Haikyu!! 3rd Season
Episode 7

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Haikyu!! (TV 3) ?

I'm not sure if I've ever sworn quite so much during an episode of anime as I did this week. As Karasuno and Shiratorizawa go into the final set of their qualifying game, the stakes couldn't be higher: not only is this it in terms of chances for the third-years, but this set only runs to fifteen points – ten less than the norm. That means that whoever gets the lead in the beginning is more likely to win the whole thing, if only because there's less time to turn things around. To that end, Ukai the Younger's decision to put Suga in as setter is particularly fraught – yes, Kageyama is really out of stamina after four intense sets, but even though Sugawara is an excellent setter, he's not on the same level as the first-year. At the same time, this is his last year with the team, and this is their most important game to date. Especially with the backstory provided by last week's episode, Suga getting to play in his regular position rather than as a pinch server is seriously important for him as a character. I'm torn between cheering and screaming.

That's the feeling this entire episode gives off – the fine line between jubilation and despair. Karasuno certainly has some amazing new tricks up their sleeves, the most impressive of which comes when Nishinoya suddenly takes over as setter and Suga spikes the ball, but Shiratorizawa is under a lot of pressure from their creepy-eyed coach and from their own egos to maintain their reputation. Even though Ushijima is technically the biggest threat to Karasuno, Tendo cannot be overlooked. His mean-spirited desire to see the other team not so much burn as wallow in utter anguish is almost more damaging than Ushijima's killer spikes and serves. This time, Tendo sets his sights on Suga as the weakest member of the pack, a Tsukki-variant he actually can intimidate and break.

Tendo is saved from being totally irredeemable by the show's decision to give us some of his backstory as a bullied child; picked on for his looks when he was very small, and later for his attitude, Tendo decided to become the attacker rather than the victim, creating a boy who seems to take genuine glee from emotionally hurting others. He's currently topping my list of “Anime Characters I Would Like to Punch,” but he is nonetheless somehow understandable. The same goes for Ushijima, whose best memories of time spent with his father involve not only his dad standing against his mother's family who wanted to “correct” his left-handedness, but also teaching him to play volleyball. While the sport became a weapon for Tendo, it's more of a talisman for Ushijima. His father told him that it was a place where his differences could make him stronger, as well as being a fond memory of someone who accepted him for himself. His grim determination is all a part of his intense emotional involvement, whether or not he'd ever admit it.

The panic of the episode's final moments, when Tsukishima is taken off the court with an injured finger, almost eclipses the lighter scenes throughout the show, such as when Kyouko tries to help Suga calm down and sets all the boys off in romantic jealousy while still coolly shooting poor Suga down. We also get to see the third-years just being friends more than ever before as Suga joins them on the court, a much-needed bit of balm for an otherwise fiery episode. It doesn't look like things will be cooling down as the show heads into its finale either – with Tsukki gone, a second-year we've barely met is put into the game, creating tension for viewers who have no idea what he's capable of. Presumably, we'll learn more about him next week in one of Haikyu's signature turns at making everyone a real person rather than a body on the court, which looks like the secret to dragging this out for three more episodes. But although it's stretched, “drag” really isn't the right word for this season; as this episode continues to prove, with the right mix of humor, action, and character development, a well-done story can keep you on the edge of your seat for as many episodes as it wants.

Rating: A

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

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