Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle
Director: Susumu Mitsunaka
Based on the manga by: Haruichi Furudate
Writers: Haruichi Furudate & Susumu Mitsunaka
Voice Cast: Murase Ayumu, Kaito Ishikawa, Yuuki Kaji
Studio: Production I.G.
Distribution: Crunchyroll (United States) (theatrical)
Release Date: May 31st, 2024
Rating: PG-13 for language

SPOILER ALERT: This review includes some spoilers about events in Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle

When you think of anime, what comes to your mind? Probably over-the-top fights, superpowers, or fantastical worlds, right? Surely not high school volleyball. Yet, Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle has become the second highest-grossing movie of the year in Japan. The movie is the continuation of the four-season-long anime based on the Weekly Shonen Jump best-selling manga Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate. Haikyuu!! has charmed fans across the globe (including myself) with its endearing characters, relatable and inspiring character growth, and intense volleyball matches. If you haven’t watched Haikyuu!! already, you are missing out big time!

However, it’s hard to say the same about the movie. You see, Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle comes with two big caveats. First, it is not a beginner-friendly film as the movie expects you to be familiar with the characters, their history, and dynamics. If you are new to Haikyuu!! as most readers of this review might be, I suggest watching the four seasons of the anime available on Crunchyroll beforehand. Or just run with it and see where it goes for you.

The second caveat is the skipped material and its fast pace. Concerns were raised when the two-part movie was announced in 2022, appearing to adapt over 100 remaining manga chapters. And how did that attempt turn out? Honestly, not great. Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle compresses 34 manga chapters in just 1 hour and 25 minutes. That is simply not enough time to do the extent of the material justice, especially for new or veteran viewers.

Haikyuu Kenma look
Kenma’s menacing gaze. © 2024 “HAIKYU!!” Project © H.Furudate / Shueisha

The movie picks up where the fourth season left off, with the highly anticipated match between Karasuno High School and Nekoma High School in the third round of the Spring National Tournament and this is no ordinary volleyball match, this is The Dumpster Battle: A long-awaited showdown to settle a long-standing rivalry between the crows and the wildcats, Karasuno and Nekoma’s respective nicknames. Above all it is the one opportunity for Karasuno’s energetic volleyball fanatic Hinata Shoyo to challenge Nekoma’s strategic genius in Kenma Kozume and force the usually indifferent rival to admit that playing the sport is fun.

The stakes are evidently high, yet the movie struggled to generate any momentum and deliver a real impact. The pacing was so fast that it diffused any built-up anticipation and excitement. The poor continuity between plays and accelerated action is comparable to reading a manga where you have to fill in the blanks with your imagination, but with a timer on. To quote Coach Ukai: “Speed is a curse. It narrows [your] view, makes it harder to breathe, and makes [you] suffer.” This phrase from Karasuno’s match against Inarizaki fits this movie shockingly well.

Kuroo smashes through Tsukishima
Kuroo smashes through Tsukishima. © 2024 “HAIKYU!!” Project © H.Furudate / Shueisha

The first set came and went just like that. Having everything to win, Karasuno lost the set by the hands of Kenma’s genius. Kenma played a simple, effortless pass to Karasuno’s side when they were preparing for a counter-attack and no one received the ball, leaving everyone shocked. Quite the upset, right? However, this scene in particular had no impact whatsoever since the movie didn’t slow down to let the audience process Karasuno’s seeming advantage and then shatter their hopes with Kenma’s big brain play. The movie continued at its high speed, brushing off any carried emotions from the first set and handicapping excitement for the rest of the movie.

Due to its limited runtime, the movie also had to cut down on different head-to-head matchups, mainly Tsukishima v.s. Kuroo and Nishinoya v.s. Yaku, to focus on the main stars: Hinata and Kenma. Previous seasons gently simmered the rivalry between Karasuno and Nekoma, showcasing their mutual effort and determination until it reached a boiling point in their official match. Not seeing the full extent of both sides clashing in their prime, after undergoing fervent growth was genuinely disappointing and frankly speaking, my boys deserved better. Speaking of ignored characters… Was Kageyama in the movie at all?

