Haikyu!! To The Top
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?
I was all set to gripe this week, guessing (correctly, as it turns out) that this would be the final episode against Tsubakihara in order to make time for the Inarizaki game, which in all honesty I hope takes up the majority of the rest of Haikyu!! To The Top's run. (And then the next part can have its own season…) But then, abbreviated as it is, episode eleven gave me everything I watch this series for: a tense game that has me at the edge of my seat and still takes time to showcase the personalities and teamwork of the players.
Okay, I do have to qualify that previous statement a bit – it gives me almost everything, because this week's episode definitely has some visual issues, from faces that are just off-model enough to look a little creepy to Asahi's migrating hairline to poor Suga's legs at the end, where it looks like his calf muscles are slowly sliding down into his ankles. The animation is largely there when it needs to be, but there are definitely some problems consistent with how this season has looked.
Fortunately, the story mostly makes up for that and it also knows who to give the big moments to. That's not Kageyama or Hinata, although they do get their chances to shine – some of the best parts belong to the third-years, who may not always get top billing but arguably have the biggest stake in the fact that they're at Nationals. The fact that Suga gets to be on the court for the winning moment is important; of the three third-years, he's the one who's been left out the most because his position as setter was essentially usurped by Kageyama. He's an easy-going guy, so for the most part he's not been (or acted) too bitter about the whole thing, but it still has to hurt, and some of his goofiness may be covering that up. When he's subbed in for Tsukishima at the very end of the second set, it's a moment of triumph for him just to be out there and a relatively unique chance for us to be reminded that while he may not be as powerful as Daichi and Asahi, he's still a very, very good player and he brings his own skills to the court. In a team with a different make up, he might have played the same role as Kenma; it's only Kageyama's presence that overwhelms his own.
It's also probably not coincidence that he and Asahi are major features of the final points scored – while the whole team does at this point play well together, Suga, Daichi, and Asahi have been doing so the longest, and for Asahi, King of Anxiety that he is, just having both of his closest friends on the court may make a difference. It's familiar, and sometimes that's the boost you need to really pull something amazing off. Not that “the Samurai guy” has been doing poorly by any means, but Suga being there could just be the extra edge needed to end this in two sets.
I try not to compare this to the manga too much, but there is one change that I've really been appreciating with this adaptation, and that's that the role of the commentators has been greatly lessened. These chapters in the books are filled with lines like “rookie Kageyama” and “that's Asahi Azumane, a third year” along with plays being described, and frankly it gets annoying. Leaving that mostly out here allows us to immerse ourselves more in the game and lets the actions speak for themselves, which definitely aids in building the tension that's made a comeback this week. As a non-sports viewer in real life, I couldn't say if one is more accurate than the other, but I know which I prefer in my anime sports.
With the more tense atmosphere this week, it's good that there's some humor left in as well. Hinata catching the ball with his body as if he's playing a soccer/volleyball hybrid (Calvinball? Nah, not enough props.), Tsubakihara's pinch server slamming the ball into the back of a teammate's head is another lighter moment; even better is the way that the next time the poor kid serves, his teammate casually puts his hands up to cover his skull without a word. It's a perfectly understated moment in an otherwise tense scene, and that's just what we needed.
Hopefully the show can keep this up going into the next game. It's probably going to be a doozy and with any luck, it won't just be Kageyama it introduces to the world.
Haikyu!! To The Top is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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