Haikyu!! Second Season
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 20 of
Haikyu!! Second Season ?
This is one of those episodes where everything comes together and it just works. From the music to the action to the use of humor, Haikyu's twentieth episode is one of the best of the second season. It's probably no coincidence that it's also the long-awaiting rematch with Aoba Johsai, something that the other team is arguably as excited about as Karasuno. This is nicely (and amusingly) shown when both Kageyama and Oikawa reach for the same ball before the opening credits – their grudge, far from abating, looks like it has actually intensified. One of Oikawa's teammates wonders if he's really a third year given the fact that he's acting just as immaturely as Kageyama, a first year (which probably says more about how high school seniors think about themselves than anything), but really what it shows is how invested he is in this game; Kageyama isn't the only one who thinks he has something to prove.
Despite the fact that this episode is the exact same length as all the others, it feels much shorter. The way that the music and the action work together to create a sense of extreme tension is a large part of this – not only is the gameplay pretty much nonstop from the credits to the entrance of Aoba Johsai's number sixteen right before the ending theme (I believe his name is Kindaichi but am by no means certain; I think of him as “Tire Tracks”), but the music adds a sense of urgency. It propels the tension if not our perception of the action itself more than the usual audience reactions, which feel toned down from previous episodes. Without the spectator commentary, we're forced to rely on what we've learned about the sport and the players from the previous nineteen episodes (and season one), which makes this less of a passively viewed match than it might have been. This also gives the surprise entry of Tire Tracks onto the scene at the end of the episode the distinct sensation of a stick being jammed into the gears – we were flying along, sure of what was going on, and now this unknown factor has thrown everything off. If you think about it, this likely mirrors how Karasuno feels with number sixteen's entry, and it makes for a highly effective ending to the fast-paced episode.
To a degree, character development takes a back seat to action, once again forcing us to rely on what we already know. We can see Hinata getting far too worked up, which we know can be dangerous…and Kageyama knows this too and delivers a swift kick in the pants. There's no real explanation that goes with the scene; we just have to remember what we know about the characters. This lack of explicit narration from the sidelines gives the episode a more organic feel than many tournament series' pivotal battles do, which is helped by the fact that Daichi's swollen and bruised cheek is still clearly visible. Wounds in anime have a tendency to vanish very quickly (presumably for ease of drawing), so that Daichi's is still there reminds us not only of his injury, but of how much Karasuno is invested in this match. Even a lost tooth isn't going to stop Daichi, no matter how much we can guess it hurts.
In the midst of all of this, the comedy used in the episode is also pretty great. While the entire pre-credits scene is used for humor – the part where Yahaba of Aoba Johsai tries to hit on Yachi is terrific – there are small moments throughout the episode where humor helps to break the tension a bit, such as Hinata's face after his spike is blocked (seen only in the background) or Daichi's inner freak out. It never takes over the episode, but it really helps to balance it.
And speaking of balance, this week's ending leaves us distinctly off balance. In one moment, the entire game has changed drastically, and if Karasuno wants to combat that, they're going to have to do more than just stay on their toes. It's a brilliant move on Aoba Johsai's part, and next week should show us if it's going to pay off for them…or if the crows can fly higher than anticipated.
Haikyu!! Second Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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