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.
Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 19 returns to the match between Karasuno and Inarizaki. Karasuno is down 7-14 as Atsumu serves. He delivers a float serve toward Nishinoya who is unable to return it. Atsumu scores a service ace. Daichi realizes that Inarizaki has tried to avoid Nishinoya except for Atsumu. Suguru explains that “Atsumu is most likely doing this because it will cause the rest of the team to become uneasy with receives if their best receiver is left useless.” When the teams return to the court, Atsumu serves again to Nishinoya. He fails to return it. Nishinoya begins to do finger push-ups as punishment. Atsumu serves against Nishinoya one more time, however, this time Nishinoya can receive the ball. Tanaka sends the ball towards Asahi. The latter isn’t able to hit a powerful spike but manages to get the ball over.
Get Inarizaki off their game
The Inarizaki team can get the return past Tsukishima. With a ten-point lead, Atsumu serves again but it’s out. Karasuno now serves. Asahi hit a powerful serve, Aran can receive it but the ball was so powerful that it returns to Karasuno’s side. Asahi serves again and Aran can receive it. Osamu and Suna make the return and Suna can get the ball past Tsukishima. Atsumu states that “Suna has an easier time getting past blockers the more talented they are.” Daichi encourages his team to get “Inarizaki off their game.” Ginjima serves up next. Nishinoya makes the receive and Kageyama sets to Tsukishima. Suna can get a “one-touch on the spike.” Karasuno and Inarizaki have a spirited rally that results in Aran slamming the spike. Karasuno hopes to put pressure on Aran, Sugawara aims his serve at the ace. After another spirited rally, Karasuno hits an error.
Pinch server, Heisuke Riseki, subs in for Suna. He serves, but Asahi gets the receive, and Hinata and Kageyama score with a quick. Its Karasunos turn to serve and they score an ace. Kageyama’s powerful serve draws attention. Hinata comments that he’s become “Kalm Kageyama.” He explains that Kageyama has “entered a calming state in which he is performing at his very best and mostly happens when he is playing against a powerful opponent.” Kageyama gets another service ace, followed by an Inarizaki error. Aran can stop the string of points from Karasuno. Osamu hits a wild serve. Suddenly, the Inarizaki team captain is subbed in surprising his team.
Sarukawa Tech High takes the lead in the second set against Nekoma. Lev approaches the net, while Kenma sets to Fukunaga, who scores. Kenma begins to show signs of exhaustion. As his stamina decreases his set gets lower. Sarukawa has the advantage and the lead, 23-21. Their plan to tire Kenma out is working and Kenma even falls. Nekoma’s Kuroo and Yaku plan to do their best to adapt. Kenma tells his teammates to “purposely make sloppy receives at opportune times.” Nekoma’s new plan works and they tie. Sarukawa Tech believes that they were doped. They assume that Kenma was pretending to be exhausted so they would let their guard down. After a series of rallies, both teams prove their defensive abilities, reaching 28-28.
When Yamamoto receives a short ball from Kanazawa he sends it Kenma’s way. Kenma prepares to set the ball towards Fukunaga assuming that he would be “the best choice since he would still be able to get the ball past any blockers.” Kenma’s decision pays off, Fukunaga gets the spike and Nekoma wins the game. Kenma is praised by his teammates Yaku and Kuroo for his effort. Kenma notes that if they had to play a third set “it would have been the end of him.” Together they watch as Karasuno plays against Inarizaki High. In my last review, I thought the break from the Karasuno match was a mistake. However, since Haikyuu!! To the Top followed the match to the end, it feels like a good decision. Regardless, I’m excited to see what Hinata and the rest of Karasuno will do.
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.
“Broken Heart” is the 16th episode of Haikyuu!! To the Top. Yamaguchi scores a service ace. However, Aran retrieves Yamaguchi’s next serve. Ren Omimi smashes a spike. Yuto Kosaku subs in for Omimi, and his serve overpowers Daichi, resulting in the ball flying over to Inarizaki’s side. Surprisingly, Kageyama runs under the net and sends it back over towards Karasuno. Asahi executes a block-out, taking the point for Karasuno. The dynamic between Karasuno and Inarizaki has shifted in Karasuno’s favor for now. Regardless, they have won the last two points. Karasunp and Inarizaki are tied at 24-24.
Tanaka takes center stage for the worst reasons. Underperforming, he becomes the weak link and main target for Inarizaki. Tanaka notices that he a target and is prepared for the challenge. Karasuno manages to score on a back-row attack from Daichi. Karasuno has a set point with Asahi serving. The two teams engage in a spirited rally. Tanaka is given the chance to spike and take the set. However, he barely misses as he’s blocked by three Inarizaki. With the score now tied again at 25-25, Tanaka feels guilt. If Tanaka wasn’t feeling bad enough, when he calls for the ball, Tsukishima sends it to Asahi instead.
Tanaka comes through
Karasuno is now up another set point. Tsukishima can be harsh on his teammates and many might assume this was another moment of that, but I think that Tsukishima made the right decision for the team. Volleyball is a team sport, so if one member is a liability his feeling and ego shouldn’t take precedence. Hinata in typical fashion gives Tanaka a peep talk. In the next rally, Tanaka comes to the aid of Hinata as he tries to block Osamu. With no options left, Osamu hits the ball towards Daichi. As the ball soars through the air, Tanaka has a flashback on his potential. He calls for the ball and spikes it crosscourt, winning the set.
