The Sinister Oikawa and the Powerhouse Mad Dog:
I don’t want it to seem like I’m repeating myself once again… but this episode was amazing! Constant real-time volleyball action from start to finish, so many characters getting their time to save, spike, receive, or just make one hell of an impression. Where last week’s beginning to this fated rematch focused more on Karasuno’s improvement, this time around it was about the powers of Seijou and how Karasuno can’t quite keep up with them as the second set is coming to a close.
Oikawa truly is a force to be reckoned with. It may seem most obvious when it’s his turn to serve – he may fail from time to time, but when his head is in the game (and the volleyballs reflected in his eyes) there’s no stopping him. But he’s even more terrifying because of his ability to adapt to all of his players’ needs, giving them the right set-ups for their style, all whilst keeping Karasuno (mainly Hinata, in this episode) fooled. He plays around with expectations and things rarely go against his plan, and whenever he sees the dejected looks of his opponents, he gives those sinister glares that would make him a villain in any other series. But this is Haikyuu!!, and Oikawa balances his intensity with spades off goofiness, which always helps lighten the tone even in these intense matches.
Mad Dog is the other star player the week after coming late last episode. As it so happens, his insanely powerful spike was an out, which gave Karasuno the first set, but this unmoveable cog only gets easier to work with as time goes on. With each passing point, he gets faster and more terrifying. He scored spike after spike for minutes at a time and you could feel how cautious Karasuno had become of him. Perhaps he’ll overwork himself before too long, but as it stands right now he’s one of the most impressive volleyball players we’ve seen in the series, at least if we’re measuring it by power alone.
Suga’s Sneaky Tricks:
Even though Seijou were dominating this time around, Karasuno also had a trick up their sleeve: Suga! Remember him? #2 on his shirt? He’s a 17 year old cursed with grey hair? Doesn’t say much, plays even less? It’s amusing to me that Suga gets so little screentime considering he’s consistently one of the most popular characters of the series (the latest official poll had him in 2nd place to match his shirt), but damn, Furudate is not interested in using him as much as he could/should. When he was first introduced I expected he’d have his own revenge (in a nice way) subplot against Kageyama for “taking” his spot on the team in his final high school year, but instead he’s fine being on the sidelines and only being called to play when things go wrong.
I wouldn’t say he’s the most impressive player (or character – oops) but I would describe him as tactical. He knows the rules well and always comes on with a plan to help the team when they need it most. Having two setters on the court changes the dynamics and allows for five potential spikers right up at the net when it’s time to score a point, which forces Seijou to get very defensive. You may wonder why they don’t do this more often, but I suspect this year’s team has already been long decided. If any player were to be swapped out for Suga, it would have to be Tsukishima, who has shown his growth this past season and proved as an essential blocker in a team lacking in defence. Suga just doesn’t fit comfortably in the equation, but I’m sure his legion of fans were happy to see him in action, even if it only lasted for five minutes.
Overview – What’s Next?:
This Karasuno vs Seijou rematch is a serious contender for the best volleyball match in all of Haikyuu!! So many great things are happening. I’m loving the constant action, the spanner in the works that is Mad Dog, and the use of sneaky tactics by Suga. This feels like a proper intense match where it could go either way, and could last for quite some time if they reach match point and neither feels like budging. As for next week, it looks like Yamaguchi is going to take stage with some newfound confidence. Get hyped!