Haikyu!!, Vol. 1

By Haruichi Furudate. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

For a genre that has a reputation for not succeeding in North America, there have been quite a few sports manga released over here, most of them connected in some way or another with Weekly Shonen Jump. There’s been Slam Dunk, and Whistle, and Eyeshield 21. It’s a classic and established genre in Japan, with its own cliches and foibles, and I’ve read enough of them to know what to look for and to be surprised when something I expected didn’t happen. The type of sport shown doesn’t really matter – basketball and soccer are always popular, though not baseball – Jump avoids that, possibly as Sunday and Magazine are so well known for baseball titles. And now we have Haikyu!!, which tells us about a down-on-its luck high school volleyball team trying to make it back to the finals with some promising but troublesome rookies.


Our two heroes are on the cover, although it’s possible that the dark-haired guy is more of an anti-hero. Hinata is a very typical Jump hero – short, overenthusiastic, filled with amazing athletic abilities that no one has ever been able to hone, but also prone to overconfidence and lack of experience. Kageyama, at first glance, appears to be the classic polar opposite to that sort of character – stoic, always frowning, experienced and unlikely to make the sort of rash decisions that Hinata would. But, as it turns out, this is just a fakeout, and was possibly my favorite part of the book. For Kageyama is actually an arrogant guy with a very hot temper, who expects to be the star and is rather frustrated that this is actually a team sport. Seething ball of rage Kageyama is a very interesting character, and I look forward to seeing more of him.

If you don’t know volleyball, no worries – Hinata barely knows the basics as well, so we get a lot of explanations. We also get a whole lot of characters, typical for a series like this – a team needs players, after all. There’s 2 third years who play good cop/bad cop, and an overzealous 2nd year who matches the rookies’ enthusiasm. There’s a tall, arrogant first-year whose face every reader will want to punch, and I can’t wait to find out what kind of situations he’ll have to go through before he stops being a complete jerk (he’s on the same team as our heroes, so will no doubt have to stop at some point). Oh yes, and the female manager is cool rather than cute.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here, though as I said I was surprised and pleased by a few of the character choices. It’s just a sports manga, well-told. It’s 20+ volumes in Japan, which means that Viz is going to be releasing it every month for a while, so get used to these guys. And it’s the start, hopefully, of a sports manga renaissance, as now that Slam Dunk has finally finished, Viz is also picking up Kuroko’s Basketball as well. Can Touch or Major be far behind? (Well, yes, they can. Far, far behind.) In any case, Haikyu!! is a fun and energetic sports manga in the classic Jump tradition. You’ll enjoy it.

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