Anime Vice News

HAIKYU!! #1 + BABY STEPS #1 -- Double-Sized Sports Anime Review

How different can sports anime really be, at the end of the day?

Join us as we view new pilots this season. See where they fit on the highly-scientific Rock-or-Suck Scale…

It was odd to see BABY STEPS labelled as ‘slice of life’ on CrunchyRoll. I generally view sports shows being in a separate genre, but I suppose when we’re talking about anime, anything about normal human beings doing things normal people do is technically a slice of life. On the other hand, grouping two of this season’s sports shows together maybe reveals something about tone…

HAIKYU!! is definitely more of a shonen in the SLAM DUNK mold. Hell, it’s got no less than two exclamation points in its title. These guys aren’t taking baby steps - - they’re jumping up to the net and spiking the ball with furious power!!

Both series are about underdogs: small, meek freshman who suddenly get really good at a sport after a bolt of inspiration. The key difference seems to be goals, though. HAIKYU!! has already set up volleyball rivals for our hero and his team to vanquish. BABY STEPS is more of a profile of how a borderline-Asperger’s kid successfully applies his obsessive compulsions to the court. It ain’t PRINCE OF TENNIS. The only ‘foe’ in sight is the annoying kid on the tennis team who’s sabotaging our hero’s prospects with his love interest.

So, same basic premise, but significantly different executions (and both of them a world away from KUROKO’S BASKETBALL and its over-the-top mythologizing of a junior high ball team).

I usually have a soft spot for sports shows because they make me think fondly of my own experiences, playing on school teams. They’re also easier to review than ‘standard’ slice of life shows because there’s inherent conflict to speculate upon from episode to episode. Will our volleyball team beat those jerks from the next district? Will our tennis ace win the tournament? And so on.

The stakes aren’t earth shaking, but they are still stakes which are more distinct than ‘Who’ll reach an emotional breakthrough this episode?

That said, I still prefer BABY STEPS out of these two. Maybe it’s because marathoning HUNTER X HUNTER has made me wearier in regard to stats and game theory and all that. The notion of a kid reconciling his mild learning disability (?) with his athletic pursuits and his love life holds more angles of interest for me than him just shutting down the next opponent. It hits the right sweet spot (pun intended) because you get all the ‘feels’ of the slice-of-life melodrama, while still having at least some task-specific conflict to keep busy with.

Anyway, that’s my spiel on both of these pilots. They’re definitely two of the better ones I’ve seen this season but, as I said, I’m probably biased. Might be a good time to re-open the discussion about sports anime. What do you lunatics think about the genre? When does it soar? What makes it sink? Name me some good ones and some bad ones.

Watch "Tennis and Notes" and "The End, the Beginning" and decide for yourself. -

About the Author

Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk
sickVisionz moderator on May 8, 2014 at 1:01 p.m.

I plan on eventually checking out the volleyball one (I think Haikyu!!). I believe Production IG is making it and they've yet to make something that didn't have quality thrown at it as well being entertaining.

takashichea moderator on May 8, 2014 at 1:09 p.m.

Haikyuu was odd for me. I'm not much of sports fan, but I find myself liking sports anime for some odd reason. I got into Kuroko's Basketball quite easily even though I hated basketball. For Haikyuu, it was odd seeing the main character lose in the first episode. Normally, you show them winning by the scrape of their teeth. For Kuroko's Basketball, they started off as strong, but they kept facing stronger opponents.

The orange haired boy was so optimistic in the midst of defeat. It was heart warming to see him go the extra mile and losing terribly.

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