Some episodes of Haikyuu!! can be damn hard to write about, and this was one of those. Straightforward shows that confront their narrative quite directly are often like that, and Haikyuu!! is no exception – especially when it goes into full-on game mode. And while we didn’t see a whole lot (well – none that I can remember) of meaningful competition in the first cour of the season, Haikyuu!! seems bound and determined to make up for that in a balls-out tournament-driven second.
This was a good start to the Karasuno-Seijoh rematch. And that rematch was what this season has arguably been built around – the first ended with a gut-crushing loss to Seijoh by the Crows. But I actually found last week’s match with Date more compelling, surprisingly – but then that was compressed into one episode and this one has barely gotten started. I’m quite interested to see if my gut feeling about this season – that Karasuno will avenge that loss, only to go on to lose to Shiratorizawa in the finals – pans out. Even with a lot of padding I don’t know if the Seijoh match could be stretched to six eps so that scenario seems a decent bet – though there’s always the option of beating Shratorizawa too, and making next season all about Nationals and Nekoma (too soon?).
At least at the start, the dynamic between these two teams doesn’t seem too different than it did 20 episodes ago. Aoba Johsai is still a cheerfully (healthily) snarkastic bunch, especially where their captain is concerned (that much ramen could get pretty pricey). The baby Crows are still jumpy and overanxious to the point of causing mistakes. But the gap between the two sides in terms of composure and strategic acumen seems to have narrowed. It takes a literal kick in the ass by Kageyama to get Hinata into the moment, but once he is he shows he was actually listening to all those sempai at the training camp.
The best moment of the episode, undoubtedly, was Oikawa’s serve – which is ironic, given that it was out. Production I.G. pulled out the stops to show just how freakishly hard Oikawa hit that ball – “effectively a spike” in Tsumaranai-san’s words – just in case anyone had forgotten the ridiculous budget Haikyuu has to work with. It was one of those interesting moments when a lost point might have turned the momentum more than a win, because even if he just missed on that serve Oikawa basically sent a message – “I’m on another level you guys can’t even aspire to.” But then, the ball was out – and on a critical point, too.
The wild card in this match is Kyoutani Kentarou, who was introduced with such dramatic aplomb a few weeks back that it was obvious he was going to matter. When he entered the first set at 23-24 I assumed he was pinch-serving, but no – in fact, he seems to have been inserted just for his spiking (and presumably) blocking. It begs the question – if Kyoutani is that good, why sit on him for 47 points and only put him in with the game on the line? I it because he’s an individual freak who doesn’t mesh with Seijoh’s precious team chemistry? I don’t know whether this move was an act of desperation or a strategic masterstroke – though there’s no reason it couldn’t be both.