Haikyuu!! — Growing Together Through Challenge & Failure | OWLS “Squad”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, you might be new to this place. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, and welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s third monthly topic for 2018, “Squad,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard review of Haikyuu!! season one into this look at friendship and how, exactly, teamwork makes the dream work.

Although some people may like to be alone at times, we all have that one special friend or a squad of friends who we kick it and have some good laughs and fun with. However, there are friendships that don’t last a lifetime, and usually, they end due to a falling out or a misunderstanding. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring some of the best friendships in anime and pop culture, as well as the friendships that ended suddenly. We will talk about what a true friendship means to us, what we learned about ourselves and others through broken friendships, and our definitions of a “good friend.”

To uphold this OWLS favorite, I will be carrying the Haikyuu!! torch for this month’s tour! Though I’m not as passionate about this franchise as some of us are, I do hope I can contribute something of my own to the countless amazing posts out there. Thanks Lyn (and Lita) for the prompt!

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A brief spoiler-free discussion on the 25-episode spring 2014 anime “Haikyuu!!,” localized as “Haikyu!!,” produced by Production I.G, directed by Susumu Mitsunaka, and based on Haruichi Furudate’s popular shounen manga of the same name.

Rivals off the Court, Teammates on It

Shouyou Hinata began volleyball small and to this day remains one of the shortest players anyone has ever come across. Inspiration hit the loud lil’ guy when watching a volleyball ace nicknamed the “Little Giant” take the court by storm, and soon after, Hinata formed his own volleyball club in middle school. Brutal defeat in his team’s very first tournament by Tobio “King of the Court” Kageyama crushed motivations to continue the fight, though. In that moment, Hinata vowed to surpass Kageyama, but upon joining Karasuno High School’s volleyball team, Hinata found himself facing his “sworn rival” as a new fellow teammate.

Despite his unusually high stamina and powerful jumps, Hinata’s short stature gives him a bit of a hard time when it comes to finding the right role to play. Surprisingly, Kageyama, the “genius setter” himself, also struggles with teamwork issues, and only by learning to work together will Karasuno stand a chance against the fierce competition. Excellently balancing the emotional weight of sports drama with lighthearted comedy, Haikyuu!! supports two determined athletes and their endeavor to settle a heated rivalry in order to reignite their team’s once-legendary status.

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Karasuno: The Crow Flies Again

Haikyuu!!‘s first season leads us through a handful of major games set up like little arcs just like any shounen series would. On the surface, it feels like one of those “This is how I became the strongest in the world” series, and in part, that’s not the wrong impression. Beyond Hinata’s constant screaming and boundless excitement lie more interesting subplots, however, such as finding the motivation to play, understanding that loss is prevalent in the path to success, and the ever-constant conflict between upper and lowerclassmen. The series, much like the volleyball players, never sits on one of these themes for too long. Once a character’s lesson has been taught, the momentum bounces across the court to quickly become another teammate’s chance ball!

As previously mentioned, this underdog story appreciates a variety of themes crucial to the personal growth of not only oneself, but an entire team. With every demoralizing insult and crushing defeat, the need for vengeance—to prove that Karasuno will fly again—snowballs into unstoppable enthusiasm for the 12 boys (and their rugged coach, squirrelly faculty advisor, and goddess of a manager). I mean, just imagine it: Back in the day, you were THE top dogs, the ones that everyone aspired to be! And now that you’re finally able to give back to that team that gave you so much to begin with, you find yourself continuing to face loss after devastating loss. 

“To overcome difficulties, you need effort, endurance, and sacrifices.” — Ittetsu Takeda, faculty advisor

As such, it is redemption that pulls the clumsy Karasuno along, but they will fail to earn the respect (and awe) of other teams unless they dig deep within themselves and learn exactly what makes each other tick. Achieving perfected, harmonious unity comes only through knowing your friends better than you know yourself. Unless some of its more reserved members start opening up to each other, I’m afraid Karasuno will only make it so far in the seasons to come.

