“Illusionary Hero”

「幻覚ヒーロー」 (Genkaku Hirou)

The Past – A Brother’s Lies:

This is the moment many manga fans have been eagerly anticipating. And as expected, it was a big one. After missing out on the action for most of this season, only to get the spotlight shone on him last week, we finally get an episode dedicated entirely to Tsukishima’s backstory, showing why he is the way he is right now. Many anime-only viewers complain that they don’t get why he’s stuck up or uninspired, but I’m sure they’ll understand why that is after watching this episode, and perhaps even sympathise with him.

As it turns out, the Tsuki of the past was a cheery young lad (and still ridiculously tall for his age), who threw insults at Yamaguchi’s bullies and smiled whenever it came to his elder brother, Tsukishima Akiteru (Sakurai Takahiro). Inspired by his brother being the volleyball ace in junior high, Tsukishima took up the sport as well. And when he learned that he was joining Karasuno – one of the upcoming powerhouse teams in the region – he was eager to see his brother play in his games, but held off until his very last match. Akiteru claimed it was because he would get nervous if his brother was there, but Tsuki was so proud that he just had to see him in their final game of the season. And that’s when the walls come crashing down. When the sword chops off the samurai’s head. The moment where Tsuki and his brother share that stare across the court is the single most powerful moment in the series thus far, and I couldn’t be happier with how it was adapted.

This is what I’ve been waiting for all this time! I know I said that Yachi was my new favourite, but I just have to go back to Tsukishima after this episode. When I first read his backstory in the manga, that’s when I fell in love with his character, and now it’s all coming flooding back. All of a sudden, the boy who stood in the back and made snarky one-liners and complained about having to put in his full effort now feels like the most fleshed out character of the entire cast.

Not only is this a much appreciated insight into why Tsuki is so uninspired, and how this all ties back into Karasuno’s strongest years, when the Small Giant was on the court, but this marks the beginning of his character arc to come. Hopefully, as Bokuto says, Tsukishima will eventually find that ‘moment‘ where he will fall in love with volleyball, inspiring him to be everything his brother couldn’t.

The Present – Having Pride & Embracing Rivalry:

Back in the present, we also get some brilliant moments from Yamaguchi. He and Tsukishima have always been together since their first appearance, but finally we see how they met and why he looks up him (literally and figuratively). Their interactions in the past were painfully cute, with Yamaguchi gushing over Tsuki having a powerhouse ace as a brother, while Tsukishima goes all tsundere, unable to contain his giddiness. And even when reality hits his friend like a ton of brick, Yamaguchi is there to provide his support. Cut forward to their scene outside the courts, and it all comes full circle. After that moment where Tsuki scared off the bullies with his simple “How lame“, it’s now Yamaguchi’s turn to shake his best friend out of his uninspired state. That mention of pride – as he screams down his throat – is what seems to wake Tsukishima up. Not only because it sounded cool as hell, but because it likely relit a long-forgotten spark after the pain his brother caused him in the past.

Now that we know everything that went down all those years ago, it makes perfect sense why Tsukishima has that sort of attitude. I completely sympathise with him, after being lied to for all those years, being made to believe his brother was something special. However, I don’t blame Akiteru for this either – it’s a tricky predicament that could have been solved with some simple communication; however, it’s most likely that Akiteru didn’t want to disappoint his brother who looked up him, and inspired him to take up volleyball himself. It would be sure to crush him to admit he wasn’t good enough to play on the team, or even sit on the bench, but it would have been much better than what actually went down, for sure.

An important detail worth noting going forward is what our little genius Yachi points out: Hinata and Tsukishima seem to be destined rivals. Not only do their names make them the “Sun and the Moon“, but their positions are the same, and their play styles are completely different. While it may have seemed like Kageyama was Hinata’s destined rival all along, in fact, it was Tsukishima. With this, we can almost say that Tsuki has been promoted to near Main Character level, given how important he is bound to be for Hinata’s development and eventual endgame.

This is an exciting moment for Hinata, and a defining one for Tsukshima, as he embraced the kill block to the point where Bokuto (who bragged about being able to spike through anyone who blocked him) essentially ran off. In that moment, he knew he wouldn’t have been able to break through that block, even if he managed to score the point in the end. What a perfect note to end on.

Overview – What’s Next?:

My Tsuki bias is real, but this has to be the best episode of the series thus far (partially because of the much awaited “Oho ho? Oh ho ho?“). Not only did it focus on my favourite character – and prove why I like him so much – but the whole thing was so effortlessly presented. I’ve said it before, but Haikyuu!! is the adaptation that every good manga deserves. The transitions are seamless; the scribbled, harsh artwork of Tsukishima’s kill block was appropriately intimidating; and the signalling of changing seasons through the Tsukishima garden tree was a wonderful touch. All in all, a faultless episode that makes a very happy fan of both Tsukishima and Haikyuu!! as a whole.



