There’s been a preliminary feel to much of what we’ve seen on Haikyuu this season. The actual matches have been foregone conclusions, the matches with teams that matter have been unofficial, and a lot of the focus has been on heretofore minor characters. Absent patches of material that really felt like it had weight (like Tsukki’s origin story and Bokuto’s mentoring of Shouyou – and general owning of the screen) the rest of it has played like build-up rather than payoff.
Well, we’re sure of at least one change next week – we’re going to be looking at a match that matters (Date vs. Aoba Johsai) without knowing who’s going to win (though one team seems much likelier to). And the winner of that match is going to be the first team to have a real chance to defeat the Crows in a match that matters (though again, history tells us who will likely win that match). It may have taken too long to get here (I would argue 19 episodes is too long) but at least we’ve reached that crucial moment.
As for this episode, though, it’s all about tying up the loose ends before we move on to the big-boy drama. In that context this was quite a good episode, though it does fall victim to the trap of trying too hard to be emotionally powerful that Haikyuu sometimes falls into. With Daichi sidelined it only makes sense that Karasuno is going to struggle a little, and indeed Wakunan wins the second set rather easily. Ennoshita is predictably troubled by self-doubts, and Hinata is becoming obsessed at the idea of a personal duel with the guy who also wants to be the next Little Giant, Takeru.
I was disappointed that Suga took no role during Karasuno’s struggles, something you’d expect him to do (and which he could have done even without entering the match). In Daichi’ absence Suga is the captain, but he was AWOL during the entire match – I guess it’s understandable given that Ennoshita has to get built up to be the next captain and the series has 40-odd episodes of non-development to make up for. What I did like was the way Shouyou found ways to impact the match apart from his usual physical theatrics (though his diving save into the bench certainly was theatrical).
If there was a theme to the Karasuno rally in the final set, it was that they used their heads – Shouyou’s rebound at a key moment, Ennoshita’s suggested strategy change to account for his own relative lack of ability. It’s nice to see them succeed by acknowledging their limitations and adjusting to them. The big question now is who’s up next – there’s unfinished business with Aoba Johsai and Oikawa, that’s for sure, and with that match figuring to be the penultimate rather than the final match of the season, the Baby Crows settling the score before bowing out to Shiratorizawa and sending the third-years off into the sunset is definitely one plausible course for the rest of the season.