The Fall 2016 Anime Preview Guide

How would you rate episode 1 of
Haikyu!! (TV 3) ?

What is this?

After a heart-pounding victory against Aoba Johsai High at the Miyagi prefecture playoffs, Hinata, Kageyama, and the rest of Karasuno are gearing up to face their biggest challenge yet. Can the volleyball team that rose from concrete defeat the nationally ranked Shiratorizawa and its equally impressive ace, Wakatoshi Ushijima? To find out you'll have to watch Haikyu!! streaming on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 2:30 PM EST.

How was the first episode?

Paul Jensen

Rating: 4

The boys of Karasuno are back, and they're more or less the same as they were the last time we saw them. Now in its third season, Haikyu has reached the point where it's largely a known quantity. It's good at having a little fun as it builds anticipation for each big match, and it knows how to make volleyball exciting. Those strengths appear to be back in this episode, along with a handful of familiar weaknesses.

Simply put, it is what it is.

Hinata and his teammates are as likable as ever, and the nervous energy they show ahead of their match against Shiratorizawa helps to humanize them even as it provides some comic relief. We've seen Ushijima in previous seasons, but this is his first appearance as an actual opponent instead of a perpetually sidelined final boss. His serious, blunt disposition makes him a good villain for our louder, scrappier protagonists, and I'm curious to see if we'll get to see past his poker face at some point. The rest of the Shiratorizawa players are something of an unknown for now, though they're able to display a fair amount of personality in their limited screen time.

Crucially, this episode accomplishes its primary task of getting the audience back into the flow of the story. Seeing Karasuno's cheering section grow offers a visual indication of their progress through the tournament, and the legion of Shiratorizawa fans drives home the fact that they're still in way over their heads. Coming back from a break between seasons, all this pre-game hype serves to remind the audience of what's at stake and why we should be excited. That said, it's clear that Haikyu has never really figured out what to do with the characters who aren't on the team. Dumping everyone into the stands and having them comment on the action is occasionally useful, but it's a little redundant when the players on the bench can do the same thing. While there's no obvious solution to this, it can still be a little frustrating at times.

Still, there's a reason Haikyu has been able to stick around for so long when similar shows often go home after just one season. For whatever depth it may lack in terms of themes or character development, it remains one of the best when it comes to following the traditional sports anime formula. The underdogs are entertaining and charismatic, the baddies present a genuine challenge, and the show has an abundance of energy. Pacing a single match out over a dozen or so episodes won't be the easiest task in the world, but there's enough emotion behind it that it should work just fine.

Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 4 Oh, Haikyu, how I've missed you. It does take a moment to remember exactly where we are when this episode begins – while it's been months for us, for the boys of Karasuma it's only been a day since they defeated their previous opponents and won the opportunity to face off against Shiratorizawa, one of the giants of high school volleyball. Although they're armed with the confidence from their victory, there's still plenty to be nervous about. After all, each game offers not just the chance to go national – it also offers the opportunity to lose it. It's very clear that the team's well aware of this, even as they rib Hinata about his tendency to get the barfs before a game.

This is, and has consistently been, one of the highlights of Haikyu as a series, that it makes each of its many characters an actual person as well as a player. Although there isn't much time for this in the introductory episode, we do still get a reminder of who everyone is, from Nishinoya's showboating to Asahi quietly drawing the character for “human” on his hand and swallowing it to calm his nerves as he walks onto the court. In a nice reminder that the guys didn't just spawn on the court, we also see Tanaka's and Tsukishima's older siblings show up to cheer their brothers on (despite Tsukki's wishes, another nice character moment) and the reunion of Hinata with two of his middle school friends who helped him to enter the competition where he met Kageyama. This is a particularly good bit of character work – it shows that Hinata has friends outside of school, but also the kind of loyalty he inspires in those friends. That's how he was able to break through Kageyama's self-made shell and deal with him in the first place, and it's a good reminder as they go into the game as teammates.

On the other hand, that attention to character means that every time Karasuma plays a new school, we get a team's worth of new characters to remember. Shiratorizawa is of course no exception, and while everyone is thus far appearing distinct as always (although a few character designs definitely look like recolors), it's also going against one of the basic rules of creative writing: avoid having too many named characters. In previous seasons I've had a tendency to think of characters by their hair colors or styles, so it's bad news for me if the author is running out of new designs; I already know that one of them is doomed to be Derpy Red Guy for the entire season. Luckily this season is subtitled that it is specifically focusing on the match against Shiratorizawa, so at least we'll only have one extra group to remember.

Being the introductory episode, we haven't had much of a chance to see any of the spectacular gameplay animation that earlier seasons have had. I'm confident that we'll get there, despite the fact that the boys all look more like they're wearing diapers rather than shorts (it's something about the crotch). Haikyu has gotten three seasons for a reason, and this one appears ready to remind us why.

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