Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle Ending Explained: The Volleyball Anime Reaches Its Emotional Climax

"Haikyuu!!" is one of the biggest anime in the world right now and certainly the biggest sports one — and it's easy to see why. This is the perfect gateway into sports anime, and a show that may make you fall in love with volleyball (even if you have never watched a second of volleyball) thanks to its sense of camaraderie, compelling and memorable characters, and ability to make any volleyball match seem like the most exciting life-or-death game in the world.

After four seasons of high school boys playing volleyball and making audiences emotional, "Haikyuu!!" is heading to its conclusion, with the Karasuno High School Volleyball Club facing the lights and finishing their final tournament together before the seniors graduate. To bring the story to a close, we're getting feature films that finish off the story, much like "The First Slam Dunk" did 30 years after the anime ended.

"Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle" presents a much-anticipated volleyball match, and whether you've just come out of the theater and are wondering how this is a movie and not just an episode or what happens next, or you want to be prepared for what this movie is and isn't before you head to the theater, let's break down the ending of "Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle."

Everything you need to remember about Haikyuu!!

The Karasuno volleyball team first met the boys from Nekoma way back in season 1 during a training camp, where we learned the two teams were longtime rivals and had both fallen on hard times recently. Immediately, rivalries were formed, which eventually gave way to mentorships and friendships as both teams faced each other in several training camps throughout the anime's first four seasons.

Among these relationships is that of Shoyo Hinata and Kenma Kozume, the former a middle blocker for Karasuno in love with volleyball and the latter a setter for Nekoma who only plays to support his best friend, the team's captain. Elsewhere, both teams' liberos, Nishinoya and Morisuke, learn from each other, while Nekoma's Kuroo and Karasuno's Tsukishima become friendly and give each other pointers.

Last we left the characters, Karasuno had just made it to the third round of the Spring High National Tournament. There, they would have to face off against Nekoma in their long-standing dream of competing in an official match, dubbed the Battle of the Garbage Dump.

What happens in Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle?

"Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle" essentially spends its entire runtime on the titular Dumpster Battle between Karasuno and Nekoma, i.e. the fated confrontation in an official setting. Grated, there are some flashbacks that both recap the important relationships between characters, as well as the life of Kenma Kozume and how he came to start playing volleyball (in addition to how his meeting with Hinata made him start to consider that maybe he doesn't dislike playing volleyball).

This is the first of two "Haikyuu!!" movies announced in 2022, which are meant to serve as the finale for the series — adapting about 112 chapters in two movies, which severely affects the pacing. The anime's usual pace is three to five chapters per episode, but "The Dumpster Battle" adapts 33 chapters in 85 minutes. This is a rather unique situation; the story adapted in "The Dumpster Battle" is not a fresh new arc, like in "Demon Slayer: Mugen Train," but rather the next chapter in an ongoing story arc that was not resolved at the end of season 4. It's as though someone took the Frieza Saga of "Dragon Ball Z" and turned the Goku vs Frieza fight into a feature film, but ended it right as everyone is teleported back to Earth, leaving Frieza and Goku alone on Namek to fight the last round. It's still a thrilling story, sure, but it lacks both a beginning and an end. It's literally just one match in a longer tournament.

How Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle ends

Much of "Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle" revolves around Kenma Kozume, his history with volleyball, and the question of whether he will ever enjoy playing the game. As he gets increasingly invested in the game by watching Hinata's kills and Karasuno's moves, Kenma becomes the franchise's first villain — a calculating mastermind who uses Karasuno's weaknesses and strengths against them. He targets Hinata and essentially clips his wings, blocking his attacks to the point where he starts to doubt his abilities and all but loses hope.

Of course, this is still "Haikyuu!!" and Karasuno we're talking about so, of course, the good boys turn out to have grown up a lot and have more than a few aces up their sleeves. Hinata breaks free from his metaphorical cage and Karasuno win the match — not by scoring a fantastic spike, but because Kenma's hands are sweaty and the ball slips away, giving Karasuno the winning point.

The match is over, the team has won. Except they get no trophy, no glorious victory. They simply move over to the next stage of the tournament against a team we barely know or care about.

What comes next for Haikyuu!!?

The Dumpster Battle is the emotional and thematic climax of "Haikyuu!!" After all, this is a story about a down-on-their-luck team who loves to play volleyball. The movie itself is about them finally overcoming their long-time rivals, while also finally convincing the guy who never cared about the sport that he actually rather likes playing volleyball. This is a battle of personal growth.

That's all well and good, but ending the movie with a tease for the next match greatly undercuts the emotion of this particular story. It's not like we end with the promise of a rematch next tournament or something a few months from now. No, the next match is literally the following day. 

Having the climax come in the penultimate chapter is not inherently bad; recall that "Game of Thrones" turned this into a winning formula. The problem is that this is not a TV show where the next episode comes next week, but a movie where fans have to wait months to see what's next — not to mention that the manga has a sizable epilogue left to adapt, too. "Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle" doesn't feel like a standalone chapter or a separate challenge, but simply act two in a longer story; a random episode of the season that got extended. Had, for instance, this story been told as a shorter season of TV, a single cour (13 episodes), it could have properly told the story without rushing, letting the years of context play out in real time. Then we could finish the story with the final matches and an epilogue. As it stands, the only reason the movie works is because "Haikyuu!!" is a fantastic story with great characters, not because of the movie itself.