Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle : A Really Good Volleyball Match and a Highly Entertaining Film 

Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle : A Really Good Volleyball Match and a Highly Entertaining Film 

©Courtesy of Toho, and Crunchyroll. 

You really ought to give manga and anime credit for the way they teach teamwork and good sportsmanship. For instance, the recent anime film The First Slam Dunk and its source manga followed the ups and downs of a dysfunctional high school basketball team that somehow found a way to play together. Similarly, the Haikyu!! franchise chronicles the wins and losses of a scrappy high school volleyball team. Haruichi Furudate’s manga and the subsequent anime TV series are so popular with fans, the franchise logically now shifts to the big-screen with the release of director-screenwriter Susumu Mitsunaka’s feature film, Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle. Produced by animation house Production I.G, it releases in North American theaters this Friday.

With a title like Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle, you know this must be an anime film, but the Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle in question is in fact an important high school tournament. Karasuno High School from Miyagi face their big city Tokyo rivals, from Nekoma High. Newcomers to the franchise might not immediately realize Karasuno’s energetic, under-sized striker, Shoyo Hinata (voiced by Bryson Baugus in the English dub) is the main protagonist of the early seasons of the TV series and editions of the manga. Instead, the film largely focuses on Kenma Kozume (Clint Bickman for the English version), Nekoma’s setter and key strategist.


Like Hinata, the cerebral Kozume is also smaller than the average volleyballer, but he has a talent for cooly analyzing his opponents’ defenses and developing on-the-court counter-attacks. Kozume has an unusually keen grasp of the game, but his coach openly questions his passion for winning. Kozume readily admits he only started playing volleyball as a favor to his best-friend Tetsuro Kuroo, Nekoma’s team captain. Even Kozume would be hard-pressed to explain what the game means to him, besides the intellectual satisfaction of picking apart opposing teams and perhaps the pleasure of spending time on the court with Kuroo.


©Courtesy of Toho, and Crunchyroll. 

For new arrivals to the Haikyu!! franchise, Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle holds up quite easily as a stand-alone viewing experience. Right from the start, newcomers will get a sense of what makes the franchise so popular with its anime and manga fans, by the way it thrusts the audience into the on-court game-play.

Frankly, many Americans do not think very much about indoor volleyball during non-Olympic years. However, Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle so clearly depicts the teams’ strategies and the roles each position plays in executing them, first-time viewers will likely leave with a fresh appreciation of the sport. Arguably, this might be the best volleyball film of all time, unless you also count Top Gun. (Frustratingly for volleyball players, movies like “Air Bud: Spikes Back” do not offer much competition.)

One of the most refreshing aspects of the film is the lack of villains. Mitsunaka’s adaptation of a single match, multi-chapter manga story-arc, fully humanizes the players on both teams. They are all just kids, playing to exhaustion and leaving their hearts on the court. Over the course of several games, Mitsunaka adroitly reveals their personalities through their play on the court. It might sound simple, but the way it plays out is surprisingly complex and rewarding.

The animation is not as distinctive as that of First Slam Dunk (an obvious comparison film), but Mitsunaka employs a variety of techniques that enhance the game’s physical and psychological challenges. Production I.G is still probably best known for the “Ghost in the Shell” films, so obviously they know how to successfully render highly kinetic action. In fact, the animation really opens up the film, through tunnel-vision effects and expressionistic depictions of players’ subconscious anxieties.

The characters have traditional manga/anime look, consistent with the franchise’s history, but they have been given sharper, cleaner definition for the big-screen. For the English dubbed version, Baugus and Bickman nicely express the contrasting personalities of Hinata and Kozume. They are both well-developed characters audiences will root for, even though they play on opposite sides of the net.

Haikyu!!2©Courtesy of Toho, and Crunchyroll. 

Unlike, many anime movies, Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle directly continues from where the last season of the TV series ended, carrying the story forward, so it will have real meaning for established fans. (For the record, there is also a Marvel-style post-final-credits stinger that supposedly teases the next film, but it is likely to confuse more than intrigue viewers who do not recognize the new characters.)

Regardless, lazy P.E. teachers could do far worse than showing “Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle” in class, when it eventually releases on DVD formats, because it really shows the value of teamwork and celebrates good sportsmanship. Both teams deserve to win and they each have their chances—that is what makes it such a great match.

Indeed, this is a really good volleyball match and a highly entertaining film. Enthusiastically recommended for Shonen Jump fans and volleyball players yearning to see their sport finally get a quality cinematic treatment, Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle opens this Friday (5/31) in theaters nationwide.

Grade: A-

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Here’s the trailer of the film. 


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