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It seems that a mangaka can do no wrong when writing a sports manga. Just mention the genre to anyone, otaku or not, and you’ll get a lively discussion. From more commonly played sports such as Basketball (Kuroko no Basket, Slam Dunk) and Tennis (Prince of Tennis, Baby Steps) to more esoteric ones like American Football (Eyeshield 21) and boxing (Hajime no Ippo), the list goes on and on.

Strangely, Volleyball is missing from this list of famous sports manga although it has all the makings of a great sports manga. It’s a team-based sport that’s fast-paced, attracts spectators easily and uses a scoring system that’s easy to understand.

This is where Haruichi Furudate’s Haikyuu!! steps in. The volleyball manga has been running in Weekly Shonen Jump since 2012 and had a one-season anime adaptation in 2014. A second season has been confirmed so for fans of the series, this is something to look forward to.

The story pulls you in right from the start, with third-year junior high school student Hinata Shoyo entering a volleyball competition with a ragtag team of friends who’re in any club but volleyball due to his junior high school lacking one.
Unfortunately, his makeshift team is matched up against one of the strongest middle schools, captained by future high school teammate, Kageyama Tobio. Naturally, Shoyo’s team gets swept but the match clearly highlights his and Tobio’s outstanding strengths and weaknesses. 

Fast-forward several months later and they end up in the same high school, Karasuno High School. This is where the story really begins, as they practice and compete together in the school’s volleyball club.

One might think that Tobio and Shoyo are the ones driving the team forward, being the ‘super rookies’ that every sports manga has. This isn’t quite the case, with other first-years, sophomore and senior students showing that they’re more than capable at the game. Realism is what makes Haikyuu!! stand out, showing that you don’t need superpowered teenagers to create an engaging story.

As mentioned previously, there are no supernatural powers in this manga. Don’t expect volleyball spikes to split the ground or injure players, nothing of the sort happens. Characters make mistakes too, especially Shoyo, considering that he has been playing volleyball for just over a year. But that’s exactly what will engage readers, seeing the members of Karasuno High School struggle and grow. Even the members of rival teams will have new tricks up their sleeves the next time they face off.

If you’re a complete volleyball idiot, don’t worry. The various terms, formations, tricks and moves are explained via the club’s advisor, Takeda Ittetsu, who is inexperienced in volleyball, to say the least. He’s an excellent channel for readers who’re new to the sports and who knows, you might just be a walking volleyball encyclopedia by the latest chapter.

When its match time, chapters shift into 5th gear, keeping you on the edge of your seat with each page. Karasuno High School isn’t immune to losing so don’t expect or worry about any last minute bursts of energy or Lady Luck shining on them to turn a bad match around. This is most evident during a training camp they attend with schools from Tokyo who have much stronger volleyball teams.

The supporting characters do have their moments too, never being relegated to having one-liners or constantly being in the background. From Karasuno High School’s alumni members to rival team members, they are catalysts for the main cast’s growth and some are even reasons why they continue to play the game. Even the most inexperienced first-year member in Karasuno High School’s volleyball team gets to show off when the time comes.

Haikyuu!! has managed to replicate an actual volleyball match over and over, slowing down the fast-paced game while maintaining the same intensity and suspense a game has. Character development is one of the manga’s strong suits but no explanation will suffice, you just have to read it.

Written by ET

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