Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 21, “Hero,” depicts the start of the third and final set, between Karasuno and Inarizaki. Karasuno maintains its lead after Kageyama blocks Aran. Inarizaki’s Suna makes a quick attack, Tsukishima attempts to block but Suna twists his body to make the spike. However, Daichi receives the spike shocking Atsumu. Asahi slams the spike past Suna and Osamu, putting Karasuna up 4-2. The successful play is largely due to Tsukishima who takes the point brought up by Ukai that “it’s not just the spiker versus the blocker but rather the spiker versus six players.” Tsukki believes that “the belief of a kill block being the only type of block to scare a spiker is outdated.” Kuroo explains that if Karasuno attempted to “fully block Suna one-on-one, Suna would be able to manipulate things to his advantage.” Suna realizes that Tsukishima has been deliberately forcing him to hit crosscourt.
Kinoshita steps up to serve. He’s aware that the is his final chance to make an impact in the game. He’s focused and drowns out the crowd and his teammates. He serves and the ball heads toward Osamu, who then receives the ball allowing Aran to score. Kinoshita leaves the court for the last time disappointed that he couldn’t score. He still hoped that he could be “the hero.” Kinoshita originally struck me as a strange character to highlight. However, Haikyuu!! makes a point of reminding us that for the third year, a loss would be their last game. With the stakes so high the players all have tremendous pressure on their shoulders. Hinata scores with a quick attack, maintaining the two-point lead Karasuno earned. When Kageyama serves next the ball clips the net but tips over scoring. Sensing that they’re losing momentum, Coach Kurosu calls a time-out.
On the bench, Nishinoya finally admits that he’s afraid. He recalls how he was “terrified of many things when he was a child.” His grandfather helped him overcome those fears. He remembers that his grandfather told him “it was a waste of time to be scared.” With Atsumu next to serve, he once again targets Nishinoya. This time, however, Nishinoya uses an overhead receive instead of his usual underhanded ones. Karasuno performs a synchronized attack and Asahi lands a spike. Karasuno is up 10 -7. The next half of the episode focuses on the Miya twins. In a flashback, we see when they first meet Aran, how they come to admire setters, and why Atsumu became hated. The flashback is designed to explain what makes the twins so special. In the present, Karasuno can get the ball over but it’s intercepted by Akagi. The return is too low and Akagi is worried it won’t make it over. Suddenly, Atsumu bends low enough to get under the ball and makes an overhand set to Osamu. Karasuno may have gotten the lead but they still have to contend with the formidable Miya twins.
Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 17, ” Cats vs. Monkeys,” pivots from the Karasuno match. Mika and Suguru arrive to watch the first set between Nekoma and Sarukawa Tech High. We get a flashback of the third year discussing Kenma Kozume. Kuroo tells Kai and Yaku of when “Kenma would become sick after difficult practices or matches during their time in middle school and confesses that he felt guilty about it.” Kuroo wonders if Kenma is ready for the Spring Tournament. Kenma has so far is a character that isn’t in love with Volleyball. He comes across as actually not even liking the sport. However, as Kuroo points out and Kenma confirms, “if he did hate volleyball that he would have left it.” Kenma maintains his neutrality, noting that “he has no reason to stop playing but also doesn’t have a reason to keep playing and while he dislikes sweating and being out of breath, he does enjoy leveling up.”
What they do acknowledge is that Hinata has had a profound impact on Kenma. Back in the game, Iori Kanazawa can get a feint shot over Kenma and Kuroo. Kai makes the save, Kenma makes the set to Fukunaga. The spike from Fukunaga is deflected. Both teams are defensive-minded. Suguru notes that Sarukawa is “deliberating not trying to score quick points.” He believes that this is in service “ruining Nekoma’s rhythm.” Kenma’s stamina comes into question as he’s always had this limitation. In another flashback, we see how difficult Kenma found training. During this period Yamamoto and Kenma develop a rivalry. It’s largely negative with Yamamoto often dismissing Kenma’s help. They even get into an alteration. Fundamentally, Yamamoto and Kenma are different personalities. Yamamoto gets too intense when it comes to volleyball and Kenma is too laid back.
In the present, Sarukawa takes a two-point lead in the second set. Coach Shishio still thinks his strategy will continue to break down the Nekomata defense. It seems that the plan is working. It’s a little jarring for Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 17, to shift towards another team. I was critical of the series focusing on other characters before, and that criticism remains. It’s not bad to focus and develop secondary characters, but it feels inconsistent. Furthermore, I hate the break up of action. Regardless, Haikyuu!! is attempting to make the players more three dimensional. It may feel distracting but might be important.
As Karasuno prepares to play the Spring Tournament, nerves arrive
In Haikyuu!! Fourth Season, Episode 9, “Everyone’s Night,” the Karasuno team finally prepares to head to the Spring Tournament. It’s the New Year and the team is naturally nervous about the upcoming tournament. Kiyoko reassures them that ” she is certain they will do just fine.” The other team members are shown in a montage spending time with their families. Nishinoya, Tanaka, Hinata, and Kageyama end up playing hanetsuki together. Daichi, having had a nightmare earlier is unsettled. He scolds them for not resting before the tournament.
The following day, Karasuno heads to Tokyo. The members of Karasuno are stunned when seeing the Tokyo Skytree. At the Jaybird inn, Ukai announces that the team is going to watch their “best moments.” Titled, “I’m Awesome,” the video is a montage of all the best moments from the previous games. The video serves to inspire the team by reminding them that they are talented. This entire episode is about the anxiety that the team feels going into the tournament.
Finally, the big day arrives and team Karasuno meets and greets, friends and adversaries. Motoya greets Kageyama. Hinata sees Bokuto and Akaashi. Bokuto tells Hinata that “he will not show any mercy if they were to ever have a net between them.” Kageyama and Hinata’s nerves give way to excitement as the opening ceremony begins. This episode was mostly a set up for the tournament to come. It is effective in presenting the angst that the team feels. Everyone feels some level of this angst, not just the players. I expect that all the teams will focus on the upcoming tournament, while, nerves will remain determination and excitement is likely to rise to the surface.
Karasuno and Date Tech continue to battle in an eighth set
Haikyuu!! Fourth Season, episode 8, “Challenger” continues the practice match between Karasuno and Date Tech. Karasuno earns a set point after Aone bumps into Futakuchi during a block. Ukai and Hinata conclude that it’s best for him (Hinata) to “blend in with the crowd.” With Hinata remaining back, the rest of Karasuno manages to execute an attack. Distracted by Hinata, Asahi is able to get the spike winning the set for Karasuno.
Date Tech’s ideal plan
It becomes clear that the change in Hinata’s movement has caused Date Tech to “hesitate.” Ukai points out that teams often plan for Hinata to outpace his teammates. Tsukishima notes that Date Tech isn’t “fazed” by Hinata’s quick attack. He states that “Even if they are not aiming to stop every attack, they will still be able to have two blockers attempting to block and possibly even get a touch on Hinata’s quick.” The ultimate plan of Date Tech is to exhaust Hinata causing him to be blocked more. Tsukishima believes that when Hinata scores “Date’s blockers will hesitate more.”
Karasuno continues with the strategy of having Hinata blend in with the team. Karasuno is able to get another point frustrating Date Tech. In the fifth set, Karasuno lead by 3 points. Tsukishima points out that Date Tech will pay attention to Hinata more. As a result, “the chance to score from the side will increase and will cause the blockers to hesitate even more.” Tsukishima figures that eventually Date Tech will resort to “guessing,” when blocking making scoring for Karasuno easier.
The eighth set
In the eighth set, Tsukishima begins to tire. Annoyed, Tsukishima “pointing out that he does not have the same kind of stamina that Hinata has.” Kinoshita is chosen to sub in. He doesn’t really want to join the game and is visibly nervous. He performs a jump float serve that Obara fails to receive. His following serve misses. Later in the set Hinata pretends to use a minus tempo attack. He manages to trick Koganegawa into blocking him, leaving Asahi open to attack. Despite Date Tech’s blocking improving so much, Asahi isn’t afraid. Against three blockers he hits the ball with enough force to get the point and win the game. Karasuno and Date Tech each win four sets.
Karasuno continues to struggle with Date Tech’s improved blocking
Last week’s “Haikyuu!! Fourth Season Episode 7” sees Karasuno trying to incorporate new things while combating the improved blocking of Date Tech’s team. Tanaka manages to score when hitting a spike against Onagawa’s arm. The change in Kageyama’s personality doesn’t go unnoticed. Kinoshita and Narita are impressed by Kageyama’s “boldness,” however, Yachi is worried. He feels that Kageyama is “scarier.” Meanwhile, Date Tech’s blocking excites even their manager. Mai Nametsu notes that his team’s level must be due to their excitement at facing Karasuno. Coach Oiwake agrees, noting that “it was not too long ago that the Date players would fall for distractions that would cause them to be more spread out on the court but now are more focused.”
Some of the changes to Kageyama is his personality. Despite Kageyama’s annoyance at Tsukishima spike, he’s more subtle or reasonable. Sugawara points out that Tsukishima and Kageyama would have engaged in an argument had the later responded. It seems that Kageyama is learning to moderate his responses. Koganegawa, watching from the sidelines, admires the set that Kageyama made. Not too low, too high, too far or too close, Koganegawa becomes emotional. Date Tech continues to dominate, successfully blocking many of the Karasuno’s attacks. Date Tech gets a three-point lead. The other players of Date Tech realize that Karasuno is “off their game.” They win the first set.
The return of the King of the Court
Kageyama’s attitude continues to cause trouble. Asahi over-hit Kageyama’s set. He apologizes, but Kageyama bluntly tells him to “just score already.” He then goes on to say that his “tosses are so good that the spikers should be able to score more.” He quickly realizes that he went too far. He flashes back to when he was abandoned by his former middle school teacher. However, Hinata asks him ” what he finds wrong with being the King.” Hinata, Tanaka, and Tsukishima all agree that when he talks down to them they just ignore him. Ukai reminds Kageyama that in order to deliver the “best set” it’s necessary for the spiker to be able to hit it easily. Kageyama needs to communicate better.
Set number two begins. Kageyama uses a set that’s higher than normal. Tsukishima misses the ball. Kageyama informs him that “he is not going to stoop down to his level anymore.” Date Tech reach set point. Tsukishima runs to spike one of Kageyama’s higher sets, managing to get it past two blockers. However, he misses and Date Tech wins the set. Kageyama tells Tsukishima that “he too can fly.”
The fourth set
Kageyama and Tsukishima are working better together. Karasuno gains the lead. Tsukishima notes that if they had continued blocking form the lower point, they would have been met with better blocks. Daichi thinks that they can “experiment.” They decided to send Tanaka fewer sets. Kageyama tosses to Asahi. He fails to successfully send the ball over. Meanwhile, Date Tech’s Futakuchi hits a powerful jump serve. Tanaka hits the receive, Asahi sends the ball to Hinata. Blocked by three blockers. Ukai notes that Futakuchi and the rest of Date Tech could become their toughest opponent.
Hinata and Kageyama are greeted by their fellow teammates. They are all interested in what happened at the camps. Yachi-san puts green tape on the net. She explains that she’s splitting the net into nine parts. The separation is designed to help the team with their serving. While Hinata and Kageyama were off at camp, the rest of Karasuno has been working on serving better. With the team heading into Nationals they will need to counter jump float servers. After the practice, Hinata asks Kageyama what he meant. He explains that “his current jump is like ‘boing boing’ and it’s his job to act as the decoy by running all over the court.” Kageyama believes that Hinata can jump higher.
Kageyama tries to get Hinata to “use the balls of his feet.” Hinata finally manages to shift his weight properly, but he’s interrupted by Daichi who yells at them through the windows. The following day Ukai asks Kageyama about his time at the training camp. Kageyama is still concerned with the “Goody Two-shoes” comment he received from one of the players. Ukai tells him not to be bothered by the comment. Eventually, the Date Tech team arrives. They are intense and thank team Karasuno for inviting them. Ukai notes that Date Tech has “blocks that are easily the best in the prefecture and may be worthy of being on a national level.”
The game begins
The starting players begin the game, with Onagawa serving. Despite using Hinata as a decoy, team Karasuno is unable to get past the blockers. Date Tech used a “bunch shifting.” Ukai explains that “the bunch block works by the players bunching together in the center so they can move wherever they need to when they see where the set will go with as many blockers as they need.” The downside is that “this method is that they may not be able to get a block up in a time when faced with a fast attack at either end of the court.” Hinata and Kageyama are frustrated by the ability of Date Tech to block their spikes.