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Haikyuu!!‘s Unique, Competitive, Spirited Characters

I’ll start with the elephant in the room since I basically had no problems with the rest of this top-tier cast. Hinata and Kageyama are arguably the most irritating, annoying characters in the entire show—which is incredibly unfortunate given their status as male leads. These are supposed to be the two that we root for, that we want to succeed, but on more occasions than not, I was sympathizing with the other side. In their defense, even the rival teams offer compelling stories all on their own—in fact, this well-rounded attention to all of the characters is the bread and butter of Haikyuu!!—but it can be hard to cheer on the main two when Hinata is plain obnoxious and Kageyama is downright rude. By this first season’s end, I started to feel somewhat proud for how far they had come (recalling their earlier bickering and resistance to work together), and I do see myself warming up to them more in the next season.

If you’re asking me who the title of “best boy” belongs to, can I just say all of them? I mean, really:

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Daichi’s strong and steady demeanor makes him a model team captain; Sugawara’s calm, compassionate nature was LITERALLY ME back when I did sports in high school; Asahi’s aged appearance doesn’t stop him from being the biggest sweetheart (and Nervous Nellie) in the entire show. The third years will always be my favorite characters, no matter the series, but I can’t just stop here with Haikyuu!! . . .

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Nishinoya’s overwhelming charisma not only makes him a player to be feared, but also one to be loved; Tanaka’s combo of goofy + grit never fails to lighten the mood; Ennoshita has this ability to silently relate to his friends given practically any situation; Kinoshita and Narita are always there to tame Noya and Tanaka. WHEW, looking forward to find out more about these funny second years. Of course, we can’t forget about the first years . . .

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Kageyama, despite his oppressive exterior, strives to better himself by bringing out the best in his fellow teammates; Hinata’s inner strength to bounce back from defeat will always light a fire in my heart; Tsukishima AKA “best boy” candidate offers remarks that are so freakin’ snarky I just can’t, then proceeds to back up his smugness with the most wicked of feints during a match; lastly, Yamaguchi just wants to play the game everyone loves, and works long after dark hoping to one day be of use to his team.

But #squadgoals doesn’t stop there! Looking at the other teams, Nekoma’s Kenma (voiced by Yuki Kaji, my guy) seems like your average silent character, but his catlike reflexes and calculating eyes make him the heart his high school team; and yes, even the handsome and charismatic Oikawa, a master of playing to his Aoba Josai teammates’ strengths, must be hilariously restrained by his friends from egotistically going all-out”Great King” on them!

The Forces that Unite Us

Similar to the OWLS “Team” theme from last year, we all long for connection, to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Not often are we granted the opportunity to bond with others so closely and celebrate the things we love. So, we have to take chances, risks even, if we wish to grow together. Haikyuu!! hits on four essential elements that build strong, long-lasting friendships (all coincidentally beginning with the letter “C”), and for every time a team member attempts one of these building blocks, beautiful, timeless moments are created.

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Consideration—to experience thought and care for another

The weight of the game all rested on second-year Tanaka’s shoulders, yet again, and again, and again, Tanaka dropped the ball. There was a small moment like this during the tournament in which Hinata, a first-year, considered saying something nice or uplifting to baldy as he has always done for him. It’s not pity, it’s empathy. Hinata knows that feeling of repeated failure. When the underclassmen start supporting the upperclassmen (or at least thinking in that mindset), you can tell that the underclassman is starting to grow not only as a team player, but as a person, too.

The older we grow, there’s a tendency for superiors to think that they exclusively must be the ones to guide the young. But in a team, that is not the case. Though there is a chain of command spearheaded by the captain, teammates are EQUALS. In school, work, or any other setting concerning a group that functions together with one goal in mind, people, higher or lower, need to support each other—to consider feelings of failure and success alike and support those who need it in the heat of the moment.

Compliments—to express praise or admiration for one’s actions

Taking it the next step forward, teammates should give credit where credit is due. One’s age, ethnicity, gender, or status does not matter—nobody is above a nice compliment. This responsibility should not be limited to the captain or upperclassmen alone, either. Sugawara gives them out all the time based on how teammates are feeling that day, and that motivation pushes everyone, especially Hinata, to do their best.

Communication—to connect with others and exchange information

A true king asks for the help of his subjects—that is what sets Oikawa, “The Great King” (and even Sugawara) apart from Kageyama, the “Dictator.” Communication is key in both sports and life in general. Kageyama cannot and should not rely on Hinata’s god-like quick ability all the time; as setter, he needs to learn how to pass to teammates like Tsukishima more, and maintain an open communication line that doesn’t look so grumpy. Gradually he improves, and I’m looking forward to see just how much better he’ll get.

