Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 24, “Monster’s Ball,” concludes the dramatic game between Karasuno and Inarizaki. In the last episode, Hinata put Karasuno up 26 – 25 when he scored with an instinctive foot save. Up match point the team is eager to finish the match. The competitive match has garnered attention from other teams in the stadium. Anabara at Johzenji High comments that “it is almost certain that Karasuno’s receivers must felt an intense amount of pressure at this point.”
Atsumu delivers a jump float to Daichi. He cannot get the reception and Inarizaki get to match point. Daichi and Coach Ukai point out “how they seem to go through the same thing anytime they have been in a similar situation against another team.” The team relaxes. Atsumu tries to over power Daichi with his next serve. However, he digs the ball up. Kageyama rushes to set the ball to Hinata who scores. They tie the game at 27-27.
Tsukki gets exhausted
Hinata moves back to serve, while an exhausted Tsukishima moves onto court. Despite this, he’s able to get the block off a spike from Suna. He relies on Hinata to take advantage and get the spike. Hinata doesn’t disappoint. Tsukki is struggling to stay alert, being annoyed that his “body is falling behind his mind.” He almost falls over attempting to return a spike. In the next point, Asahi hits a powerful block-out, overwhelming the triple block. Karasuno is once again at match point. In the next series of points, Inarizaki can score on Suna and Aran’s consecutive spikes. Inarizaki now has match point. Osamu moves to serve, but Asahi receives the serve and Kageyama surprises his opponents with a setter dump. Karasuno speeds up, despite Coach Ukai’s concern. He sees that their desperation has resulted in more concentration. Hinata sends a first touch high into the air.
Anabara explains that “the high toss being one that is easily forgotten but can actually be of great importance during a chaotic match as it will allow a player and his team to gather themselves.” Focused, Karasuno launches a synchronized attack. They cannot score but avoid losing any points. The Miya twins attempt a minus tempo quick attack. It fails, as Karasuno is prepared, Hinata and Kageyama block it. They win after the ball lands in at the back of the court. I wasn’t expecting this episode to centered on the end of the game, but it worked.
Haikyuu!! To the Top has always been good at showing the mental and psychical stress sports can put on the players and audience. It also effectively simulates the dynamics found in sports. For example, the back and forth that the deuce scoring system allows is occasionally this dramatic. Finally, I liked how this episode used Anabara as a stand in for less knowledgeable viewers. He was important to understanding the nuance in volleyball.
The twenty-third episode of Haikyuu!! To the Top begins with the Inarizaki up 18-17 on Karasuno. Suna quickly scores, telling Tsukishima that “he lacks stamina.” In the next point, Tsukishima and Kageyama fail to implement a synchronized attack, resulting in an error. They each take the blame for the failure. In the following point, Tsukki gets the spike past Aran and Omimi. Asahi prepares to serve and the commentators note that he’s only been getting 50% of them in this game. With Inarzaki with a 20-17 point lead, he hits a powerful service ace in the corner. The Miya twins get excited. Kita can receive Asahi’s next serve. Aran gets the spike but Tsukki gets the one-touch. Asahi then fails to get his spike through Atsumu. Suddenly, Osamu and Atsumu attempt the knew quick attack but they’re off. Daichi receives the next ball and joins the sync attack.
Kageyama sends him the set and Daichi spikes it. Kita attempts to receive, but it bounces off into Inarizaki’s banner. The teams are tied at 20-20. Asahi is up to serve again. It clips the net. Akagi gets it back over but Tsukishima smashes the ball before Atsumu can return it. However, the lead is short-lived as Omimi immediately scores. The Miya twins try another quick attack but they pivot at the last minute allowing Aran to score. Inarizaki goes up 22-21. Tsukki steps up to serve. Due to his weakness in serving Karasuno is alert especially Hinata. Suddenly, Atsumu performs a setter dump. Daichi quickly tries to get his team to move past the point. In the next rally, Inarizaki reaches the match point.
Karasuno save match points
The Aoba Johsai High members watch cheering for Karasuno to make a comeback. Asahi receives Aran’s serve, Kageyama sets for Tanaka who attempts a cross-shot. However, Omimi blocks it. Nishinoya gets the save and Kageyama sets to Hinata. Aran manages to pop the ball up, the ball is too low but Atsumu makes the set anyway. Kageyama gets another chance to set to Tanaka. Ukai notes that “Inarizaki’s blockers have been more cautious of Tanaka ever since he managed the cross-shot that won the first set and how the blockers have been subtly cutting off the path for Tanaka in case he were to attempt it again.” However, another path is left open, straight up the line. Karasuno is excited and Inarizaki is shocked. Regardless, Inarizaki is still up a match point.
