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Haikyu!!: Volleyball Anime, Movies & Dramas in Asia

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If there is Slam Dunk for basketball and Captain Tsubasa for soccer, then the one true manga/anime for volleyball would definitely be Haikyu!!. Hailyuu!! has been an iconic title since the manga began in 2012, but its popularity rose to the next level with Season 4 of the anime, Haikyu!! To the Top, which was launched in 2020 during the pandemic. It even brought attention to Japan's real-life national men's volleyball team.

After over three years of wait, Haikyu!!: The Dumpster Battle, the long-awaited first film (and one of the last adaptations) of the beloved volleyball anime finally opened in Japan on February 16, 2024. Before enjoying the fateful battle between Karasuno High and Nekoma High on the silver screen, let's rally to check out several other Asian movies and dramas that share the same passion and love for volleyball!

1. Haikyu!! (Seasons 1 - 4)
"Volleyball is a sport where you always look up!" There's no other volleyball story like Haikyu!! for its stirring and dynamic plot, passionate spirit and strong character development – not to mention the detailed and accessible way of explaining positions and rotations, and even breaking down strategies and play styles! Originally serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from 2012 to 2020, Furudate Haruichi's manga Haikyu!! was adapted into an anime series that premiered in 2014 and ran for four seasons. Haikyu!! begins with two first-year students, the aspiring "Little Giant" Hinata and the "King of the Court" genius setter Kageyama, joining the boys' volleyball team of Karasuno High, which was once a powerhouse in the nationals. The tenacious newcomers – along with sharp-tongued Tsukishima, steady captain Daichi, ace spiker Asahi, reliable libero Nishinoya, hot-headed hitter Tanaka, supportive senpai Sugawara and other teammates – train and grow together to match tempos, develop tactics and execute quick synchronized attacks. From the Interhigh Preliminaries to the Spring High Tournament, Karasuno fights an uphill battle against tough competition, including all-time rival Nekoma High, Aoba Johsai High that "rules the court," the "warriors" of Shiratorizawa Academy and the bold, well-rounded Inarizaki High, in order to restore the school's former glory.

Haikyu!!: The Dumpster Battle
2. Haikyu!!: The Dumpster Battle
Three years after Haikyu!! To the Top, Haikyu!! launches a two-part anime film as the ultimate finale of the franchise. Serving as the first chapter of the finale, Haikyu!!: The Dumpster Battle follows Karasuno High's unstoppable journey in the Spring High National Tournament, where the underdogs are set to face long-time rival Nekoma High in the third round. In this decisive showdown, Karasuno brings out its super aggressive play through Hinata's uncatchable quick attacks and Kageyama's witty tosses, while Nekoma responds with its ultra-defensive style of unpredictable sets and massive blocks. Of course, this thrilling anime wouldn't be the same without SPYAIR's gripping rock sounds – the band (who sang the theme songs of all four seasons of the anime series) contributes new single Orange to the film. Haikyu!!: The Dumpster Battle earned 890 million yen on its first day of release, setting a record as the fourth highest-grossing opening ever for a film in Japan.

Beach Spike
3. Beach Spike
Directed by Tony Tang, the 2011 Hong Kong film Beach Spike mashes together beach volleyball, youth romance, small-town spirit and even martial arts for a cinematic smorgasbord made for lightweight summer viewing. Chrissie Chau and Theresa Fu star as bikini-clad cousins who strive to save their beachside community from redevelopment by competing via high-stakes beach volleyball against the real estate overlord's daughters. There's also some pure summer love thrown in. The cast gamely takes volleyballs to the face, though that's far from enough to make Beach Spike a serious sports entry. Still, this is the rare film to focus on beach volleyball.

The Iron Ladies
4. The Iron Ladies
The Iron Ladies is based on the true story of a volleyball team formed mostly by gay and transgender athletes who defied expectations and discrimination to win Thailand's national men's volleyball championship in 1996. The directorial debut of Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, the 2000 queer sports comedy follows a struggling men's volleyball team that gets a reset when the new female coach selects two transgender players whose skills were dismissed in the past due to their appearances. With other players dropping out in protest, the team recruits other gay and transgender athletes, and they take their talents and sass to the nationals. Not the most subtle of films, The Iron Ladies is over the top with its slapstick humor and flamboyant characterizations, but the zero-to-hero comedy was a crowd-pleasing hit in Thailand and beyond at the time of release. The Iron Ladies' colorful volleyball adventures continue in two sequels, including 2014's Iron Ladies Roar which revisits the team over a decade later.