Hinata serves, as Tsukishima subs in. Date Tech manages to continue to dominate with their superior blocking. Despite the pressure of facing such blocking, Kageyama is excited about the challenge. During the next rally, Futakuchi is able to get a feint shot over Karasuno. However, Nishinoya manages to use his “Rolling Thunder” to make a receive. Even though he’s praised for his receive, Kageyama shocks him by yelling that he’s “in the way.” I am happy to see Haikyuu return to the games. Obviously that’s the point of this series. However, I missed watching the games from start to finish. Regardless, I like the dynamics of these matches. I am curious to see how Karasuno manages to overcome the blocking of Date Tech if they do at all.
Haikyuu!! Fourth Season, Episode 5, Hunger sees the final day of training camp. Kageyama’s attitude changes. He recalls what Oikawa said to him. The coaches notice this change, with one of the coaches recalling the reputation Kageyama had. At Shiratorizawa, a 2 on 2 games is taking place between Hyakuzawa, Kunimi and Goshiki, Tsukishima. Hinata continues to observe from the sidelines. He is able to correctly predict Kunimi next move. Tsukishima gives Goshiki a poor set, pissing him off. Akakura and Hinata discuss Hyakuzawa’s skills. They agree that he has poor defense, but “excellent stamina,” and has incredible reach.
Practice match against Shiratorizawa
Anabara announces that the first years will play a practice game against Shiratorizawa. During the game, Hinata stares at Ushijima as he plays. He approaches him after the game and asks “what he is thinking about when he is making a receive.” Shirabu encourages Goshiki to ask Ushijima for advice as well. At first, he refuses because Ushijima is his “rival.” However, when Shirabu tells him that he’s a “step behind Hinata when it comes to taking an initiative.” Shocked he rushes to ask Ushijima for some advice. At the youth camp, the players switched their usual positions.
Eikichi gets a feint over other blocks, Motoya saves the feint. Kageyama spikes Hoshiumi’s set, scoring a past a double block. The coaches are impressed that Kageyama makes an excellent left side wing spiker. Elsewhere at Karasuno, the team continues to practice their serves. Kinoshita performs a jump float, but Nishinoya manages to save. Kinoshita is quickly becoming more skilled in the jump float. With the spring tournament a few weeks away, team Karasuno needs practice.
The Shiratorizawa and National camp ends
The coaches praise the players. They are told that “the camp was a way to get them started on their youth activities and that it was also used to help them figure things out and that room for improvement is still possible.” All the players depart from both camps. Washijo while having dinner with the other coaches remarks that short players like Hinata need to have the “hunger.” The following day, Hinata and Kageyama finally meet again. They quickly begin competing, racing to the club room. Kageyama mentions the Little Giant, suggesting that he’s “a hundred times better than Hinata.” At Date Tech, Coach Oiwake informs the team they will play a match against Karasuno.
Tsukishima asks Hinata to join him for some “blocking practice.” Hinata excitedly announces to the other players that “Tsukki’s joining in!” At the national training center, Kageyama is asked by Sakusa, “why did Shiratorizawa lose?” He assumes that Wakatoshi-kun was “not at his best.” Kageyama responds that he “didn’t seems off.” Sakusa concerned for possible threats, want’s to know who was responsible for blocking Wakatoshi. He’s interrupted by his classmate before Kageyama could answer. Elsewhere, the teachers of the camp discuss why Washijo-sensei is even holding it. They suggest that since losing to Karasuno, he’s changed. Meanwhile, Hinata and the others continue there practice. Tsukishima believes that by practicing against Hinata, a spiker that “can actually see the blockers.” At the national training center, Kageyama impresses the instructors.
They praise his ability to adapt, his instinct and good technique. The animation makes a dramatic leap when Korai Hoshiumi springs into action. He seems a little short for the typical player and oddly resembles an owl (at least to me). He looks cool and definitely stands out. I wonder how Hinata would react to another small powerhouse. Anyway, he picks a fight with Kageyama. He doesn’t like that Kageyama isn’t impressed by him. Like Hinata, his lack of height of leads people underestimate him, a become shocked that he’s so good. He’s become use to this dynamic and expects it. Miya Atsumu pisses Kageyama off by suggesting that he’s a “goody Two-shoes” on court. Back at Shiratorizawa, Hinata continues to observe the other players.
