Sports anime are really fairly simple in structure when it comes down to it. They’re pretty much all underdog young men coming of age stories with sports as a metaphor for personal growth. That’s it. And Haikyuu is no different. It tweaks the formula a bit by giving attention to such a large cast of characters so that we follow dozens of arcs instead of one or two, but it’s hardly the only sports anime to have gone that route.
Really, the only thing I can say that set Haikyuu apart is that it does what it does very well. It is exceptionally well written and very measured, it has fantastic character designs and makes the most out of a plain setting and mostly down to earth animations. It’s a well made show. And that’s more impactful than people give it credit for.
There shouldn’t have been anything special about this episode. It’s the second half of a little training match with Date Tech. The stakes are so low they might as well be nonexistent. In fact I can’t really tell you who won overall. I can tell you who won individual sets but I sort of lost track of the big picture. It must not have mattered much to the players either since no one brought it up.
And yet, as I’ve been saying for pretty much 8 weeks in a row now, I loved this episode. We got to see Shoyo thinking and potentially acting strategically with a outlook at long term goals. That’s amazing for him and shows a lot of maturity. Even Kageyama noticed.
Oh and Kageyama noticed! Like he paid attention to his teammates. And when he failed to do so, he considered it a failure on his part. Now that might be even more amazing and certainly something that’s going to help him on and off the court for the rest of his life.
Haikyuu became an extremely popular show very quickly. And a lot of that was due to how appealing the characters were to viewers. It’s tempting to not mess with a winning formula. You can have character evolution without changing your characters too much. But you can really see the change in the boys and in the entire team. Tanaka and Nishinoya are probably the two closest to how they were when we first met them and even they are noticeably different.
But since all the changing was done slowly and organically it’s though to notice until a moment hits you. Like in the middle of a practice match when you realize that Tsuki is having fun. A lot of fun. And being a bit of a dork. The cool stoic guy became a dork and it doesn’t seem weird. Or the deeply insecure ace is openly taunting a powerful enemy and nothing at all seems out of place.
This episode was like a gentle revelation. The boys have grown and although they still have a long way to go, it was nice to take a second and acknowledge how far they have all come with a nice friendly game of volleyball.
The one thing I would have changed (maybe), is that I would like to have gotten to know Date Tech’s players a bit better. Catch up with them and see how far they have come in the same time. It was nice to see the 3rd years and how the new captain is getting along. Because Haikyuu does character development so well, I’m sure I wouldn’t have minded if they stretched the game to another episode just ti give us some time for that.
This said, it’s not like I’m complaining in the least about what we did get!
I know I’ve mentioned it before but I think it bears repeating. I love the scenes of Hinata biking home on a lonely road. These scenes have been present in almost every episode this season and I think they create a fantastic visual and symbolic motif. And they’re pretty. They are nighttime scenes with a palette that is different from the rest of the show and have this very deliberate composition with Hinata offside being the only thing that moves on the screen unless a car drives by. They make the world seem huge and infinitely vast. It’s a ritualistic calming down at after a long day of giving it your all and pushing yourself.
So I was doubly thrilled to see that scene unexpectedly extended into Hinata practising alone (I loved that in season 1) and having his sister drop in. I’m pretty sure we’ve seen Hinata’s sister before. I wasn’t surprised he had one or anything. But it’s been a long time and she’s adorable. Well not exactly adorable but she’s a lot like him which I found cute. They seem to get along as well.
As always, I’m really looking forward to next episode. If season 5 comes out (and it should, this is a great show), I’m going to binge it. This weekly watching is torture.
PS. I’m aware I went overboard on the screencaps. I’m not sure how it happened…