Haikyuu!! already started off a little unexpectedly, setting its main character, Hinata, up with a perfect rival, Kageyama, and then putting them on the same team in high school at the very end of the first episode. It continues this trend in the second episode, with both Kageyama and Hinata being rejected by the captain of the Karasuno volleyball team on their very first day. Kageyama refuses to work with Hinata because he has no actual experience, leading them to challenge the third-years to a game to regain their spot on the team. The captain decides that in order to earn their spot on the team, Kageyama and Hinata will have to beat the other two first-years that already made the cut. If they don’t, only Kageyama can join the team, but won’t play as a setter.Of course, this isn’t something he can accept, so it’s on to training Hinata so that they have an actual chance of winning and overcoming their differences to be able to play together.
Haikyuu!!’s strength lies in its cast – with Hinata’s inexperience comes an easy set-up to explain volleyball terms and techniques, but it’s his enthusiasm and pure love for the game that shines through and makes it clear that the series will be about Karasuno’s growth as a whole team. We’ve already seen a lot of potential for growth from Hinata – literally in his skills – and for Kageyama in overcoming his own defeat in middle school and his reasons for hating a nickname that should be cool: “King of the Court.” While Hinata has natural athletic abilities that everyone marvels over, it’s really refreshing to see him working truly hard to learn to use those – he’s not just a natural genius – and it’s also refreshing to see that most of what he’s praised for is his determination to not give up. Episode 4 opens with a quote from the director of the Brazilian men’s volleyball team, “The volleyball player is not a soloist, but a member of an orchestra. When the player begins to think, ‘I’m special,’ that player is finished.” So many sports series focus on exceptional players and their special abilities, but Haikyuu!! sets itself apart by making it clear their focus is going to be the team. Even if the outcome of this first match is clear – we need a series, after all – the fun is in seeing how everyone works together. Hinata’s enthusiasm is contagious; the very first set he gets to spike from Kageyama is definitely a special moment, and their teamwork only builds from there to a spectacular climax in the fourth episode.