The Series: “Haikyu!!”
Where You Can Stream It: Crunchyroll
The Pitch: Shoyo Hinata is a passionate first-year high schooler who dreams of becoming a star volleyball player. But at only 5’4″, he doesn’t have the typical stature of a world-class player or any experience playing on a team. None of that is enough to stop Shoyo though, whose strengths exist elsewhere — in raw talent, endless reserves of energy, a concerning level of dedication, and a blaze of passion that always keeps him going.
When he joins Karasuno High School’s volleyball club, he gets the only other element required to make his dream come true: teammates. The problem? Among them is his middle school rival, Tobio Kageyama, a prodigy player with an allergy to teamwork. Luckily, their shared desire for greatness is strong and the only thing capable of curbing that rivalry — for the most part. “Haikyu!” is a classic slice-of-life sports anime about the strivings of a high school volleyball team as they compete in a series of tournaments with the hope of winning the whole damn thing.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: I have long maintained that “Ted Lasso” is an honorary sports anime, so if you enjoy the relentless positivity of the Greyhounds and the joy of watching good people succeed at the things they love, then you’ll fall head-over-heels for “Haikyu!” Karasuno is the ideal underdog team to root for: a group of unpolished gems who all bring their own baggage and potential to the team, with specialties and plenty of room for growth.
One minute, Shoyo and Tobio are butting heads — to the chagrin of every other teammate — but the next, they’re a fearsome duo blowing the minds of all their opponents. And that’s just one example of what happens when the team comes together. Like any good sports-oriented show, seeing the team fall into synch is the highest source of joy, and “Haikyu!” certainly doesn’t disappoint. Plus, the anime series expertly balances moments of high intensity with absolute absurdity. The matches themselves are high-octane and gorgeously animated, but there’s also plenty to love about what happens outside of tournaments when Karasuno’s crows are learning, training, and preparing for what comes next.