Hinata and Kenma at The Dumpster Battle
Kenma and Hinata playing the match where there’s no second chances. © 2024 “HAIKYU!!” Project © H.Furudate / Shueisha

As we dive into the second set, one thing becomes clear: This is not a match between Karasuno and Nekoma. This is a face-off between Shoyo and Kenma, and it’s not a level one. Kenma single-handedly outsmarted Karasuno and trapped Hinata, rendering him flightless. For the first time, we saw Hinata, a very lively and confident character backed into a corner completely at the mercy of Kenma’s plan, and drowning in his own helplessness as a result. Every time Hinata dived, jumped, and smashed the ball only to get blocked again, a piece of my heart fell with him. Kenma was not only playing with Hinata feelings, but my feelings too. 

Haikyuu!! is well-known for its clever use of symbolism, and this movie was no exception. The movie brilliantly depicts Hinata’s relentless desperation by placing him within a birdcage, also making reference to Karasuno, a.k.a. the crows. The birdcage in Kenma’s hands materializes how his plan completely dominated and “owned” Hinata.

Kenma traps Hinata in a birdcage
Kenma traps Hinata in a birdcage. © 2024 “HAIKYU!!” Project © H.Furudate / Shueisha

But, all is not lost. Rather than looking for a way around Nekoma’s impenetrable defense, Hinata and Kageyama, aimed for the impossible: going over them. Kageyama tossed a high ball, allowing Hinata to breathe, gain momentum, and then launch himself with a powerful jump that echoed through the theater with a resounding “BOOM.” Hinata defeated his biggest disadvantage—his small stature in a sport that favors the tall—and managed to fly over Nekoma’s 3-man block, finally breaking free from Kenma’s cage. As I battled through my tears, I thought: “Shit’s about to go down”. Apologies for my French, but indeed, shit went down.

Following Hinata’s breakthrough, an all-out war ensued. Both Karasuno and Nekoma players pushed themselves to their absolute limit, including Kenma, who hates getting tired and sweaty. Flashbacks to Kenma’s childhood with Kuroo, revealing how he started practicing volleyball “just because,” contrasted excellently with his present self, now doing his utmost. Hearing Kenma shout, “The ball hasn’t dropped yet!!” and not wanting the match to ever end was the best way to show him finally having fun, marking the end of his indifference towards volleyball.

Hinata super jump
Hinata’s super jump to break through Nekoma’s defense. © 2024 “HAIKYU!!” Project © H.Furudate / Shueisha

Without a doubt, the most memorable moment in Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle was the final match point from Kenma’s point of view. Watching both sides pump smash after smash, run and dive towards the ball, and hearing Kenma’s heavy breathing as if it were us running out of breath allowed us to immerse ourselves and live the play with Kenma. The animation and convincing character acting perfectly conveyed the both teams exhaustion and physical strain in keeping the ball alive. As the rally intensified, Kenma slowly ran out of energy and eventually became a spectator, just like us. When the ball slipped out of his hands, both Kenma and us were equally shocked from such an anticlimactic end to a hard-fought match.

I felt the movie was good in spite of its pacing as I definitely enjoyed it. But, when I say it is “hard to ignore the garbage,” I mean that. It was hard to digest and appreciate the meaningful moments when the movie throws you smash after smash at full speed. At times, it felt like things just happened with no reason for them. I do wish the movie had taken it easy, slowed down the pace, and allowed us to enjoy the emotional moments, just like that high toss that allowed Hinata to breathe and savor the pass. Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle is not a bad movie, but a bittersweet one. I left the theater with mixed feelings, wondering how much better this match could’ve been if we had a fifth season instead. As a result, I’m also questioning whether to watch the next Haikyuu!! movie or read the manga instead.

Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle is currently airing in U.S. cinemas. The first four seasons of Haikyuu!! are available for streaming via Crunchyroll.