Haikyu!! Second Season
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 17 of
Haikyu!! Second Season ?
You know what's one of the worst feelings in the world? Being yelled at. While that may be less true for less anxious people, for someone on the verge of stopping an activity, it can really be the final straw. That's the backstory behind Chikara Ennoshita, one of the second years on Karasuno's team who hasn't gotten much screentime in Haikyu (second season or otherwise, although there is a little montage reminding us that he has shown up before), and while he sees it as a moment of weakness in his past, to the viewers, or at least to me, it is presented as an opportunity for strength. Yes, he left when the going got tough, but that allowed him to really think about playing volleyball and what it meant to him. He comments that he had never missed a practice up until high school, so when he felt put upon and picked on, leaving felt like both a rebellion and a relief. It gave him the space to realize that he did, in fact, enjoy the game and was willing to put up with a much stricter team than the one we currently know in order to do so. And it really was time for him to take a breather – look at the screen cap up there. When you're so reluctant to go to practice that your friends can't pull you off the wall, it is definitely time to take a step back.
So why does this even come up? Because Daichi's injury, while not quite as bad as it appeared at the end of last week's episode, still takes him out of the game. It turns out that he and Tanaka (who apparently has a skull of steel) collided, and now Daichi's bleeding from the mouth. Unable to continue, he calls in Ennoshita to take his place, shocking pretty much everyone who isn't on the team, since they really haven't seen him before. To compound this, a previously discussed strategy is put into play, and Tsukishima is swapped out for Yamaguchi, a fairly weak player who is paralyzed with fear. This combination would seem to spell certain doom for Karasuno, but it doesn't...yet. When you think about it, that first match against Wakunan was practically won when both substitutions happen, despite the nervousness of Karasuno's fans. Yes, they could have blown it at the last minute, but the pressure not to do so was intense, and the two already insecure new players would have turned into blubbering, quivering wrecks had they lost at that point. With Daichi already out, Haikyu couldn't handle that degree of player-torture without turning into a full-out melodrama. Now, however, the pressure, while still on, is somehow less. Having won one game, Karasuno technically has room to lose the next one, which is precisely what Oikawa, who shows up to narrate events in his Mr. Doom and Gloom persona, predicts will happen.
It is a real worry. Not only have they lost their emotional anchor, but they're also getting tired, and adrenaline will only take you so far. We also know that Hinata and Kageyama have a tendency towards recklessness when cornered, and it isn't clear if Ennoshita will be able to keep them under control. Of course, Sugawara is still there, and he has proved able to reach them, so the show could just be trying to make us worry, assuming that I'm not the only viewer who hasn't read the manga. But even if you know what's coming, this is a tense situation, nicely enhanced by some new background music and Oikawa's dark predictions. There's actually very little levity in this episode, apart from Nishinoya managing to eat an entire popsicle in two bites and a reminder of the fact that Tsukki is terrible at compliments and reassurances. There is, however, a fleeting look and tense body language from Kiyoko at Daichi's injury – I may be making this up, but it looks to me like she has more than managerial feelings for him.
Overall this is one of the darker, less ebullient episodes of Haikyu. But it is also one of the more satisfying as we get to see Ennoshita and Yamaguchi, two second-tier characters, come to the fore. Ennoshita in particular is very understandable in both his insecurities and his reasons for his break from the sport, which helps us to feel like we know him even though this is really his first major episode. And Yamaguchi? He's like the nervous puppy of the team, the character you really want to make it. He is quietly becoming one of my favorite characters as he just keeps trying, no matter how outclassed he feels. With the main characters, you know they're going to overcome their issues and be just fine. With Yamaguchi there's more investment in him personally, which adds just the right amount of tension for him personally, even if it looks like the others' success may be a foregone conclusion.
Haikyu!! Second Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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