Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou is literally, as the synopsis on MAL states, an anime where the whole plot revolves around the over hyped game between Karasuno and Shiratorizawa. This is the third installment in the Haikyuu!! franchise and I recommend you all to watch how a studio who lacks enough manga material to field a full 25 episode season, manages to show their over-hyped fans one match in 10 gruesome long episodes. Let’s be honest, they know the fanbase would’ve watched it regardless being padded with endless flashbacks to justify the “miracles” during the game.
There really isn’t any story to this anime. It’s just an anime about one game. The difficulty lies in how can you make one game super interesting when you’ve used up pretty much every possible curveball scenarios a team must overcome in the past two seasons. Simple, throw in Mr. Super Android Perfection, Ushijima, Wakatoshi, whose major difference is he can spike with his left hand. Did I mention, he is also mister Perfection? How will the mortal humans of Karasuno overcome this new hurdle? Maybe they will have to use their cliché secret weapon aka the power of friendship, bonding, camaraderie. Top that with over use of flashbacks to justify why one player is able to block one single spike or net a point. Being the final game in the competition, there are 5 sets, so logically, viewers would think 2 episodes per set. WRONG. Another slider the studio throws at the viewer is they made one game over in the blink of few seconds and spends 4 episodes over another game. The pacing of the show is damaged tremendously by the amount of flashbacks explaining every little strategy and over usage of slow-mos. We get it, you want the viewers to understand volleyball, but you have to stop dumbing it down so much, especially when it is the 3rd season. Nevertheless, you can legit create a drinking game out of the amount of times Mister Perfection is in the air trying to take a spike. Be warned though, Production IG is not responsible for your hospital bill. The best thing about the story is that they knew when to stop from pulling a Naruto level filler.
If an anime lacks story surely the characters would be memorable right? Wrong. Other than maybe one or two characters, no one else really went through any major growth or change. Heck the fans had more character growth than the players did during this game. The anime tries to stray away from the main characters, Hinata and Kageyama, and focus on Tsukki and Mister Perfection (Ushijima). But the major refreshing character to come out of this anime is Tendou aka Guess Monster. It is really hard to attach yourself to any characters and it feels like if fans enjoyed a certain character prior to this season, they will closely identify with that character. It’s good that every character pretty much gets similar screen time so it adheres to the concept of winning or losing as a team except for the bench players. Let’s be real, why would both team’s coach even put them in such a crucial game. One major issue is that most players still lack the ability to jump serve this late into the competition. Aside from the characters being pigeonholed into having yaoi moments for the fandom/fanfiction most of the characters will be easily forgotten.
Up to this point, it might feel like why should we watch such an abysmal show that suffers greatly in story and character. Well if there is one thing Haikyuu!! franchise gets right time after time, it’s their art and soundtrack. By utilizing hand drawn animation and bold vibrant colours, the studio is able to provide a rich realistic style of anime that is unique and memorable for the viewers. The animation stayed true throughout the series. Regardless, being a sports shounen anime where you will come across multiple players that pretty much look the same. It makes you wonder did the studio do it to make the major character stand out or the only way they know how to differentiate one character from the other is thick or thin eyebrows. Although the OP and ED song for this anime didn’t really stand out like in previous seasons but keep in mind that OP/ED tends to be subjective. However, the background music was spot on during the games. They were able to create the necessary hype and cliff-hanger the show requires to further along the plot episode after episode.
Overall, criticisms aside, Haikyuu!! 3 is a great sports anime whose primary goal is to showcase the epic David vs Goliath story of Karasuno and Shiratorizawa. They did execute that really well except they took two too many episodes to show it. Instead of stretching it to 10 episodes they could’ve released a movie or make it a 6-7 episode short anime due to lack of manga material. Regardless, I would recommend watching the first two seasons prior to watching this anime and don’t forget to binge this season. I had fun watching it, provided me great laughs and memories but tbh I wouldn’t rewatch this particular season. Although the ending of the anime did promise another sequel and here’s to hoping the next season will be far better than this season!
