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Geek Review – Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle

Sports anime tend to fall into two categories – the over-the-top, absurd flair where pulling off a move makes the characters look like invincible gods, while the other is more grounded in reality, with techniques that can be replicated in the real world. Both may pack their own brand of charm and fun, but ultimately serve as a love letter to sporting glory, represented through exhilarating matches, strong team camaraderie (sometimes bordering on not-so-platonic tension, if you know what we mean), and the drive to become best in the world.

Then, there’s the flip side of things. The journey to the top is often riddled with anxieties and uncertainties, manifesting into self-doubt, imposter syndrome, injuries, and the inability to get out of a rut. Failure hurts more than it should, and the simplest of training tasks becomes a challenge. 

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Haikyu!!, the beloved crowd favourite based on Haruichi Furudate’s manga of the same name, is no stranger to these well-trodden roads. While the volleyball series has ensnared many with its heart-stopping, high-octane action, it also showed great nuance in fleshing out characterisation, emotional moments, and character dynamics, backed by a memorable cast of personalities, slice-of-life fluff, and humour. 

Geek Review – Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle (2)

This familiar mix of elements makes a glorious return in Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle, and it’s almost like the series’ infectious energy never left despite a four-year absence. Picking up after the anime’s fourth season, the animated feature devotes 85 minutes to the highly-anticipated showdown between Karasuno and Nekoma High School, following the former’s victory over Inarizaki in the second round of the Nationals.

This time, the spotlight is shared between friends-slash-rivals Shōyō Hinata (Ayumu Murase, D.Gray-Man Hallow) and Kenma Kozume (Yuki Kaji, Attack on Titan), who previously struck a promise to play their best against each other. Told through flashbacks, the development of their dynamics joins the latter’s childhood-grown friendship with Tetsurō Kuroo (Yuichi Nakamura, Jujutsu Kaisen) in effectively fleshing Kenma out as a reserved, unassuming individual with some bite to him. 

Naturally, both characters have their fair time to shine. Hinata grapples with self-doubt after multiple failed maneuvers, but Nekoma’s oft-underestimated setter is the true star here. As Kuroo’s best friend, Kenma is overshadowed by his teammate’s more affable and outgoing demeanour, only to transform into a strategic terror on the court with his sharp mind and keen observational skills. 

This exploration lends an interesting touch to Kenma’s personality, accentuated by his opposites-attract relationship with both Kuroo and Hinata. Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle eschews some of the action build-up for more emotional and character-building development, and it’s a double-edged sword – while the interpersonal focus is appreciated, the pacing comes across as a little fast and uneven at times, with the sub-90-minute runtime over too quickly.

Geek Review – Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle (4)

At its core, though, the film remains very faithful to the source material. Major manga elements, from scoring an important point to moments of levity, have been carried over to the silver screen in all their glory. Even the overt cat and crow imagery, representing Karasuno and Nekoma respectively, is manifested in various forms, such as the growing or clipping of wings and the ensnaring of hunted prey. It can border on cheesy for casual viewers, but it’s the kind of endearing charm that fans will eat up.

As with the series, another highlight of Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle is the sense of camaraderie between the characters. The friendly rivalry that both schools engage in, especially those playing the same position (middle blocker, wing spiker, setter, and the like), gives rise to some entertaining banter – an amusing contrast to the liberos’ behaviour, who are more in awe of each other than riled up when one-upped.

Naturally, the good-natured ribbing continues to bleed into interactions between members of the same team, namely Hinata and Kageyama, and with Nekoma, libero Morisuke Yaku (Shinnosuke Tachibana, Blue Lock) and middle blocker Lev Haiba (Mark Ishii, Cardfight!! Vanguard G). These tough-love displays often draw chuckles from audiences, but it’s the moments where the characters encourage, support, and pick one another up that add heart to the film. 

It certainly helps that Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle also highlights the growth of other players, including Tsukishima Kei (Kōki Uchiyama, My Hero Academia) and albeit briefly, Tadashi Yamaguchi (Soma Saito, 2023’s Rurouni Kenshin). For all that he’s mentioned though, Kageyama’s screen time and thought process takes a cut as compared to the manga; nonetheless, it’s nice to have the whole gang back in action – whether it’s the reliable third-year trio, or familiar faces from other rival schools. 

Speaking of action, the big-screen feature packs plenty of adrenaline and palpable sequences. The animation is impressively fluid, with previously referenced formations, techniques, and maneuvers unfolding in a crisp, dynamic manner. At its most climatic, the volleyball action keeps viewers at the edge of their seats, where nimble-footed scrambling, dramatic saves, and psychological warfare add up to an enthralling watch. 

The electric atmosphere makes it easy to root for both teams as well, elevating the excitement for anime-only and manga audiences, despite the latter’s knowledge of the outcome. In particular, the camera perspective shift near the match’s conclusion is a refreshing, visually striking change-up from its usual style, which works to great and realistic effect. 

It remains debatable if replacing Season 5 with a two-part full-length feature was the right move, but for what’s worth, there’s plenty to love about this first half. Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle continues to do what it does best, combining the thrill of sporting action with strong character dynamics, humour, and most importantly, heart. A delight for fans, it sticks closely to the source material, and proves competent at adapting the important parts for the silver screen. Now, if only its runtime was longer…

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

Focusing on the long-awaited showdown between Nekoma and Karasuno High, Haikyu!! The Movie: The Dumpster Battle is a welcome, highly-enjoyable return to the world of volleyball — high-octane action, warm camaraderie, entertaining humour, and all.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10
  • Story - 7/10
    7/10
  • Direction - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Characterisation - 9/10
    9/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 9.5/10
    9.5/10