Haikyu!! is not the first volleyball anime series ever, but it is undoubtedly the best. It has everything that you might want or expect from a shonen sports series. Start with a plucky, determined underdog shonen anime hero (combine Naruto Uzumaki’s attitude with Ichigo Kurosaki’s hair) and add in his arrogant ‘I’m better than you’ friend/ rival.
These two join a team with a history of being great, but in a slump and ready to take on the world once again. You can bet that there will be plenty of tough matches against rival opponents. You can also expect plenty of sports philosophy (much of which reinforces the value of Japanese-style teamwork).
Let’s take a look at the story arcs and episodes of this manga and anime series, including a possible fifth season. We’ll also learn the Zen art of avoiding Haikyu!! filler episodes.
How Many Manga Chapters and Anime Episodes?
Haikyu!! started out as a shonen sports manga by Haruichi Furudate. The series ran in Weekly Shonen Jump from 2012 to 2020. There were 402 chapters, divided up into 45 tankobon volumes.
The anime started in 2014. So far, there have been 85 episodes in four seasons:
- First season, 25 episodes, originally aired in 2014
- Second season, 25 episodes, 2015-2016
- Third season, 10 episodes, 2016
- Fourth season, first cour, 13 episodes, 2020
- Fourth season, second cour, 12 episodes, 2020
Seasons and Story Arcs
With relatively short seasons, and an overarching high school sports competition theme, you might assume that Haikyu!! story arcs aren’t really that important to enjoying the anime series. But fans have come up with the following arc titles for the manga chapters:
- Karasuno High Team Formation Arc (chapters 1-35)
- Interhigh Arc (chapters 36-71)
- Tokyo Expedition Arc (chapters 72-96)
- Spring High Preliminary Arc (chapters 97-206)
- Tokyo Nationals/ Tokyo Finals Arc (207-369)
- Final Arc (370-402)
These titles aren’t official, and there’s some argument over where one ends and the next begins. But, they do help, especially with the manga.
First season of the anime: It begins with the Karasuno High Team Formation Arc (episodes 1-14), and ends with the Interhigh Arc (episodes 15-25). (Each episode is equivalent to several manga chapters.) Karasuno High’s ‘Little Giant’ inspires junior high school student Shoyo Hinata to become a volleyball player. He faces ‘King of the Court’ Tobio Kageyama at a tournament. Shoyo’s team loses, but his play is impressive.
Both of them are shocked to find the other one at Karasuno High. The older members of the team notice their total lack of teamwork, and have them go up against other players in a practice match. They win and are accepted into the team.
Karasuno plays a couple of practice matches against Aoba Johsai (aka Seijoh) and rival Nekoma High.
Team advisor Takeda wants Keishin Ukai to coach the team, which he does. Before Nekoma, the team plays an exhibition match against the local volleyball association. Nekoma defeats Karasuno in the practice match.
The Interhigh Arc begins with Karasuno defeating Tokonami easily to begin the prefectural tournament qualifiers. They battle Date Tech’s ‘iron wall,’ but win. The third match is a rematch against Aoba Johsai. Kageyama is replaced as a setter after going into ‘king mode’ during the match. Kageyama returns, and battles Oikawa, Aoba Johsai’s captain. Karasuno loses, but Kageyama learns about teamwork. The spring tournament looms in the future.
Season 2: Adapts the Tokyo Expedition Arc (episodes 1-11) and starts the Spring High Preliminary Arc (episodes 11-25). Karasuno High is invited to a training camp with Nekoma. Shoyo, Kageyama, Nishinoya, and Tanaka must pass their exams before they can go. Hitoka Yachi is introduced; she becomes the manager of the team. The team wins its first match at the training camp, but Shoyo wants to be able to improve and compete by himself. Kageyama seeks advice from Oikawa. The team practices against Fukurodani. Players try out new moves. Karasuno has another practice match with Nekoma. Shoyo joins a 3-on-3 match.
A more polished and improved Karasuno team battles Fukurodani. Fukurodani’s Bokuto gets depressed, but comes back to score the final, winning point.
The Spring High Preliminary Arc begins with a match against Ohgiminami High, followed by Kakugawa. The third is against unpredictable Johzenji. Captain Daichi is injured in a match against Wakutani South. Meanwhile, Date Tech battles Aoba Johsai. Karasuno once again faces Aoba Johsai. Aoba Johsai brings in a new player, Kyotani, who is good but reckless. Karasuno wins, and Oikawa reflects on his loss. Karasuno makes it to the finals; the winner will represent Miyagi Prefecture in the Spring High Tournament.
Season 3: Finishes the Spring High Preliminary Arc. Karasuno battles Shiratorizawa. Nishinoya has trouble against Ushijima, a left-handed ace. There are some flashbacks as the team continues to fight. Karasuno emerges victorious.
Season 4, first cour: The Tokyo Nationals arc begins. Kageyama and Tsukishima are invited to exclusive training camps. Shoyo sneaks in as a ball boy at First Year Training Camp. Karasuno practices against Tokonami without the three of them. Shoyo impresses at the camp. Kageyama is targeted by other players at All-Japan Youth Camp.
The team reunites and has a practice match against Date Tech. The team goes to Tokyo for the tournament. Karasuno battles Tsubakihara Academy. Kageyama struggles, but the team advances to the second round. They prepare to battle Inarizaki High.
Season 4, second cour: Inarizaki puts pressure on Karasuno with the help of its cheering squad. Nekoma battles Sarukawa Tech. Karasuno defeats Inarizaki to move on to the third round.
OVAs and Movies
Five OVAs were produced: one each for seasons 1-3, and two for season 4. The Arrival of Haiba Lev (2015) looks at Nekoma’s half-Russian player. VS Failing Grades (2016) takes place at the start of Season 2, with several players struggling with exams. Special Feature: Betting on the Spring High Volleyball (2017) recaps Miyagi Prefecture’s Spring Interhigh Qualifiers.
Land VS Air (2020) looks at Nekoma and Fukurodani in the Tokyo Prefecture Spring Interhigh Qualifiers. The Path of the Ball (2020) continues the story with Nekoma against Nohebi. Land VS Air and The Path of the Ball are available on Crunchyroll as ‘Season 6.’
There are also compilation movies. A pair of films from 2015, Owari to Hajimari (Ending and Beginning); and Shosha to Haisha (Winners and Losers), together recap the first season.
Another pair of compilation films, Talent and Sense; and Battle of Concepts, came out in 2017. Crunchyroll labels these as ‘Season 5,’ although they came out between the third and fourth seasons.
Is There Any Filler?
If you hate filler, you will love Haikyu!! There is no filler in 85 episodes and four seasons. Every single episode is manga canon (at least, so far).
Several factors undoubtedly helped keep the anime filler-free. For example, the manga had a two-year head start on the anime. The anime’s third season was short. Compilation movies helped to replace the ‘story recap’ filler episode. And there was a long gap between the third and fourth seasons. This eliminated the ‘anime rushes ahead of the manga’ problem.
Even now, the end of the fourth season does not reach the end of the manga (or even the end of the Tokyo Nationals). Naturally, this has fueled speculation for a fifth season.
A Fifth Season?
As of June 2021, a fifth season of Haikyu!! has not been announced yet. At the end of the fourth season, the creators dropped hints that there might be a fifth season.
The manga has officially ended, but there is still plenty of manga material which could be adapted into a fifth season.