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by Lucas DeRuyter,

Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle

Anime Film Review

Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle Anime Film Review

Anime's volleyball enthusiast best boi, Shoyo Hinata, and the rest of the Karasuno High volleyball club are in the third round of Japan's national volleyball tournament! Now they face off against their school's long-standing rival, Nekoma High, and Hinata gets another chance against his frenemy, the listless and calculating Kenma Kozume. Can Karasuno defeat Nekoma, and can Hinata overcome Kenma's strategy to clip the high-flying small fry's wings?

All this and more is explored throughout the three-set volleyball match, dubbed the "Dumpster Battle," as the names of the schools allude to crows and cats.


To begin, I should note that this film is a continuation of the Haikyu!! anime and a canon adaptation of the manga. As such, if you're not caught up on the anime or at least generally aware of the franchise and its characters, the events of the film and emotional character beats probably aren't going to resonate with you. Brushing up on the series might also be helpful before a viewing since the movie doesn't have any kind of "the story so far" segment, and it's been about three and a half years since the last season of the anime wrapped.

If you're a Haikyu!! fanatic, or if you can overcome this background knowledge hurdle, you're in for a pretty good time and some of the best editing to come from an anime in recent memory. The film expertly uses hard cuts to drive home the speed and impact of spikes and how even the best players on the court struggle to return a powerful shot. This gives segments covering longer rallies a growing sense of dread and desperation as the camera constantly switches between a confident return and an increasingly exhausted player who barely manages to keep the speeding ball aloft.

In particular, one of the final segments of the film is a masterfully produced POV sequence where the audience is pulled into a leading character's perspective preceded by an inspired audio overlay of their panting breaths. After watching this character plan, adjust, and struggle throughout the match that makes up most of this movie, it's affecting to be placed in their shoes during the game's 11th hour. This review will avoid major spoilers, but it's safe to say that if you're also someone who likes sports and how they showcase the best, most human parts of those competing in them, you'll get plenty out of HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle.

That said, the actual plot of this movie leaves a bit to be desired, and the themes have aged strangely since Haruichi Furudate first penned it in the 2010s. While supporting characters get plenty of time to shine, Shoyo Hinata and Kenma Kozume's dynamic drives the movie forward. The two are polar opposites, with Hinata defining himself by his passion and love of volleyball, while Kenma is relatively indifferent to the sport but no less talented. Despite their differing personalities, the two are pretty good friends, and their desire to challenge each other motivates them as much, if not more, than their desire to win and advance in the tournament.

This is why it's odd that Kenma's master plan to defeat Karasuno High relies on demoralizing Hinata. While it's natural in sports strategies to develop ways to limit the best opposing player's performance, Kenma really expected Hinata to give up psychologically. The movie tried to set up this expectation for the audience as well. This is ridiculous. If you know anything about Haikyu!!, Hinata is an endless spring of energy and enthusiasm. Even a viewer who hasn't read ahead in the manga knows, instinctually, that this plan isn't going to work, and it's unbelievable that Kenma, who knows Hinata well enough to consider him a friend, would think that Hinata would quit in the middle of a game.

Furthermore, Kenma's arc also feels a bit uninspired in 2024. Over the course of the movie and his match against Hinata, he realizes that he loves volleyball too and that the sport is responsible for some of the most important relationships and moments in his life. At the movie's end, he expresses that volleyball is fun and seems to pick up Hinata's enthusiasm for the game.

Having a storyline about a character realizing how great volleyball is in one of the closing arcs in a wildly popular anime about volleyball is strange and feels insincere. This is clearly a movie made for established fans of Haikyu!! and, at this point, every one of them is fully bought into how cool and fun volleyball is. It's also pretty trite that Kenma's character arc boils down to him being indifferent about volleyball and realizing that he loves it in a series where almost every named character is enthusiastic about the sport.

Kenma's character is much more interesting when he's disaffected about volleyball. After all, he's competing at the highest level of the sport available to him. If he can get to that point without making volleyball his entire identity, it reframes the priorities and lifestyle choices made by the characters who are zealots for the game. This is where the film's themes also start to age poorly, as conversations about how passionate you need to be about a sport to be good at it have become increasingly common since last year.

Nikola Jokić of the Denver Nuggets is arguably the best basketball player in the world right now, and he is famously indifferent to the sport. He's on the record saying, "Basketball is not the main thing in my life," and he seems only to continue his career because it's the easiest way for him to earn a level of income that will let him and his family live more than comfortably. Athletes, from a young age, are told repeatedly by coaches and media that they need to sacrifice other parts of their lives and dedicate themselves to a sport to be good at it. Jokić is the living antithesis of that philosophy.

So, in the face of sports fans and players worldwide having to accept that they don't have to define themselves by their chosen hobby to be good at it, Kenma's arc feels pretty flat. Even if voice actor Yūki Kaji does a stellar job conveying Kenama's emotional arc through the film, the character writing is uninspired and, now, dated. It's rare to like a leading character more at the start of a movie than at its finale, but that's where I'm at with HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle's principle focus.

Of course, this shouldn't discourage you from seeing the film if you're a Haikyu!! fan. I'm not, and even I enjoyed the editing, camera choices, and a few of the gags. Sure, this movie isn't pushing the medium to grander heights, but not every sports anime movie can be The First Slam Dunk. At worst, this movie is exactly what Haikyu!! fans have been waiting for and a solid way for those unfamiliar to see what all the fuss is about.

Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B+

+ Fantastic editing, riveting camera perspective in the closing segments.
The character and narrative writing is less interesting than ever, subtitles aren't heavily outlined so text is difficult to read against white elements on screen.

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Production Info:
Director: Susumu Mitsunaka
Screenplay: Susumu Mitsunaka
Susumu Mitsunaka
Shinsaku Sasaki
Yuki Hayashi
Asami Tachibana
Original creator: Haruichi Furudate
Character Design: Takahiro Kishida
Art Director: Ichirō Tatsuta
Chief Animation Director: Takahiro Chiba
Animation Director:
Takahiro Chiba
Satoshi Nagura
Hisako Shimozuma
Ema Suzuki
Ai Watanabe
Mai Yonekawa
Sound Director: Hiromi Kikuta
Director of Photography: Yumiko Nakata
Executive producer:
Makoto Ōyoshi
Kazutaka Yamanaka
Mitsuteru Hishiyama
Tasuku Honda
Ryōta Ikeda
Mayumi Kurashima
Toshihiro Maeda
Fumi Miura
Fumi Morihiro
Shoichiro Taguchi

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