Enter the Yamaguchi.
I mentioned it yesterday in reference to Shouwa Genroku, but good series don’t always have to rely on surprise. The circumstances could hardly be more different – Haikyuu is certainly not a tragedy after all – but in the sports context, I’m hard-pressed to remember show that surprised me less. The charm of this show seems to be as a kind of anti-tragedy – you know what’s coming and you look forward to seeing how it plays out, rather than dreading how it’s going to play out.
In that light, the rise of Yamaguchi seamlessly slides into place. We’ve known for a long time that his moment was coming sooner or later – it’s certainly been built up enough. And the final moment of last week’s episode pretty much confirmed that now would be the time. I think it would have been hard to have Tadashi fail in the clutch again without losing the audience, not to mention losing some credibility when he finally did deliver.
So seeing Tadashi be the hero this time was quite expected – the interesting part would be the supplemental stuff that makes Haikyuu tick. How would Tsukki react (that little smile of his was probably the best part)? How would Aoba Johsai adjust to the float serves, and how would Tadashi deal with actually being forced to contribute once they did and the ball was live? Indeed, to the extent that there was suspense here it was about who was going to win the set. Karasuno is (presumably) going to win the match, but would Seijoh even things up first?
For a while there, it looked pretty dicey. Yamaguchi actually managed five points on his serve, though it required the help of the net and one lucky receive off his body. Once things went back to even the tension really ratcheted up as the set see-sawed back and forth. My favorite moment was when Oikawa back-tapped a receive that was about to cross over onto the Crows’ side of the net for an easy kill – that was a slick move. And indeed, it was Oikawa’s serve that ultimately provided the final push to put Seijoh over the top and even the match.
“Even” is certainly not a word the Crows would have been able to use in reference to this matchup before, so indeed just to have reached this point is progress. But I don’t think it’s enough progress to justify an entire season – no, that requires Karasuno actually beating Seijoh, I think. But you know, we only have three episodes left – so hey, maybe I’m wrong, because two eps (at most) doesn’t seem like enough time to chronicle Karasuno losing to Shiratorizawa. If the season ends with the Crows beating Aoba Johsai and leaves the final match for the next, that would indeed be a surprise.