Like a hyperactive red-haired first-year middle blocker, Haikyuu zips into the new year at breakneck speed. There’s not much of a breather here – we’re already in countdown mode for the qualifiers in Sendai. Which, if you recall, is the stage at which Karasuno’s run ended in their last tournament. After a first cour with almost no official action on-screen, it appears the second is going to be quite a contrast.
In effect, this first episode of the cour is the buildup arc condensed down into 22 minutes, as the qualifiers themselves actually start up at the end. A lot of the focus here is on Tsukki, who seems finally to be coming to terms with his disillusionment over his brother’s fictionalized volleyball career, and in the process starting to admit he cares what happens on the court. The most interesting development here is that Akiteru invites Kei to practice with his adult club, which immediately struck me as a good idea. If you want to figure out how to beat guys stronger (and sometimes even taller) than you, the best way to do it is to get beat by them as often as possible in practice.
Tsukki in motivated mode is an interesting development for the series (asking for kaedama with his ramen once in a while would probably be a good idea), and it seems his buddy Tadashi is making enough progress with the floater knuckle-serve to be useful at some point in the tournament. As for how Suga is going to make an impact that remains a mystery – about the only clue we’ve gotten is that time he asked about spiking practice – but for now, he remains a complete non-presence this season.
As for our main pairing, it seems inevitable that they’re going to dominate the narrative when the time comes, but for now they’re just being themselves. There’s actually more time spent with the rivals this week, most especially Oikawa and his Aoba Johsai gang. There’s a new face over there – “Mad Dog” Kyoutani Kentarou (18 year-old relative newbie Takeuchi Shunsuke). Brash and talented, he clearly rubs everyone on the team the wrong way – but it’s fun seeing Oikawa play him like a concert grand. He’ll presumably be an important presence for Aoba Johsai before this arc is over.
All the big names get their due, including best character Bokuto and Nekoma, and there’s an amusing turn when Shouyou gets himself stuck in-between a testy Aohba Johsai and Shiratorizawa. And the opponent Karasuno draws in the first round? It’s the Nampa team, Johzenji, who were semi-finalists the last time so they must be good at volleyball as well as macking chicks. But they’re chum here, so the only real question is how Karasuno is going to take them out – no way can the heroes lose in the first game…