One such player, Hyakuzawa, is having difficulty with 2 on 2’s. He’s exhausted, his playing style begins to declines, and makes too many mistakes. He feel out of place. Out loud, he tells Hinata that he wishes he wasn’t invited. Hinata reminds him that he was invited for a reason. In the typical hyper manic way Hinata tells him how “super talented” tall players are. Hinata’s pep talk works and Hyakuzawa plays much better. Hinata may not be an official part of the camp but he’s having a tremendous effect on the other players.
The third episode of Haikyuu!!, Perspective, see Hinata take a greater effort in his work as a ball boy. Hinata observes the third set of the practice game between the first and third years. When he witnesses Kunimi successful picking up Ushijima’s spike, he notices that he’s a dear in the headlights when anticipating a spike. Yamagata moves in sync with the blockers, allowing him to receive a spike form Hyakuzawa. He recalls that Nishinoya told him that excellent receivers are “able to tell where the ball will go from reading the spiker’s form.” Being a ball boy, gives Hinata a new perspective. Literally. He usually watches the ball, however, he now can see how the other players perform. He starts to notice, their movements and techniques.
He recalls practicing with his friend, Tamayama. During the tennis practice, Hinata isn’t helpful. However, Tamayama tells him that he has “superb reflexes.” Hinata remembers the “split step,” that Tamayama taught him. The split step is a “move in which a player takes their feet off the ground in order to reset their form when an opposing player is about to strike and then use that momentum to go into their next move.” Hinata using this technique, is able to catch the ball before it hits him in the face. However, his noise starts bleeding. With all this observation, Hinata realizes that there are a lot of holes in his game.
While, Hinata betters himself, so does team Karasuno. The following day they practice against the Tokonami team. Despite practicing on their serves they, some fail to clear the net. Team Tokonami wins. With the win, they feel confident that they will make Nationals. Back at Shiratorizawa, Hinata starts to put his new movement to good use. This catches the eye Anabara, who comments that “Hinata is now starting to put thought into his movements which will later blend with his instincts to become intuition.” This episode briefly touches on Kageyama at the National Youth Camp, there not much there. However, I’m hoping that they show his progress in the next episode.
The series is taking it’s time showing Hinata’s progress, but I think it’s effective. I thought that he was going to get on the team, but I actually think this is better for him. First he needs to be humble after his inappropriate behavior. However, he’s was single-minded while playing. With his new perspective, he’s already becoming a better player.
In episode 2 of Haikyuu!! Fourth Season, Hinata struggles with his new role as ball boy. However, he takes to the role with the same hyper energy he does everything else. You feel for him. As he’s a bit embarrassed but desperate to get better. Washijo-sensei is harder on Hinata than he is on the other ball boys. The other coaches theorize that Coach Washijo is being petty because Karasuno took “the Spring Tournament from them.” This episode focuses less directly on the volleyball and more acutely on Hinata. Particularly focusing on his eyes, as he has been relegated to a spectator. Washijo makes it clear however, that his “determination” won’t change anything. I anticipate that his opinion will likely change. Coach Ukai asks Hinata if “he really thought they would let him practice with them?”
Hinata laments the fact that he’s “behind” his competition. Coach Ukai tells him that he shouldn’t “underestimate what it takes to be a ball boy.” The next day Hinata steps up his effort as a ball boy. Meanwhile, third years and some alumni from Shiratorizawa arrive. Hinata gets excited. The teams play as Washijo gives instruction from the sidelines. Shiratorizawa takes the practice set 25-14. Satori Tendo asks Hinata why he isn’t playing. Hinata tells him that he wasn’t invited and crashed. However, Wakatoshi isn’t nearly as amused. He asks Hinata “What is he doing?” Elsewhere, team Karasuno begins practicing serves. Coach Ukai is concerned that they might lose some of their players. Ukai knows that the students aren’t the only ones competing but the coaches and the schools are as well. They need to keep helping their players get better, otherwise they might lose them.
Haikyuu!! Fourth Season is still setting the narrative for the season. I’m curious how Hinata joins the practices, he’s running out of time. Is it possible for Hinata to remain the ball boy? That would be interesting, but I don’t know how that would help him grow. Regardless, Haikyuu!! Fourth Season remains compelling and I can’t wait for the next episode.