Haikyu!! 3rd Season
Episode 9

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Haikyu!! (TV 3) ?

You know things are tense when I start whipping out the Yiddish. That's how ongeshpat this episode is. Granted, we knew it was coming to this with Tsukki's heroic return last week, something his teammates don't fail to comment on, because no matter how insane things get in the actual game, Haikyu makes sure that everyone remains faithful to their characters, and for most of Karasuno, cracking jokes is the best way to relieve their tension. It makes them feel like real people, and it also makes viewers feel like we're actively part of the story's world; if we notice the same things as the characters, it's almost like we're really there with them. That means we're biting our nails right along with the audience in the bleachers (Oikawa excepted, naturally – he's just getting pissier as the set goes on), giving us the unique experience of feeling both the players and the viewers at once. It's an interesting sensation.

Speaking of sensations, both teams, but especially Karasuno, are beginning to feel the effects of playing for so long. You can see Tsukishima trying to ignore the pain every time he hits the ball with his injured right hand, and both Hinata and Daichi find that their legs just aren't quite working the way they want them to. It's that leaden sensation you get after too much continued activity, and Hinata at least begins to look at his leg as a separate entity, pounding it in anger and frustration. More than anything else, this points to the fact that time is running out – no one can keep this up much longer.

Of course, if Hinata could hear what people were saying on the sidelines, particularly over on the Shiratorizawa benches, he might get the jolt he needs. Twice now, comparisons have been made between Hinata and his idol, the Little Giant, and his power despite his stature are making Shiratorizawa both nervous and angry. For their coach, who was told that he had no future as a player because of his height, seeing Hinata succeed makes him especially upset. If Hinata, like the Little Giant before him, is able to become an invaluable player even with his stature against him, Coach Washijo's entire life's trajectory (at least in terms of volleyball) is invalidated. He has to believe that bigger equals stronger and better; if he doesn't, the philosophy he's based his volleyball life and career on is worthless. For him, Shiratorizawa winning means more than just the team he coaches moving ahead – it means that he was right about everything.

On the subject of coaches, I was going to save this for the series finale, but last week's episode marked the final time that the late Kazunari Tanaka voiced Ukai the Younger. This week brings in Hisao Egawa to fill the role, and the difference is marked enough that it deserves mention. While Egawa does a fine job, he lacks the gruffness that Tanaka brought to the role, and that does make Ukai feel like a different character. He's still invested in the team and just rogue enough to fit the bill, but the slightly gentler tone Egawa brings to the character feels out of place. Doubtlessly, both he as an actor and we as an audience will get used to it, but Tanaka's loss is definitely felt as things reach their breaking point.

I think we all knew that despite the lower point count needed to win, this set would still go to a point count in the twenties. With both Washijo and Ushijima determined to bring down Hinata, who they both view as a threat to the way they play volleyball, and Karasuno just as (if not more) determined to come out on top despite all odds, it feels unbearable that we'll have to wait another week to see how things turn out. Haikyu's third season has managed to be one of the most engrossing shows this fall. I'll be both relieved and depressed when it comes to an end.

Rating: A

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

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