Haikyu!! 3rd Season
Episode 8

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Haikyu!! (TV 3) ?

I want two things out of the last two episodes of this show: Karasuno to win and Oikawa to cheer for them. Just two things. That's not so much to ask, is it?

It actually might be – things are really close as the final set of the game has somehow gotten even more intense. With Shiratorizawa only needs one more point to win the day, but the two teams remain surprisingly well-matched – Shiratorizawa's technical precision can't quite keep up with Karasuno's unpredictability, and neither team is willing to give up. The audience's uneasiness isn't helping – in the middle of the episode, the two teams' fans start a contest for who can cheer the loudest, presumably intending to intimidate the hell out of the other guys. When Shiratorizawa's fans start singing the school song, it looks like they may have pulled it off – until Hinata gets annoyed and angry, which I must admit would have been my reaction. It really is anyone's game at this point.

Fortunately, Haikyu knows how to milk this intensity. Although many points are scored this week, the story still revolves around the players themselves, making this as much about wanting your favorite characters to win than being entirely about the gameplay. The emotional rollercoaster of the hits and misses rolls on because we want to see our guys take the day – when Kageyama starts warming up, we can feel his angry anticipation in each hop, we feel jittery right alongside Yamaguchi when he comes in to serve, and we laugh with Suga and Tanaka's chest butt not because chest butts are inherently funny, but because we're just as happy and relieved as they are. But by that same token, we can also feel Ushijima's simmering anger at Karasuno's refusal to yield or the frantic turns of Tendo's mind when he can't figure out what the other guys are doing. It's a little less engaging with Shiratorizawa, but that's only because we've been following Karasuno from the beginning – the opposing players are still no less people than the team we're cheering for.

To that end, this week's “featured” character is Shiratorizawa's coach, the man with the impressive eyebrows. Previously, we knew that he had a much different approach to the game than the Ukai clan, but now we get the chance to understand why. Back in his high school days, he was the short kid who desperately wanted to succeed. But instead of teaching him ways around his height, his coach told him that it was a barrier to success that he could never overcome. Therefore, he didn't see the point in becoming like Nishinoya or Hinata and finding ways around it – he just wanted to be good in the same way as everyone else. So his philosophy for the game became building a technically perfect, well-tuned team that can do anything and everything strongly. It isn't so much that he looks down on Karasuno's wild-card strategy, but more that he just doesn't understand that strength can come from a place that doesn't involve technique, even sometimes stemming from someone's supposed imperfections.

And speaking of imperfections, the episode ends with Tsukishima's somewhat hobbled return to the game. All we can see (from the preview) is that his fingers are more wrapped than before, so we don't know what's going to be holding him back or forcing him to play differently. Still, his return feels like a herald of hope for Karasuno – Narita hasn't held the team back, but he also hasn't shaken Shiratorizawa up the way Tsukki can. My only real issue is that we never got to learn more about Narita as a character or a player while he was on the court – all we know about him came from the Ennoshita episodes in season two. That's not necessarily a terrible thing, because we do still know his history with the team, but it also feels like a missed opportunity for a series that takes the time to make its players more than token pinch hitters. Of course, with only two episodes remaining, it does make sense.

So now we head into the final points of the set. Tsukki and Kageyama are back on the court, Ukai has just reminded them not to get discouraged, and the tension is palpable. I'm a little worried by Oikawa's head shake at the end of the preview, but it's not over yet. Keep holding your breath.

Rating: A-

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

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