Episode 2 of Haikyuu!! To the Top (Part 2) opens with Karasuno being shocked that the Miya twins were able to mimic the Quick attack, Hinata and Kageyama made famous. Atsumu admits that his sets aren’t as accurate as Kageyama’s. Still, Karasuno is stunned. Atsumu serves another float serve, Daichi receives, and Nishinoya sends the last hit to Asahi. However, the twins score again. Karasuno next attempts another quick attack but fails when Atsumu, Suna, and Aran block them. Atsumu begins learning how Kageyama’s plays. Suddenly, Tsukishima blocks Osamu. Ukai notes that “the biggest counter to the super quick attack is a blocker who can get used to it.”
Tsukishima steps up
Tsukishima often takes a back seat to Hinata and Kageyama, but he provides something that they can’t, defense. During the next rally, Tsukishima steps back to prepare for a spike. With his height and Kageyama’s sets, Tsukishima overwhelms the Inarizaki team. Kinoshita Hisashi subs in for Tsuki, and he’s visibly nervous. Ukai reminds him that he’s not up against “college guys,” giving him some confidence. He delivers a good service, but Inarizaki returns it. Hinata guards Osamu, using his speed and jumping ability to shock everyone and score. What I find interesting is that Hinata and Tsukishima have switched places. Hinata has the most surprising shift because he’s so short. However, his jumping ability makes up for it.
Lost in the Crowd
Despite the ability of the Inarizaki, the score is even at 18-18. Hinata is bested at the net by Osamu, who insults Hinata. Karasuno calls a time-out, and Ukai tells the team that it’s time to try “Lost in a Crowd.” A spirited rally begins resulting in a Karasuno point when Aran touches the net. The Miya twins argue over whether Osamu is “slacking” and is “afraid” of Hinata. Osamu is adamant that he has no fear of Hinata. Meanwhile, Hinata imagines the blockers that have given him trouble in the past. Hinata forces Osamu to hit a “line shot,” then Karasuno uses a synchronized attack. The Inarizaki team has no idea where the next spike will come from, Karasuno scores tying the game. So far, Karasuno has been able to keep up with surprises and confusion. It seems implausible that they will be able to keep this style of play up.
Haikyuu!! To the Top (Part 2) Episode 1 returns with “Rhythm.” Atsumu prepares to serve while the marching band of Inarizaki plays. He silences them with a gesture, then serves an ace. Hinata uses his new jump method but forgets to hit the ball. Annoyed, Kageyama tells him that if he ever repeats that mistake he won’t “set to him for the rest of the game.” Despite this, Kageyama is pleased that Hinata is inspired. Hinata’s new jump alters the contact point of the middle blockers, likely throwing them off. Suna is next to serve. Daichi receives it despite its difficult placement. Hinata sends it to Tanaka but Inarizaki’s blockers interfere. Atsunu sets the ball for Aran who spikes the ball and scores.
Suna serves right a the whistle catching Daichi off the guard. He receives the ball long but Kageyama can get the rebound. Hinata charges the net and quickly rushes to the end of the court. He scores on a wide attack shocking the other players. Atsumu is particularly impressed commenting that Hinata and Kageyama were “fast enough to get through the block without sacrificing any height.” Inarizaki’s marching band distracts Kageyama enough to get his serve to clip the net. This allows Atsumu to set for Omimi who spikes past Hinata and Daichi. Inarizaki can use their “rhythm” to throw off Karasuno.
The Miya twins quick attack
The score is 7-4 and Inarizaki’s band continues to distract Karasuno. Suddenly, Saeko and her taiko drum group arrive. They begin to play gaining the attention of the audience. Aran serves again, but Tanaka, Kageyama, and Hinata stop him. Hinata prepares to serve. Saeko and her taiko group help drown out some of the sounds coming from Inarizaki’s band. This seems to help Hinata. The Inarizaki team focus on Hinata, allowing Kageyama to set to Daichi, who scores. Still, Inarizaki leads by 2. Makoto and Shimada note that Atsumu is “dual wielder,” meaning he can serve “both spikes serves and jump float serves with no prior indication.” However, Karasuno has discussed the limitation of Atsumu’s serve. He has a tell. Before he serves a jump float, he moves four steps. When he steps six times, he’s going to use a spike.
This knowledge is of no use as Atsumu’s serve is still powerful and Inarizaki takes a three-point lead. Atsumu attempts another jump float serve, this time Nishinoya receives. Asahi manages to get the ball past the blockers. However, the Miya twins manage to do something startling, copy the quick attack Hinata and Kageyama use. Haikyuu!! To the Top (Part 2) Episode 1 quicklygets us back into the action.I’m always excited to see Hinata grow as he encounters better players. Inarizaki is proving to be difficult for Karasuno to defeat. I would say that they’re outmatched. With the Miya twins being able to mimic Hinata and Kageyama’s quick attack, Karasuno is going to have to come up with something new.