(lololol you see what I did there)
If K: Return of Kings was the example of how not to do a ‘getting the band back together’-type opener, Haikyuu!!’s second season is an example of how to execute it decently, although I still wasn’t blown away by the approach. In the first half of the episode, we watch once again the dramatic final minutes of Karasuno’s loss to Aoba Jousai before popping forward to a typical afternoon of practice. The boys are re-introduced, roughly, by letting us see each of their signature moves. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really make for enthralling television, either, so its nice that things pick up a bit in the second half with the introduction of another school to add to the slate of hated rivals for our favorite volleyball team. Additionally, a return of Nekotama is teased, and there are enough jokes in the mix to demonstrate that the good sense of humor the first season had is still fully intact.
Of course, to me what has always ultimately been what kept me interested is the cast, so I was pleased that at the end of the first season the return of the third years was ensured. A slice of me protests that this shouldn’t make me happy since one of the aspects of high school school stories is the transitory nature of things, so the audience should have to endure the disappearance of fan favorites as they prep for college entrance exams or graduate and enter the workforce, buuuut at the same time there’s no denying that I would’ve been bummed to see those boys go. I also like how their continuing presence on the team works within the story, in that they’ve opted to stay on in the wake of their loss in the tournament. In shounen sports stories, the lead’s team has to win it all eventually, and I prefer when it doesn’t all go swimmingly the first go at it. Anime and realism, lol, amirite?, BUT I do like stories that feel like the cast had to put in some effort and endure some setbacks before they achieve the expected results.
Speaking of the cast! Some of them have very slight changes to their appearances – thumbs up! Growing teenagers tend to look a little different over the passage of time, so this was a nice touch. (For a show that really handled this well, check out Hikaru no Go, where the changes were introduced very slowly over time – comparing Hikaru at the start with Hikaru of the final third, its a bit startling how he’s gone from having a child’s body to physically being a teenager. It’s especially noticeable when looking at the faces of the cast.)
On the negative side, the show still sucks when it comes to female characters. Shimizu still says next to nothing and exists more or less just to be a pretty staid fantasy girl for the teenaged boys the manga is written for. There’s nothing particularly egregious about the fanservice-y treatment of her, but its still dismaying that she has scenes where we see her backside and chest before they can be bothered with her face. The shy-looking blonde girl in the OP hasn’t surfaced yet in the show itself, but what there is of her in the OP isn’t terribly encouraging. Couldn’t we have a little more of the girls’ team? They got to be characters!
On the whole, though, it’s a solid start to the new season, if a not particularly stunning one. The production values are still pretty high; I think the background score is a bit better this time around. Fan’s of the first season aren’t going to find anything worrying here, and I myself am eagerly looking forward to watching this one for the next half year. Easily the best premiere I’ve seen so far.