Manga Review: Haikyu!! Vol 1 by Haruichi Furudate

May Contain Spoilers

I decided to give this a whirl because I see a lot of buzz about the series online, and because the library actually received a digital copy of volumes 1 and 2. Generally, I enjoy sports manga, though I will admit that volleyball is not my favorite sport. If not for Crimson Hero, one of my favorite, and vastly underrated, shoujo manga, I would have given this a pass. But there’s something about team work, and overcoming insurmountable odds, that makes sports manga alluring.

Hinata has wanted to play volleyball since watching a high school game on TV, where one of the players was nicknamed Little Giant. The only thing standing in the way of his dream of playing on a volleyball court? There are no other members of his middle school volleyball club. Instead of taking up the offer to join the girls’ club, he stubbornly persists, and in his final year of middle school, there are enough members of the club to field a team. At their first game, an interscholastic tournament, Hinata is excited to finally play on a real court. This time, the only thing standing in the way of victory is inexperience, and teammates who don’t even know the rules of the game.

After a humiliating defeat, Hinata takes advantage of all of the opportunities he eschewed previously. Yes, he’ll play on the girls’ team. Yes, he’ll play with the housewives association. Yes, he will practice batting the ball around with anyone willing to give him the time of day. He studies his little heart out, because he is going to get into Karasuno High School, the same school where the Little Giant played.

Along the way to achieving his goals, Hinata has a run in with Kageyama, the snotty, overconfident setter for Hinata’s middle school rival. Kageyama is snidely called “the King of the Court,” because he thinks he’s carrying the rest of the team. He thinks he is so much better than the rest of them. Little does Kageyama know, but he’s about to taste the bitterness of betrayal and loss. Maybe he will learn to play better with others? No, not in this volume.

Hinata is one of the those earnest, optimist protagonists that you can’t help but like. It’s either that, or you want to slap him for being  a little ray of sunshine all the time. There is nothing that Hinata doesn’t believe he can achieve, if only he works hard enough and makes a genuine effort. He also realizes that his fortunes on the volleyball court are directly tied to those of his teammates. Something that Kageyama still hasn’t learned, even after his pride getting a royal thrashing.

This volume sets up the rivalry between Hinata and Kageyama, and also introduces other members of the Karasuno volleyball team. All of these diverse personalities have a lot of work to do if they ever hope to form a cohesive unit. Hinata, handicapped by a lack of game experience, is also hampered by a lack of height. He makes up for these shortfalls through sheer determination and a natural athleticism that makes even Kageyama envious.

While I wasn’t blown away by the first volume of this series, it showed enough promise that I will read at least the next volume, which, miracle of miracles, the library just added to their digital collection. I am curious to see how Hinata and Kageyama’s friendship develops, and I’d like to see Hinata  get to play in a game surrounded by a team that actually knows and understands the rules of volleyball. I’m undecided about the art right now; there are some really weird issues with the characters’ noses.

Grade: 3.75 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

After losing his first and last volleyball match against Tobio Kageyama, “the King of the Court,” Shoyo Hinata swears to become his rival after graduating middle school. But what happens when the guy he wants to defeat ends up being his teammate?!

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