Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou – 10 (End) and Series Review

Haikyuu!!, as you’d expect, does not deliver an ending as envisioned by T.S. Eliot.  These are indeed not hollow men.

haikyuu-3-10-1I’ve been mostly resigned to the fact that Karasuno was going to win this matchup with Shiratorizawa for a while now.  In narrative terms, the handwriting has been on the wall for the last few episodes.  Personally I think it’s the wrong decision – not so much because of the way the match itself played out, but because the series painted a picture of a Shiratorizawa that didn’t really exist.  If Shiratori were the squad we were led to believe they were (and indeed, as they were portrayed prior to this season) the Crows wouldn’t have had a chance.  But that wouldn’t have been much of a story, would it?  And because by now I’ve pretty much accepted the inevitable, the way the match ended wasn’t really that disappointing.

haikyuu-3-10-2Of course for that wrong decision, it’s easy to list a whole series of right decisions Haikyuu!!! made.  It’s easy to get caught up in the production side of the equation, because this series just about redefined what sports anime can do.  It’s a peerless production top to bottom, and the finale was certainly representative of that.  But let’s also dole out some praise for the planning of Karasuno VS Shiratorizawa, because going with 10 episodes was absolutely the right call.  Haikyuu!!!! is very popular – we all know that.  This season could easily have been padded to 12 or 13 episodes and popped out another disc volume as a result – but it would have been a weaker product if it had.  And it’s nice that the production committee (who admittedly know this franchise will continue to be a cash cow for years to come, true) made a call based on story, not profitability.

haikyuu-3-10-3In the end, the final episode was very much about the aftermath of the match and not the match itself.  And that’s been a pattern Haikyuu!!!!! has observed for all three series thus far.  Shouyou’s spike at the end of Episode #9 didn’t end the match, but that point did – and while the back and forth of that rally was certainly dramatic, my sense in watching it was that the battle had already been decided.  There was no question in my mind not just that Karasuno would win, but win on that point.  Only the manner was to be decided, and that was about what you’d expect, too – off a spike by Hinata, after a chance for everyone to get in a dash of heroics.  I believe every Crow on the court (Nishinoya was not) touched the ball during that rally.

haikyuu-3-10-4So there wasn’t much tension in this episode, true – that was pretty much all reserved for last week.  The best part about that final sequence for me was the way the endgame was portrayed as a struggle between the entire Karasuno team and Ushijima, because let’s face it – that’s what it was. Ushijima was the standout personality of this season for me, its most memorable character.  And he was unbowed and unbent in the end, even as his final two spikes were stopped (one by Shouyou’s face).  There were tears here of course (this is Haikyuu!!!!!! after all), and on both sides, but not from Ushijima.  He was dazed and disbelieving, but never lost his sense of who he was.

haikyuu-3-10-5For the Crows, Ukai was correct in his assessment – Tsukishima was the MVP here.  Considering the scope of the match, Shouyou was a surprisingly small part of the total picture.  He may have exercised his MC privilege and poached the final kill (and even that was as part of a synchronized team attack), but he was a non-factor for long stretches of the match.  It was truly a team effort for Karasuno (far more so than Shiratorizawa), but it was Tsukki who was at the center of every emotional swing.  Kageyama may be the fulcrum of their attack and Shouyou may be the most dangerous weapon, but Tsukishima is the straw that stirs the drink.

haikyuu-3-10-6This all, of course, sets up the eventual showdown with Nekoma High at nationals.  And since that means a reunion of Shouyou and his fated rival Kzoume Kenma, it seems a safe bet he’s going to be far more the center of the narrative in the fourth season than he was this one.  But before that, there’s the little matter of Kageyama being asked to join the Japanese national youth team (Japan!) camp, where he will presumably be teammates with Ushijima.  That will be interesting, and I don’t know how large a component that camp will be in the story, but the most obvious impact will be the potential rift it might cause between Tobio and Hinata.  I would assume the littlest Crow would be envious – I think almost anyone would in his position.  The potential for fireworks certainly seems to exist there.

haikyuu-3-10-7As for that matter of next season, well- to paraphrase Harry Caray, “As sure as God made little green apples, Haikyuu!!!!!!! will be back on TV”.  This is a massively popular franchise, and Shounen Jump is starting to run a little low on those.  Fortunately they’ve shown some restraint in the way they’ve mined that resource, avoiding burning through the material too quickly and prioritizing longevity over instant gratification.  That seems to be the pattern with Shueisha in recent years – they’re far more aggressive with the franchises they don’t mind burning out while the iron’s hot, but play their cards carefully with the ones that have staying power.

haikyuu-3-10-8And Haikyuu!!!!!!!! certainly has staying power.  I think some of the adulation it receives is pretty over the top, but it’s undeniably one of the most consistent and smartly crafted sports series out there.  There’s an art to giving your fanbase what they want without being too obvious about it, and this series is as good about that as any I know.  It knows exactly what it’s doing but there’s an honesty and directness about it that’s very appealing.  And it’s nice to know that even as anime prepares once more to go gentle into that creative dark night, some things will remain the same – and Haikyuu!!!!!!!!! will be one of those things.  Change is well and good, but there’s a lot to be said for delivering what’s expected exceptionally well.

 

 

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13 comments

  1. F

    “There’s an art to giving your fanbase what they want without being too obvious about it, and this series is as good about that as any I know. It knows exactly what it’s doing but there’s an honesty and directness about it that’s very appealing.”

    This line sums up the essence of Haikyuu!! really well, though I share the same sentiment that this season was less satisfying than the previous ones. After the 5th or 6th episode there had been a so strong narrative headwind for Shiratorizawa’s win that I couldn’t help but cheer for them, like it was a monstrous battle between them and the author and no matter how hard they tried and gave their best, the chance of winning was slipping through their fingers with every flashback for a player and remark from the coaches. I also agree that Haikyuu!! lost some of its momentum due to the series’ unchanging characteristics. I would have liked it more if the series had let go of the third-year players after this tournament and introduced new characters not just in the opponents’ side, but also in the home team, since it seems that there’s not much potential left for them concerning the character development (except maybe Suga, who still remains one of the more interesting and painfully underutilised players).

    And it was thought-provoking to see that T.S. Elliot quote here in an article about Haikyuu!!, though with a reversed meaning and intention, because it reminded me of the last time I have seen that famous expression on your blog and if my memory serves me right (and a quick search confirmed it) it was in the review of the 135th episode of Hunter x Hunter, where you wrote that “there was so much quiet power in that whimper, so much meaning and so much feeling and so much perspective”. In contrast to the elegiac aftermath of the Chimera Ant arc, while I wouldn’t say that this season of Haikyuu!! was “all sound and fury, signifying nothing”, the perspective of the story became a bit vague during this one, extended match and after the credits rolled I couldn’t feel the euphoria of Karasuno’s victory, only something akin to the tirednes and indiffernce felt watching an overly long football match decided by penalties at the very end when everyone except the most dexterous fans have already lost the initial drive.

  2. Thanks – I found it a bit depressing to go so long without a comment on a Haikyuu finale post. But then, this series is one of those that doesn’t seem to need (or generate) a whole lot of discussion.

    I would concur that this wasn’t the best Haikyuu season, but it may have been the most “Haikyuu” season. This is what Haikyuu is, for better or worse – fantastically staged competition, predictable results, artful fanservice. It’s hard to be slick and come off as innocent, and Haikyuu can pull that off.

    Listen, I was unabashedly rooting for Shiratorizawa. I thought Ushijima was the character of the season, hands-down. But by Ep. 7 or so I knew the die was cast. And yes, I’m ready for new characters – the third-years have run their course (except Suga but as you said, him getting his due is a lost cause). Wataru’s third-years are way more interesting and he was smart enough to cut the cord at the right time in Yowapeda. Just because they graduate doesn’t mean they have to disappear forever – they remain in spirit, and sometimes in the flesh too, but the dynamic changes (as it needs to).

  3. F

    Well, nowadays the LiA comment section seems a bit deserted (except the YoI posts which generate quite a buzz) comparing it to two or three years ago, nevertheless it’s quite surprising that there’s not much response from the fans considering that this series is so highly popular (it’s #6 ranking on MAL is also quite baffling for me, I mean it even ranks higher than HxH at the moment). Maybe all the hardcore fans are out there reading the manga to know what happens in the continuation, or as you’ve pointed it out, it just speaks for itself (I myself feel this way with Udon no Kuni this season, which is so natural at storytelling and lends itself easily to interpretation that I couldn’t find the words to add to your reviews, though at the same time it pains me that there are usually only one or two comments about it here and over at RC too, like the show deserves more praise).

    It seems that the third years are staying for a while with the upcoming Spring Tournament, so it will be years into the future when we’ll see new Karasuno players animated on-screen. As for Yowapeda, unfortunately I couldn’t finish that series since I couldn’t get through the training arc of the first season and that was when I was looking for a new sport series and started Haikyuu!! a year and a half ago. Maybe I should put it back onto my schedule, since Haikyuu will be gone for a while, but somehow Yowapeda seemed even more predictable than Haikyuu!! and that partly undermined my enjoyment, or maybe I just don’t find sport series that captivating. That said if I find some free time I’d really like to watch Cross Game once since it’s on my “plan to watch” list since ages, just it lessens my enthusiasm that I know absolutely nothing about baseball. (There are more than five sports channel on my TV, but as far as I can remember there was never a baseball game broadcasted and almost no one plays it in my country, so I’m always confused when there are depictions of basball plays in anime or in movies.) Since I know from your posts that it is one of your favourite series and so you must be a good judge of it,my question would be the following: how much my lack of knowledge would be in the way of enjoying Cross Game if I started that series?

  4. In my opinion a knowledge of baseball is not a prerequisite to enjoy Cross Game. It doesn’t hurt, but Adachi’s series are always about the characters – the sport is merely the canvas on which he paints.

  5. Baseball is my least favorite sport (if you exclude cricket, which I’m not familiar with), yet Cross Game was one of my favorite anime. Don’t worry about it.

  6. The manga hinted that the narrative path would have Karasuno win it in a chapter shortly after the win over Aoba Josei. The 3rd-years’ flashback that you saw in the middle of this anime season was told in the manga (Chapter 149) when they were taking that bus ride back to school with all the players napping on it. It was done in a dream that Sawamura Daichi had during his nap on the bus. The 3rd-years joined when the volleyball club was reaching its lowest. They were told to grab the chance when it presented itself by the retiring seniors then. The Shiratorizawa match was that chance.

    With that flashback, it was clear to me that the manga was showing its hand that the narrative was set for Karasuno to win against Shiratorizawa. From there, it was all about how they were going to do it and fleshing out the match. Shiratorizawa was in the background of their matches with how they won by 7-10 points each set – meaning a trashing given to the teams that played them. They were also the team that beat Aoba Josei every time that Oikawa was there. So, there’s a mountain in their path that will be conquered. The destination, (i.e. the Karasuna win and through to the Spring Tournament) was clear, the road taken was expected to be the tried-and-true way of physical and emotional exhaustion. It took a massive 50 chapters to do so – that’s a full year of weekly serialisation.

    Fundamentally, Haikyuu!! is a straightforward shounen sports manga. What it does well in its execution to give a good blend of character building and exciting sports action. It is unapologetic in its approach. Having Karasuno win through to the Spring Tournament is staying true to to itself. We’ve already been set up right from the very start of Haikyuu!! that Hinata Shouyo’s idol is the Little Giant who was performing then in the Spring Tournament. This was a clear indication that the Spring Tournament would be where Hinata would show up eventually to follow in the Little Giant’s footsteps. The 3rd-years narrative woven in was leading to a path to give them a proper send-off by achieving some thing. Expecting the narrative to turn against itself by denying these 3rd-years their achievement would have gone against what the mangaka has invested in. Be disappointed in it if that’s what you want to feel. Taking into account what the mangaka has done right, my personal thoughts are that he kept true to himself and the story. The manga is a joy to follow.

