Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle

It’s hard to know how to begin talking about Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle. If that title means something to you, it’s entirely possible that you’ll be satisfied by the film. If not, frustration awaits. Unlike the recent Spy x Family Code: White and PSYCHO-PASS: Providence, this is not an anime movie you can just drop into and expect to follow the plot. A pre-existing knowledge of the concept and characters is essential. Even so, it’s difficult to understand what the appeal is meant to be. What I saw was an 85-minute animated volleyball game that, while visually impressive, lacked any kind of substance.

The hero is Shoyo Hinata, the newest member of the volleyball team at Karasuno High School. He’s excited to be on the team, as his athletic idol, “Little Giant,” was once part of it. That excitement dims upon learning that one of his teammates will be Tobio Kageyama, a rival from middle school. Tobio’s team beat Shoyo’s a year prior, creating an immediate rivalry. When Karasuno takes on Nekoma High in the much-touted “Dumpster Battle,” the two must find a way to work collaboratively.

That premise could fuel some drama. It doesn’t – at least not here, because the set-up has all been done on the related anime series. This is merely the game that it was building up to. Consequently, figuring out who the characters are and what their relationship to each other is proves challenging. There are many, many static shots where the players’ interior monologue tells us what they’re thinking as they serve and spike balls, but that quickly becomes monotonous. Actual substantive interactions between characters are very few, leaving non-Haiyku!! obsessives with nothing to cling on to or care about.

To be fair, the animation is incredible. The players move in lifelike ways and the volleyball action looks surprisingly realistic. There’s real complexity to the way the game is brought to life through the format. I was reminded of The First Slam Dunk, a picture from last year that beautifully animated a basketball game. It had a plot and characters that complimented the sport, though, making it more easily accessible.

Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle is endlessly pretty to look at yet lacking in basic storytelling requirements. Devotees of the series may well get what they’re expecting. Otherwise, watching animated characters play volleyball for an hour and a half is about as thrilling as it sounds.


out of four

Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle is rated PG-13 for language. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Universal

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan