Well – now we can get started with the only set that ever really mattered.
Raise your hand if you were surprised by the outcome of that set. No takers? Well, that’s fine – as I said last week, Haikyuu set itself up with a real narrative challenge by building an entire season around a match whose first 80% was pre-determined. But then, sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination – especially when you’re taking it in a sports car driven by a floppy-eared beagle.
I’m not real crazy about the extended flashback detour in the middle of an important match in sports anime – Haikyuu has done it before, but at least this was shorter than the last one. I don’t feel as if we needed that push to get where the third-years are emotionally – like, duh, haven’t we been watching for three seasons? And fait acompli or not, the match with Shiratorizawa is still pretty interesting. There are a lot of factors at play here that make these two schools an interesting matchup of contrasts.
One thing Haikyuu has done is make me understand just what a weapon a good server is in volleyball, a sport where basically every point you win on your own serve is like breaking the opponent’s serve in tennis. That’s why it makes sense not to let the same player be subbed in multiple times in a set, and why it’s so critical for good teams to have multiple guys who can be designated servers. I hate seeing Suga reduced to that role (a little birdie – named “preview” – tells me he might not be for long), but at least he gets his chance – as does Yamaguchi. Shiratorizawa has a jump server too, and once you get into the 20s for each team, those individual points become really crucial.
The inevitable fifth set may come down to a matter of fatigue. It’s true that none of these Karasuno kids has played a five-set match, but Shiratori is presumably so dominant that they hardly ever have either. That puts the pressure on the two guys who are most central to their team’s attack – Ushijima and Kageyama. The Crows have no one player who they rely on for their kills as much as Shiratorizawa relies on Ushijima, and no matter how great an athlete he is, that’s a lot of all-out, quick-twitch muscle activity for one guy. I really appreciated seeing Ushijima pull off a dink-spike, because it both proves he can win with his mind as well as his body, and it shows how exhausted he must be.
What Karasuno does have, though, is a setter who’s critical to all their strategy – the one who spreads the ball around to their various attacking options and is an important blocker too. Kageyama is a kaibutsu but he’s still a first-year, and in uncharted territory – perhaps his fatigue is going to play a role in the final game. Of all the third-years Suga is the one who’s been forced to watch his final tournament fly by mostly from the sidelines, and while I hardly think he’s going to be the setter when the fifth set is decided, it’s be nice to see him at the center of events for at least a part of it.