Hello! I hope everyone is doing well! It’s time for another post! This time: Haikyuu!! I’ll be covering a few topics, but mostly Karasuno’s run in the Interhigh Prelims. Let’s get started!
First, I have to talk about something other than the Interhigh. I need to go through some practice matches and summer training camp Karasuno went through to gain much needed experience as a team.
The practice matches were against an arch rival from Tokyo called Nekoma. Former coach Ukai and Nekoma’s coach, Nekomata, were good friends, but eventually the two teams stopped playing each other in what was known as “The Battle of the Garbage Dump.” Now, they’re playing again.
In the practice matches we come to learn that Nekoma and Karasuno are mirror teams, each player is basically the same, and they play off each other very well. It’s actually quite fun realizing this. Anyway, Nekoma handles Karasuno 0-3 in their practice matches.
However, the scores of each practice match? Those are another story. Those were all close.
Match 1: 0:2/ 22-25, 23-25
Match 2: 0:2/ 22-25, 24-26
Match 3: 0:2/ 25-27, 30-32
The matches between Karasuno and Nekoma actually lead to Karasuno’s participation in the summer training camp, too, which I think is actually quite neat. The training camp consisted of four teams and Karasuno: 1) Nekoma (a very talented Tokyo team) ; 2) Fukuroudani (an amazing team with one of the top spikers in the country; 3) Shinzen; and 4) Ubugawa. Nothing is really known about Shinzen and Ubugawa other than they’re part of this yearly training camp.
So, Karasuno joins this camp and they have a very, very hard time. It’s a lengthy time period where they’re pretty much playing volleyball all the time and Karasuno gets absolutely demolished.
Karasuno’s record during the training camp came out to 3-63…3 wins and 63 losses. That’s rough. However, I believe it prepared the team for the interhigh prelims in a way that practicing against a neighborhood association and other teams wouldn’t be able to do.
Now, the Interhigh, which is what we’ve been aiming for, is ready to kick off. Karasuno is placed at #5 in the A Bracket. Along with them we get Tokonami, Date Tech (or Dateko), and Aoba Josai. Karasuno has played practice matches again Dateko and Aoba Josai, losing to Aoba Josai, and pretty much tying Dateko throughout their practice run. It’s a dog-eat-dog run for Karasuno, and the team never really knew how they were going to do—well, I mean they believed they were going to win and avenge their loss to Aoba Josai and Oikawa, but that’s confidence for you.
Before round one of the Interhigh starts Karasuno has a bad reputation. They’re referred to as “The Champions of Old” and “Flightless Crows,” by other teams and spectators, because they used to be good, but now they’ve fallen off the radar for most teams and don’t put up a fight on the court. Well, Karasuno is pissed about that, and I think they have a right to be.
Round One of the Interhigh for Karasuno is against a school called Tokonami, which brings a friend of Captain Daichi in the story. It’s actually quite neat seeing characters that are not fully main characters, but still very integral to the cast get screen time and having their own life and blood built into the story.
What I like about this is that even though we sort of already know how our main cast of characters react and act in general—Asahi is anxious, but on the court he’s pretty calm, Nishinoya is boisterous, Tanaka is like Nishinoya, Daichi is calm, but don’t piss him off, et cetera—we still get actual interactions between our team and others outside of who we’ve met.
The match against Tokonami is fairly boring, though. Even though we have this relationship between Daichi and his friend, there’s not much to build off because we know that there are stronger teams at this tournament.
Karasuno beats Tokonami 25-12, 25-14 to advance to the second round.
In round two of the Interhigh, Karasuno goes up against Date Tech, a school they’ve had practice sets against and come to know quite well. Date Tech is known as the Iron Wall. Their blocking is second to none. It’s a school that prides themselves on being able to shut down anyone that gets in their way.
Now, this match is actually quite odd, and I think the story took some liberties with Karasuno. Date Tech is shutting Karasuno down with outstanding defense, blocking everything Karasuno can throw at them, getting balls up that shouldn’t be going up, and it is frustrating Karasuno. So, what does Karasuno do? Well, they turn to Kageyama and Hinata’s quick attack in the first set. Karasuno scores!
What I don’t like much about this part of the story, though, is that the first set relies almost solely on Hinata and Kageyama to even move forward. It’s quick attack here, quick attack there, other players score, sure, but Kageyama this, Kageyama…Oh, and then a not-so-human moment happens.
Date Tech has a let serve (which is when the ball hits the net but still goes onto the opponent’s side of the court), it’s received by Karasuno, but the ball is out of position. Kageyama is forced to set the ball from an insane position with his form crumbling (honestly, it shouldn’t be possible to set the ball how he does) but why does that matter? Hinata runs toward the net and Kageyama gets the toss perfectly—right where Hinata needs it!