Challenge—to engage in competition for the betterment of oneself

Above all, nothing pushes teammates like a little friendly fire. Ultimately, friends want to surpass the challenges that other friends set for them, and this different form of support manifests in rivalries that continue to improve, shape, and make teammates stronger. Hinata swears to be the one to take Kageyama down, giving him some purpose to his play. Nishinoya wants Asahi to give his all and never feel sorry, even if fighting a losing battle. Sugawara understands his limited role thanks to Kageyama’s genius, but he always tries to observe from afar and apply reliable tricks to shake up Kageyama’s stiff repetition. Even Tsukishima and Oikawa verbally confront Kageyama to draw out the fire within themselves!

The Birth of a Real Squad

Haikyuu!! delivers exhilarating volleyball action and inspirational sportsmanship through positive vibes, overcoming failure, and teamwork. I purposefully stuck to this first season alone to highlight the beginnings of a real squad, not the end result. Why? Because it makes each of these team-building exercises all the more powerful. Take that feast scene from the end of episode 24 for instance: it is sometimes the moments of shared silence between team members that impact viewers more than dialogue ever could. The absence of dialogue here ironically speaks volumes about Karasuno’s relationships, emotions, and mutual feelings toward their latest match. Definitely my favorite hard-hitting scene from the entire season.

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At the same time, sometimes fiercely shouting our feelings out loud can be enough to convey those shared emotions with others, as show in the way Noya motivates the guys, or Kageyama and Hinata’s release of anger by blindly yelling in episode 25. These simple, even silly, moments are what bond squad members, their goals, aspirations, and frustrations alike. Karasuno still has a long way to go, but every step these crazy guys take together allows their friendships to evolve with them.

“Someone who can’t see the opponent standing right in front of him, can’t defeat the opponent that lies beyond!” — Hajime Iwaizumi, Aoba Josai vice captain

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Afterword

I’m surprised I didn’t enjoy this series more, as it’s literally everything that I should love about a good sports series all in one package. Looking at it honestly, it probably was Hinata and Kageyama’s characters that deterred my enjoyment a bit. I’ll still definitely recommend, though! To all those interested in an emotional sports comedy with a well-rounded albeit sometimes “too loud” cast, this one should be a must. Oh! And as with these OWLS posts, I didn’t even get to talk about the music and animation! I have completed the Yuuki Hayashi sports trilogy, in which this GOD composed the music for DIVE!!, Welcome to the Ballroom, and Haikyuu!!. He’s also done My Hero Academia, Death Parade, and Robotics;Notes, so yeah, total fave. I was sad when the first ED “Tenchi Gaeshi” by NICO Touches the Walls was replaced, as it was the best song IMO. Lastly, THIS is Production I.G’s powerhouse sports series, as the animation should not be missed! (Where was this quality when Ballroom was airing??)

I’m gleefully awarding Haikyuu!! season one with the “Cake” rating, a show that’s too sweet for its own good! NOW, fans of this beloved series, HIT ME UP WITH YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS FIRST SEASON OR THIS REVIEW IN THE COMMENTS (no spoilers, please)!! I’m very happy to have finally started this show, and though my “marathon” is running a bit slow, I am STOKED to watch more seasons!

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This concludes my March 22nd entry in the OWLS “Squad” blog tour. Shokamoka (Shokamoka’s Blog of Wonders) went right before me and stole my pick wrote about the currently airing A Place Further Than the Universe, which you can read right here (SO EXCITED FOR THIS)! Now, look out tomorrow for the one who got me hooked on this Haikyuu!! madness, Naja B. (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero), with No. 6one of my FAVORITE ANIME from when I first started (ahh, the memories) this Friday, March 23rd! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Having Unpopular Opinions Can Suck (GitS LA + more) | Cafe Talk

Uf, I can’t believe I have to write this post. But something has to be said so that I can have closure on this subject.

That’s right, we’re diving back into the live action Ghost in the Shell 2017, which I had previously covered in my review. Before we get too deep, however, I had written a more formal review about the film which you can view right here. It’s got most of my thoughts, from casting and cinematography to world-building, set design, and the soundtrack. Speaking of, Lorne Balfe has been graciously releasing a couple tracks each Friday in response to the fans’ call (mine included), so that’s really awesome of him!