    Back to the anime itself…

    The flashback of Chapter 149 shown after the halfway mark of this 10-episode season had the anime giving a glimpse of its hand that Karasuno will be winning this match. Observant anime-only watchers should have twigged on to that.

    Episode 10 has a couple of moments I was waiting for from the manga. How would they adapt the part where they showed the symbolism of the seniors combining to lift Ushijima’s push down on Hinata and Tsukishima. It was done better that I expected. The other part was the shortly after the match was won and how the 3rd-years would embrace in their tears of joy right from Sawamura’s dazed look to looking for his fellow 3rd-years to that tight embrace in tears. Again, the anime nailed it. That part gave me the feels in the manga and it did it again in this episode.

    Production I.G. has been exceptional in its anime adaptation of Haikyuu!! They have been spot-on in nearly everything. They get the manga and their love of it shows through. They nailed all the high points and low points. The pacing had a rhythm that knew how to build up the intensity and pull back to give us breathing space before taking us up again. The last 2-3 episodes were so good at it and leading up to this final episode.

    The 4th season is a given. It’s a matter of time. The question that I do have after this episode is will they show Nekoma’s qualifiers in an OVA or put it in Season 4.

  7. S

    Didn’t have time to watch the episode until just now! (I’ve also been too afraid of reading anything anime related due to potential spoilers) I see that you’ve guessed the title for the next seven seasons of the series too, I liked that touch a lot(!!). Why change a winning recipe?
    And if you guessed the outcome by Ep 7/8, you certainly didn’t let it show in your writing. I mean, I was guessing that they’d either win or lose by ep 5, but I don’t think that counts.

    Good review as always. I think the finale gave a nice unexpected twist with the Japanese youth team. That and the prospecting match-ups made me super excited about next season. Last season I think was a masterpiece, and it doesn’t feel fair to compare the two. For someone already hooked on Haikyuu!!!, this season was thrilling, and what more can an addict ask for?

    P.S. Reading your review made me think of what would have been if Ace of Diamond had been about volleyball. The graphics, the cardboard third years, Furuya as a setter and you can guess who Eijun is. Probably would have ended with a complete ass-pull move to win(or loss? Probably after a stupid coaching decision). Also an half-aborted attempt at a coaching change. Strip all the female characters of their personality too. Jesus christ, it’s revolting. I’ve started to resent the fact that I spent any time on AoD.

  8. A

    I don’t expect to see TS Eliot references in anime reviews, and seeing it is further proof why I like your reviews.

    I’m trying to think of what to say, but the ending spoke for itself and you said the rest. So, see you when season 4 comes!

  9. Don’t forget Harry Caray. I can’t imagine those two get quoted together all that often.

  10. N

    If Hinata can hit the ball with his eyes closed, I don’t see why Kurasuno cannot triumph over Shiratorizawa ;P
    Not all sports anime are like Baby Steps. In fact, none of them are, save for the original.

  11. R

    The multiplying exclamation marks return for the finale, I see.

  12. e

    Well, I loved it. And if the third years are staying until the Spring tournament I am not complaining either. Azumane is not particolary memorable but he’s a good bloke, Daichi is the mostly unassuming but reliable foundation, Suga is my most beloved 2D nephew pardon my bias XD. Secial mention for Crappykawa too XDD.
    In the end the author went on to validate innovation and diversity over a traditional and brute force approach. I am not complaining about the result in this sense either. I do wish we can see more of Tendou and Ushijima’s interaction before the former retires, they play off each other well and were the most personable part out of the whole Purple Asses team beyond those childhood flashbacks :p.
    Well done Haikyuu. I can always count on you to keep me interest even in your rare narrative lulls. Looking forward to the next arcs oh ye darling crows.

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