Thank you for reading this review. Be sure to check out my other reviews as well as Haikyuu!! S2 review. I hope you all found it helpful and if you have any helpful feedback/criticism hit me up on my pm. I don’t bite :3
P.S. Fav quote: “If you are going to stare at someone, atleast stare at a girl” – Coach Washijou, Tanji
Given the monumental amount of hype that Haikyuu seems to have within its own fan base, I hope that this review will not come across as more negative than I intended it to, so I would just like to start by saying that Haikyuu is for sure one of the better traditional sports anime I have seen, but even so it is still far from perfect.
This third season picks up right where the last one left off, throwing us right into the Spring Tournament regional finals between Karasuno and Shiratorizawa. And that is pretty much the entirety of what this season is about as it is significantly shorter at merely 10 episodes, and all of that is spent on this single best-of-five finals. However, the shorter length also means that there is very little downtime, and thus pretty much every single episode of this season is action-packed and engaging, unlike the second season which spent its entire first half on nothing but lackluster training arcs, so I definitely consider this to be an improvement on paper.
Now I will admit that generally speaking I am not really a fan of hot-blooded shounen series, nor am I particularly fond of sports outside of real life, so this definitely has an impact on my enjoyment of Haikyuu as well. In short, this anime is very predictable. It is one thing to be able to guess the eventual winner, but for example I should not be able to so easily say in which order the sets are going to be won by the respective sides, because it is all made to play out in the way which creates the maximum amount of hype for the viewers. It just... feels pretty fake. And even the rallies within the sets themselves are generally pretty predictable; the camera focuses especially on one player for a bit and lets you see things from his perspective, at which point you can rest assured that the next point or two is going to be decided by him. Eventually the other players will adapt to whatever strategy he is using and then break his streak, at which point the focus will shift to someone else where the same thing will play out. It feels like it is all following a script. That said, I do have to admit that even though it feels pretty unnatural, it is undoubtedly quite effective. Thanks to the stellar directing that Haikyuu has, it really manages to make every point feel important and engaging, and the amount of emotion stemming from the players is not to be underestimated. You can really feel how much this means to everyone and how badly they want to win, no matter the cost. However, that still does not change the fact that the progression of the actual sets is simply too clean and perfect, and feels like it is following too much of a rigid pattern rather than portray the chaos that volleyball so often becomes in real life.
This is where I should probably mention that I am by no means an expert on volleyball and my knowledge of it is limited to what I have learned in PE class and from watching it on TV. However, this also proves a point of mine even further because despite my lack of expertise on the subject matter, I still find that I legitimately know more about the sport than these players do a lot of the time. I feel like Haikyuu oftentimes treats me like an idiot. Why is it that these supposedly national level athletes are just now taught what certain basic positions and tactics like angle blocking are? That makes no sense at all. I mean yes, I realize that the mangaka wants to teach things to the readers/viewers who have little to no understanding of volleyball whatsoever, but could you not have done so in a way which does not straight-up lower the story's sense of realism? For example, you could have just thrown in some short non-canon tutorials for the sake of the audience without interfering with the plot progression at all. On top of that there are also a couple points which are just plain implausible, like that it is supposedly harder to play against left-handed players than right-handed ones. What kind of sense does that make? This is volleyball, not football. The ball reaches its destination in less than a second when spiking so there is absolutely no way the opposite spin direction would have time to curve the trajectory in any relevant way at all, and given how lightweight the ball is I do not see how the spin would make it any harder to pass or receive either.
Another thing that really annoys me about this third season (which is a problem which actually did not exist in the prior seasons) is the complete lack of preparation from Karasuno prior to the finals. I mean think about it; Shiratorizawa is supposed to be the most famous team in the entire region for their age bracket, and they have won multiple big tournaments over the last few years already. On top of that they have a superstar ace player in Ushijima who seemingly everyone knows about. So why is it that Karasuno are seemingly learning who their opponents are during the actual finals itself? They should have tons and tons of easily accessible information about every single one of the starting players they're facing since ages ago, and should thus have been appropriately prepared for what was coming well ahead of time. Especially considering that this is a shounen series where pretty much every player has some super specific skillset like Ushijima's raw power spikes and Tendou's "Guess Monster" gimmick, rather than just being all-round solid players like you generally expect high-level players to be in real life. In other words coming up with hard counters should be much easier here than in reality as long as you know what you are dealing with ahead of time, which again, Karasuno really should have known. Like I can sort of understand the opposite scenario with how Shiratorizawa may have been confident enough in their victory to not really care about researching their opponents, and similarly Karasuno's matches in earlier rounds and tournaments have been against lesser opposition so I guess that excuse might somewhat apply there too, but for this finals, not so much. It is like taking a college exam without studying for it and just hoping that your raw talent will be enough for you to figure out the answers on the spot. Sure, maybe that will work out for you, but it still seems a hell of a lot smarter to just study ahead of time instead. The same logic applies for Karasuno in this tournament finals.
