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This Week in Anime
3 Years Later, Haikyu!! Is Still Flying High

by Nick Dupree & Michelle Liu,

The kids from the concrete are back to prove that the match against Shiratorizawa wasn't just a fluke. Hinata and Kageyama will have to hone their volleyball techniques further if they want to claim the Nationals trophy. Micchy and Nick check in on the good bois of Karasuno.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of Haikyu!! To The Top here.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

Micchy, times are rough in the sports world. Unless you're really into watching reruns of College Football championships and dunk contests from 2004, it's hard to find anything to watch with a total lack of March Madness. Thankfully, Haikyu!! is here to help us in these trying times by giving us a good healthy dose of smashing balls.
Those balls are going places alright!
Hinata deserves to look that smug. It may have taken 4 seasons and 6 years of anime but he's finally grown a second brain cell!
Meanwhile Kageyama's out here trying to break his own record for possible ways to scowl. Believe me, it's quite the challenge for his three brain cells.

It's OK Tobio. I'm frustrated the Olympics are delayed too. But god, it's really been nice to have the Volleybois back this season. After 3(!!!) years away it's been like reuniting with old friends from high school. Only everyone looks slightly different and one person's voice changed a lot.
Damn, has it been three years already? One more and it would've been a full Olympic cycle. But after the long wait, our favorite underdog Volleybois are back, and they're just the dumbasses we remember and love. Though perhaps calling them underdogs at this point is a mistake - still high off their victory against Shiratorizawa last season, they're ready to go to ~Nationals~! But first, a training arc.
It wouldn't be a shonen anime without a training arc! Though considering how tense and busy Haikyu!!'s games can be I was thankful for some relative downtime for these boys to be goofballs. Plus the revamped character designs mean the show's face game has gotten a major improvement and who doesn't want more of that?

Honestly, with a cast as fun and lovable as Haikyu!!'s, the between-game chill time is some of the best stuff in the series. Like don't get me wrong, the matches are a blast to follow moment-to-moment, but sometimes all I want is to watch a couple of dumbasses go at it.

Just look at my boys. They're so stupid. I love them.
Haikyu!!'s training arcs have also generally been where the most character development happens, in order to pay off later in actual matches. Like how S2's training eventually built up Best Boy Tsukki claiming his spot as Karasuno's secret weapon.
He's finally earned his spot in Karasuno's sizzle reel for reasons other than being stupid tall! He's our little beanpole who cares now.
And To The Top's major training camp has been especially beneficial for main character Hinata, who has finally, after 2 tournaments and a full year on an organized volleyball team, started actually learning how to play volleyball.
Look, Hinata's head can only handle two (2) thoughts a day, and up until now those two thoughts have been "jump high" and "hit ball." But after getting majorly snubbed from both Tsukishima's and Kageyama's fancy training camps, ball boy Hinata decides he should, y'know, maybe pay attention to how people play instead of keeping his eyes glued to the ball.
Yeah, I make it sound like Hinata's a total dipstick (and he kind of is) but his growth here is something you see a lot in young athletes as they progress. Some can get by on sheer talent or physicality for a while, but eventually anyone seriously playing any sport has to start learning more about the game and themselves to excel. Like probably my favorite moment in the entire season was this moment when Hinata calls up coach Ukai to ask him what to have for dinner..

Part of what Hinata needs to keep pace with Kageyama and all the other incredible athletes he aspires to is to adopt their strict discipline - in honing his basics, in treating his body right, in not being an utter disaster of a human being both on the court and off. He'll never be the total perfectionist (read: stick-in-the-mud) that Kageyama is, but he's starting to be a little more structured in planning his training.
It's just something really special to me that I can't remember seeing in any other sports series, and it's a testament to Haikyu!!'s ability to ground itself in (mostly) realistic athleticism. Hinata's arc is about not just becoming a better player for Karasuno, but becoming a better player for wherever he plays in the future.
Yeah, for a series that's usually all about the power of teamwork, it's pretty neat to see the coaches admit that there's more to the team's growth than what they can put in directly at that moment. The "team" itself only exists so long as these boys are in high school, but their potential as athletes continues far beyond. So as mentors, Ukai and Takeda have to weigh what's best for Karasuno vs what's best for the boys that make up the team. Even the randos whose names I can't remember.
How could you forget such memorable characters as uh...that guy who subbed in for Daichi that one time or the pointy haired one who keeps stealing Yamaguchi's spotlight? Or this deeply relatable boy who just desperately does not want to be playing volleyball right now.
Hey, I remember this trembling pile of nerves voiced by Ashe Fire Emblem. Princess something. He's at least more memorable than those guys on Karasuno's team who've done next to nothing for the past 3.5 seasons.
He is a very precious boy and the moment he walked on screen I knew Karasuno was going to crush his dreams.

