Generally, I do not watch sports anime at all (not interested in the sports and often they are far too much over the top, like Prince of Tennis). But friends convinced me to give this series a chance, which turned out to be a good choice. A while back we finished watching the third season and I’ve generally enjoyed the show quite a bit. There are multiple reasons for that: The characters, the writing and the overall depiction of the sport.
Depiction of the sport
The series is a BIT over the top and doesn’t stick to realism (I mean, would you expect that in an anime?), but it’s nowhere near as stupid in terms of “moves” as the before-mentioned Prince of Tennis. Usually the things done during matches in terms of attacks and defense are explained in a way that would make sense tactically/strategically, or roughly in terms of physical attributes of players and how that would affect things (example: left-/right-handedness of a player).
While there are 2 characters that are essentially the “headliners”, the series only puts the focus on them at the start. We follow them while the team is put together, where the focus shifts to essentially the whole team. We do get small solo-bits with some characters, but they are mainly short parts where we see two-three characters interact and most of the series takes place during matches (friendly and competition), where focus doesn’t stick to any one character for too long. During the matches the writing manages to up the tension the further a match progresses, but it never forgets to sprinkle in funny moments, to prevent the drama from going over the top. Those moments don’t overdo it either, they manage to stay “in-character” and some even give payoffs that build up during a match, not just one-off funny moments.
The overarching story is obviously not too complicated and has likely been used often in sports anime: A sports team that has been great in the past, but has fallen from grace, gains new players and attempts to fight their way back up the ranks again. Retired characters, old rivalries, etc. etc.. The three seasons so far have managed to make that entertaining though, as the fight back up is depicted as far from a walk in the park. There is no one character that is OP in all situations, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, keeping you interested in when they are going to be used and/or countered by the other team. Matches are over all paced well I think, depending on their importance they take up fewer or more episodes.
Give it a go, even if you generally don’t watch sports anime (but do watch anime in general), you might be pleasantly surprised.