This Week in Anime
Haikyu!! is at the Top of its Game

by Nicholas Dupree & Monique Thomas,

Karasuno is flying high as ever as they face off against their strongest opponents yet: the Miya twins and Inarizaki High in a bid to take Nationals. The staff change over hasn't held back our favorite volleyball boys as they make their journey to the top!

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

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.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Nicky, I just realized we've done ourselves and our readers a great disservice. it's almost the end of the season and we haven't talked once about Haikyu!!
Hey, even in a pandemic there's still quite a lot of anime coming out every season to talk about, it's hard when you really want to revisit one of your returning favorites.
But the pandemic is exactly why Haikyu!! Is more important than ever. With most major sports teetering on the edge of plague outbreaks and the friggin Olympics postponed to next year, seeing these good volleybois in action is absolutely invaluable.
Not only are the good volleyboiz back, they're hungrier than ever. After many hard climbs throughout the years, Season four subtitled "To the Top". shows how virtues such as effort and hard work are the things that make any desired outcome just within reach.

Karasuno has worked hard to hone themselves both as individual players and as a team, and it's gotten them to their 2nd match in Nationals. Unfortunately they're up against the most dangerous enemy in all of anime: Smug Mamoru Miyano.
Just because you're already high up doesn't mean you can't still be knocked down and it's Inarizaki's job to get in the way. With tough opponents, every inch to victory is a new battle itself.

Especially when your opponents start Copying your OWN MOVES!
God I love that moment so much. Parts of this match have been slow and more about setup than immediate engagement, but ending the first episode of this cour with that bomb was perfect. Karasuno's about to eat some serious crow. Though I also appreciate how this manages to take the KageHina Quick, arguably the defining ultimate move of our protagonists, and shows it isn't some crazy superpower only they can do. it's a good weapon, but it's not unique, and the higher they go in the sports world the more likely they are to face something just as dangerous.
Yeah, sometimes you just end up encountering a dude that can be scary for having freakishly long reach.

Since a team can't be carried on the power of genius twins alone, we get a few highlights of the other rival team players as well and how their efforts combined make this set of matches a perfect psychological warfare on top of the already intense physical sports battle.
Like this dude, whose super power is just being good at volleyball. Like that's it. He's good at it and does it well. If he were to play against Nekoma he would simply not lose. RIP To Karasuno but he's different.
Actually one of my favorite highlights of the season is just that dude because I'll note his skill is not that he's AMAZING at anything, he's just Extremely Consistent which is a different cake all together compared to the Miya (not named after Mamoru Miyano) Twins or other talents that we've seen in the past.

He's just so good at his routine that he's able to keep cool even when everyone is being crushed by the overall hectic pace of the match.
It's one of those skills that doesn't immediately strike terror into the hearts of opponents, but somehow way, way more annoying. Which I love. My favorite sports antagonists are always the ones who the heroes go "aw fuck, this guy again" when they show up. Also he's a god damn liar.

I think the thing that makes this team different is just that though, they're actually incredibly well rounded compared to other teams like Kurasano that has to simply rely on extremes.
I mean bringing guns onto the court is definitely extreme, and Hinata is absolutely the last person I'd trust with firearms. But yeah, the Inarizaki team definitely has the vibe of a Nationals-level contender, which makes their back-and-forth all the more engaging. There's no single cog to contend with like Shiratorizawa, but a full fleet of talented and disciplined players. Like, how's Tanaka supposed to compete with these guys? The only thing exceptional about him is how much of a Wife Guy he is at age 15.

At least he has an awesome sister!!
Saeko MVP. I know she's not playing in the game but she deserves it just for this HERO KENZAN moment.
The crowd element was one of the most interesting parts of the arcs that I was kinda sad to see dropped early but definitely a big highlight of watching an anime adaption is being able to hear those moments where the atmosphere totally changes on the beat of a drum over the oppressive energy of the opponent's fans.
Oh the crowd stuff was great. That's something most sports fiction doesn't or can't really integrate, but it's absolutely a real thing for fan crowds to try and mess up opposing teams, like yelling super loud during play calls. Which I guess makes Inarizaki the Seattle Seahawks of anime.
But returning to the topic of our Good Boy Tanaka, he may not be special and he may still have some colossal fuck ups, but even his hard work has some incredible pay-off. Even someone average can work hard to make a big difference in match.

