Haikyu!! To The Top
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Haikyu!! To The Top (TV 4) ?
Now it's one thing to yell at Nishinoya or Tanaka, or even Hinata, all of whom can basically take it, but when you snap at Asahi, that's another story. It's basically like kicking a puppy, as the whole scene towards the end of the episode where Asahi keeps apologizing for apologizing. (I feel you, sir.) There's also the fact that he's a third year to Kageyama's first year, and it all adds up to being the catalyst for everyone finally realizing what precisely is going on with their starting setter as they play their practice match against Date Tech. (Date, meanwhile, just knows that something is off, and even though they don't say it, I'd imagine that they're feeling a little bitter about Karasuno being the team headed to Nationals right now.) Kingly though he may have always been, Kageyama's also usually polite to his seniors even in his form of address, so him losing it on a third-year is fairly remarkable.
All of it really comes down to Kageyama's own confusion and conflict over what it means to be a good teammate. He knows that it means that he needs to set the ball thoughtfully, but whose thoughts is he supposed to be listening to? Is he being a goody two-shoes (that dreaded phrase) if he's putting it where it's easiest to hit but that in turn is encouraging bad habits in the other players? Should he be frustrated with them or himself if they miss scoring a point? How is he supposed to know what everyone else is thinking? In part this last is just him apparently confusing “empathy/sympathy” with “actual psychic ability,” which thankfully Ukai does notice. But we've seen (and been told) time and again that volleyball is basically Kageyama's one major skill/intelligence in life and that he's not a particularly intellectual individual off the court. He's not stupid so much as he's specifically smart, and when he's got too many things going on in his head, he gets frustrated…and that's when he lashes out, no matter who, if any one, is at fault. It got him the moniker of “king” in the past, and that in turn led to his personal trauma, so it's hard to blame him for his words. Unfortunately, it's also hard for a lot of people to understand where he's coming from, and that's what gets him into trouble.
More specifically, it gets him into trouble with Tsukishima. I feel like “oil and water” isn't actually strong enough for the way those two react to each other, and Tsukki's terrible gentlemanly smile seems designed to push Kageyama's metaphorical big red button. (Yamaguchi frantically trying to call them off makes for a pretty great moment.) And that's when Hinata gets to bounce in to defuse things, reminding Kageyama why he loves playing setter in the first place – and his unexpected statement that it's okay to be the king sometimes feels like a revelation. Kageyama's been carrying that hurt and fear inside him for every single game since no one came for the ball in middle school, and Hinata's not telling him that he shouldn't. But he is saying that it's okay to sometimes be imperious if it gets the job done and that there's no one way he's supposed to play over the course of a game. Essentially he's letting Kageyama know that he's got his back, and when no one contradicts him, it occurs to Kageyama that maybe this isn't that old team or the guys he played with at camp.
That's one of the strengths of Haikyu as a whole – that the Karasuno team may have its warts, but ultimately they all get along and are able to balance each other out. Yes, some of them are prickly or obnoxious or quiet or just plain weird, but they do all try to understand each other so that they can better function as a single team rather than a collection of random people playing the same sport at the same time. For characters like Kageyama and Tsukishima, that's a bit harder to swallow, but Hinata's newly won observation skills may help to bring them into the fold. (Or at least annoy them until they listen to shut him up.) That's something Suga notices this week, and it should be interesting to see if he's able to help capitalize on the Hinata Effect.
First, though, they have to get back to all playing together well. We unfortunately don't see much of Hinata playing yet again this week, although him “crowning” Kageyama almost makes up for it, as does the brutal chest bump from Date. Ukai's comment about Date being a major issue next year is also important – it reminds us that there's a future beyond Nationals to look forward to, even if it's one that will see a different group playing under the Karasuno banner. That may not be nice to think about, but fortunately we still have a long way to go until then – longer if Kageyama is able to sort through his issues and get back in his groove.
Haikyu!! To The Top is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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