So it looks as if my instincts as of last week were right, and the crisis involving Asahi was exactly as it appeared to be. That’s probably for the best, as Haikyuu just doesn’t seem to be cut out for manufactured drama. To be honest the whole scenario comes off as kind of a non-event given the grandiose emotion everyone attached to it, but that’s probably better than the series trying to be something it’s not. I just kind if hope the camera doesn’t fixate so unyielding on Asahi’s navel-gazing from now on, or the teary-eyed reactions of his once and future teammates. He had a bad day – all athletes have them. He needed to get over it, so he did. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives…
As is so often the case, I find the most interesting element here to be Sugawara, even if he’s not superficially at the center of the conflict. He too is suffering from a crisis of confidence, but what makes his angle more interesting than Asahi’s is that his response is more interesting than Asahi’s. Rather than silently creep away and say he’s no longer in the club, Sugawara wears an ever-ready smile, acts as a universal facilitator and immerses himself in a sort of self-perpetuating cycle of self-deprecation. He blames himself for Asahi’s problem, and he takes cover in Kageyama’s greater raw ability. But ultimately he has to discover the competitive side of himself that hates stepping aside for a first-year, or he has no call to proclaim himself a serious athlete.
The chain of events that transpires in this episode does seem to lead to some interesting conflicts down the road. Takeda-sensei manages to talk Ukai the younger into coming back long enough to prep his team for their upcoming match against Nekoma, a great rival from his playing days (I rather liked Ukai’s rationale for not wanting to coach – his memories in that gym were of another time, and there was no going back to it). He tries to get his neighborhood association team to play a pickup game so he can assess what he has with the kids, but only four guys show up – which conveniently means he has to add some players from the school team. Ignorant of the delicacy of the situation he badgers first Nishinoya and then Asahi into playing, and when he says “I still need a setter” it’s Sugawara who steps up – not in deference to Kageyama for a change, but because he wants one more chance to send tosses to Asahi.
In addition to the guys who we haven’t seen play at all yet (like Yamaguchi) there’s clearly a numbers issue here, and that’s just for starters. Sugawara and Asahi seem to be a matched set just like Kageyama and Hinata, and Nishinoya seems intent on following Asahi wherever that takes him (even if as a Libero he really has no competition for his spot). As much fun as Haikyuu is it can be a little too nice at times – I think a little healthy conflict is good for it in dramatic terms, and there could be an interesting one brewing for playing time on the Karasuno team. I don’t know volleyball that well but I know two-setter formations are not at all uncommon, and there’s always room for another attacker/blocker – but I don’t see things working out that neatly here.