Haikyuu: The Dumpster Battle Reminded Me Of All The Ways This Anime Changed My Life

Haikyuu: The Dumpster Battle Reminded Me Of All The Ways This Anime Changed My Life

“Does losing prove that you’re weak? Isn’t losing difficult for all of you? A challenge where, after ending up on your hands and knees, you must see if you can stand up again. If you stay on your hands and knees, that proves you are weak.” – Takeda Ittetsu, Haikyuu

I first discovered Haikyuu, a sports anime that follows short king Hinata Shoyo’s dream to become a renowned volleyball player during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Truthfully, it wasn’t the first thing on my to-watch list — nor was it the second, third, or fourth. Still, my sister pushed me to watch it, and luckily, I decided to listen. Haikyuu changed my life. It gave me a reason to smile and laugh despite the crushing anxiety I felt. It filled me with an overwhelming sense of comfort and warmth that helped me navigate the darkness of my depression. Most importantly, it inspired me to scrape myself off the ground and move forward, no matter how difficult it seemed. Four years later, the above quote spoken by Takeda  Ittetsu, the faculty advisor of Karasuno’s volleyball team, still rings true — both for me and Haikyuu’s characters. 

Haikyuu: The Dumpster Battle picks up after the conclusion of Season 4. The first of two planned films that will bring the anime adaption to a close, it depicts Karasuno’s anticipated showdown with Nekoma High. While Karasuno’s crows and Nekoma’s wildcats have battled before, this will be their first official match.

If there’s one thing Haikyuu has always excelled at, it’s capturing not only how it feels to watch volleyball but how it feels to play it. The first 15 minutes of The Dumpster Battle are an immersive and exhilarating experience that sets the tone for the rest of the film. During Karasuno’s first serve of the match, you’re immediately pulled from the sidelines and transported straight onto the volleyball court. The camera shifts to Nekoma’s point of view, following the curved trajectory of the ball, a precise depiction of what it’s like to receive from a player’s perspective (spoiler alert: it’s terrifying). As the ball makes contact with flesh, an explosive sound pierces the air, but neither you nor Nekoma has a chance to react because Karasuno is already gearing up for their next attack. “Chance ball!” screams Nishinoya Yu. “Left!” roars Tanaka Ryūnosuke. You don’t even notice Hinata racing to the opposite side of the court until he’s already soaring high above the blockers and slamming down the ball.

Image: Crunchyroll

The animation during these sequences is nothing short of spectacular. The characters’ movements and facial expressions are captured with fluidity and dynamism,  bringing the intense energy of the court to life. 

But that’s only half of what makes Haikyuu, and by extension, The Dumpster Battle, shine. Sound design plays a crucial role in communicating emotion and adding another layer of realism to the world of Haikyuu. There’s the squeak of players’ shoes as they desperately lunge for the ball, the laboured breaths of an utterly exhausted team refusing to give up, and the victorious roar echoed in the crowd after a player scores. When combined with the incredible soundtrack composed by Yuki Hayashi and Asami Tachibana, it’s easy to become emotionally invested in the fighting spirits of both teams.

Learning life lessons through volleyball

It’s clear that The Dumpster Battle is, first and foremost, a love letter to Haikyuu’s beloved ensemble of characters and the journey they’ve undertaken to reach this match. One of the anime’s central themes is achieving success through repeated failure and gradual improvement — and sometimes, in the case of Tsukishima Kei, a friendly rivalry between you and your opponents is precisely what’s needed to push you in that direction.

Flashbacks remind us of how far Tsukki has come, starting from when he first received blocking guidance from Nekoma’s captain, Kuroo Tetsurō, during a combined training camp. It was only then that Tsukki began to believe in his potential, later resulting in what is arguably one of the best scenes in the entirety of Haikyuu — when he finally blocks one of Ushijima Wakatoshi’s spikes during the match against Shiratorizawa. Against Nekoma, Tsukki is cool, calm, and confident in his blocking, leading Kuroo to question if his thoughts on volleyball have changed. With a massive smile, Tsukki says, “Thanks to everyone, every now and then…just once in a while, it can be sorta fun.” 

There’s a simple pleasure in watching someone, whether that’s in real life or your favourite anime, experience pure joy. In earlier seasons of Haikyuu, Tsukki chose to be apathetic towards volleyball because he was terrified of disappointing himself and being seen as a failure. Now, he understands what it means to be part of a team and a broader community that helps you overcome your self-doubt and pushes you to become the best version of yourself. There’s no such thing as enemies in Haikyuu — only strong opponents who challenge you to be at their level and then go beyond that.

Image: Crunchyroll

In Haikyuu, the first step to becoming a strong player is understanding that you’re never alone when fighting on the court. This learning is fundamental to Kageyama Tobio’s growth as a player as he learns to communicate with his teammates and understand their needs. We see this play out in the second half of The Dumpster Battle as Kozume Kenma, the ‘mastermind’ of the wildcats, devises a strategy to target Hinata during Nekoma’s serves, which limits his opportunities to run for the ball and score. Seeing Kenma slowly puncture Karasuno’s team dynamic is fascinating and heartbreaking. The added pressure on Hinata wreaks havoc on his gameplay, resulting in a three-way block from Nekoma against his and Kageyama’s quick attack. Still, Hinata tries repeatedly to score, becoming more desperate until he slips on his sweat. 

