The Thrilling Rematch Begins:
Could this the best episode of the whole season thus far? It’s definitely a contender. All I know is this episode was so good it made me want to punch a wall just for the thrill of it. The destined rematch between Karasuno and Seijou was always going to deliver, and one episode in, this is already the best match of the season, and if it continues at this level, possibly the best of the whole series. I know what’s coming, of course, but you never know what surprises will come when it’s delivered in anime form; especially with an adaptation as stellar as this. All I can say is that I’m hyped – the whole season has been building for this (and more), and so far the first set is off to an electric start.
However, back to the beginning of the episode. Karasuno and Seijou meet on the court and we get a bunch of neat and occasionally hilarious interactions. That one face, followed by Kiyoko saving Yachi from the ball, was perfect. Daichi and Oikawa had some banter, with Namikawa Daisuke continuing to do a perfect job of capturing the snark and cheekiness that characterises Oikawa so perfectly. It’s easy to see why he is so popular; not only does he have dashing good looks, but his smarmy attitude somehow makes him all the more entertaining to watch, especially when you can see he’s not a bad guy at all. He just… has his ways. There are still sparks in his rivalry with Kageyama, and this is the perfect opportunity for Karasuno to show how much they’ve changed over the past four months. I was pumped before the game even begun, but it only got better once the whistle was blown.
Other than the team losing Daichi during the Wakutani match, Karasuno has done a great job so far in this tournament. And after all the training, it makes sense. Had we not spent the first 12 episodes of this season honing their skills and motivations, this wouldn’t feel as deserved. Finally, they’ve met a team that’s worth their time, and it feels so good seeing their intense, in-your-face back and forth action from the moment ‘go’. As we’ve witnessed in the previous matches, most players get a chance to show off their new talents; but here, with the OST thumping in the background and us following the whole first set almost in real-time, it’s a whole other level of awesome.
Some of my favourite moments are, of course, from Tsukishima. He didn’t feature all that much, but every time he did show up made me either fist pump or giggle – he delivered a perfect block against Seijou’s third years, and then saved Hinata when he was reminded of his earlier defeat. But even better were his moments of comedy (which never fail to make me smile). He delivers lines like: “Nice Kill” in a deadpan fashion whilst everyone else leaps into the air and screams with joy, or “Is that even Japanese?” when Kageyama is getting flustered at Hinata. Other moments that I loved were Asahi landing the first spike, Noya wanting to save Oikawa’s serve whilst Hinata squirms at the prospect, Yachi repeating how she thinks her arm would fall off if she had to receive those balls, seeing Daichi back on the court, and of course, having Hinata use his smarts and delivering some epic spikes from to time. I love seeing them all in their element, doing what they do best – but even better were the two standout moments from Seijou.
Seijou truly deserve their powerhouse status. The two moments in question were easily the most “wow” parts of the episode that I’m sure got everyone insanely hyped. The first is Oikawa’s serious serve, where his teammates covered the back of their heads for their own protection. I don’t need to repeat myself about how brilliant this show looks, but the animation, pacing, and impact in that moment was pretty outstanding. If you blinked, you’d have missed it – just like Karasuno did.
The second highlight goes to Mad Dog, who we only saw a glimpse of several weeks back. It was clear that he was a troublemaker and a force to be reckoned with, but this first year is something else. Although his relationship with his teammates is terrible, and his barging forward to claim the ball as his own was messy and rude, the blow he delivered was insane. Like with Oikawa’s serve, Karasuno couldn’t even react. The shift in art made the moment even more powerful, accompanied by what sounds like a new track on the OST, which is much more jazzy-sounding than what we’re used to. Like Takeda-sensei points out, Mad Dog is the broken cog that comes in and disrupts the flow of the match, with unpredictable consequences.
Overview – What’s Next?:
I have to be honest and say that last week’s match didn’t thrill me as much as I’d hoped, but so far I’m loving what we’re getting here. Even though the match didn’t start until several minutes into the episode, it felt packed with content, was fast paced in the best possible way, and allowed plenty of characters to prove their worth. The court dynamics are sure to shift after this week’s climactic finish, but with the first set coming down to the wire, it doesn’t look like this game is going to end any time soon.
Full-length images: 08.