The Haikyu!! movie delivers on 4 years of hype — LFGO!!

A blond boy in a red uniform and an orange-haired boy in a black uniform face off through a volleyball net in Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle
Image: Toho Animation/Crunchyroll

Fully!! ready!! to reenter!! my Haikyu!! era!!

It’s been four years since the last season of Haikyu!! — a certified drought for fans of the sports anime and manga series, which follows an underdog high school volleyball team. Admittedly, long swaths of time between seasons is nothing new for Haikyu!! fans; there was a similar four-year gap between season 3 and season 4. But the wait time just stokes the fervor. The new movie Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle — opening in theaters ahead of a Crunchyroll streaming release — basically picks up right at the end of season 4, and returns Haikyu!! to what it does best. Director Susumu Mitsunaka, who worked on the first seasons of the show, returns for this movie, which is essentially just a direct sequel to season 4 — and the beginning of the manga’s final arc.

That makes it a fan-only proposition: If you already have an investment in the franchise’s volleyball teams and characters, this movie hits. And boy does it capture the epic highs of the show. It’s likely to fully reignite the fandom once again.

Hinata jumps super high in a volleyball match, spiking over three blockers
Image: Toho Animation/Crunchyroll

When we last left the Karasuno boys’ volleyball team, they were about to face off against their longtime rival, Nekoma High. But even though the two schools have historic beef, it all stems from a friendly place. Episodes in the first season showcased practice matches between the two teams, with a shared training-camp arc following in season 2. The show has fleshed out the Nekoma athletes and their relationships, both with one another and with members of the Karasuno team. At this point, the Nekoma team members are pretty much Haikyu!!’s secondary characters, since we know so much about them. That makes the movie’s pivot to their side of the net make total sense.

Most of the movie centers around the Nekoma team, specifically their setter, Kenma Kozume. The film still spends time with the Karasuno team as they discuss strategy, with each of the main characters getting a chance to shine. But the story is mostly rooted in Kenma’s point of view, diving into his relationship with the sport, his teammates, and his rivals.

One of the first things series protagonist Hinata Shoyo learns about Kenma in their initial season 1 meeting is that even though he’s a really talented setter, he doesn’t actually like volleyball much. He plays because his best friend, Kuroo, is the team captain, and because Kenma enjoys analyzing his opponents and determining the best strategy to win. But he isn’t particularly athletic, and he’d rather play video games than volleyball. After the first practice match between Karasuno and Nekoma, Hinata tells Kenma that one day they’ll play a match against each other that will make Kenma admit volleyball is fun.

A blonde boy in a red track suit sits down, while an orange haired boy in a white t-shirt looks curiously at him
Image: Toho Animation/Crunchyroll

The movie integrates this scene, as well as other flashbacks to the show, in case you need help remembering specifics about moments that first aired years ago. But these flashbacks aren’t really useful if you don’t already have knowledge of and investment in these characters. The Dumpster Battle truly is a continuation of season 4, not a separate movie in its own pocket dimension, à la Spy x Family Code: White or any of the Hunter x Hunter movies.

It’s a culmination of Nekoma’s arc in the show — and Kenma’s. The Karasuno team is still the central focal point, and the movie is still about how far they’ve come since season 1. But it’s viewed through Kenma’s eyes as he strategizes how his team can win. Karasuno has evolved greatly as a team since the first time Nekoma faced them, and now they offer Kenma a tantalizing challenge, the first time he’s found opponents totally worthy of his talents throughout his entire volleyball career. True to Haikyu!! fashion, the current match is interspersed with flashbacks from Kenma’s life, particularly when it comes to his relationship with volleyball, building out his motivations and making his current arc resonate even more.

A blonde boy and a dark-haired boy growl as they intensely play volleyball. Both wear red shirts.
Image: Toho Animation/Crunchyroll

Haikyu!! has always excelled at showing each player and team’s individual relationship to the sport, emphasizing that both teams deserve to win. There’s never an outright antagonist, even as Karasuno, the audience POV team, faces increasingly talented competitors. They’re all athletes bound by the love of their sport.

By the end of The Dumpster Battle, it’s hard not to cheer for Kenma, and the Nekoma team too, even though the end of the match seems like a foregone conclusion. (Karasuno has that protagonist plot armor.) We’ve learned so much about Nekoma from the show, and the movie weaves all that previous investment together with the current match, and with Kenma’s flashbacks to his relationship with volleyball. It’s an emotional journey across the board. (Er, court?) The way Kenma’s passion for the sport evolves, and the way the team members’ relationships with each other and with Karasuno manifest, is its own kind of win. Maybe it’s an even more satisfying type.

Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle hits theaters on May 31.

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