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Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle made me a believer in sports anime

Haikyu's first film is a fun outing that (mostly) works as a good introduction to a beloved series.

A poster for Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle showing the two rival teams all posed facing each other.
Image credit: Haikyu!! Project/ Shueishia/ Crunchyroll/ Sony Pictures

You know, in all my years of watching anime, the one sub-genre I've never really gotten into is sports anime. To be honest, that most likely comes from the fact I just don't care for real world sports all that much - everything takes too long and the drama of it all can feel a bit too forced for my liking. But there is one series that I've been meaning to check out for a long while, and have consistently said to myself that I'll watch it eventually, because everyone I know that's watched it loves it more than anything: Haikyu.

This isn't about me watching Haikyu, I'm sorry to say. Or, well, it is, just not the series. As silly as it might sound, I'm here today to tell you about Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle, and yes, I recognise that I'm kind of starting at the end of the series, but hey ho, what better way to decide whether you want to check something out than via a breezy, roughly 90 minute long movie? There is of course the question of whether it's even enjoyable for someone that knows nothing about Haikyu, one of the main reasons I actually wanted to check it out, but we'll get back to that.

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Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle follows on right after the fourth season, with Shoyo Hinata and the rest of Karasuno High's volleyball team facing off against their rivals Nekoma at the Spring Nationals tournament. It's the first official match between the two schools, despite them having played against each other before, so the stakes are raised slightly on this occasion, for obvious reasons (and as a note, the whole film is just one match, so don't expect all that much downtime). Right off the bat, as someone that again, literally knew next-to-nothing about the series, the biggest surprise is who the main focus of the film actually is.

Hinata, the tiny, energetic, red-headed protagonist takes a bit of a backseat for this, with the focus instead being on his own personal rival - and friend - Kenma. The film does offer some flashbacks to help establish their dynamic, making it clear how Hinata is that kind of protagonist that inspires even their rivals to do and be better, acting as a good foil for someone like Kenma, who acts like he doesn't even really like volleyball all that much. Focusing on Kenma definitely threw me off a touch based on my own expectations, and obviously this would have been in the case for the original manga too, but I think it's a perspective that allowed the film to do some fun storytelling that I imagine would hit a bit harder for fans of the series.

Kenma is a bit of an odd character, reserved but smart, and the film is very much about him finding his drive on the volleyball court, an evolution that I found captivating. His backstory was really well interwoven with the match, letting you know how he came to be a volleyball player thanks to his childhood friend and teammate Kuroo. Their relationship in particular was a treat to watch, offering a clear example as to why people get so invested in Haikyu to me.

When it came to the animation, it isn't necessarily anything particularly out there (this is volleyball after all, how wild you can get?), but there's some really fun directing in there too. The camera work felt kinetic and frenetic, really allowing tension to be built up across the entirety of the match - you could feel every spike, wince at every mistake, flinch at every reception where the ball was coming in a touch hot. It sold itself to me quite quickly, probably one of the most important factors of a sports anime. If I'm not invested in the sport itself, even when I don't like sports, why am I watching it? But the movie quickly put me in my place, even having me thinking, "man, do I want to get into watching actual volleyball?"

I think that's one of the most complimentary things I can say about the film. For the most part, I do have to admit I felt lost when it came to the character relationships. There's a lot of them to balance, and there were several characters that weren't playing in the match who were given zero context as to why they were important, but again, this is more on me than it is the film. And yet, at the end of it I had come to the decision that I want more of this in my life. I want to watch Haikyu.

No, I don't think The Dumpster Battle the perfect thing to jump into if you're new to the series, but to be honest I don't think that matters all that much either. It mostly came across as an extended episode, and that works well enough as a taster for a series that clearly has a lot of heart and energy. What I'm saying is, you win Haikyu fans. I'll watch the volleyball anime, and I'm sure I'll have a good time doing it.

Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle is out in UK and US cinemas May 31, available to watch both subtitled and dubbed.

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