“The Battle Without Willpower”
Daichi’s Out, Ennoshita’s In!:
Gah, I loved this episode. I think I loved it just as much as (or perhaps more than) the Tsukishima-centric episodes. Last week saw Daichi go down, and in case you thought he would get back up and continue playing, that’s not the case. After colliding with Tanaka and hitting his head, he’s forced to the infirmary to get checked over, and by the looks of it he’s not going to return until this match is done. His departure is the first powerful moment of many in this episode, as Suga watches on in horror and Daichi entrusts Asahi with winning the game. After all, if Karasuno were to lose here, this would be Daichi’s last game, and what an awful end that would be. He may not be the most flashy player, but he is the captain that Karasuno needs, and his absence definitely changes the mood of the match.
With Daichi gone, it’s time for someone to take his place. You might think Sugawara a good choice, but as Oikawa points out, the team is more in need of another wing spiker, not a setter, which means that it’s time for Ennoshita Chikara (Masuda Toshiki) to step onto the court. You remember him, right? C’mon, you must! He was there the whole time, watching from the sidelines beside Sugawara. If you’d forgotten, then the episode itself did a good job of reminding the audience of what he’s done. He’s described as the don of the second years; he’s the one who would smack down Tanaka and Noya whenever they went too far, helped them pass their exams, and gave the first years bits of advice now and again. He’s always been there, but this is his time to take centre stage, in what we can presume to be his first official volleyball match.
The Beauty of Haikyuu!! Flashbacks:
Nothing beats a Haikyuu!! flashback. It’s popular opinion that the series is at its best when we’re in well animated, high energy volleyball matches, and I would agree that that’s a large part of why Haikyuu!! is as good as it is. However, this second season has proved that training arcs and character development are just as exciting and arguably more important. Throw in the occasional flashback (which ties in with the character development) and you’ve got a winning formula. I loved when we learned about Tsukishima’s past and saw why he fell out of love with volleyball. It was devastating and so wonderfully directed; all the right emotions came across on screen, and we got much the same here.
Ennoshita’s story is a simple one, though there’s something bleak and rather depressing about it (and that’s not just the greyed out colour scheme, because that’s a recurring motif with these flashbacks). From what little we’ve seen of Ennoshita, he’s mainly kept his fellow second years in line and cheered his team to victory. He never got the focus that the rest of the cast was allowed, yet he never seemed a bad player. Like Daichi, he’s comes off a bit plain; he’s a bit of a generalist. Here, we find out that during his first year he was among the five players that left after initially joining the team due to the harsh training regime. I’m not the sporty type, so I could relate to his reasons of just not wanting to work up a sweat and get shouted at every day. The thing is, deep down, he knew he wanted to go back. He tried to take the easy road out, but he still had that urge to return, if only to relive that one block he managed that got the attention of his seniors and coach.
There are plenty of amazing volleyball moments in Haikyuu!!, but I think the scene with Ennoshita at home was one of the best of whole series. It was slow, the animation was subtle yet detailed – we saw him celebrate the aircon, read a book, eat some ice cream, and even have a little snooze. What should have been a moment of relief felt so wrong, and he knew it. It was framed so simply, and when he remembered the feeling of the ball slapping against his skin, it was such a satisfying payoff. This is directing at its finest; so much conveyed by showing so little, and it packed the emotional punch that the scene needed. It was an A+ moment – one of the finest in all of Haikyuu!!.
And that’s not all. We also learn that Ennoshita is the team’s choice for becoming the next captain after the third years graduate. This is the first time this matter has been brought up, but now that we consider the options, the answer seems obvious. Noya can’t be the captain (by the rules of the game), Tanaka is Tanaka, Hinata and Kageyama would be terrible at it, and Yamaguchi doesn’t have the experience, which just leaves Tsukishima and Ennoshita. Personally, I think Tsukishima could be a great captain if he was given more time to develop. Perhaps when the current second years graduate (if the series still continues after that point – which I think it should), maybe then Tsukki will be in the right head space for captaincy. But for now, it’s Ennoshita’s for the taking. With all that in mind, he steps onto the court and plays a solid game, with the most fistpump worthy moment being when he helps out the nervous Yamaguchi, saving the ball and leading the team to win the first set.
Yamaguchi’s Float Serve:
But wait! There’s more! Not only did Ennoshita get his spotlight this episode, but Yamaguchi also got his much deserved time to shine. Last time Yamaguchi was called up to deliver his float serve was back when they lost to Aoba Jousai. But Tsukishima points out (to make him feel better) that back then Karasuno were on the verge of defeat, whereas here they are a few points ahead and can afford the risk. Thankfully, it works out (mostly). Poor Yamaguchi is such a nervous wreck, which makes his scenes so tense (and exciting) to watch. Unfortunately, he buckled under the pressure with his second serve, instead playing it safe. They got the point in the end, but he knew he could do better. Ukai was prepared to scream at him for not going all out, but the captain-in-training stood up for him when he needed it most, which was another impactful moment. Don’t cry, Yamaguchi. You did good!
Overview – What’s Next?:
What a great episode. Now that I think about it, Hinata and Kageyama almost weren’t in it at all. They never played for the rest of the set, instead cheering on with Suga and reacting to Ukai’s anger. The thing is, it didn’t matter. The focus on Daichi’s departure, Ennoshita’s arrival, and Yamaguchi’s serve was more than enough to satisfy our volleyball appetite. This episode was packed with plenty of important, emotional moments from characters that aren’t fan favourites. I’ve not said it before now because it would give away his big moment, but when I read this in the manga, Ennoshita became one of my favourite characters of the series. Not quite Tsukki or Yachi level, but he’s certainly up there. Hopefully many more feel the same after watching this episode.
Full-length images: 06.