Haikyu!! To The Top
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 22 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?
Never underestimate the power of the dumb guy – if there's one lesson I've learned from shounen manga and anime, it's that. (Mind you, that's because I learned “your friends are your greatest treasure” from Saturday morning cartoons back when I didn't know that The Mysterious Cities of Gold was anime.) It's a point that this episode of Haikyu makes in spades this week as Hinata reminds us why he's the main protagonist of this show after a few weeks of keeping him in the background. I can't help but wonder if taking the focus off of him wasn't a deliberate attempt to downplay his role. It would make sense, especially since the Miya Twins have their own special version of what was, up until now, his major contribution to the team, his quick set with Kageyama.
Of course, Hinata wouldn't be much of a main character if that really was all he had to offer, especially in a series like this one where care is taken to make sure that no one, not even members of the opposing team, is a cardboard cutout rather than a fully-fleshed out character. The Miya Twins have definitely been stealing the spotlight here for a while, and while that does make sense, Karasuno was more than due a moment in the sun. That it would come this week makes it feel sweeter, because after losing the second set, our boys in orange were definitely not in a great place emotionally. That they could lose control of the third so quickly says how tired they are (both physically and mentally) and just how high the stakes are for Inarizaki, a team that prides itself on forgetting their yesterdays in service of their tomorrows.
There is an argument to be made that this is not, in practice, a particularly useful method, although that implies that Inarizaki is taking the motto more literally than they perhaps are. But when we look at Hinata and how he's improved, we can see that it's precisely because of his yesterday that he's able to pull off what he does today. Hinata's always had potential, even if others have refused to see it, and he's taken that and used it as a foundation, laying both positive outcomes and negative setbacks as bricks that he fires in the kiln of his experiences. Hinata hates losing just as much as anyone else, but he – and all of Karasuno, really – learns from each lost set and tries to do something a little differently next time. That's how he turned being the ball boy into something positive, and it's those skills that he brings to the court in this episode. He doesn't manage to fully turn things around for his team, but that he did it at all is enough to recharge him.
Luckily for us, Hinata's enthusiasm is contagious, which clearly no one was counting on. (Not even Hinata – he definitely lives in his own little world.) He's just so giddy over his receive that it doesn't matter to him that things didn't pan out to get his team the point, because in Hinata's mind, if he did it once, he can do it again, and do it better. He's the embodiment of enthusiasm mixed with optimism, and if Karasuno has to be a few points behind, then Hinata's glee is definitely the next best motivator. And if Tsukishima finds him annoying, that's only one, or maybe two if we also count Kageyama; over on Inarizaki's side it looks like rather more teammates find the Miyas a little irritating or at the very least hard to handle.
Or maybe that's just me seeing my own annoyance at the shit-eating grin Atsumu had on his face for most of the episode. Not that he's lacking a reason to feel powerful at this point. It's more that this episode marks the moment when we stop admiring the skills of the guys on the other side of the net and start to really be concerned that Karasuno might not win this one. It's impressive, really, especially since the previous weeks have spent time letting us get to know the Inarizaki players and what motivates them. To suddenly throw that out the window, at least to some degree, and once again frame them as the ones who must be defeated is something that could easily have backfired.
We may still feel bad for Inarizaki if they end up losing. But if they win, we'll feel a whole lot worse for Karasuno.
Haikyu!! To The Top is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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