Speaking of skillsets, I also have to say that the aforementioned abilities in particular are pretty ridiculous. Does any professional volleyball player base their moves around trying to read their opponents' eye movements and similar like Tendou does? You think you have time to do something like that in a sport as fast-paced as volleyball? I highly doubt it. And as far as Ushijima goes, I find his ability to be really dumb. For one it is rather uncreative with how it is basically all power and very little strategy involved, but more importantly that kind of strength makes no sense at all. As briefly mentioned earlier, a volleyball is pretty lightweight, and even the most forceful spike can only generate so much kinetic energy as a result. So the fact that Ushijima's spikes could be so strong that they can just go straight through blocks is just ridiculous. There is no way that should happen. In summary, there are quite a lot of aspects of Haikyuu which are just plain unrealistic, which is ironic given that one of the common praises I keep seeing for the show is its supposed realism.
All that said though, I still consider Haikyuu to be a pretty good anime in general because despite its flaws, it is a lot of fun to watch nonetheless, and it is both addictive and engaging. The problems with it mostly lie with the details, but the more general aspects are all quite solid. For one, the production value is extremely good. I am not sure if I have ever seen a sports anime with as fluid animation as Haikyuu has, so Production I.G definitely deserves a large part of the credit for the show's success. And similarly, the soundtrack serves to both severely ramp up the level of intensity of the matches as well as enhance the emotional impact when need be, with all-round crisp and stellar timing. The characters are perhaps not utterly amazing in terms of writing but they have a lot of development, and discounting the part where they sometimes seem clueless to things they really should not be, they generally do feel quite believable and admirable. In this particular season I think it is especially Tsukishima who gets the most development as something that had been building up since almost the very start of the show ends up paying off in full, which was quite satisfying to see. Looking back at how he used to be, it almost feels like watching a completely different person by the end of this season.
Finally, before ending this I would just like to touch upon something concerning this anime's fan base which has always annoyed me and I did not know where else to put it. Time and time again I see people (especially those that have not actually seen it) label Haikyuu as "homosexual volleyball". In a sense this is understandable given the unbelievable amount of Haikyuu-themed male-on-male romance fan art and fanfics there are out there, often sexual in nature, so clearly in terms of how the fujoshi treat it this is not incorrect. However, the actual anime itself is not gay at all. It is not like Yuri on Ice which has blatant homoerotic tension shoved into your face pretty much every episode; Haikyuu has nothing of the sort. I have never seen the guys in this show stare deeply into each other's eyes, be bashful in each other's presence, end up in any compromising positions with each other or shown any signs of being interested in one another beyond mere friends and teammates. I may not be a volleyball player, but I did play football for many years so I can at least say that there is nothing remotely homosexual about simply playing in the same sports team as a bunch of other guys and passionately wanting to win together. So please stop trash talking Haikyuu for supposedly being yaoi-bait and avoiding it solely because of that, because it is not only a silly reason but also just plain incorrect. Blame a certain obsessive minority of the fan base if you so desire, but not the show.
In any case, the third season of Haikyuu is an overall solid addition to an already well-established franchise which for the most part maintains the same strengths and weaknesses as its prior seasons despite being less than half the length. It is also more straight to the point than ever before as there is significantly less fluff, and as a result every episode feels fast-paced (but not too fast) and important. And while I wish that it had done a couple things differently, as a whole it is nonetheless a very enjoyable anime which is definitely worth checking out. Not that I see why you would not watch this season as well if you have already invested enough time to get through 50 episodes of it previously. If you have seen and liked the first two seasons already, there really is no reason to not watch this one as well.