But yeah, Haikyu!! has a lot of boys. A metric fuck ton of boys. And I'm sorry but we're gonna forget some of them and that's probably going to make the 12 people who love them more than life itself angry.
I'm sorry but you cannot convince me anyone cares about the guy on the right here. Literally what is his name even. He looks like a blob of mayonnaise come to life. Like if you took some nerd's starched collar and gave it a face.
If I know anything about Haikyu!! fans it's that there's at least 1 person who loves each and every one of these boys. And I can't blame them! Even when they're not important, they're super likable children. Except Oikawa. I'm glad his dreams died.
I personally have a soft spot for how Eyeliner Senku looks all creepy but is actually a huge dweeb who lives to flex on people taller than him.
Ah right, Hinata's no longer the only height-challenged attacker in the show now. We also get to meet this boy who is definitely a human and not a seagull transmogrified by a volleyball witch.

I know Haikyu!!'s had some out-there designs before but c'mon Furudate. I know a shapeshifter when I see one.
I'd say he's more goose in personality, but close enough.
He's some form of foul fowl, is the point. But I'm not surprised you'd gravitate to this shorty evangelist.
Should've seen that coming. I'll have you know though, being five feet tall is an advantage in certain sports. Just not this one.
Just saying, I'm not convinced you didn't pay off the screen writers on this one.
Kageyama's pretty chill about Hoshiumi's pipsqueak proselytizing tho, so I guess it's fine. Speaking of Kageyama, Karasuno's resident cranky boy is really playing with the big boys now.
Kageyama's always been the prodigy of the cast, but it really hits home when he's selected for the super special training camp meant to train kids for future international play. That's wild to think about.
Up till now we've been led to take his skills for granted. His growth has been pretty strictly emotional - he's spent several seasons learning not to be such a prickly jerk, finally settling into a reasonably comfortable dynamic with his teammates. But now his skills and potential are in question and he's very unhappy about it.

He knows he's good, but if he's aiming to play on the international level he can't be just good. He can't settle for what he has now if he's to really aim for the top. And uh, I guess he pushes this all onto his teammates because Kageyama doesn't know how to do feelings.
Kageyama's always been great at the parts of volleyball he can do on his own, but communication is a key part of the game and his most glaring flaw was his tendency to push away others. That lessened thanks to his friends at Karasuno but if he wants to play on the world stage he's gotta learn to communicate with anybody to be a useful teammate.
He struggles to find the balance between pushing his teammates to greater heights and meeting their needs moment-to-moment. He can see everyone's potential, but he struggles to tell them he's trying to bring it out. King he may be, but he's a lousy leader.
Thankfully the team around him are exactly the kind of stubborn dunkasses who'll get right up in his face if they think he's gone too far. That might sound like a recipe for in-fighting, but a little confrontation among friends can be important! Kageyama's not perfect at communicating yet, but he doesn't have to fear alienating his comrades while he figures it out. Granted he might lose some teeth from Tanaka but you don't need those to play volleyball anyway.
Nobody on this team puts up with his bullshit and that's why they're so good for him. The King's gonna get roasted to hell before he ever gets a chance to be a diva again.
But really all this talk of the future is a little premature. Before these boys can start thinking of being pros they have to win Nationals, and to do that they've got a ton of other teams they'll have to overcome and history has shown any new opponent could be the one to take them out. My money's on this king of Social Distancing.
But yeah, much as I enjoyed Hinata and Kageyama's growth spurts, it's also nice to be back in the swing of things with this tournament. Now the rest of the team can get some focus, like the shocking twist that Tanaka might actually get to kiss a girl.

Would not be surprised if Kiyoko beats him to it though.
She was on the track team so she's already got a running start.
Seriously though, how dare Haikyu!! put off fleshing out Kiyoko for like three seasons. More importantly, they were holding out on showing her leg muscles what gives!!
Hey, when you have several dozen boys to characterize it can take a while to get to anyone who isn't 100% vital to volleyball happening. But it certainly was nice to get a glimpse into Kiyoko's feelings about the team considering how long she's been around.
Anything's an upgrade from her former role as a walking pair of boobs, tbh. But it's nice to know that she sticks around because she genuinely cares about making the team's athletic dreams a reality, even if she's not part of the team proper. She lost the chance to make it big herself, so all she can do is help someone else.
Now just give me an episode about Saeko, guys. I know you have it in you.
Inb4 some people are cowards.
Really though, I'm just glad to have Haikyu!! in these trying times. And while it's going on break after the next episode I'm comforted knowing that it'll be back this summer and we'll get to see Karasuno fight some other good boys on the court.
And get whacked in the face, don't forget that.

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