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Welcome to “Cafe Talk,” a comment-welcome segment that, while it doesn’t happen as often as it should, is pretty fun to write! With this one, frankly speaking, we’re talking about being pissed off when no one likes your opinions, and exactly how much of a downer it can be. Sound relatable?

Your Opinion Doesn’t Suck, People Do

What can I say? You’re typically never in the wrong for harboring an opinion (unless that thought potentially threatens, harms, outcasts, etc. a person). Opinions are just personalized ideas, views, or judgments, and ideas are just that—intangible concepts. Alone, opinions and ideas can’t do much of anything, but when tagged together with a voice, that’s when things can get interesting.

Communication tends to happen after one’s opinion is formed; they seek out other individuals, groups, or even communities to see how their opinion stacks up, and whether it’s a favored or disfavored belief. More often than not, your position is accepted (YAY) as the popular opinion (hence the world “popular”).

You’ve done it! You’ve got nothing to fear!

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Last day of shooting, posted on Instagram by Juliette Binoche (Dr. Ouelet, right) and Scarlett Johansson (Major, left). They’re so happy I’M CRYING

Unless you’re like me, in which a chorus of crickets followed by intense booing ensues upon opinion delivery. You’ve just created an unpopular opinion (DAMMIT), and should you choose to continue to be vocal with your convictions, you’re life is about to get a bit harder. Just remember, this is NOT your fault—it’s a very human thing to stick with groups and label others as outcasts. You’ve just decided to bring something new to show-and-tell, and that scares the weak, the non-creative, the non-accepting, the unadventurous, the unappreciative, the crowd-followers.

Here, to console you, I’ll share a few of my own unpopular anime-related opinions cause, like, we know your thoughts can’t be as near as bad as mine, heh heh heh . . .

  1. I like Sword Art Online (oh crap, we’re starting with a strong one)
  2. I like Sword Art Online II more than the first (yes I just went there)
  3. Sailor Moon Crystal is a pretty enjoyable and strong adaptation of the original manga (no going back now)
  4. KILL la KILL‘s fanservice isn’t that off-putting (hi Kausus :3)
  5. Danganronpa: The Animation is a great adaptation of the game
  6. I don’t mind Kickstarting anime localizations
  7. Typically, I’d rather meet the English voice actors of a show rather than the Japanese seiyuus
  8. I thought The Empire of Corpses was a cool film
  9. Bryce Papenbrook is a good voice actor (in most cases, NOT Kirito)
  10. The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) is fantastic NOT just because of Yuno Gasai
  11. “Monster girl anime” seem stupid
  12. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) should NOT be skipped; both it and Brotherhood hold well on their own, respectively (same goes for Deen’s Fate/ stay night)
  13. Free! is NOT just about muscles and wet boys
  14. No Game No Life is not recommendable because it doesn’t end (same goes for Deadman Wonderland)
  15. Madoka Magica: Rebellion is a masterful film
  16. I love Robotics;Notes and Chaos;Head almost as much as Steins;Gate, even if Steins;Gate is the best
  17. The Viz Media English dub of Sailor Moon is better than the DiC dub
  18. I enjoy all of the Pokemon films
  19. Higurashi’s second season Kai is better than the first
  20. The Eden of the East films complete the story wonderfully
  21. Watamote is a funny anime, not a sad one
  22. The live-action Ghost in the Shell (2017) is an incredible and artistic film that respects its sources and holds quite well on its own

. . . Wait, that last one, “That’s not even cool bro . . .”

*cries*

So now that we’ve broken the ice (and melted it), let’s get this out of the way.

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My Unpopular Opinion, an Argument

Ghost in the Shell (2017) was a film that I walked out of not pondering endless sci-fi wonders, but feeling warm and tingly inside instead, which is quite unlike any entry in the franchise thus far has made me feel. But rather than chastise it as “something so far off of the original path that it’s unrecognizable,” think of it as a new side to the franchise. Ghost in the Shell has always been about vast interpretations and new ideas anyway, so why not welcome this unique artistic approach regardless that it looks like the black sheep in the herd.

Even Mamoru Oshii, director of the original 1995 film (which is much of 2017‘s inspiration) only wished for Directer Sanders to not be bogged down by his and Kenji Kamiyama’s Major (Stand Alone Complex), but to create his own as another face to the franchise.

