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.
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.
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.
With Karasuno through to the next round, Haikyuu!! To The Top, focuses on the other team’s progress. Fukurodani is playing their first game against Eiwa High School. While Fukurodani falls behind two points, Bokuto is in one of his moods. The reason behind his bad mood? He wanted to play in the big stadium. Elsewhere, Daichi introduces the first years to Tashiro and Kurokawa. Both are former captains of the team. Later, Karasuno eats bento while watching Nekoma play Kiyokawa. The team ace, Ryoji Yamazaki, is exhausted by Nekoma’s defense. After a brief rally, Nekoma wins, advancing to round 2.
Hinata meets Hoshiumi
The moment I have been waiting for arrived. After watching Fukurodani win their match, Hinata sees Hoshiumi for the first time. The two quickly stare each other down. Kageyama interrupts them and introduces Hoshiumi. He asks Hinata his position, height, and running vertical. Hoshiumi is happy to know that he’s taller and has a higher jump. Karasuno watch as Hoshiumi dominates the game. Hinata even feels the need to get a closer look. Hinata has always had to accept challenges from players taller than him. How will he respond to a player around his height but with greater skill? Kamomedai win.
With Karasuno, Nekoma, Fukurodani, and Kamomedai moving to the next round, matches will only get harder. I’m excited about the possible match between Karasuno and Kamomedai. It seems like Karasuno is the better team but Kamomedai has the best player, Hoshiumi.
So are any of you excited to see Hinata verses Hoshiumi?
In episode 11 of Haikyuu!! To the Top, Kageyama takes over the game. In the last episode, he finally finds his game. This episode begins with Karasuno’s “lethal weapon” a quick attack. The crowd is wowed by sight particularly the speed. Karasuno is still down 13 to 15 though. When Tsubakihara focuses on Hinata, Kageyama manages to score. Realizing the turn in dynamic the rest of Karasuno is excited. Kageyama and Hinata manage to score on another quick attack. Tsubakihara’s coach notes that if they focus on Hinata they will be falling into Karasuno’s “trap.” He encourages them to “keep up the rad blocking.” He hopes to keep the “pressure on.” The pep talk seems to work.
Tsubakihara takes the lead, 18 to 17. Hinata takes a ball to the chest. Asahi finish the rally with a kill. Hinata once again miss calculates the distance between him and the ball. Tanaka gets the ball over the net. During the next rally, Karasuno takes the lead after Asahi hits the ball against three blockers. After a freeball, Hinata scores from the back row. Karasuno now has scored three points in a row, taking a 20 to 18 lead. At 23 to 21, Kinoshita is up to serve. He misses. Despite that Karasuno scores reaching a set point. However, when Kageyama serves he dumps it in the net. Now at 24-23 its Tsubakihara’s turn to serve.
Himekawa the pinch server
Himekawa Aoi is the “pinch server” for the team. In his first official match, Aoi looks like he’s going to throw up. Suddenly, he serves underhanded hitting his teammate in the back of the head. Karasuno takes the first set, 25-23. I like how Hiakyuu keeps playing with our expectations. As a sports fan (Tennis) the better player doesn’t always succeed. Kageyama’s serving was top-notch until a set point. I assumed that Aoi would overcome his nerves and serve lights out. It seemed that the dynamic would play out that way. However, Aoi comically missed his serve. Even if I expect Karasuno to win, I won’t know exactly how.
In the second set, Aoi gets a chance to redeem himself. He takes a deep breath and sends the serve flying towards the ceiling. Daichi fails to receive it. He goes for another “ceiling serve” that Asahi and Dachi fail to even more for. Himekawa gets two service aces in a row, giving his team Tsubakihara the lead. Karasuno loses the next point. Aoi fails to get his fourth service point. He leaves the game with the teams tied. Asahi serves an ace. However, Tsubakihara scores on the point. With the game tied, Tsubakihara sends a ball over that’s higher than usual. However, Daichi can reflexively knuckle it over, giving Karasuno a match point. Sugawara is subbed in to serve. Clear minded he serves a big but it’s received. The teams engage in a spirited rally with Hinata pretending to spike, leaving Asahi to spike. Winning the game.