Haikyu!! 3rd Season
Episode 5

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Haikyu!! (TV 3) ?

Haikyu may not have been the cure for my headache, but it certainly made me forget about it for half an hour. Despite this episode not starting out with quite the bang of its predecessors – we speed through the third set before half the episode is over with Shiratorizawa taking it – this week still manages to skillfully build tension as the question of the ultimate victor becomes more pressing. With only two sets to go, the winner of this fourth one could very well determine things without the teams ever playing the fifth.

Both teams are well aware of that fact. What's interesting is that Karasuno is more upset about the way the losses reflect upon their skill, both individually and as a team, while Shiratorizawa is clearly living in fear of their coach. Maybe this is because he has eyebrows where his eyelids ought to be, but more likely it's due to his particularly harsh coaching style. When their setter, Shirabu, gets called over after the loss of the second set, he acts like a dog who knows he's about to get kicked. When the coach lets him off with just a “you know what you did,” it actually appears to make him feel worse – he says that if it had been a practice match he would have gotten slapped. To make up for it, he smacks himself on both cheeks to the point where he leaves a mark. This self-flagellation is disturbing from my perspective as someone with experience in American school systems (though it may not raise red flags in other countries' schools), but also simply because of the point it makes: Coach Washijo has taught his team that failure equates to physical punishment, making them punish themselves emotionally as well.

Much has been made of the difference in coaching styles between Washijo and the Ukais, and Ukai the Elder, who pops by to watch this week, comments that this is ultimately a battle between coaching techniques as much as (if not more than) actual playing, so I have no doubt that Shirabu's need to physically hurt himself when his coach didn't was part of that. Thinking back, despite the way that Shiratorizawa's players work well together to deliver smooth attacks and blocks, we hear much less “don't mind” from them when someone messes up, and we see far less friendly banter or consolation. Part of the reason Karasuno is able to play so well is their rapport, something Shiratorizawa seems to discourage between its players so as to keep their minds on the game.

Where Tsukishima has taken the spotlight the last couple of weeks, this time things open up to give us more Tanaka, Nishinoya, and Hinata, with a special bit reserved for Shirabu. Interestingly enough, Shirabu also has some Oikawa in his past, possibly making him the single most influential character in the series. (His insouciant stroll through the ending theme indicates that he would doubtless take this as a given.) He does show up this week in “disguise” (or at least doing his best to hide in the nosebleed seats) despite claiming that he wouldn't watch the game. It's perhaps not intended as a gesture of support but feels like one nonetheless. The increasing number of spectators we recognize as having made an impact on the players does a good job of reminding us of how much is riding on this particular game – while we never wanted to see Karasuno lose, we want that even less in front of Tsukki's brother, Tanaka's sister, Ukai the elder, and Oikawa.

This episode brings us to the halfway point of the show's ten-episode season. With the fourth set started and the fifth to come, we can make the educated guess that Karasuno will take this one, because otherwise we'd have far too many episodes of them being sad/angry/Tanaka-loud. But just because we think we know that, that doesn't mean that the journey won't still be intense. Hinata's back in the spotlight after Ushijima insulted him (gotta love his interpretation of the other guy's words), Evil Suga makes a return, and neither Asahi nor Daichi have gotten much of a chance in the character spotlight when this game is arguably more important to them (and Suga) than anyone else. This means that the final five episodes can be expected to give us more of the character work that helps the show stand out along with the intense gameplay. Hold on to your hats, because this should be quite a ride.

Rating: A-

Haikyu!! 3rd Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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