“Let the Games Begin!!”
Karasuno vs Ougiminami:
The Miyagi Preliminaries are now underway, and it’s all volleyball action from here on out! As we found out last week, Karasuno have to win their first two games of the day in order to move on in the October matches. It’s still months away until the actual Spring High tournament, but that just means if they do manage to win the Miyagi Prefecture Preliminaries, then they’ll have some time to practice and perfect their plays. This first match wasn’t especially difficult for any of them; Karasuno were simply the better team, more dedicated to their training, and actually wanted to get to Nationals. Ougiminami are, as Tanaka puts it, a bunch of yankee punks, and despite only meeting them in this episode I already feel I’ve grown attached to them and their struggles.
Having this episode told from the point-of-view of Ougiminami was a smart move. It fleshed out this new team we’ve never met before, and also made Karasuno seem like a serious threat in comparison. After facing off against some of the best teams in the country, Karasuno always seemed like the weak link; here, however, they come off as a strong unit with tremendous skill and volleyball sense. We’re all rooting for those dorky crows, and seeing them being awesome is awesome in itself, but this episode presented Ougiminami’s very different situation in a way that had me also rooting for them (even if they were never going to win).
Towada Yoshiki is the wing spiker and current captain of the yankee team, and the main point-of-view for this match, while last year’s captain, the genki Akimiya Noboru, makes an appearence as well. They’re both polar opposites – Towada comes across as hot-headed and aggressive when we first meet him, and doesn’t appear to put in as much effort as he could, where as Akki-chan appears ever joyful and gives plenty of cheesy motivational speeches to keep spirits high. They’re a sharp contrast, but the flashback between them is the most insightful part of this episode. We cut back to the Interhigh Preliminaries when Ougiminami faced off against the powerhouse Shiratorizawa in their very first match, and were decimated. We see Towada giving up on saving the last ball, while his captain screams and runs for it, diving but failing to save the game. In that moment we see how differently these two are approaching the match, but the moment when Towada witnesses his captain sobbing in the clubroom is what tips him over the edge.
It’s a short yet powerful scene that proves how overpowering Shiratorizawa are, whilst making us feel great sympathy for this little volleyball team without much talent or training. The current advisor tells them that winning isn’t what matters – which is fair and true in a way, but it confirms that they’ve all practically accepted defeat before the match is even over. Thankfully, it all comes full circle when Towada watches the ball fly over the net, about to score Karasuno the win… until he charges forward, saves the ball, and screams for his teammates to keep on trying. It’s another striking moment that had me rooting for them, even if only for a brief moment. The fact that they tried to keep on fighting is all they needed to do. Unfortunately, Karasuno had already secured victory. As a viewer, it felt good to see them win their first match with ease, but seeing it from the perspective of their opponents was a smart way to make us care for a single episode match that could have been very straight forward and without much else to discuss. With this approach, we got was one of the best episodes of this season so far, in my opinion.
Overview – What’s Next?:
Even if we don’t see Ougiminami again, I appreciated their point of view in this match. But let’s be real here: Karasuno are still the best. We got so many hilarious character moments that had me cheering and laughing throughout. Yachi’s near-silent “Osu” was the cutest thing ever, and Hinata and Asahi’s puking troubles were funny once again, but it was Tanaka who stole the show for me. His back and forth with Ougiminami was soooo funny, as was the return of his Buddha pose when he aced that first spike. Also, as Kiyoko rightfully pointed out, Tanaka looks good with a banana.