「及川徹は天才ではない」 (Oikawa Tooru wa Tensai Dewanai)
“Oikawa Tooru is Not a Genius”
Week after week, Haikyuu never ceases to amaze me with how multifaceted each episode is. Right when I think it’s going to center around one of Karasuno’s struggles, the story quickly changes gears and touches upon another struggle, and another struggle after that, before finally leaving off on a cliffhanger for next week. This week, we started off with the most obvious one, the battle of the setters with Kageyama going up against Oikawa in an actual match, where we see how experience and hard work holds an edge over raw natural talent. Soon after, that leads into Tanaka’s personal struggles with Oikawa picking on him with his jump serve. After Tanaka overcomes it and shows glimpses of being Karasuno’s future go-to hitter (i.e. “Ace”), the focus quickly shifts back to Kageyama bending under the psychological pressure that Oikawa’s methodically placing on him. We see Karasuno’s first-year setter unconsciously reverting back to his old ways with his reckless sets before finally getting subbed out for Sugawara–a much more experienced setter. All of that in a single episode; what is there not to love about this series?
In terms of developments, I’m really enjoying the “experience vs. raw natural talent” angle between Oikawa and Kageyama for the believability alone. Less experienced players will succumb to pressure much easier, regardless of how naturally talented they are, so watching Oikawa exploit that fact makes me very eager to see how Karasuno overcomes it (if at all). The plan to do so is already in motion, with Sugawara coming in to alleviate some of the pressure off Kageyama; however, as we heard from his inner dialogue and reaction at the end, Kageyama clearly doesn’t see it that way just yet. He’ll likely take it really hard at first, but I suspect that once Ukai gets a chance to remind him that volleyball’s a team sport and he shouldn’t try to win on his own, Karasuno will make a strong push back. Personally, I think the preview spoiled a bit too much in that regard, showing Kageyama eventually subbing back in for Sugawara, but I’m still looking forward to seeing how Karasuno’s third-year players gel together and set an example for their younger teammates on how to deal with pressure. In addition, this will be our first time seeing Sugawara in an actual match, so I get the feeling that we’re going to get to see him shine a bit.
Getting to my favorite part of my weekly coverage of Haikyuu–i.e. volleyball specifics–it looks like Karasuno’s already made the transition to a four-man serve receive where they hide the middle in the front row. They didn’t really draw any attention to this adjustment, but upon seeing their formation, I still feel that Karasuno would benefit drastically from keeping Sawamura in the power position (i.e. left-side hitter) and Tanaka in the offside position (i.e. right-side hitter) like they had in their earlier practice matches, and then playing a three-man serve receive where only Sawamura, Azumane, and Nishinoya take the first ball. This would’ve completely avoided the problem where Tanaka got picked on by Oikawa’s jump serve. What’s more, on the highest level of competition today, the go-to hitter on many teams is actually the offside hitter, so Tanaka could potentially thrive in that position. Another problem I see is how defensive positions are depicted. For a lot of the kills, there never seems to be anyone cover “line” (i.e. straight down either side of the court). When Tanaka made his momentum-changing kill, Aoba Jousai’s defender was in his own blockers’ shadow rather than standing on the line, leaving that area completely open. Likewise, when Aoba Jousai made some kills, we sometimes see Nishinoya diving to the right to try and cover line when someone else–either the setter or the offside–should already be there.
Aside from that, the series is doing a great job at highlighting various strategic elements of volleyball, such as making the most of a free ball by forcing the other team’s setter to take it. This is actually what teams are expected to do if they can’t set up an offensive play, because it drastically limits the offence that their opponent can run in return. More often than not, a team will just set a safe high-ball to the outside, like we saw Sawamura do here. Next up is serving to area where the back-row setter is running toward the net. While I don’t feel this causes as much confusion as the series made it seem, there are definitely some challenges with having to take a serve that goes there. Lastly, I haven’t really seen or heard of any teams trying to fake out their opponents by making cues for plays and then switching them in the middle of the match, but I guess that works well for an anime. In all likelihood, what Sugawara hinted at with Hinata won’t come into play until Kageyama subs back in though, simply because it’ll probably leverage their monstrous quick. Whatever the case, this is definitely something else to look forward to next time.
Random thought: Up until now, I’ve always felt that the height of at which the players are depicted at the peak of the jumps has been fairly realistic, but this week there were some pretty absurd verticals. lol
Full-length images: 32.