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.