There’s just no denying Haikyuu – it’s one of the most insistent series I’ve watched in a long time, and I mean that in a good way. It rolls out of the garage in sixth and never really lets up until after the episode preview – even the eyecatches are hyperactive. It’s a bubbly, frothy glass of anime champagne. Not exactly Dom Perignon or Roederer Cristal, mind you – you’re not going to roll this around looking for subtle nuances, but you don’t need that from a sparkler to find it enjoyable.
Clearly, I’m going to have to get past the whole blind spiking thing, because it seems as if it’s a conceit that’s going to be around for a while. With that taken as read, the conclusion of the three-on-three play-in match was actually pretty anti-climactic in terms of pure drama. Once Kageyama and Hinata got their timing synched up, the tide of their match with Tsuki, Yamaguchi and the Captain turned solidly in their favor (even Tanaka got a taste of the action, once Hinata started drawing Tsuki’s attention). It was close, but sure didn’t take very long on-screen – and there were no dramatic celebrations afterwards.
It’s here that the new characters start to enter the picture, starting with Takeda-sensei. As played rather ludicrously by Kamiya Hiroshi he looks like a middle-schooler and sounds like a middle-ager, but in truth he’s a teacher I assume is somewhere in his 20’s. He’s also the club advisor (and a volleyball novice, which is used as an excuse to give the audience a quick volleyball tutorial), and brings the news that he’s set up a practice match with powerhouse Seijou High. They’re a provincial best four, and also the destination of most of Kageyama’s middle school teammates (though I use that term loosely) and they make a condition that Kageyama must play setter for the entire match.
If there is a subtle element in Haikyuu so far, it comes into play through the dynamic of Sugawara and Kageyama. I’m still waiting to see if there’s another shoe to drop with Sugawara but for now, he’s preposterously nice without being obnoxious about it. His complete lack of ego is arguably the most interesting element in Haikyuu so far, because it makes him an excellent setter but also poses obvious challenges both as an athlete and as a person. He seems almost happy to give way to Kageyama, who he’s constantly reminding us is a much better athlete with much better instincts than he is. Somewhere deep down inside him I think there must be a simmering rage at being upstaged by a first-year, and a pride in the position that he surely worked hard to earn. Waiting to see if that emerges is one of the more intriguing aspects of the show for me.
Another new character we meet is Michimiya Yui (Asami Seto), a friend of the Captain’s (was that an actual panty shot in Haikyuu!! – kuropan no less – or just shadows?). Her importance isn’t clear yet but the fact that she’s got a name seiyuu, and the fact that she’s clearly knowledgeable about volleyball and pains are taken to frame her so her height and build is obvious (though that could just be fanservice, I suppose) leads me to suspect she’s a volleyballer herself.
Most of the ep is really taken up with humorous observations of Hinata going all BSD over his new situation (this pose is a popular one in anime today). I confess he’s pretty cute as he goes from elation over the trappings of actually making the team to rampant panic about being named to start in the Seijou match – the latter of which culminates in his barfing on the bus (on Tanaka’s lap, to be exact – heck, since Hinata wore those pants he might as well mark his territory. Five eps in and he’s already gotten in Tanaka’s pants…). Hinata started out loveable and never really looked back – Kageyama is starting to become sympathetic too, as his utter hopelessness with social niceties is counter-balanced by his seemingly genuine desire to change. Tsuki is still mired in the douchebag role for now, but his pal actually got a non-wingman moment this week (distressed over being left out of the lineup, the only freshman to do so) and I’m stating to warm to Daichi’s appealing lack of self-confidence as the leader.