Anticipation and Mythos in Haikyuu!!
Season 1 of Haikyuu!! Was an adrenaline-pumping hypefest. A lot went into creating that atmosphere—a killer soundtrack, a fiery protagonist, creative animation, etc.—and that’s all still present in Season 2. Yet, to just ride the same waves as the first season would be lazy. It’d be unlike Haikyuu!!. Season 2 comes at us with even more tactics to excite us, most of which only work because this is the second season. So, without further warm-up, let’s figure out why we get so pumped.
The questions to ask are: what does a first season set up? and how can a second season capitalize on what’s been set up?
Most obviously, a first season provides a ‘past’ for the story. We know volleyball as it exists in this universe; we know our main cast; we know what the characters have achieved or failed to achieve. We know Hinata and Kageyama have grown from hot-headed rivals to a freak-of-nature tag-team. We know Asahi was convinced to rejoin the team, finding his love for volleyball in the process. We know all the third-years are risking poor college entrance exam grades in order to play one last tournament. Yeah, we know a lot.
This gives us two important tools to start Season 2 with: inherent stakes and inherent familiarity. We go into this season with investment because we’ve experienced this team growing and fighting. Instead of ‘Who are these guys? What do they want? Why do I care?’, we ask ‘How is my boy Hinata going to become the ace? Will Yamaguchi get to successfully serve in a match? Can Karasuno get revenge on Aoba Jousai?’ There’s a promise that the characters we already love will be tested at the end of this season. We don’t need to discover that this time around.
So when we watch Karasuno train episode after episode, we’re actually pumped. This isn’t Season 1, we don’t need to be lured in with opaque conflict (there are conflicts early on in Season 2, but they aren’t there to convince us to watch an unfamiliar show). Watching each character work on some new technical skill might be the most exciting development possible.
These characters are filling out their weaknesses or gaining new strengths, and we know we’ll get to see the fruits of their labor on the ultimate stage later. Hinata and Kageyama flubbing those spikes over and over is one giant tease. The show teases us with some cool new technique, but won’t actually let us see it work until later. You better believe every character is going to have their moment in the spotlight come tournament time. And doesn’t that get you hyped?
Season 1 also built a world. Actually, let’s call it a mythos. The Little Giant, old Coach Ukai, the Nekoma-Karasuno rivalry—these are all part of the Haikyuu!! mythos. Just look at how the Little Giant is portrayed. He’s an expressionless, larger-than-life spirit covered in shadow. He’s a real person in the context of the story, but we only see him as some mystical god of volleyball. Haven’t you wondered if we’ll ever see him in the ‘flesh’?
Anyway, cool, there’s a mythos. How is that exciting?
Old Coach Ukai is like a crazier Mr. Miyagi or Yoda. He’s the man who led Karasuno to a streak of dominance, and made the Little Giant a star. Schools from all over stopped practicing with Karasuno entirely once old Ukai left. That’s crazy. He was just their coach! His grandson was the key to keep Karasuno from falling into obscurity, and do you remember how hard it was to even get him to bother? Old Ukai is demigod status.
Unlike the Little Giant, who is just a mystical idol, Coach Ukai shows up in the present story. Hinata training with old Ukai is supposed to be a big deal—it’s young Ukai’s last resort to teach Hinata after all. Turns out that the old man lives up to his name. The very next match Hinata plays in, characters comment on how he’s changed. How he won’t be a baby bird for much longer. Old Ukai even affects his grandson by revealing the truth about setters and causing young Ukai to suddenly run off to find Kageyama. It’s no wonder Karasuno was a powerhouse under his coaching.
It’s also no wonder that teams would want to play against Karasuno at their strongest. We’re told there’s an old rivalry between Nekoma and Karasuno. “The Battle at the Trash Dump” doesn’t roll off the tongue like ‘El Clasico’, but both match-ups have a name, which speaks to their significance. Season 1 spent some time showing how interesting this match-up can be in practice, but we never get to see these teams play in tournament. We do see Hinata befriend Kenma, but no match.
Instead, we get a whole lot of foreshadowing that if Karasuno can perform well in the tournament prelims, there will be a Nekoma-Karasuno match later. The fact that this has become an elusive match-up only adds to the hype. And this, I believe, is the epitome of this season’s excitement.
After all this training pays off, after mythological and historical figures alike have played their role, after so many practice matches, we will eventually get to see Karasuno execute all their new skills on the court against two of their biggest rivals. Our anticipation will be fulfilled, and we will be pumped. These players will perform the techniques they’ve been failing at, and they will use those techniques to combat the ultimate enemy. If Karasuno can get through Aoba Jousai, Nekoma awaits. Season 1 has only been training for the matches of Season 2.