Kageyama prepares to serve. He makes a powerful serve but Osamu receives it. The power of the service causes the ball to go over the net landing out. The teams are now timed at deuce. Kageyama uses a powerful serve the next time, surprising Inarizaki. They still get the ball over but Hinata gets the spike, giving Karasuno match point. Ginjima saves match point after Atsumu sets in the next point. Deuce. In the next rally, Kageyama barely manages to reach the ball before Suna. When the ball falls straight down, Hinata kicks it over the net. Karasuno has match point again. Episode 23 of Haikyuu!! To the Top ends on a cliffhanger. This episode was successful at building tension and anticipation. It was intense. The match was notable for its focus on characters other than Hinata and Kageyama. At first, I was resistant to it but I think this series was effective. Ending the episode at match point is an odd choice. However, I’ll reserve judgment after I see the next episode.
Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 22, “Pitons,” Inarzaki becomes inspired by the set from Atsumu. Riseki starts with a service ace. Coach Ukai calls a time-out. He tells the team that “Riseki’s serves should be manageable for them to receive and stop.” After Aran scores on a Tanaka receive, the team’s tie at 11. Riseki’s final serve is successfully countered by Tsukishima. Asahi misses a powerful serve but can return Osamu’s. Kageyama sets to Tanaka, who fails to score on a crosscourt shot. Omimi insults him by calling him a “weaker version of Bokuto.” Inarzaki takes the lead. Inarzaki begins to dominate with the Miya twins performing a “reverse minus tempo quick attack.” Karasuno starts to panic as their lead slipped and the face an unexpected move from the twins.
Hinata returns to the rotation, injecting some hope in the team. He is quickly able to get a point for Karasuno. During the next play, Hinata and Tanaka block a shot from Atsumu. However, they were overeager, blocking the shot before the setter could set and the ref calls the point for Inarazaki. Atsumu serves next, and together with his brother, they’re able to set for Aran, who lands a clean spike. However, to everyone’s surprise, Hinata keeps the ball alive with a perfect receive. Karasuno begins a five-person sync attack. When the is deflected after a block it appears to be heading out, however, Hinata once again makes an impressive save. He sends the ball to Kageyama. Hinata rushes back into the court calling for the set. With Hinata distracting the blockers, Tanaka can get past Osamu and Suna.
Despite this effort, Karasuno loses the next point after the ball clips the net and Inarzaki scores. Ukai attempts to get the team past the last point after another time-out. The team still questions if they can win. Hinata breaks the bleak moment, resulting in the team laughing. Hinata is often praised for his on-court plays but it’s often his behavior off the court that inspires his team. Karasuno is going to need that energy if they’re going to make a come back.
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.
In episode 20 of Haikyuu!! To the Top, “Leader,” Inarizaki’s team captain Shinsuke Kita enters the game. Kita is blunt. He immediately intimidates his teammates. Once the game continues, Kita is up to serve. Daichi receives then Kageyama gets the set to Asahi. When Asahi thinks he made the block-out, Kita dives to keep the rally alive. Osamu and Akagi get the ball over. Karasuno responds by using a synchronized attack. Despite getting the spike past the blockers, Kita makes another save. The game is now 23 – 15 in favor of Inarizaki. Kita’s presence has a powerful effect on his team. He’s known for being straightforward and not wasting any movements. Kita is through, and he doesn’t make mistakes. Yamaguchi serves for Hinata. Kita shocks everyone by returning the serve. Ginjima lands a spike that puts Inarizaki up set point. They win the set on a Suna spike.
Nishinoya is having difficulty. Asahi promises that Nishinoya will get an opportunity to score. The third set begins with Atsumu serving. The serve appears to be going out before it curves and lands inside. After missing that serve, Nishinoya releases that he’s scared. Daichi serves, and Aran makes the first touch. Osamu fails to get the spike because Tsukishima blocks him. Ukai changed the rotation so that “Tsukishima can commit to Osamu and Suna more during this set as he is the one who will most likely stop the twin’s copy of the freak quick attack.” Asahi hits past a double block, but Atsumu makes the receive and calls his brother to make a set. Osamu instead chooses to set, Aran makes the spike. Kageyama can block, maintaining Karasuno’s lead.