The Fall 2020 Preview Guide
Haikyu!! To The Top
How would you rate episode 1 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 5) ?
What is this?
Karasuno enters into the second half of Nationals with brand-new opponents: Inarizaki High. The long-standing powerhouse team includes a few familiar faces, namely Atsumu Miya. Named Japan's "best high school setter," Miya previously rubbed elbows with Kageyama at the All-Japan Youth Intensive Training Camp. Karasuno will have to overcome a setter that outranks their own, and no you're not seeing double, Atsumu's twin brother is on the team, too.
How was the first episode?
It has definitely been too long a wait for Haikyu!! to come back, especially since the previous season left off just as the Karasuno boys were starting to face off against Inarizaka, whose Miya twins form a new kind of threat: their play can mimic the perfect timing of Hinata and Kageyama. Even if we leave out the fact that they're a more consistently high-powered team, that sounds like bad news for Karasuno, because it means that at times they're essentially going to be playing mirrored versions of themselves and therefore can't count on their opponents being pole-axed by the fact that Hinata and Kageyama can pull off such Quicks. In fact, it feels like more of this episode has Karasuno standing around gaping at what Inarizaka has just done than actually playing.
That's not strictly true, of course – both teams spend about equal amounts of time actually smacking the ball across the net. But the emphasis on Karasuno's shock does a very good job of letting us know that they're facing something new and alarming, and even the fact that Kageyama got to know one of the twins at his youth camp isn't necessarily going to save them. And of course there's also the fact that Inarizaka's cheering section makes up for what the players can't do with their keen distraction techniques. Now I know very, very little about sports outside of what this show and a couple of others have taught me, but it really does seem like what Inarizaka is doing – deliberately throwing Karasuno's serves off by drumming a rhythm they can't use but remining silent when Inarizaka is serving – isn't at all kosher. It may not be cheating in the purest definition of the term, but at the risk of sounding like a five-year-old, it really isn't fair – and there doesn't seem to be a damn thing anyone can do about it.
Well, not quite. It's kind of funny that in this very tense volleyball show the single most triumphant moment of the episode is when Tanaka's older sister Saeko (who has a mixed record as a character) shows up with her taiko drum and her traditional-music-playing friends. Not only is the brass band floored by the appearance of (gasp) another band, but everyone is surprised that the instruments involved are so old-fashioned and traditional. It's a wonderful “two can play at that game” moment, and that it helps get Hinata's groove back (even if he just does a plain old serve, much to the audience's chagrin) makes it look like everything may not be lost after all. For a change Saeko represents hope, and that is something that's really needed in this episode because it's not just Hinata who's making mistakes this week, it's even reliable standbys like Nishinoya.
Of course, Hinata's still are the most memorable flubs. From hitting the ball with his foot (which is perhaps better explained as “dropping the ball but it hit his foot on its way to the floor”) to actually forgetting to swing when he jumped, Hinata's not at his best in this game. But it's early days yet, and if this isn't the most thrilling episode to return to Haikyu!! on, it at least does a good job of reminding us who Karasuno is up against and how difficult it will be to get past them, and wouldn't we all rather have this than a recap? Because even though this isn't the best, it's still pretty darn good, and I for one am glad that the show is back.
Those good volleybois are back on the court once more, though a little later than everyone was hoping. Don't worry boys, real-life sports got canceled too, so you're still in time to show those boring athletes what sports are all about. Forget King James or Jimmy Buckets, the real finals are here, with Karasuno going up against Inarizaki and the Miya twins in their first serious battle for Nationals.
Though this particular phase of the match hasn't quite gotten the engine revving yet. Much of this comparatively slow episode is used to establish Inarizaki's ever-expanding bag of tricks they use to control the tempo of the game. They're not cheating, per se, and many of their feints or plans require a ton of talent to pull off, but it makes them a particularly thorny opponent to face when you're not just trying to outdo their players, but also their entire cheering section and even your own sense of time. Thankfully the true hero, Saeko, arrives with a full taiko drum corps ready to even the odds and get Karasuno back in the game. What follows from there is Haikyu!!'s typically engaging back-and-forth, as a mix of dumb luck, quick thinking, and new techniques keep them more or less even with the more storied Inarizaki.
And then the final point of the episode happens, and it's like a gunshot went off. The Miya twins, in-sync and capricious, do the unthinkable to pull off their own perfect imitation of the KageHina Quick, and nobody knows how to react. It's a deliciously dramatic moment and one I've been waiting to see animated since I first read it in the manga. With any luck (read: I already know) this moment is indicative of just how wild the National tournament will be. Karasuno has risen through the ranks and overcome powerhouse teams before, but this is the stage where everyone is a powerhouse, and there's no more time for training arcs. One of the wonderful things about Haikyu!! is that even having followed this team for years across multiple seasons, the tension that they might lose is no less palpable, and I'm very, very happy to have it back again.
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