Tsukki’s Time to Shine (or not):
Let the Tsukki character development begin! The time has finally arrived… Tsukishima is in the spotlight! I’ve seen many complaints (if you could call them that) about Tsukishima this season, with fans saying that he’s the only character who isn’t getting personal development and doesn’t seem to care for the team. And that’s true; it’s become his defining trait throughout the series, with the first season only giving him the limelight in the earlier episodes and then a few killer moments in the Aobajousai match. Other than that, his character has remained the same throughout, and he’s never been pushed past his limits. As Coach Ukai points out in this episode, Tsukki never goes 100%. He’s got the height and the smarts to perfectly read his opponents moves, yet he doesn’t have the drive and determination within him to become one of the better players of the team – if he did put in that extra effort, then he could be the main force of defence that Karasuno desperately needs.
But with this episode, we’re starting to get more of Tsukki’s perspective. To him, this is just a club. The most striking moment is a simple one where his face is cut off from the shot, as he watches his teammates training into the late hours. He doesn’t see the gains from putting all his effort into it, and as is hinted by Tanaka’s sister and Tsukki’s own memories, there is much more to this than him being a stubborn pain in the ass. The details aren’t clear just yet, but we now know that his brother was on the team at the same time as the Small Giant, and for whatever reason he appeared to have an emotional breakdown, which Tsukishima witnessed. I’ve seen several anime-only viewers try to piece together the mystery and come up with what they think will be revealed, but no one has guessed it correctly just yet. It may seem to be an obvious parallel to what’s happening with Tsukishima and Hinata right now, but who knows…
Speaking of Tsukishima and Hinata, after this episode it’s made clear that these two are the opposite to one another. Their formations are usually set so that Tsukki stays at the front while Hinata is at the back, before he eventually steals the limelight. They are the sun and moon, their attitudes are completely opposite, and their priorities are very different. Tsukki may have the height and the tactics, but Hinata has the drive and the natural talent – he may not have the perfected skills or volleyball knowledge, but it’s his willingness to grow and get stronger that makes him a better player than Tsukishima. As Kuroo points out, Tsukishima should be the superior player between them, but since he feels no need to compete against the destined ace, there’s no competition to speak of.
The Team’s Evolution:
This training arc is all about the evolution of the team and the personal development of all its members (now that Tsukki is getting the focus). Each character feels like they’re learning something, practicing hard, or trying something new. Some of the highlights would be Suga messing up, Noya messing up, Asahi messing up, Kageyama messing up and… you get the point. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the this Japanese high school volleyball team. They’re all at the messy stage of development right now – not in sync with each other, but you can tell once they pass this hurdle, they will come out of it as a stronger team. They may have lost every single game on their first day of the training camp, and ran up and down that grassy hill at least fifty times, but it’s all working in their favour. As the episode progressed, they did start to score higher with each match; they’ve got a way to go, but this time around Haikyuu!! is taking a page out of Baby Step’s book and showing how important losing is in the grande scheme of things.
Overview – What’s Next?:
I’ve been anticipating this Tsukki focus since the second season was announced. Animated Yachi may have my heart, but at the end of the day, Tsukki is still probably my favourite overall character. This is the beginning of his character arc, after being the one member of the team content to stay in the shadows. We see a tiny, happy Tsukki in the preview… so where did it all go wrong? When did this become this? All I’ll say is that I cannot wait for the next episode to come around.