Haikyu!! To The Top
Episode 21

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 21 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?

This is one of those episodes that probably would have benefited from splitting the content into two separate episodes. Kinoshita's emotional turbulence and the backstory of the Miya Twins were most likely shoehorned into a single week due to time constraints, or at least I hope that's the case, because I'd hate to think that someone didn't think Kinoshita merited the time and effort. He's basically the representative of the normal players, those who aren't absurdly talented or don't have some special super skill that they can whip out when the time is right. He's not a bad player by any means, but he's continually overshadowed by teammates like Hinata, Kageyama, Nishinoya, and Asahi.

He also doesn't always perform beautifully when called upon as a pinch server – unlike Ennoshita and Yamaguchi who both consistently pull that off (even if a plastic bag is required for focusing purposes on occasion) – and he's not the cheerleader/team Mom that Sugawara is, nor does he have the ability to step in if setter Kageyama needs a break. He's just…kind of a regular guy, with his only real defining feature being that he's one of the few second-years who stuck around after the previous disastrous season. That's not an easy role to find yourself playing on a team full of ridiculously talented people, and it means that Kinoshita's much harder on himself than he strictly needs to be; his expectations for himself are higher, and thus the pressure he feels and the disappointment when he fails to suddenly become a prodigy are enough to almost squash him flat.

Maybe there isn't a whole lot more that could have been done with that, but it does feel a little bit like he's not given quite as much time as his complex emotional relationship with the current match merits. Even a deeper exploration of how well Suga is able to understand and relate to what Kinoshita's going through would have been nice, because you know that he has to have similar feelings as the only third-year largely stuck on the sidelines. And while our attention ought to be taken up by the people actively playing, one of Haikyu!!'s strengths is the way that it gives everyone, not just the ostensible protagonists, time to be fully-developed characters. Surely that could have been extended a bit here.

The same goes for the Miya Twins, although we do get a pretty good sense of who they are and how they function from their flashback. I can tell you from years of being one of a group of three sisters consistently referred to as “The Girls” (as in, no other group of sisters in my hometown is “The Girls;” it always refers to the Silverman sisters) that it can be both gratifying and a little difficult to always be seen as part of a set. That seems to be the case for Atsumu and Osamu, and probably informs the reason behind them dying their hair with different colors in high school – they've always got a built-in friend and competitor in each other, but they also never get to be seen as separate individuals, even when they're playing different positions. Again, exploring that just a little bit more this week would have been nice, albeit not quite as strongly as with Kinoshita. We do, however, get a sense that they may be starting to drift just ever-so-slightly apart when only Atsumu is picked for the special training camp – Osamu's remark that he's frustrated that he's not more upset and that Atsumu probably just loves volleyball a bit more than he does seems to indicate that he's not sure they'll always be playing as a set.

And what about the third set between Inarizaki and Karasuno? Yeah, that's still happening, just in between the character bits. It's not the best way to built tension, although I do love seeing Tsukki turn on the evil charm, and Atsumu's lunging set was pretty wonderful to watch. Hopefully two things will happen next week to bring things back up to their fever pitch: we'll see a bit more actual game play and fewer characters will look as if they're wearing saggy diapers under their shorts, because diaper butt is never a good look.

Rating:

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


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