Haikyu!! To The Top
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 19 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?
Is it just me, or did this episode look…off? It largely corrects itself in the second half, or perhaps three-quarters of the way through to be more specific, but the first part of the episode looks fairly weird, with almost everyone off-model and not in a way that could be written off as a fluke of trying to show the rapid pace of the game. There's one shot where a Miya twin's chin looks partly detached from his jaw, which certainly can't be blamed on the speed of play, unless there's a move in volleyball that involves smacking the ball with your chiseled, square jaw.
That drops the rating for the episode a bit, but that issue aside, things are definitely getting back on track. Much like how Sarukawa was working on wearing down Kenma in their match, Karasuno and Inarizaki both have specific players that they're trying to unbalance here, and at first it looks like Inarizaki's gambit is working better than Karasuno's. They've zeroed in on libero Nishinoya, not just because he's good, but because doing so is likely to affect the morale of the rest of the team. Nishinoya's got Hinata's energy while being marginally less annoying to players like Tsukishima and Kageyama, so if they demoralize him, there's going to be a resulting level of angst from the rest of the team. Or at least that's the idea – while it works as planned at first, they've grossly underestimated Noya's determination and powers of positivity, both of which seem to feed off of his physical activity level. Much like we saw in seasons past when Daichi forgot that they didn't have to do penalty dives after actually winning a set, Noya psychs himself out of his malaise by throwing himself onto the floor for some finger pushups. It's like a temper tantrum but with a point, or at least that's how it looks to those who don't get what's going on, which is pretty much everybody bar one. But the fact of the matter is that it works, and that's not something that can be said for Aran and the Miya Twins.
The other factor that makes a difference for Karasuno is Sugawara. He comes screaming onto the court in a kind of literal sense, with the stated purpose of annoying the crap out of Aran for however long he's out there. Whether that attitude helps break through what's holding Karasuno back or if it's the realization that if they fail here, poor Suga will have barely gotten to play even though he's a third-year (or maybe it's having the Team Mom on the court), it's a turning point. It could just be as simple as being reminded that they're supposed to be trying to break Aran. When Suga gets him down on the floor after the ball, something seems to crystalize for Karasuno.
It really could just be the Team Mom thing, though, because if there's one thing Karasuno has that Inarizaka doesn't, it's that they all actually like each other (Tsukki's grump notwithstanding) and their fans are 100% behind them no matter what. When Inarizaki's pinch server comes out and screws up, on the other hand, the cheer squad immediately turns on him, booing him remorselessly. That's a crappy thing to do to a high school kid anyway, but as the Nohebi guy's girlfriend points out, this isn't even a professional game – it's a high school tournament. That level of pressure is not only unhelpful, it's also demoralizing and probably emotionally damaging. While it's not unheard of in high school sports no matter what country you're in, it certainly illustrates what the other team is being driven by. Karasuno at least genuinely loves what they're doing, and while they'll be upset if they lose, they also know on some level that it's just a game. (In fact, I don't think Hinata's ever thought of it as anything else, albeit one with decently high stakes.) But it doesn't look like Inarizaki has that option, especially when you look at their increasingly agitated coach on the bench.
And that is clearly taking more of a toll than anything. Aran is cracking, the Miya twins are squabbling, and that's when mistakes can start to happen. It may not end in the second set, but I wouldn't put my money on those twins if there's a third.
Haikyu!! To The Top is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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