Since everyone spent the first half of the season training it's really rewarding to see all the individual techniques come together, one by one.
See, that's what makes Haikyu!! so special. Sports, both real and fictional, can get obsessed with only being the best, or on the end result of a game. But part of the bleeding heart of athletic pursuits is just the desire to push yourself, to improve on who you were yesterday. Tanaka isn't ever going to be a prodigy, but that's no reason not to work to better himself anyway.
Yeah! Not everyone on the team can be a genius like Kageyama, or as Kenma would describe Hinata an "incomprehensible" freak, but team dedication is the foundation of their victories. So anytime we see the occasional successful play by like Tanaka or Suga over some of the usual suspects, it shows that even if the individual players aren't as strong as some of Inarizaki's members, as a team they're working hard to cover for their inconsistencies.
Oh right, in between all this we cut over to a match with Nekoma too. And their devious opponent has an evil scheme of making my lazy gamer son run. Those monsters.
Kenma is an extreme mood, actually.

It's a break in pace but seeing Nekoyama after so long helps hype up the eventual oncoming battle of the garbage dump that all the world to see. This also reduces some tension from the main match since we KNOW that no matter what Karasuno has to win in order to make their dream epic trash battle of reality, and the question is just a matter of HOW they get there.

But if you thought the answer was going to be anything other than "by the skin of their teeth" you'd be wrong.

I also dig that it's a very different style of game from Haikyu!!'s usual approach. It's basically one big chess game that's less about individual plays or points and instead about long cons and mind games.
Yeah Karasuno has never been one for defensive strategies so seeing a different type of playbook is really refreshing and dealing with this kind of stalemate gives us a bit of taste for what's in store since doing three whole matches in a row creates a war of attrition where one of your enemies is just battling the power of exhaustion.
It's a super good way to show this series' understanding of the game! Honestly that's been the best part of To The Top in either core - as the games get more complicated for our cast, and Hinata in particular, have developed a deeper understanding of volleyball in a really cool way. Like holy crap, Hinata can handle receives now!
All those Ball Boy drills start to pay off when even my son who is dumber than a bag of rocks can start spotting a ball when before he would've been pretty much useless.
Even Tsukki trusts him now! And you know that's gotta eat him up inside.
Even his rival, Kageyama starts feeling the pressure as Hinata acts like a monkey on his back trying to overcome his level of skill.
For real though, somewhere along this match Hinata became the unstoppable ball of sunshine that keeps Karasuno alive and it's as funny as it is heartwarming. No matter the odds or stakes, this boy just wants to play volleyball as long as possible.
It's really notable since he actually spends a good portion of the game out but when he's there and ready to play he really puts the fire under everyone's butt and that kind of internal pressure is also key to being successful, as he does every drastic move in order to score just one more point for our flightless crows.

This is also a key element for the twins as well, as we learn that they aren't just born geniuses but rather the reason they were able to get to the level that they're at is a combination of passion for the game, and pressure from having to deal with each other all the time.
"Deal with" is definitely the way to describe it. Turns out being near-identical doesn't make having siblings any smoother.

