Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou – 08

Ho-hum – it’s another stellar and spellbinding action episode of Haikyuu.  It’s too easy to say this series is an example of what happens when TV anime has a decent budget to work with, because there’s a massive amount of Production I.G. talent involved here too.  But it sure doesn’t hurt – especially with a sports anime – to have the luxury of being able to deliver fluid animation and on-model characters pretty much all the time, and on-time.  Production-wise, Haikyuu sets the standard for sports anime.

More than any other genre, it’s sports where the experience of watching it can most easily put one in mind of the experience of real life.  For me this season of Haikyuu is a lot like watching a delayed broadcast of a sporting event.  When a live event has been edited for re-broadcast, you know exactly when it’s going to end – which means you can figure out (for example) whether the tennis match is going to go to a fifth set, or the game will go to extra innings or overtime.  We know (I forgot for a bit) that this season of Haikyuu is going to be ten episodes.  We’ve concluded eight, and the final set of this match is already at deuce.  So it’s not hard to figure out that we’re headed for an extended stalemate before someone wins it.

Does that take away from the drama?  Yes, a little – though of course since it’s already the final set we have no idea who’s going to actually win it.  That’s certainly the major dramatic question, and also a pretty important one for me in how I view this season as a whole.  Honestly, there’s no way Karasuno should win this match – I obviously get the imperative to root for them, but I think it would be too much of a stretch.  In point of fact it’s too much of a stretch for me that they’ve even come this close, but it certainly makes for compelling viewing.  And of course I’m going to be conflicted watching the final few points play out.  But I do hope Furudate-sensei does the right thing in the end.

In the meantime, it’s a cracker of an endgame.  There were several less obvious moments that really stood out for me this week: Ukai-sensei’s little lecture to Hinata about block timing.  The cheer battle, culminating in Shiratoriawa singing the school song.  The revelation of the reason behind Washijou-sensei’s love of straightforward power volleyball.  And of course, Ukai’s last rallying cry to the Crows at the end – a cutting reminder that we’re hearing the heartbreakingly appropriate final line delivery of Tanaka Kazunari, who died much too young.

Another interesting element is the way Shouyou confounds Ushijima’s expectations of what a small player should be.  He’s not a clever tactician who fights with technique – despite his size, Shouyou is dangerous because of his athleticism and his unpredictability.  Ushijima is nothing if not straightforward (right down to his pep talks) – it’s only natural that he’d disapprove of someone who doesn’t fit into the box he “should”.  That, on the whole, is the most realistic reason why Karasuno would still be alive in this game – they’re not a mass-produced model.  They’re hard to predict.  But in the real world, I still don’t think they have the weapons to stay with a team as dominant as Shiratorizawa is purported to be.

There’s a little bit of love for almost everybody here, apart from poor Narita – whose moment in the sun was as forgettable as his face and character arc.  Suga gets in a couple of good tosses before he departs for Kageyama.  Shouyou makes a couple of his trademark freak plays (he really uses his head, in more ways than one – protecting his nose, eh?).  Tadashi gets in a nice run of jump floaters.  The Crows manage to claw their way out of the hole Ushijima’s serving put them in, but in the end they’re still on the brink of elimination – leaving it to Tsukishima to return from the dead to save the day.   Hopefully he got a good tape job on that finger.

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5 comments

  1. K

    Hmm… in terms of Karasuno winning, are you saying you think it would be a pretty big long shot if they win, or are you saying that you think it would be preposterous?

    Because I agree with you if you think it’s a long shot, but not if you think it would be absurd, and I have a few reasons why.

    Firstly, this is high school level sports, where coaching still makes a big difference… heck, even in college, a good coach can go a long way, because even on the very best team, there is not going to be a single player who has perfected all of their skills yet. Shiratorizawa clearly has a great coach, but I think a compelling case can be made that Ukai is pretty great too, albeit inexperienced. Ukai’s grandfather is clearly regarded as legendary (at least on a semi local level), and Ukai grew up under his harsh tutelage his entire life. And this is not to mention the huge training advantage that Ukai’s name brought them in terms of practicing with teams like Nekoma and Fukurodani… both of those are teams that regularly go to nationals and are roughly of a level with Shiratorizara… Ushijima himself may be exceptional, but I don’t think his team is that much better than all of the rest who make it to nationals regularly. And Karasuno may have lost the bulk of their matches with these powerhouses in the summer training sessions, but they didn’t lose them all.

