Haikyuu!! Season 3 Review
Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou:
Original Air Dates: Oct 8, 2016 to Dec 10, 2016
Synopsis: Karasuno’s volleyball team have finally made it to the finals of the qualifying tournament. They must now face off against their toughest opponents and five time champions,Shiratorizawa in order to earn the right to represent their prefecture in the National Volleyball Championship.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
If the fill title of this season hasn’t already made it clear along with the short 10 episode only run, Season 3 of Haikyuu!! is all about one single match that will determine if Karasuno can make it to the National level tournament. As with previous seasons and matches, Haikyuu!! continues to perfectly adapt its intense matches, while highlighting the tension and action without making it feel hammed up or over extended. However, there is no denying that Haikyuu!! wants to cater to a wide audience that may include those who have little to zero knowledge about the sport of volleyball as it often explains the simplest of terms and strategies to ensure that even the most clueless viewer can follow along. This is great if you are said viewer and Haikyuu is your first every experience watching volleyball or sports of any kind. Unfortunately, to some others, it might feel frustrating to be spoon fed every little bit of information. This is not especially new to Haikyuu so if it has always aggravated you in past seasons, know that it doesn’t let up this season either.
Haikyuu is also well known for giving its characters a well defined personality and/or background that makes it likely that the viewer will either empathize or sympathize with them, even if the character is from an opposing team in some instances. This season, the show tries the same but whether it be a side effect of having so few episodes to tell its story, or just a general decision to minimize it, the character development and exploration this season seems to be focussed on one particular character rather than several different ones. This doesn’t mean that all other characters get the short end of the deal but those who enjoyed the fleshed out character studies in the past might feel cheated or disappointed with the condensation this season.
It must be noted that Shiratorizawa seems to be the ‘villain’ team of the series. While there have been other teams that seemed to have some less than friendly team members in the past, this season makes Shiratorizawa seem a lot more cold and domineering than previous rival teams. Even though a couple of the Shiratorizawa members DO get some background sequences, at the end of the day, it’s clear that Karasuno are the ‘good guys’ of this season. Of course, in a season that’s literally a single match, it is easy to segregate one team as the hero and the other as the villain, especially if you are used to or prefer that traditional set up. It might feel a little weird to viewers who’ve enjoyed Haikyuu for usually managing to make each team feel unique and worthy of your support and affection even when they’re playing against Karasuno. It might even be all the more frustrating for fans of the manga as comments around the internet have mentioned that there was a lot of scenes cut from the manga, scenes that would have made Shiratorizawa a lot more relatable and likeable. Unfortunately, as I have no legal access to the manga material covered in this season, I cannot personally confirm or deny these comments but given how Haikyuu has usually given all teams a fair amount of storytime or exposition, I am inclined to believe those comments are speaking the truth.
Speaking of other teams, two players from another team make an appearance in this season as spectators and for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I will leave their names unmentioned. Their appearance feels like fan service as these characters are strong fan favourites and were most likely included to please and excite their fans. It’s not a flaw or criticism but more of an amused observation as these characters would otherwise have no real reason to be present in this season.
A more major gripe for me personally this season was how ridiculous Shiratorizawa came off as an opponent and as players. While Karasuno has always had some extremely talented or intimidating rivals in the past, this season some of the Shiratorizawa members seem to almost come off abnormal in a creepy villain way. In most cases in the past, players have been shown to be talented as a result or combination of hard work and skill. However, in this season, Tendou from the Shiratorizawa team is not only drawn with rather strange hair and appearance but also has rather weird and exaggerated expressions along with an apparently insane sense of correctly guessing how his opponents will be returning the ball. Haikyuu is really embracing its shonen roots this season by introducing opponents that almost feel supernatural in nature and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing will depend on how you feel towards the hype that’s often associated with the genre.
For those of you wondering why this season has such an awkward episode count, it most likely has to do with the fact that the anime is quickly catching up to the source manga and there probably isn’t enough original manga content to turn into a full fledged season for the time being. If you’re on the fence about picking up this latest season, my recommendation to you would squarely depend on how you were left feeling after Season 2. If you were left mostly still in love with the series, there’s still plenty to love in this season, regardless of how short it is. However, if you are averse to overglorified shonen tropes, follow the manga or are a Shiratorizawa fan, you might find yourself disappointed and frustrated.