  1. Early review? Someone really loves this arc! My favorite of the season is the third, “Townsperson B” but this one starts a long period of self improvement for Tsukishima, probably the best developed of the whole series.

  2. I feel like Tsukki has to still like volleyball deep down to some extent, maybe without his conscious knowledge. If I felt such humiliation and trauma after being lied to for 3 years, I probably wouldn’t even be able to look at, much less play, volleyball.

    And it was really ironic seeing how similar little Tsukki was to Hinata. He even got the EXACT same advice about receiving properly that hinata got from suga back in season 1. Hinata and Tsukki just differed in the person they chose to idolize, and boy did that make all the difference

  3. Even with the built-up expectations I had (thanks to the manga readers) this episode still turned out extremely powerful. That moment when Tsukki and his bro looked at each other, I could almost hear the disillusionment breaking his child heart to pieces (I’m sure we’ve all been through that moment growing up albeit with different experiences). Other parts of the episode were solid gold too, such as Yamaguchi’s (I agree w/ Tsukki, when did he become so cool) moment, that very interesting line at the end from Hachi (why did she say, “the sun vs the moon?” with a question mark), and as usual the facial expressions…Haikyuu is a goldmine of hilarious facial expressions.
    I also enjoyed the ohoho scene a lot. In fact I replayed it several times lol. Props to Kimura Ryouhei for using a grittier voice than his usual tone.

    Concluding my gushing: Seriously, season 2 just keeps getting better and better. Should I be worried that these side characters are getting more interesting than our original main duo?

    1. I’m glad it exceeded your expectations! That moment was definitely one to remember, poor Tsuki. And yes, S2 has been brilliant so far. I have read some complaints about the lack of real matches, but this training arc is doing everything it should (and then some).

  4. The anime actually got me into reading this manga. It’s so amazing how good this is and especially this episode. Also got me into watching vids of volleyball on youtube. Wish I played volleyball when I was a kid 🙁

  5. The sun and moon metaphor works really well with volleyball rotation. Tsukki and Hinata are on the court together only when one of them is serving.

    So “oho ho” was “oya oya” all along? I saw some people displeased with that. A life of scanlation reader is hard and full of surprises… I liked “pathetic” as a translation better than “lame” though, but maybe I’m just used to it more.

    Other than that, the episode was great. I watch sports anime for characters, so the lack of “real” matches doesn’t bother me at all.

  6. Okay, two episodes was all it took for me to be completely on-board with the Bokuto/Kuroo/Tsukishima group (+ Akaashi seems like a good addition). The oho’s were hilarious and I was smiling through the rest of their interactions. The mentor-student relationship Bokuto and Kuroo have with Tsukishima is really interesting, especially matched with their goofy personalities in contrast to Tsukki’s. I don’t know if I can hope for too much since they’re all from different teams, but I really hope there’s more scenes between them throughout the series.

  7. I’ve been waiting to see Tsukki’s backstory animated for like a year now, and I’m glad that the animation was top notch. This was the point in the manga when Tsukki turned from a character I was indifferent about to my favorite character. I agree with you that the moment Tsukki saw Akiteru in the stands is the most powerful moment in the series thus far; with sports anime it’s a given that we’ll see characters struggling with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, but Tsukki’s backstory is more about how one single moment destroyed his relationship with his brother and his love for volleyball. And I’ve always been more sensitive to sibling relationships, so that’s another reason why Tsukki’s backstory hit me so hard. I also agree that Tsukki now feels like the most fleshed out character, because we got to see what his family is like, his childhood, and why he acts the way he does.
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    Though I was disappointed that the episode left out some parts from the manga. For instance, in the manga you can see Akiteru’s face when he’s telling Tsukki about all the spikes he did and Tsukki’s exclaiming how cool it is — he’s barely keeping himself from crying. Akiteru’s expression shows just how painful this ordeal was for him, so I’m upset that it wasn’t included in the ep. They also left out the part where Yamaguchi says “Tsukki wasn’t referring to Akiteru when he said ‘pathetic,'” because Tsukki was calling himself ‘pathetic’ for caring so much. So not only did Tsukki feel betrayed that Akiteru had been lying to him for years, but he also felt extreme guilt because he was the reason Akiteru lied. Tsukki blames himself for the fact that Akiteru had to suffer in silence. I definitely sympathize with Tsukki, because I’ve also struggled with the mentality that “there will always be someone better, so why bother trying”. Fortunately, Yamaguchi and Bokuto have started breaking Tsukki out of this way of thinking, and I’m proud of all the progress he’s made since then.

    1. Reite is right. “Haikyuu” is the Japanese pronunciation of “Páiqiú” which is Chinese for ‘Volleyball’. But I guess in Japan, ‘Haikyuu’ is an ‘old’ word and they much prefer to refer the sport as ‘Barē’ (short for ‘Barēbōru’) which is a borrowed English word from ‘Volleyball’. I guess new is always better??


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