「背中の護り」 (Senaka no Mamori)
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.