Clearly, a lot of heart was put into visualization of the world—you can feel that the director was going for something GitS, but altogether a new and innovative vision [more relevant to our times].

I loved this fresh spin on the franchise, even if it admittedly bit off a little more than it could chew by trying to tie in so many homages to the franchise that, in fact, make each installment distinct from one another. And like any adaptation, if I wanted to see the original story all over again, I’D JUST WATCH THE ORIGINAL.

And about the casting, I’ve paraphrased a YouTube comment that quite honestly deserves a million likes:

“It’s controversial, but not incorrect casting. Major is an “Asian woman” in a European frame (robotic body), sure, yet part of the theme of cyberpunk and the series/movie revolves around self identity and what truly makes someone themselves—their experiences and actions. The people who said she should have been Asian were not only missing the entire movement of the franchise, but were critics just trying to push their political agenda onto a beloved title. Likely, they didn’t know the source material and went, “Oh, but, it’s Asiany and it’s made in Asia, sooooo.”

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What it Feels Like to be Crushed Your Unpopular Opinion

After I put myself out there, I definitely got “politely flagged” by other community members. They were responding to me, just trying to kindly say that they didn’t care for the movie—and that’s fine, especially since they were so nice!—but you kind of feel, I don’t know, down. It’s like you’re floating on your own raft out on the open waters, which are filled with bloodthirsty hate-filled sharks. And then you’re suddenly reminded that nobody is going to come and save you, so it’s either hold strong to what you value, or let it all go to the sharks.

And you know what? I’m still here, floatin’ away in this little hell all because I like the live action Ghost in the Shell. Stupid, right?

When you value something that others simply don’t, you start to get lonely. Nobody wants to waste their time attempting to scrounge up the very few “pros” that exist (if any) just to please you. They’ll notice, maybe console you saying something like, “Yeah, it could’ve been better,” or perhaps remind you once again as to why your opinions are dumb. But then they’ll go and find something else to talk about, and it almost leaves you feeling guilty for liking (or not liking) what you do. After all, you just missed out on a potentially awesome conversation—if only you shared the same opinion, that is.

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By having an unpopular opinion, you can feel isolated and at its worst, ashamed. You almost wish you could naturally hate something like everyone else did, or fall in love with something the way everyone else did. And then your problems would be gone—But THAT itself IS the problem:

Without your differing ideas, there would be only one main belief about something, and where’s the fun in that? Because you decided to explore where no one else dared, you walked out with something that no one else has, and you should embrace that, not hide it away!

Which is why I’m going to say it:

 “IT’S NOT JUST A SHELL. THE LIVE-ACTION GHOST IN THE SHELL IS NOT JUST A FREAKIN’ SHELL.”

I’m sick and tired of people—reviewers, critics, heck, even the media—calling it that just to make some stupid-ass pun. The SAME stupid-ass pun at that.

So from this experience that I had, I learned that you should always:

DELIGHT in the fact that your opinions may be different than the rest.

BE HUMBLE with your beliefs, proud but open to suggestions, discussions, and different viewpoints.

SUPPORT the things you love, for they brought you joy.

And for goodness sake, ENJOY something because YOU like it, not because others tell you not to or that you’re supposed to.

Don’t let all of the negative opinions and hate bog you down like it did me. Don’t let it! Hate puts your mind in the gutter, and honestly doesn’t feel good at all. You start second-guessing yourself, “Should I really be liking this,” which is EXACTLY what happened with this film for me. Instead, we should all keep on loving anime and the opportunities to ponder, interpret, and discuss that it has brought us. THAT is all you have to do!

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Have you ever had an unpopular opinion that struck you so deep that it brought unwanted hate your way? And did you defend your case in the respectful way you should have? Also, have you ever felt lonely or isolated for liking something that nobody else does? List some for me like I did, as I’m very curious! And almost more than that, I’m SO HAPPY to finally put my thoughts on this film and its controversy to rest. When it was in theaters, I had gone it THREE times (and saved the tickets just for this post), and as of now, I have purchased the artbook, the Blu-ray, and an adorable little Funko Pop of the iconic Geisha! And whenever the soundtrack comes, I’ll buy, support, and listen to that, too! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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