It’s a make-or-break moment for Hinata. If our caged crow can’t get past the blockers and score with Kageyama’s help, his primary purpose in Karasuno will cease, and so will his dream of one day earning the title ‘Little Giant’. Hinata doesn’t have a choice. He must stand up and try again. Seeing this, Kageyama gifts his teammate the ultimate weapon — an extremely high ball set to the middle, giving Hinata a chance to calm down and reset. It’s a skill Hinata learned during his stint as a ball boy — and those few seconds that Kageyama gives him allows Hinata to break free of his cage, soar above the blockers, and score for Karasuno. It’s a beautiful and awe-inspiring moment that shows how far Hinata and Kageyama have come as individuals and partners.

Scenes like this are exactly why Hinata is my favourite Haikyuu character. From the beginning of the anime, he’s constantly driven to improve his skills and fulfil his dream of becoming the best. But Hinata quickly realises he can’t accomplish this by himself. Instead of being proud, Hinata acknowledges his weaknesses and learns everything he can from his teammates and the strong opponents he meets along the way.

It seems silly, but seeing how far Hinata has come in the match against Nekoma reminded me that good people exist in this world. When I’ve hit rock bottom, all I’ve wanted to do is get back to the top so I can be myself again. I’ve tried to reach it repeatedly, but it’s too difficult. I want to ask for help, but doing so makes me feel vulnerable. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to sink even lower than I already am. Then, I watched The Dumpster Battle, and something about this orange-haired ball of energy made me feel like I could conquer the world, one step at a time. It’s because Hinata has never been afraid to ask for help. He’s also had moments where he’s felt caged, defeated, and overcome with self-doubt throughout Haikyuu. It’s because he’s so passionate, like me. And like Hinata, I’m learning that if you’re willing to take the first step, there’s a good chance there’ll be someone there to help you to the finish line. In this case, it’s Kageyama encouraging Hinata to fly while passing the ball to him.

Image: Crunchyroll

Like Kageyama, Kenma has undergone a transformative journey since first encountering Hinata. When they first meet, Kenma expresses his apathy towards volleyball, saying, “I don’t dislike it, but I don’t like getting tired.” Later, after Nekoma trounces Karasuno in a practice match, Hinata vows to make Kenma see how fun volleyball can be. While Kenma’s attitude doesn’t immediately change, watching Hinata play ignites something within him — so much so that he shares his dream of playing against Karasuno in a win-or-lose match. Of course, Hinata rises to the challenge, forcing Kenma to evolve and mastermind Nekoma’s route to meet Karasuno at the Tokyo Nationals.

Once there, Kenma pushes himself past the point of exhaustion. Between setting, receiving, and diving for chance balls, Kenma does everything he can to prevent Hinata from winning the “match where there is no rematch”. He becomes so hyper-focused on the ball that he doesn’t even realise he has placed himself in the path of another teammate. That point of contact immediately jolts us into Kenma’s frame of mind. Here, it’s utter chaos. He looks at his sweat on the ground and hears his teammates yelling that the ball is still in play. He has no idea what’s happening, but only one desperate thought is running through his mind — don’t let the ball drop.

Soon after, Kenma collapses into a sweaty, exhausted heap on the ground. He has gone beyond his limits but still has the strength to say one thing to his concerned teammates: “This is so much fun.” Hearing this, Hinata screams out in glorious triumph — and you can’t help but join in. In Hinata’s eyes, he’s already won.For once, the result of the match isn’t the most dramatic part of Haikyuu. In The Dumpster Battle, we only find out Karasuno has reached match point through an unlucky incident involving a sweaty ball slipping through Kenma’s fingers. Months of preparation, and it’s all over in the blink of an eye.

Image: Crunchyroll

As both teams attempt to process what happened, Kenma lies on the court and smiles. He thanks Kuroo for teaching him to play volleyball, which surprises and shocks his teammates. At this moment, they realised that although Karasuno won the match, they still emerged victorious in their own way.

That’s life, isn’t it? While we may not always get the results we want, sometimes the more important lessons lie in the journey to get there. Sometimes, it’s about whether you’ll stand up after losing and keep moving forward. Sometimes, it’s about whether you’ll be able to recover from your losses and come back stronger than ever. Nekoma will do that, with Kenma promising to play against Hinata and Kageyama again. And four years after discovering Haikyuu during one of the lowest points of my life, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, too.

I don’t want to be afraid of change if that drives me forward to becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be. I don’t want to be afraid of starting from zero after quitting my long-term media job last year. I don’t want to give up when things get hard or I get scared. I want to keep on pushing. I want to achieve my dreams. And, as they say in Karasuno, I want to fly

The race towards the end of Haikyuu

An unfortunate downside to compressing 33 chapters of the manga into a single 85-minute movie is that The Dumpster Battle isn’t a perfect adaptation. As much as the plot is enjoyable, it’s also heavily rushed in attempting to unpack each character’s arc. Players like Tsukki, Hinata, and Kenma take centre stage, while others, like Asahi Azumane, Sawamura Daichi, and Yamaguchi Tadashi, barely get a mention. 

Perhaps I’ve grown selfish with the earlier 25-episode season runs, where entire episodes were dedicated to individual characters and exploring elements of their backstory. But that’s part of the charm of Haikyuu — each team member is considered valuable. Although much of the anime focuses on Karasuno’s heroes, creator Haruichi Furudate imparts so much love and life into his entire ensemble of characters. This ensures fans become emotionally invested in each individual’s fight to become the best volleyball player.

Focusing only on a handful of characters makes The Dumpster Battle feel incomplete. It leaves you hungry for more, which isn’t necessarily bad, considering another Haikyuu film is in the pipeline. But it adds more pressure for the final movie to give fans the satisfactory resolution they deserve — and I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that we get that (or perhaps an announcement for a bonus season because a girl can dream). 

Haikyuu: The Dumpster Battle is out now in Australia, the US and the UK.


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