    There are limits to the simple strong style Shiratorizawa’s coach favors, mainly in that if the opposing team can receive Ushijima’s strong serves and spikes a good portion of the time, they probably will always have at least a fighting chance. The downside of a simple style of play is that it’s not very malleable; it’s either overwhelming or it’s not. Because of Tsukishima’s blocks/blocking strategy and Nishinoya’s receives, Shiratorizawa has found it impossible to overwhelm Karasuno… and I think that is pretty realistic given the general limitations of high-school level play.

    Another reason I think that Karasuno has a shot is simply in the one-and-done nature of the current tournament. I’m not exactly a stat head but I do read up on baseball statistical strategy pretty regularly, and follow a lot of different real world sports journalism for all sorts of different sports. And one of the things that comes up again and again is that one-and-done tournaments make it easier for there to be wild card outcomes. This is one reason why baseball and hockey have series instead of instant-elimination rounds; in American style football, it’s practically axiomatic that the best team isn’t always going to be the one that wins it all, because the fatigue and stress of an entire season can add up and fluke events can help bring unexpected outcomes in close games… I can think of several recent Superbowls where the winning team was by no measure truly the better team. Shiratorizawa is a strong team that went all the way to nationals in their most recent tournament, so had less of a real break in between summer and fall tournaments than what Karasuno was afforded, and that can make a real difference in a game that is over in one match.. especially if elements such as player fatigue or refereeing bias come into play. (It’s rare to see referee bias in sports animes, honestly more rare than it probably should be, since I feel like most sports animes tend to err on the side of heroic idealism instead of brutal reality when forced to pick a stance… but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a factor ever, so it’s worth mentioning even if I don’t expect it to play a role here).

    Lastly, Karasuno isn’t really a team that is coming up from scratch (like what is seen in Oofuri, another sports series with a similar level of realism). At the start of the series, Karasuno has assumed the role of fallen heroes, which means that their support structure had almost completely eroded, but the past successes were recent enough that for the third years at least, they were skilled enough players at baseline that they had options and would have been welcomed on many successful teams. They WANTED to go to Karasuno, and maybe didn’t learn as much as they could have if they’d been under strong coaching all three years, but Azumane at least was a “name” in terms of strength and both Daichi and Sugawara proved to be highly resilient and able to engage in self-study in a way many less committed players would have balked at. This meant that by the time our various first years joined up, there was a strong backbone in place in terms of reliable position players, who all had good handles on each aspect of the game.

    This comment got to be incredibly long, so I hope it’s not bothersome. But I really do think it would not be outrageous if Karasuno won.

  2. Y

    I thought it was a great comment

  3. Y

    Was not expecting Ukai’s lines at the end and when it hit, I actually teared up. As an anime fan who places as much importance on seiyuus as the ost composer, I’m deeply saddened that such a unique voice is gone, but at the same time, I’m slightly consoled by the fact that he had such a memorable line before his passing.

  4. e

    – Teehehe I LOVE Sugawara bouncing back from Tendou’s intimidation first thing first this week. And you basically screenshotted all of his main moments this week as well :,D #sugahsuki
    – Also… dat celebratory chest bumping! XD
    – So many synchro attacks. And even Daichi nailed a spike. Was it the first time he managed to do that in a game btw? Can’t remember previous occurrences.
    – Saeko should be the cheerlading boss in place of that teacher and his wig XD. Would be her taiko allowed? >D
    – Still missing some somewhat juicier commentary by Oikawa here.
    – RIP Ukai’s VA. That was a great last line to utter.
    – After Shiratorizawa’s [shortie] sensei’s [woes] flashback I am more convinced the Crows are going to win the match… with SunBoy Hinata scoring the decisive point.
    – MoonBoy is back just in time woohooo! The time is approaching to claim the heavens! Topple that mountain that was blocking the horizon and hiding the light! Hikari areeeee >D

  5. S

    I don’t especially agree with this review ( And I feel like I’ve read much of it many times before :p). Especially: “Honestly, there’s no way Karasuno should win this match “, ho-hum. There might be an option for a Yowapeda ending here, which I also wasn’t expecting to end its first season the way it did. It made total sense, and no sense at the same time. But the reason that stands out to me is that Shiratorizawa is simply not that impressive. Ushijima is very impressive, but not the setters, not the 50-50 guessing blocker, and especially not the team spirit with the cocky ace-to-be. A lot of friction in that machinery, and no lubricants coming from Ukai’s coaching.

    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying Shiratorizawa was built up to be an impossible-to-beat powerhouse team, judging from their track record. But that’s it. Their track record is impressive, their performance is not.

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