5. Leap
Winning Best Film at the 33rd Golden Rooster Awards, Peter Chan's biographical sports drama spans four decades to capture the history, legacy and achievements of the Chinese women's national volleyball team. At the center of the story is volleyball legend Lang Ping, who won gold at the 1984 Olympics as a player, and then forged an equally decorated career as a coach. Portrayed in the film in later years by Gong Li, Lang Ping coached the U.S. team to silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the Chinese team to gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Leap recreates several memorable matches, including the 2016 Olympic match between China and Brazil with the actual players of the Chinese national team!

One Win
6. One Win
Writer-director Shin Yeon Shick presents the sports drama One Win with the starry cast of Song Kang Ho, Park Jung Min, Lee Joo Young and even Korea's volleyball legend Kim Yeon Koung in her silver-screen debut. Song Kang Ho stars as former star player Kim Woo Jin who gets hired as the head coach of Pink Storm, a women's volleyball club on the edge of disbandment. The job contract states that he only needs to win one game. Meanwhile, club owner Jung Won (Park Jung Min) trades promising players away for other team's abandoned players. He also promises to give $20 million to a random spectator if Pink Storm wins even once, but Coach Kim continuously fails to lead Pink Storm to victory, despite the popularity of the promotional gimmick. As the season goes on, will Coach Kim be able to guide the struggling players to that much-desired One Win? One Win made its world premiere at the 52nd International Film Festival Rotterdam in early 2023, but hasn't been officially released in theaters yet.

Oppai Volleyball
7. Oppai Volleyball
Ayase Haruka gives geeky, hormonal teenage boys a good reason to play volleyball in this 2009 Japanese sports comedy from blockbuster director Hasumi Eiichiro. Based on the same-titled novel by Mizuno Munenori, Oppai Volleyball stars Ayase Haruka as an enthusiastic rookie teacher who is tasked to coach the ragtag boys' volleyball team. For motivation to train and improve, the boys ask for a glimpse of their teacher's "oppai" (breasts) should they win! Despite its eyebrow-raising rallying cry, Oppai Volleyball is a feel-good inspirational comedy through and through. Set in 1979, the retro-tinged hit is light and fun while unfolding the zero-to-hero, coming-of-age journey of the scrappy junior high volleyball team.

Thumping Spike
8. Thumping Spike (2013)
Produced by China's Sohu and Korea's Kim Jong Hak Production, Thumping Spike is a 2016 romantic web series directed by Kim Jin Young. There are two seasons of Thumping Spike, each composed of 20 15-minute episodes. In Season 1, "volleyball goddess" Se Ra (Hwang Seung Eon) starts coaching the lowest-ranking high school team in order to avoid a lawsuit. There she meets star player Jae Woong (Song Jae Rim), who has returned to school after taking a break. Se Ra is caught up not only with the difficult task of rebuilding the team, but also her complex relationships with the students. In Season 2, nerdy Da Woon (Kim So Eun) almost gets hit by a car driven by former pro volleyball player Hae Sung (Lee Won Geun) on the first day of college. She is saved by Yi Ra (Kim Sun Woong), the volleyball team captain whom she quickly falls in love with. Da Woon learns about love and volleyball as the two athletes make their ways into her heart.

Volleyball Lover
9. Volleyball Lover
True to the title, the 2010 Taiwan sports romance series Volleyball Lover has volleyball and a friends-to-lovers storyline. The 15-episode CTS idol drama stars Godfrey Gao and Annie Chen as childhood best friends Qian Rui and Hai Jing who grew up together and attend the same university. Qian Rui is the princely heartthrob type while Hai Jing is a volleyball athlete, but her team is at risk of being shut down due to a perennial losing record. The ultimatum: to keep their corporate sponsorship, the team has to win at an upcoming volleyball championship. Hai Jing's dad, the coach, ropes Qian Rui onto the team to utilize his vertical jump advantage as an attacker. Expect romcom hijinks and exaggerated drama alongside the volleyball journey.

 We are the Littles
10. We are the Littles
Aired in 2020, We are the Littles is one of the most popular Hong Kong ViuTV dramas of recent years, paving the way for the broadcaster to launch a series of original sports dramas. The youth drama is inspired by the true story of Aspiring Volleyball Team, a men's team that climbed from Division 3 to Division 1 of the Hong Kong Volleyball League in just a few years. Zeno Koo and MIRROR's Ian Chan, Anson Lo, Edan Lui, Tiger Yau and Jer Lau play the core members of the newly formed team "Little." Most of them were cut by other teams due to their short heights in comparison to other players. Stephy Tang takes the role of coach Cheung, a former national team athlete and the first-ever female coach in the history of Hong Kong men's volleyball. Under her leadership, the Littles overcome challenges and grow together as a team to create one little miracle after another.

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Published February 23, 2024

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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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