Haikyu!! 3rd Season
Episodes 1-2

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Haikyu!! (TV 3) ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Haikyu!! (TV 3) ?

This new season of Haikyu asks us a very serious question: is Evil Suga the best Suga? That's actually more important than you might think in the second episode. Haikyu's third season is exclusively focused on Karasuno's Nationals-qualifying match against Shiratorizawa, and if they lose here, it's game over for third-years Asahi, Daichi, and Sugawara. Losing this game will also mean that they don't get to advance to playing teams from other regions, including their rivals Nekoma, so to call this five-set game “tense” would be a definite understatement. To make things worse, Karasuno, a no-name team for years now, is up against a team widely acknowledged to be the best, and their powerhouse, Ushijima, is not only an amazing player, but he's also left-handed, making any ball he hits even harder to receive because of its unfamiliar angle of entry, to say nothing of the difference in directional spin. Needless to say, this has the entirety of the Karasuno team on edge. Most of the second episode is comprised of them losing, and with each missed ball, they grow visibly more upset. At this point, help comes from an unexpected source: normally mild-mannered, team-building Suga suddenly starts screaming at his teammates from the sidelines.

It's a great defining moment for a couple of reasons. First of all, it certainly jump-starts everyone by scaring them back into the game. They were all so caught up in their worries about losing that they were forgetting to actually play, especially Tanaka and Tsukishima. But it's also important because it shows us exactly how tense everyone is. Sure, they aren't playing their best, but their descent into an almost paralyzed state is halted by the break in Suga's character. His outburst reminds them how much is at stake and how worried even the players not currently on the court are. Anyone can snap under enough frustration, and for Sugawara to have reached that point, things must be serious. On another note, it also showcases the kind of character development Haikyu has been consistently good at – reminding us that every character is a person with multiple facets to their personalities and layers of emotion. In a more poorly written story, Suga wouldn't have yelled because he's “the nice quiet one.” In reality, even quiet people can raise our voices when we have to.

Thus far, the show is doing a very good job of keeping viewers as tense as possible. Episode one, which was really all set-up and an easy way to remind us of everyone's names, still managed to establish the high stakes for the game and how strong Shiratorizawa is simply through the visuals - they're almost uniformly tall and muscular, making a stark contrast to Karasuno's more physically diverse group. Their audience's prepared and choreographed cheer routine also contrasts well with the more ragged Karasuno fans, made up of a mix of students and interested locals that illustrate the smaller scope of the team's reach. It all makes for a very intimidating episode, and if Hinata doesn't come down with his usual case of the barfs, there's definitely cause for a sick feeling in our own stomachs even before the game begins. Episode two takes us through the first of five (yes, five) matches that will make up the game, mostly focusing on Nishinoya and Tsukishima, who are the most (unwillingly) intimidated members of the team. By the end, things are beginning to take on a more familiar pattern, with Hinata put into play and Shiratorizawa third year Tendo (red spiky guy) stepping up to take Hinata down.

Things are off to a seriously rough start for our favorite team, and there's more focus on the emotions than the gameplay at this point, although we're still treated to some intense animation of balls being whacked. Daichi's bruise from the previous season (which was hours ago for the characters) is still clearly visible, making a nice reminder of how little time has passed, and the increasing amount of wrapped fingers speaks to the brutality of this particular game. Things are clearly going to be very tense this time around, but if it gets too tense for you, you can always remember the unintentionally hilarious shot of Ushijima in the opening theme where it looks like he's got tail feathers on his shorts. As good as the rest of these episodes are, the crow vs. big white bird imagery in the opening theme is a bit much. It's a good thing the ham-handed symbolism was left in the theme song so that the rest of the show can shine.

Rating: A-

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

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