Man Haikyuu To The Top is good. I’ve been flirting with the idea for a while now but I’m just going to take a stand and announce it, this is my favourite season of Haikyuu!!. Or to put it into a bit more perspective, this is my favourite season of one of my favourite animes ever.
It’s amazing and it makes me want it to just not end, or at least not end anytime soon. So let’s concentrate on the present for now. Episode 9!
I’m just going to blurt out my impressions of the episode as it went. I realized somewhere in the latter half that I had started smiling at some point during the episode and the corners of my mouth hurt a bit. I don’t know when I started smiling so emphatically but I do think it must of been because of one of these moments…
I thought it was adorable that Daichi’s nightmare was essentially exactly what Hinata was going through at the beginning of the series. Well minus the creepy everyone disappeared aspect. But being the only member of the volleyball club and having no place, equipment and no one to play with. That’s pretty much all of Hinata’s experience before Karasuno. I loved how they used such an uncharacteristic sequence that made me wonder what the heck was going on not only to highlight how nervous Daichi is but also how similar all these boys are deep down.
And then, having him meet up with Suga, Asahi and Shimizu for a shrine visit was a great contrast to the previous scene.
Even after all these episodes, we really haven’t gotten to know Shimizu too well. Not in a bad way or anything but it’s just never been her story. Shimizu is a reserved seemingly introverted girl who doesn’t naturally share a lot about herself. It makes sense that she wouldn’t be dropping exposition dumps about her past. Which is why it was refreshing to see her just hang out with the guys from the team like that. Sure it was a bit awkward at first but when things loosened up and everyone started to relax, it was like seeing a group of friends together. For some reason, that felt like real progress to me. And I was so happy for Shimizu. It can be though to find your place.
The other boys though, were all true to themselves. Hinata texting Kageyama to invite him to the shrine and getting just a simple No in response definitely made me giggle. I didn’t get a screencap but I loved seeing Saeko (Tanaka’s sister) again. I always thought the two of us could be friends. I may have Shimizu’s social skills but I have Saeko’s grace. Basically, we quickly saw that the team hadn’t changed too much and that makes sense. The third years are still here. It’s been less than a year since the start of the series, in universe. That sort of blows my mind.
When you look at it that way, all these kids really grew up a whole lot and pretty quickly at that.
You know who else has been killing it lately, coach Yukai. I always liked coach and he certainly always tried his best but aside from being a former volleyball player and having a coach for a grandfather, he was pretty unprepared for the gig. And somehow, I don’t think teaching really comes naturally to him. He’s tried his best but that didn’t always work out and for the most part he was trying to imitate his grandfather or his own past coaches.
But lately, he’s come into his own. He’s been giving Hinata great advice since the start of the season and even going into more mundane details like nutrition and sleep. He’s really starting to step into his won and this best of video compilation for his team is the most genius thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t recall seeing anyone ever do that in either anime or real life. It’s brilliant! It makes me want to coach something just so I can pull that trick. I literally said out loud, oh wow, Ukai is a great coach! Does the fact that Ukai is my favourite character have anything to do with how much importance I am giving to this moment? No, I don’t think so!
When I saw this batch scene in the “next time on Haikyuu” preview of episode 8, I didn’t know what to think. Not that it’s bad in any way but it just seemed so uncharacteristic for Haikyuu. And you may think I’m adding all these screencaps of this one scene because pretty anime girls in baths are good for SEO but that’s not it.
There’s a reason I called my post The Manager. I really liked seeing Shimizu actually being part of the group and not just the team manager. I liked that she may have made some true friends and that her company and opinions are valued beyond manual labour and eye candy for the team. But this is the scene that made me fall in love with Shimizu just a little myself.
The was such a beautiful and intimate moment of friendship. In a show where female characters have been completely relegated to backgrounds and very occasional commentary, this was just a little moment entirely for and about our two main female characters. And it was devoid on cattiness or tired tropes. I must say both of them were portrayed so lovingly as well. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with these girls? I’m really rooting for them.
Before this episode, I had almost forgotten about the tournament. The season’s structure is so unusual and imaginative. Taking such a long breather before reminding the audience of the tension at the core of the present arc. It’s been amazing.
So episode 9 was all about nerves, excitement and anxiety. Or how every one on the team is dealing with said nerves and excitement. When Karasuno entered the venue and started mingling with all the other teams, I started to get a little excited. I haven’t seen so many of them together in a long time and it just creates this electricity in the air. This isn’t a practice match. It’s for real this time. When Nekoma showed up, I practically cheered. I love Nekoma!
But as the teams started filing into the gymnasium one by one, each bearing their banners, I realized something else. I was nervous…and excited…and my cheeks hurt a little because at some point I had started smiling without realizing it and I hadn’t stopped at all.