If anything I'd argue it'd make doing anything that much harder! If I had to fight a second "me" for everything, I'd be competitive as hell too!!
I love the detail that Osamu was the more talented setter as a kid but Atsumu usurped him entirely because he's a gremlin who turns everything into a competition. I don't know who's actually older but that's classic little brother behavior.
Their sibling rivalry has a lot of similarities to the team-rivalry between Hinata and Kageyama that we see more displayed in the previous story, it's taken a bit of a backseat as we watch each character grow better as players and people but it's that kind of combination of passion, effort, synergy, and pressure that separates the good players and the great players, which is what Atsumu is.
Yeah Atsumu is definitely the star, and the anime knows that because you don't cast Mamoru Miyano and NOT expect him to steal the show every time he speaks.
However, he is also like this, and voiced by Mamoru Miyano (the epitome of weird dork). For all the pressure the show isn't lacking in levity or comedy either.
I'm also down for whatever weird, long-distance bromance he's got going on with Hinata.

Look out Kageyama, even if you don't lose this match you're in danger of getting whatever the Volleyball equivalent of NTR'd is.
Well with so many people watching, including former rivals, I think they should start trying to figure out what it means to form a volleyball polycule. One of my favorite touches is seeing old characters react from home to the action at the same time the audience is seeing it.
It's especially fun when fan-favorites show up for 12 seconds to look at their phone, and the sheer pent up energy of the Haikyu!! fandom gets them trending on twitter. I don't even remember who Akaashi is but he was just as important as the President catching the plague, apparently.
I'm pretty sure that's owlboy's handler. Who I don't have a screenshot of but here is Bokuto cringing while watching the 2020 news cycle like everyone else.
But of course the bread and butter of this show is tense, heart-stopping rallies, and while the end of this match isn't quite as stressful as the finish to Aoba Johsai or Shiratorizawa's, god damn do I love the poetry of it.

Yeah, animation and execution wise Haikyu!! looks just as good as ever. Every play is animated in a way where you really feel the speed and power behind them. Also extra points for actually putting enough effort to color Aran's hands correctly in this shot. It's the kind of detail you don't always get to see in other anime, and Haikyu!! is full of it.
Speaking of detail, some sharp-eyed folks might recognize the line the Miya twins are giving there as they deliver their killer move in the final play of the game. Specifically from the match at the end of season 1, but that ended differently...

Dang, It's been so long I didn't even notice that!! But it goes to show how much influence those previous matches (and Oikawa) have carried those boys all the way up to this point, and even the sting of one (1) defeat can push wind under your wings. It's also the perfect storm to get my tear ducts flowing.
It's a perfect way to wrap up this match. It basically started with the Miya's picking up their pair's quick and turning it against them. But being so familiar with it means they know from experience it isn't unbeatable. Tsukki of course turns into a poet to make this point.

I think I was most focused on the fact that the biggest brain move Hinata could actually make was to give the opportunity for his teammates to slow down by putting the ball up nice and easy, mirroring what he learned at training camp.

Not only did my baby boy-o shoyo actually learn how to defend, he's also starting to learn how to think. They grow up so fast...
That training camp gave Hinata a whole second brain cell, and pretty soon he'll have run around enough for the two of them to rub together and spark an idea. And then the entire world of volleyball is in trouble.
Either way, I'll be here cheering when it happens. I simply can't get enough of these boys. Not only does Haikyu!! To The Top successfully replicate the highs and lows of watching real sports but after so many seasons of investment, it's actually at the level where you feel like your watching a real team of players having grown alongside them.
And what's more is I know that this ain't even the peak. Full up, I've read the entire manga and for as fun as this match has been I am praying with all my heart the anime gets the chance to cover what comes next. You anime-onlies deserve to see that Dumpster Fight.
My other son needs his boss battle, please give it to him. After having to wait a solid few years between this and the last season I was worried we might NEVER see it. Every stretch of anime seasons without a Haikyu!! in it feels so long, but somehow it keeps coming back just as good as the first time. Just like eating your favorite food.
The Haikyu!! Hiatus mood:
With one more episode of season 4 left, I don't think we'll be seeing the stuff of legends as soon as I'd like (like right now) but I can definitely smell the trash from here. The stank is intense.

Also, it smells like sweat. I hope these boys shower in their off time.
Wash and eat up boys. The game is far from over.
I may be calling myself out on this one but don't forget to watch your sleep schedule too.

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