“HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle” Review: Missing Bits but Fun All the Same

HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle has finally reached the United States. At last North American audiences can see the fated battle between the crows of Karasuno and the cats of Nekoma. And you’d better believe I was there. It’s been 84 years since I last saw these boys, and this is all we’re going to get, folks, so strap in.

I don’t know that I can ever forgive it for not being a fifth season, but that’s hardly the fault of the film. And even though I’m still holding onto the disappointment I first felt two years ago, I went into HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle with a great deal of excitement and anticipation. After all, I’ve been waiting to see this match animated for years. The long-awaited Battle at the Garbage Dump.

I’ll admit that getting to see this on the big screen did go a long way to smooth my ruffled feathers about condensing what may be the most important match in the manga into an approximately 90-minute film. There was something awe-inspiring not only about seeing these characters larger than life – and hearing the epic soundtrack in surround sound – but also getting to experience the highs and lows with a like-minded audience.

And, if you twist my arm, I will say that the pacing actually felt pretty good. I was worried that they were just going to leave too much out for it to be enjoyable. They did leave out a lot, particularly from more of the side characters. But what was there, I enjoyed. Hinata’s desperation and the unveiling of his super jump, and Kenma’s slow, methodical approach to hampering all of Karasuno’s attacks, were given the weight that they deserved. And towards the end of the match, when they showed us the court through Kenma’s eyes, I felt exhausted right along with him.

We got plenty of audience reaction, as necessary. (Hello, Bokuto and Akaashi, my precious owls, I love you so much. I love how they’re apparently rooting for Karasuno, even though they’ve known the Nekoma team longer.) There were plenty of flashbacks (even flashing back to something from earlier in the film, a tried and true anime staple), even though some treasured ones were missings. And the iconic, memorable shots from the manga – Kenma and Hinata attacking each other with knives, Kenma trapping Hinata in a birdcage – all made it into the film.

Funnily enough, I do remember that when these manga chapters were being released, there were a lot of complaints that the match lasted too long. I even thought that myself; the Nekoma chapters really seemed to drag at the time. So perhaps it was a good thing that this was a film instead of a season.

This is a lie; it absolutely should be a fifth season. So many side characters didn’t get the focus that they did in the manga. But I felt that they did an admirable job with the time constraints that they were given. There was no way that packing 33 chapters of material into an hour and 20 minutes would not be rushed, but when I was sitting there watching, it didn’t feel rushed.

While the relationship between Hinata and Kageyama is the emotional center of the series as a whole, in this case, it’s very much about Hinata and Kenma. The film even starts with their first meeting, all the way back in season 1. We are shown a lot of moments between the two of them, which are meant to highlight their differing approaches to volleyball. Kenma is intrigued by Hinata as an opponent, because Kenma relies on his ability to predict outcomes and Hinata is very unpredictable. And Hinata is driven by his desire to beat Kenma (and Nekoma), something which has up until this point never happened.

Likewise, though Hinata is the main character of the series, Kenma is the focus of the film. It is all about him – his relationship with Kuroo, with Hinata, with volleyball in general. We see how he started playing (Kuroo, naturally), and when he finally started getting into the sport. And in this match, thanks to Hinata, we finally see him start enjoying himself. When he at last admits that he’s having fun, all of the other players are gobsmacked; my audience found their facial expressions hysterical. And as I mentioned earlier, the closing moments of the match are actually shown through Kenma’s eyes.

I do love how we got little moments between the others as well. Sawamura and Kuroo and their overly manly handshakes will never not be funny. Kuroo constantly needling Tsukishima was fantastic as well. Lev doing pushups with Yaku sitting on his back was hilarious. And I couldn’t get enough of the return of Inuoka, who took a backseat after Lev joined the team. I love that Hinata was so excited to face him again, and even though it had been a while since they’d played him, the rest of Karasuno remembered him as well.

HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle actually felt like watching a real, live volleyball match. Sometimes the rallies were so quick with their back and forth that I couldn’t keep track of what was going on, and I’ve read the manga! I know what happens! This is absolutely how it is for me watching real volleyball. It was exhilarating. Especially with this being on the big screen, it really felt like being there.

One plus about a film rather than a season, the animation studio pulled no punches. There were a lot of complaints about the quality of the animation in season 4, but everything in HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle was gorgeous. The animation and cinematography alone is worth this only being a movie. They had the time to do things right, rather than rushing to get a bunch of episodes done.

Sadly, we only have one more outing with these volleyball idiots. (And even hinting about what the final film is about will spoil the ending of this one, so I’ll refrain, just in case there are people out there who have made it six years without learning the outcome of this match.) Only one more film to celebrate the brilliance that is Haikyuu!!. I don’t know that I’m ready… Yet at the same time, I want the final film now. 

Perhaps it’s time for a rewatch. (And a reread!)

HAIKYU!! The Dumpster Battle, distributed by Crunchyroll and Sony Pictures Entertainment, opens today, May 31, across the United States and Canada. It is available in Japanese with English subtitles and dubbed in English. If it’s playing in a theater near you, I highly suggest making the effort to see it while you can. 

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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