Haikyu!! To The Top
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 24 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?
I am not, as a rule, a particularly competitive person, so when I actually stopped breathing at a couple of points in this episode out of an all-consuming need for Karasuno to win, I knew that A) I was probably going to have to give this episode a 5 and B) not breathing is a poor plan. I should clarify that I have read past the events of this season in the manga, so it's not even like I didn't know the outcome of the Inarizaki game coming in. But it was just that tense that it didn't matter what I knew; a piece of me was still afraid that somehow, this time would be different.
Happily it wasn't, so I don't have to spend the rest of this review railing against series that wander away from their source material. (See: my phone call with my mother about the Sanditon miniseries.) This is one of those episodes that covers a vastly slimmer margin of time in the actual game than it takes us to watch it, and impressively it works. In order to make sure that we get the full amount of tension and stress, Haikyu has consistently slowed down the passage of time so that we can feel the impact of each thought and movement that goes into the game, and while it's generally worked well in the past, this is a particularly good use of the technique. We certainly don't hear from everyone on either team – and Kita's narration as a device is wearing a little thin here – but we get the most important pieces.
Interestingly enough, that doesn't necessarily mean getting inside Hinata's head. I could make snide comments about his head being exclusively filled up with “gettheballgettheballgettheball,” but while that may be true, it isn't what makes him so important this week. His true strength lies not in his jumping abilities or his speed, but in how he forces his teammates to react. That can mean him just being there, as Tsukishima grumpily notes, but it's also about his sheer joy in playing that makes everyone take a deep, steadying breath when they're getting too swept up in the frenetic energy of the final points and the driving need to score them. Speed, as a couple of characters note, is a double-edged sword: what you gain in space traveled and perhaps power is offset by the fact that it can reduce precision and tax what little energy you have left. When you start going too fast, all you can do is keep going at that same speed or faster, and whether you're running, skiing, or playing a ball sport, that can take a toll. Karasuno is in serious danger of hitting that point until Hinata bounds up like a golden retriever at a tennis game, snatching the ball away and creating a moment where you have to stop and think. That breath that he allows them to take is what gives Karasuno the space to win.
As it's happening, Daichi wonders what happened to Hinata at the first years' training camp that he crashed. The easy answer is that Hinata learned to think, but it might be better to say that he received criticism in a place where he was able to process it and learn from how others underestimated him. As a middle schooler, he wasn't mature enough for that, and his first few months in high school were mostly him trying to carve out a place for himself. Now he knows he has that place on his team, and so he has the luxury of learning how to make it more secure and think about the rest of the team while he's doing it. I'm not positive that's something Atsumu Miya or Kageyama really have – golden children don't necessarily learn the benefits of doubt and having to overcome it.
We can all breathe easy for a little bit now, though. The game is won, poor Tsukki can take a nap, and the dumpster battle is all but assured. Here's hoping we'll get to see it animated at some point after next week's episode gives us the cool-down after a very intense season.
Haikyu!! To The Top is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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