This article contains major spoilers for “Haikyuu!! To the Top.”
Japanese animation studio Production I.G is famous for gritty, action-packed works such as “Attack on Titan” and “Psycho-Pass.”
However, the animation studio’s latest venture is on a lighter subject matter: boy’s high school volleyball.
“Haikyuu!! To the Top” follows first-year middle blocker Hinata Shoyo, who stands at only 5’7 but has more than enough ambition and love for volleyball to make up for it. His role model, “Tiny Giant,” is Karasuno High School’s former ace, who is even shorter than Hinata. Inspired by seeing him play on TV, Hinata joins Karasuno’s volleyball team.
Now in its fourth season, “Haikyuu!! To the Top” begins when Tsukishima, Hinata’s fellow first-year, is invited to the Miyagi Prefecture Rookie Select Training Camp run by Coach Washijo. Although Tsukishima lacks Hinata’s natural athletic ability, he possesses the height Coach Washijo envied in his youth.
In the third season of “Haikyuu!!,” Karasuno plays against the best team in the prefecture, Shiratorizawa. In contrast to Karasuno, a team that adapts its strategy to the strengths of its players, Shiratorizawa’s coach, Tanji Washijo, recruits members and plays by the motto “simple is best.” Height and power are the most important attributes in Coach Washijo’s eyes. Without them, players are seen as useless.
Coach Washijo reminisces about his teenage dream of becoming a professional volleyball player — a dream that was crushed by his own insecurities. With coaches constantly putting him down due to his stature, Washijo eventually became envious of players who naturally had the height he believed was necessary to chase his dream.
To someone who is typically uninterested in sports, a show about volleyball might seem uninteresting. The animated nature of “Haikyuu!! To The Top,” however, makes the show exciting to watch for even the most physically inactive viewer.
One animation technique “Haikyuu!! To the Top” frequently implements is called sakuga. Sakuga is a term used in anime to describe scenes in a show where the quality of animation improves immensely to emphasize a significant point. “Haikyuu!! To the Top” uses this technique whenever it wants to emphasize a player spiking the ball.
But “Haikyuu!! To the Top” is not only about volleyball and cool sakuga scenes. It is about defying societal expectations — a battle of ideologies.
To everyone’s surprise, Hinata crashes the training camp in season four. After an intense confrontation between Hinata and Coach Washijo, the coach mockingly allows Hinata to stay, but only as a ball boy. He tells Hinata that he does not see any worth in him.
Despite initial hesitation, Hinata accepts this invitation. He proceeds to loudly introduce himself as ball boy to all the players Coach Washijo initially invited to the training camp.
Hinata’s response towards Coach Washijo’s insulting attitude shows how hard Hinata is willing to work to defy the limitations others put on him. Instead of dwelling on his lack of height or strength, he uses his time as ball boy to observe how other players play and improve himself. He shows both Coach Washijo and the audience not to listen to the negative opinions of others.
Instead of giving up, Hinata acknowledges his lack in height and works hard to compensate for it. With hard work, he proves Coach Washijo’s motto and life’s narrative wrong.
He is the feared Karasuno number 10, on his way to becoming the next “Tiny Giant.”
“Haikyuu!! To The Top Part 2” releases July 2020.