Haikyu!! Second Season
Episode 18

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 18 of
Haikyu!! Second Season ?

It wasn't a stretch of the imagination to think that this week's episode of Haikyu would be a tense one. With Daichi out thanks to his collision with Tanaka and Ennoshita, one of the previously underused second years, taking his place, things were already a little rocky. To make matters even worse, Karasuno manages to lose the second set, sending the game into a third, all-or-nothing, match. To say that the players are on edge would be a severe understatement.

Thanks to some highly effective music, that tension transfers over to the audience very clearly. The soundtrack for episode eighteen is anxious and intense, perfectly enhancing the players' moods and helping to convey the urgency of the situation. Also well done on this front are the various speed-ups and slow downs in the action – not in terms of what's actually going on, but rather in how the animation shows it. In probably the most breathtaking scene of the episode (and I'm inclined to say the season, but that may be hyperbole), Hinata makes a running dive for the ball, causing him to almost run into the benches the coach, adviser, and manager are sitting on, which makes Ukai jump up to move the bench, tossing Takeda to the ground. Hinata quickly recovers, gets up, and sprints back to the net to hit the ball, all in under a minute. It's busy and impressively smooth, as well as being the kind of scene that makes you hold your breath, wondering if he's going to pull it off. Then later in the episode the opposite effect is used – a jump is slowed down to the degree that we can see Hinata shift ever-so-slightly to block the ball, giving his movement and almost gliding effect. Since this is the moment when the captain of Wakunan realizes that he's been outdone, it's important, but it's also powerful, revealing the understanding both players have of the game.

The real meat of the episode once again belongs to Ennoshita, though. He's clearly convinced himself that he doesn't belong on the court with the rest of the regular players and is wallowing in his self-perceived inferiority. That no one else thinks he's imposing or unworthy keeps escaping him; even Nishinoya's compliment ultimately washes over him. It's true, he's not as good as some of the others and he isn't Daichi, but what he can't see is that he really is capable of not just playing, but of leading. His plan about who should cover what kind of ball is spot-on and he's the one who really saves the day, in more ways than one. But the scene of him basically hiding in the bathroom to cry tells us that he can't see what he's done right – all that stands out to him are the ways in which he failed. While there are other insecure members of the volleyball team (and with the players being high schoolers, it would be frankly weird if there weren't), no one quite takes it to the same level of anxiety that Ennoshita does. This is our second real clue that Ennoshita is, at heart, a socially anxious person. The feeling of safety and comfort he described last week when he was sitting at home alone, away from the yelling and the pressure, makes this week's post-game breakdown and constant worrying seem less like the result of what's going on and more like his reaction to things he has a hard time coping with. When you factor in that scene last week of him clinging to the wall in order to avoid being dragged to practice, he comes out as even more of the winner in this game: he had a lot more to overcome than just not being a regular player. For Ennoshita this wasn't just a match against a strong team, it was a fight against himself and his own anxieties, and as anyone with anxiety can tell you, pulling through in a battle can still make it feel like you're losing the war. Hopefully we'll keep seeing Ennoshita even with Daichi's return, because I definitely want to see how he develops.

On a less serious note, this week's episode also feature such bizarre (to me) bonding rituals such as “punch the injured guy in the gut a lot to show how happy you are to see him” and several instances of Kageyama and Hinata flailing their fists at each other. Those, along with Asahi's barely concealed panic when Kageyama and Hinata bump into each other at the net, help add a much-needed lightness to the episode, which is nice because I don't think the eye-catches would have quite cut it this time. This is really a parallel episode to the end of the first season, when Karasuma lost and the boys went home crying in frustration and regret – it very nearly ended that way again, and for Wakunan, well, this is that episode. It's a strong reminder that even though we're rooting for Karasuma, the other teams aren't just “bad guys.” Everyone is invested in these games, and this episode, along with doing many other things right, also doesn't let us forget that for every team who wins, there's another who have to call themselves “the losers.”

Rating: A

Haikyu!! Second Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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