「脱・“孤独の王様”」 (Datsu, “Kodoku no Oosama”)
“The Former, ‘King of Solitude'”
As far as this adaptation of Haikyuu is concerned, this episode is the finale. The past five episodes depicting Karasuno’s match against Aoba Jousai have culminated to this third set, win-by-two moment, and it ends in a way that’s not as surprising as one would think. Or at least, not as surprising to me as it may have been to some other viewers. In the back of my mind as I watched the match progress and the remaining episodes dwindle down, I had a recurring thought that the end of this match would coincide with the end of this adaptation. It just seemed unlikely that this anime would end on a high note and then leave us all hanging, so when it became fairly obvious that this is all the material that the producers planned to cover, I more or less resigned to the idea that Karasuno was going to lose. As with most underdog stories, it only seemed befitting that Karasuno show glimpses of their revival and still encounter setbacks along the way. In fact, if I were asked to write the conclusion to this match, I would’ve also scripted it so that Karasuno loses. The reason being, their loss makes a much bigger impact than their win, plus it paves the way for their team to unite over their first loss together, pick themselves back up, use that loss to motivate themselves to get to that “next level”, and come back as a true Top 5 contender.
That said, I don’t feel like my anticipation for their loss took away form the impact of it at all. The look of desperation on Kageyama’s face as he dove for the ball and watched it drop and the one of disbelief on Hinata’s when he opened his eyes to a triple block gave me chills with that blinding white backdrop, whereas the sight of the team on the ground and in dismay gave me a huge sinking feeling in my chest. That sinking feeling was compounded by the sight of the team in Ukai’s family restaurant and tearing up as they tried to eat their sorrows away. Together, those emotions reiterated to me that Haikyuu has done everything well as a sports anime. It managed to draw me in with its characters and excitement, and took me on a roller coaster ride that ended in a grinding halt. However, unlike a “train wreck”, a grinding halt is actually a great way to go for this series, going back to what I said above.
As for some specific character developments, I actually didn’t notice that like Kindaichi, Kunimi Akira (Tamaru Atsushi) was also Kageyama’s ex-teammate from middle school. Given how many things were going on, I’m actually quite impressed that they managed to squeeze in this subplot. The same goes for Oikawa’s personal struggles as a hard worker, which further emphasized the rivalry between him and Kageyama. I haven’t mentioned this until now, but what I find the most interesting about their rivalry is the fact that our protagonist is the genius and not the hard worker. In anime, I find that it’s generally the other way around, where we follow a character who’s not as naturally talented as someone else, but still finds a way to be as good in the end. If nothing else, it makes for a better morale of the story. In Haikyuu, Kageyama is the “struggling genius” though, which puts a very interesting perspective on things. For one, this episode signified the moment that Kageyama stopped being a solitary king and finally depended on his teammates for a change. That may have cost Karasuno the match because Oikawa was anticipating it, but it’s still a step in the right direction for Kageyama.
Last but not least, I feel almost compelled to talk about the volleyball itself, not because of the plays and tactics involved, but because the animators completely overlooked some obvious things. The most glaring one was the scene where it completely slipped their minds that Nishinoya’s a Libero and should be wearing a different color jersey. The next problem was not as obvious, but was shown in consecutive scenes. When Kunimi was being set over and over again, he kept hitting line on Kageyama. I imagine this was done to emphasize the Kageyama/Kunimi subplot, but there’s no reason why Kageyama, a setter, would ever be on the left-most side of the court. His natural position in the back row is the right-most side, where he would be digging hits from the opposing team’s Power and not their Offside, which Kunimi plays as. The third problem was when Oikawa tossed the ball with top-spin for his jump serve but changed it to a jump-float at the very last second. This is basically impossible to do if the ball was tossed that way because a flat hit—which a jump float relies on—can’t take all the spin out of the ball. And finally, the last one is obvious if you did a double or a triple-take on the last play, which shows Kageyama scrambling to get to the ball and make a play out of nothing. He was on shown on the right side of the court, running well behind the attack line and planting his feet to face the middle of the court for the set. When the camera changed to the overhead view, he was suddenly much closer to the attack line and setting backwards to Hinata. There’s no way he would’ve done a 180 degree turn, so this was clearly an animation error—one that was easy to overlook because of the rotating camera.
In any case, next week’s the “epilogue finale” so I’ll give up my final impressions then. (Hint: They’ll be resoundingly positive.) Note, my post will likely be late since I’ll be away and not sure when I’ll have time to blog.