The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
Haikyu!! To The Top

How would you rate episode 1 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?



What is this?

After their success in the regionals earned the boys' volleyball team of Karasuno a spot in the Spring Tournament, everyone's hyped up, and things are about to get even more intense. Not only do they get measured for the Tournament pamphlet (with Hinata finally hitting 5'5”), but there are two special training camps taking place over the winter, and two members of Karasuno's team get to go. It's no surprise that Kageyama will be heading to Tokyo to a special Youth Japan camp, from which the top under-19 players are chosen, but this year there's also a camp within the prefecture for the best first- year players, and Tsukishima has been selected to participate. But that leaves Hinata out in the cold, and it's not something he's going to stand for – if he's not chosen, then he'll just make them acknowledge him: he'll infiltrate the prefecture camp!

Haikyu!! To The Top is based on a manga. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 2:30 pm EST.


How was the first episode?

Rebecca Silverman

Rating:

What's a Haikyu!! episode without any actual volleyball playing? A reminder that part of the appeal of this story is the characters, and that we're so invested in them playing their sport because we want them, specifically, to succeed. While this isn't exactly a ripper of an episode, it does do a good job bringing us back into the story by offering snippets of each of the major members of the Karasuno Boys' Volleyball team and highlighting the specific issues that our main protagonist, Shoyo Hinata, faces as he charges ahead in the sport.

The biggest problem, really, is that he's not very big. While the fact that he had basically zero formal training until high school is also a major issue (and likely what's keeping him from being chosen for the elite camp Kageyama's headed to; he just hasn't had the time to learn the skills), in Hinata's eyes, it's his height that's the problem. This is driven home when he's not selected to attend the Miyagi Prefecture camp for promising first years alongside Tsukishima – when he decides to crash it anyway, we learn that the head coach for it is Shiratorizawa's Washijo-sensei, a man known for his dislike of short players. We learned in the previous season that this largely stems from Washijo's own failure to make a mark on the sport due to similar prejudices, prejudices he's internalized and now uses against height-challenged kids in the same way they were used against him. In fact, Hinata was recommended for this particular camp alongside Tsukishima, with the strong implication that it was Washijo who nixed his inclusion – and the guys there who have actually played against Hinata are clearly aghast that he wasn't invited. (The others are just stunned that he showed up anyway. Tsukishima's just embarrassed, poor thing.)

That Hinata is willing to stay with Washijo's stricture that he's only going to be the ball boy says a lot about the strides he's making. Yes, he's still headstrong enough to just charge in where he's not nominally welcome, but he's also not going to put up a fuss about what he has to do to stay there. He tells Takeda that he's there because he wants to learn from stronger players, and that says a lot about the self-awareness he's developed over the course of the previous seaons; he realizes that he's technically behind, and not being invited alongside Kageyama was an awful reminder of that. He knows he's got to shape up, and how better to do that than learning from the best? Hinata's ready to keep his eyes open all the time now, and although he's still utterly self-confident, he's also aware of what he needs to do to get even better.

Although Hinata gets the brunt of the action, we do get glimpses of everyone else. The three third-years get the most airtime after the first-years (Asahi's apparently not worried about balding anymore, since the headband's gone and the bun is back), and we get reminders that Nishinoya and Tanaka are the resident high-energy goofballs. Tsukki's outward stoicism (and inward cringes) are back in full force, and the reminder that volleyball's about all Kageyama's got going for him is well handled. All in all, this isn't the best episode of Haikyu!! out there, but it's also a great way to get back into the story and the characters, and I'm looking forward to seeing what I've been reading animated once again.


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