Haikyu!! To The Top
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 23 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?
All of the tension that Haikyu was lacking before this week? No longer a problem. This week's episode is one of the tensest of the season, with Karasuno and Inarizaki trading the lead back and forth, essentially bickering over a single point. That makes it starkly obvious that Inarizaki has never scored more than twenty-five points in a set – it lost them the first and won them the second. It's probably not a good idea to read too much into that, but it does look an awful lot like foreshadowing here; even if they surpass their usual twenty-five, they seem to be a team who, intentionally or not, put a lot of stock in scoring that precise number of points. It would make sense if that were the case. That's the number needed to win the average set, and with their motto and their coach's emphasis on always moving towards the next match, there's a certain logic behind zeroing in on the number twenty-five with the express and explicit goal of getting there before the other guys. And with the Miya Twins, Aran, and Rintaro, doing so while being two points ahead at the very least is often a very achievable goal.
Upending logic, however, is one of the places where Karasuno excels. Not only are people used to underestimating them after the school's famous fall from glory, but they're also obviously a much smaller team than almost all of the others they've gone up against. That means fewer players who can be swapped out for someone who isn't exhausted, even for a moment, which adds up to much more stress, both mental and physical, on the guys on the court. Even brilliant players get tired, as we see this week as both Tsukishima and Kageyama start to stumble a little. It isn't much, but at this point, even the tiniest bit of fatigue and stress-induced miscalculation could be fatal.
That makes it a very good thing that they've got the king of zero logic on their side. Hinata hasn't really been the center of attention for the last month of episodes (roughly speaking), which is an interesting choice given that he's nominally the main character. But what's more interesting is that no one person has stepped up to be the stand-in protagonist in his place – we've seen everyone get a chance to be the focus during this game. We have seen more of Tanaka, Nishinoya, and Asahi, which makes the fact that Daichi gets the spotlight this week, however briefly, something of a relief. He may not be the ace or the most surprising (or strongest) player, but the poor guy is the team captain and one of the three third years for whom there's arguably a lot more riding on this match. If I have one persistent complaint about this season it's that the show feels like it may have lost sight of that a little bit. But what's most important right now about Daichi is that he's the solid foundation upon which the rest of the team stands. He's not bouncy like Sugawara or anxiety-ridden like Asahi, but his stability is key, so seeing him speak up when needed is a quiet but important moment – and that it's the other team's captain who realizes Daichi's importance is a nice acknowledgement of it.
But if Daichi's the foundation, Hinata's the banner flapping madly in the wind on top of the building – and maybe even flapping madly when there isn't any wind, catching everyone's attention. It was his refusal to be brought down last week that really made this aspect of his stand out, and this week we can see everyone remembering that and using it as fuel to keep going. The more curmudgeonly members like Tsukki and Kageyama would probably eat rocks before they'd admit it, but the sheer joy Hinata feels on the court is still infectious. Between that, the fact that Inarizaki is starting to get frustrated, and the weird surprises that Hinata whips out – like kicking the ball over the net – this really does feel like anyone's game.
Whatever the outcome, next week is going to be intense. The question is how Inarizaki is going to react as Hinata's unpredictability spurs the rest of Karasuno on in a way that they don't seem to be expecting.
Haikyu!! To The Top is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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