Story by Kimberly Hsueh
Senior Staff Writer
The setter smoothly switches from a spiking to setting position, passing the ball to one of the wing spikers who smashes the ball over the net. Karasuno High’s middle blocker Hinata Shoyo retaliates. With intense concentration fixated on the ball, he blocks the ball’s path, shooting it high into the air. Hinata, the one who the team and I never expected to perform a perfect receive, broke the fast-pace game.
This was a scene in Haikyu!!, one of the first animes I binged during the pandemic. As a racket player and a writer who has covered countless sport beats, I was able to revive a sense of normalcy into my life through the feelings of excitement and nervousness portrayed through teams on my screen. Seeing their teamwork, game play, and perseverance invigorated me and I felt a pressing urge to put my best foot forward in tennis and meet with my own teammates.
I spent the majority of my middle school reading manga, such as Ouran High School Host Club, and watching Shugo Chara!, so I always saw anime as childish cartoons. My friends, who had a similar mindset, laughed at anime lovers and called them “weebs.” I never wanted to associate myself with that label and said goodbye to anime forever, or so I thought.
During COVID-19, Haikyu!! was trending on Tik Tok. Seeing Hinata jump become a Little Giant that ruled the volleyball courts inspired me to start watching other sports animes, such as Stars Align which also emphasized that appearances don’t always match what’s on the inside.
Behind the students’ masks of perfection or happiness were issues that plagued them for years. Some players faced physical and mental abuse from their parents. Others, such as Yu Asuka, faced the struggles of gender and sexual orientation.
Now, I understand what Stars Align was attempting to relay: There are forces in life that can belittle, question, and oppress, but consistent, open conversations and the willingness to listen, differences can help one become the truest version of themself.
Anime consists of intricate stories that are equal parts educational and emotional. It’s been surprisingly informative me and a strangely normalizing force in my life
The setter smoothly switched from a spiking to setting position, passing the ball to one of the wing spikers who smashed the ball over the net. Karasuno High’s middle blocker Hinata Shoyo, a master of spikes and fumbler of receiving, retaliated. With intense concentration fixated on the ball, he instinctively blocked the ball’s pathway, spreading his feet apart, bending his knees, and drawing his hands together. The ball slammed into his arms and shot up high into the air. Hinata, one who the team never expected to perform a perfect receive, broke the fast-pace game. With the change in momentum, Karasuno would fly high and win the match.
This was a scene in Haikyu!!, one of the first animes I binged since COVID. I’ve always
Before COVID hit, I was always hesitant to watch anime, as there is a negative stigma surrounding it. Many associated the source of entertainment with harems of high pitched girls with disproportionate bodies. While there are some animes that oversexualize characters, there are plenty more that present intricate stories with educative, emotional, and enlightening topics. During my time locked in my room, anime has welcomed a sense of normalcy back into my life.
I began my journey with one of the more popular animes: Haikyu!!. As someone who plays tennis and has never seen a game of volleyball, Haikyu!! made me immediately want to drop tennis and try out for our school’s volleyball team. Not only did I learn positions of players, I learned game play, jargon, and the point system of the game. I cheered, sighed, and stifled my tears, mirroring how one might act when watching an actual volleyball game, one that might determine the advancement into CIF finals.
Haikyu!! prompted me to binge watch other sports related animes, such as Yuri on Ice, which focuses on an ice skater’s journey of finding the motivation to skate after countless failures. Kuroko’s Basketball featured action-packed games that forced watchers to the edge of their seats and Stars Align highlighted a tennis team’s life, where players attempted to find identity. Through Stars Align, I saw themes of sexuality, different upbringings, and overcoming differences to establish openmindedness, acceptance, and teamwork.
All these animes illustrated and emphasized the key components of sports: teamwork, community, and perseverance. Now, as I enter my tennis season, I find myself applying the same lessons I learned from the shows and sharing advice and strategies with my teammates. But these sports-based animes are not the only ones that have influenced me, others, such as Attack on Titan, Given, and Erased have respectively changed my viewpoints on society and government, sexual orientation, and life stages.
Through anime, I have obtained a tremendous amount of life lessons, skills, and values. Just as how anime has enlightened me and somewhat normalized my life…maybe one of the aforementioned animes can spark the same inspiration I felt within you.