「背中の護り」 (Senaka no Mamori)
“Back-row Defense”

The conclusion to Karasuno’s match against Datekou may not have been as dramatic as the way it started, but it still managed to give me goosebumps by highlighting some of the other team members’ play. Given that volleyball’s a huge team sport where coordination between players is absolutely crucial, it was great to see Tanaka, Sawamura, Nishinoya, Sugawara, and most of all, Tsukishima, contribute to Karasuno’s monumental win. Tanaka and Sawamura had some nice kills, Nishinoya some huge saves, including a block-coverage dig with his foot that is completely legal in volleyball today, Sugawara taught Kageyama and Hinata some slick signals, and Tsukishima had some quick kills and a big block.

Thus far, Tsukishima’s presence has been largely overshadowed by Hinata’s role as the ultimate decoy, so I really like how Haikyuu acknowledged that and addressed it by putting the spotlight on Karasuno’s other starting middle for a bit. Incidentally, I did feel that Kageyama didn’t receive as much recognition (or screen time for that matter) as he deserved. A setter is the backbone of a team after all, coordinating its offence and making the most out of scramble rallies where the pass didn’t go right to them. While I suspect this was a conscious decision by the manga author and/or screenwriters to avoid diluting the focus of this episode too much, I still would’ve liked to see someone give Kageyama some personal acknowledgement at the end.

In any case, I really enjoyed the symbolism with the iron doors finally busting open on the match point. It wrapped up Azumane’s subplot and set up the story for Datekou’s return in a future match or tournament (albeit without their third-year players, including #2 captain/setter Moniwa Kaname (Onozuka Takashi)). The second part is particularly noteworthy, because much like I was suspecting (and hoping), we saw Aone shake hands with Hinata post-match in the spirit of competition and good sportsmanship. As competitive as volleyball can be, I speak from personal experience when I say it’s not a very antagonizing sport because there’s no direct contact with the other team. As such, bitter rivalries rarely form, making it relatively easy to befriend your opponents after playing them. This was a prime example of that, and something that I was hoping to see because I still think that Aone’s a big softie once you get to know him.

Other than that, I still scratch my head a bit with Karasuno’s serve-receive formation, that somehow has Hinata lined up next to Nishinoya even though they play opposite one another in the rotation, but I remain optimistic that the series will address this when the team tries to improve that aspect of their game. I also wonder why the series hasn’t even suggested the possibility of tipping the ball to avoid having to joust against a three-man block. While I suspect that it’s because tipping doesn’t make for a very exciting manga/anime, I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case because the series did showcase “setter dumps” in an earlier episode (i.e. when the setter jump to set, but deceptively dumps the ball over the net instead). Perhaps we’ll see some of that in future episodes, given that Aoba Jousai and Kageyama’s ex-mentor, Oikawa Tooru, is Karasuno’s next hurdle to overcome. The preview is making Tooru out to be a conductor (which is what a setter is often perceived as on a volleyball team), so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

Note: The episode title literally translates to “Guarding the Back”, but I figured “Back-row Defence” is more applicable to volleyball so I decided to translate it as such.

Full-length images: 03.




  1. Nishinoya’s saves in this episode got me so pumped. I’ve never played volleyball competitively, or with strict player positions, but when I do play I usually end up taking on that sort of role–as saving and receiving is what I do best–so Nishinoya has always struck a chord with me, and he’s really gotten to shine lately.
    That being said, it was really nice to get to see a little spotlight on the other teammates this week, as you said. Too often sports anime feels like a two player effort because of the decisions to only focus on the MCs, but Haikyuu has done a great job at making Karasuno an equally contributing team.

    Aoba Jousai have been the least interesting opposing team to me so far, so I’m not as excited as I could be for their match, but I’m sure it’ll blow me out of the water regardless.

  2. Though I can say I never played volleyball (exp close to zero), I would say that the block tip would not work very well since Aone was reading the spike before it happens, so he could “let it go”. The other reason may be that Date players jumps quite high, maybe higher than their opponents, so that gives a certain handicap when blocking, specially when you can “invade” the other side’s space with your arms (is that allowed? Think so…). Anyway, great episode. What makes me happy on Haikyuu is that there is no superpower, or huge comebacks, just normal plays and players, and it can still be great. Tobe! Karasuno!!!

    1. No superpowers? Hinata’s super-jump and Kageyama’s targeted setups seem pretty superhuman. The other characters even call them monsters.

      The powers are milder than superpowered basketball like Kuroko, but in that show, Kagami’s power is also super jump and Midorima’s is super accuracy.

