hear your opinions or contribution to this post, make sure to add what you have in mind in the comments. If not, see you tomorrow for my Tuesday cover!

** Header credit goes to Paukshop on Flickr for cleaning additional text. Inarizaki’s “We don’t need memories.” is my favorite among the team banners.

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