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.
“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.