  3. Nice observation, Divine! Tipping doesn’t come naturally for any of Karasuno’s main hitters, but I think that’s in line with their personalities: Tanaka and Hinata are both the overly-excitable straightforward types that don’t intuitively fake anything well (Hinata literally still spikes every set as if they’re all coming to him, which is what makes him such a good “decoy”), while Asahi has already been distinguished as their ace power-hitter. Tipping also requires some good judgment from the party that uses it because it is ineffective when overused or well guarded against, and the only player on Karasuno who has really displayed a penchant for mid-play strategizing is Kageyama.

    All that said…

    Show Spoiler ▼

  4. I still would’ve liked to see someone give Kageyama some personal acknowledgement at the end.

    I think they’ve already given Kageyama enough credit as the team’s “genius” during the previous episodes, so maybe the author’s just decided to put him out of the spotlight for now. Anyway the next game looks like a big “battle of the setters” to me so he (and/or Oikawa) will definitely receive the acknowledgement soon.

    That said, Noya saving the ball with his foot is this episode’s highlight for me. I was so pumped I shouted “NOYAAAA!!” on my screen. If there’s an award for “best libero”, it should definitely go to him!

  5. Quick question: Is Haikyuu is on the same level of excitement and action as Kuroko’s Basketball? I want to give Haikyuu a try but I’m a bit hesitant because it may turn out to be a Kuroko’s Basketball clone but only the sport is volleyball.

    1. @heroman010 Haikyuu has more depth in terms of character development as well as better at string your emotion. Kuroko has “coolness” effect in the beginning but turns out to be boring at the mid-end. Kuroko never makes me as excited as Haikyuu >_>

  6. In an attempt to shed some light with regards to the serve-receive formation. During that point, Hinata’s starting position is front row middle. Nishinoya, being opposite of Hinata, only has to stay behind Hinata (and between the two other back row players) to stay in rotation. So technically speaking, he can appear to be beside Hinata. This is done to either hide poor passers or use better passers, but Hinata certainly does not strike me as a strong passer on Karasuno.

    1. My apologies, Hinata was front row right side, but the same thing holds true as long as Kageyama starts to the left of Hinata and Tanaka behind Hinata. I suppose theyre doing this so Hinata can start in the middle.

      1. Yeah, Hinata was definitely front-right, (i.e. position 2), while Tanaka was right behind him in the service position (i.e. position 1) as seen in this screenshot:

        Why this formation doesn’t make sense to me is because if they’re going to move Hinata to the middle to take the serve receive, he has to stay ever-so-slightly in front of Tanaka. Sawamura on the other hand gets pushed off to the front-left of the court against Azumane (i.e. in the power position 4), making it quite a distance for him to cover to get to the right side of the net for a hit.

        However, the main reason why this doesn’t make sense to me is because Sawamura is their best serve receiver after Nishinoya. What would’ve made more sense is for him to move back and take the first ball instead of Hinata. Meanwhile, Hinata would hide at the net around the middle, but slightly to the right of Sawamura so he’s not out of rotation. After the first pass is made, Hinata would then peel off the net and get ready to hit a quick in the middle. Meanwhile, Sawamura would swing out to the right and get ready for an offside hit.

        If they wanted to play a four-man receive, they could’ve by shifting everyone over a bit to the right and letting Azumane cover the left-most service lane. This wouldn’t be bad either, because Azumane is a better passer than Tanaka.

      2. One other point to note is that Sawamura might not be passing so that Kageyama can start at the net. (i.e., have both Kageyama and Sawamura hug the net) That would explain the missing Sawamura in that passing frame. That being said, I totally agree that strategically this little stunt confuses me.

      3. Yeah, having Kageyama pushed up at the net already and in an easier position to set the ball is the only advantage I see for this setup, but if they had Sawamura receiving instead of Hinata, Kageyama would probably get a nicer pass.

  7. I’ve been waiting for a tip for ages, cause if the defending team get’s enough attack blocks then the logic is to mix it up and tip, because the back row won’t expect the ball to get through the block. But anyhow that’s a minor thing thye should learn as the show progresses.

    Anyhow love how ALL players are getting their time. Now we only need to see Yamaguchi’s knuckle ball serve!!! In a pinch bring in the serve that always surprises ~

  8. OMG – ep 19 wassss a sic rematch opener… from that opening curved serve on a top side trajection view down to setter dump v setter dump ending. Ep 20 will be an awesome match,… there were girls cheering on this one but for the other team… bleh… the other girls could at least watch this match next episode to learn something from the boys.

    I wonder when our new server can sho his stuff when he’s benched most of the time and what did the coach and setter notice on the recorded matches will be seen next ep.


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