Haikyu!! To The Top
Episode 1-2

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?

Even without action, Haikyu!! To the Top is thinking about what it's going to take for Karasuno to win, or at least not get immediately eliminated, in the upcoming tournament. That may be a disappointment if you're watching this show to see its excitingly animated volleyball sequences (and with a projected twenty-five episodes, we'll definitely get there), but in terms of what else sets this show apart – the character development and interactions – it's absolutely still on track. These first two episodes take us to the everyday aftermath of making the cut after defeating Shiratorizawa, with the biggest development being that two of the team's first years have been chosen for prestigious training camps: Kageyama and Tsukishima.

You may have noticed that there's one very obvious omission there. Certainly the rest of the team does, and while it's not a major surprise (to anyone but the boy in question) that Hinata wasn't selected for the National Youth Camp with Kageyama, it is a blow for most of the guys that he wasn't chosen to go to the prefecture-wide camp either. The reason for that becomes clear the moment a hurting Hinata decides to crash its Shiratorizawa location: the coach in charge of the prefecture group is Shiratorizawa's Washijo, and he's made it abundantly clear that he's very prejudiced against shorter players.

Apart from the fact that this man is infuriating and shouldn't be allowed to work with kids if he can't leave his issues at home, there is a lesson lurking here that Hinata needs to learn: not everyone is going to see your worth, no matter how many times you make it abundantly obvious to them, and you've just got to ignore them and move on. It's not an easy thing to do, certainly, and for an upbeat, do-his-best kid like Hinata, it's definitely a slap to the face. Thus far he's been able to prove every one of his doubters wrong, winning the approval of other teams and players with his determination and natural skill, and that he can't make this one, influential, grumpy bastard see it is the only thing we've seen deflate him since the very beginning. It makes Hinata doubt his own worth and strength (and thanks so much, Ushiwaka, for helping with that this week), and that's not a good thing a month away from a major tournament.

So what's the point here? Is Hinata just being stubborn by refusing to go home and practice with his own team and sticking around the be the ball boy for the camp, making other players who absolutely know he should be on the court uncomfortable? (Maybe that's a good thing and they'll be less likely to be like Washijo later in life?) While I think Daichi might say so, the two Karasuno adults are less convinced. For Ukai, seeing Washijo sideline a promising player based on a solitary bias forces him to look at how he's been coaching his own team and makes him reevaluate a little. Takeda is more about wanting Hinata to learn how to think, which is why his lecture is less yelling and more a short, philosophical discussion about needing to do things in order, something he knows Hinata, who's always been ready to run before he's learned to crawl, needs to internalize.

And that's what's really important about these two episodes. Hinata may not be playing much volleyball (we'll presumably see more of that when we eventually see what's going on with Kageyama), but he's learning to observe, digest, and react in a new, more thoughtful way. Maybe it can't compare with the physical practice (although he's still doing that on his own), but it's still important in terms of him reaching his full potential and eventually rubbing it in Washijo's face. (Although I think I may be more bitter than he is…) He's training his eyes and his mind, and given that thinking has never been Hinata's strong suit, that's a sign of significant growth on the horizon.

In the meantime, we do still get to see bits and pieces of everyone else. (I had this thought reading the manga, but is Suga getting goofier? At any rate, I love his “potato” T-shirt for no good reason.) One of the most interesting things is how much more comfortable the two girls are with each other now; it looks like they're forming a nice friendship, while Tsukki is just as prickly as ever, even with his ostensible buddy Yamaguchi. Kageyama's lack in episode two isn't great, but as long as we get to see what's going on with him within the next two weeks, it should balance out.

The change in artistic oversight has resulted in a closer fidelity to the manga art, but I could see that not being popular with some viewers, as it is rougher-looking now. But even if you miss the old character art, Haikyu is back in business, and I think we can agree that that's a good thing.


Haikyu!! To The Top is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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