I get the storytelling here. There’s less realism and more awe factor to build momentum and tension in the match. And really, I guess one could say it worked, because the match between Karasuno and Date Tech just got interesting. Can Date Tech stop the quicks? Can they adapt, or is Karasuno going to run away with this match?
But, let’s not forget about the other players. When all the focus of the match is on Hinata and his freakish ability to strike a ball from a quick toss, the momentum goes away from him and focused on another player—a player that has a history against Date Tech, who was shut down over and over in the last match he played against this team. The story focuses on Asahi.
Asahi, calling for a ball, strikes from the back of the court down the middle for a huge point. Now, Asahi isn’t to be taken lightly here. Asahi’s mental state against Date Tech is broken. In the last match he played he was constantly shut down, he was blocked over and over, and eventually he gave up. He was stopped and the team lost because of it. Breaking mentally, Asahi actually quit the team before this volleyball season started as a third year. But now, he’s back and has broken out of his mental slump!
Karasuno, using everything they have as a team, pulls out a win against Date Tech in the second round with a score of 25-19, 25-22. The freak quick is in play, Asahi is shining, Nishinoya is guarding their backs, and all starting members are meshing together to form a cohesive, confident, well-rounded volleyball team.
Can Karasuno carry their momentum through the third round, though? They’re now up against Aoba Josai and Oikawa in a match that I honestly didn’t think would be as good as it was when I first saw it. But, I think some of that was entertainment value to be honest.
In the third round of the Interhigh, Kageyama and Hinata believe they have an ace up their sleeve when it comes to using their quick attack. They begin using signals! Honestly, the use of signals is pretty common in volleyball so attackers know what the setter wants to do, and they’re usually hand signs. Kageyama and Hinata, however, decided to use vocal queues.
(Note: It doesn’t work)
Oikawa figures out the signals Hinata and Kageyama are using, and that prompts the start of a character development phase—which I actually enjoyed. The quicks begin to lose their efficiency and Aoba Josai goes neck and neck with Karasuno, who has to rely on other attacks to score points instead of using quicks with Hinata.
Eventually, though, Kageyama loses his composure. He begins to feel pressured, his tosses become more erratic, and he compares himself to Oikawa instead of simply focusing on his teammates and the way he can help them. He goes faster and faster, he doesn’t breathe, and after a few points, Kageyama is taken out of the match.
The third year setter and vice captain, Sugawara, is now in play! How does that work out for Karasuno? Well, Suga has something to say for most of Karasuno’s players; he has light-hearted comments and easy-to-follow instructions/signals that work in Karasuno’s favor. The morale of the team goes up once again!
What I truly enjoyed about this, though, is that when Kageyama was taken out in place of Suga, we saw growth in both setters. Suga practically gave Kageyama the starting job at the beginning of the series, noting that Kageyama has more skill than him, but once Sugawara goes in the game we get a monologue from both players.
Suga—I don’t want to leave the court. I want to stay on as long as possible.
Kageyama—I want to be back on the court. I want to be playing again.
What I truly enjoyed about this mental interaction we have in our two setters is they want the same thing. They both want to be playing, even though we know one is more talented than the other. They’re going to be fighting for the position of starter, they’re going to be wanting to play in matches and be on the court for as long as possible, and I think Oikawa was the one that gave our cast this growth.
Sure, throughout the series we’ve come to learn that Oikawa is a shitty person—a ladies man who doesn’t care much about what happens on the court as long as he wins—but without Oikawa would we have gotten this growth out of Kageyama and Suga? Would Kageyama realized what was happening if Suga hadn’t been called in as a sub? I don’t think so, and in that respect, we have a shitty character giving growth to other characters (which sounds odd, but I think it’s true).
Set #3 is back and forth, though. Kageyama has calmed down, so he’s back in the match, and really all that matters here is the score. It’s 24-24, 25-25, 26-26…and eventually Aoba Josai goes up 32-31. Kageyama’s middle school teammates who decided to go to Aoba Josai are laughing and having a great time, lead by Oikawa, and they’re smiling (unlike how they were when they played with Kageyama). We’re getting more character growth through the actions of others in this portion of the show and I think that aspect is actually well done. Is Kageyama confused? Perhaps he’s jealous that Oikawa could bring out the best in players Kageyama couldn’t be bothered to deal with?
However, Karasuno has faith in Kageyama, and it’s shown in how they constantly ask for the ball, trust that Kageyama is going to get the toss to them, and how they can smile and laugh, and how Hinata can get into fights with Kageyama on a consistent basis.
Kageyama and Hinata attempt a quick attack to get the score tied at 32…the attack is blocked. Aoba Josai wins the match.
The emotional toll that the third round match had on our cast, though, was immense. Kageyama tries to apologize to Hinata, but Hinata won’t have it. They are upset, angry with themselves, and don’t quite know how to handle the mental stress of the loss.
Coach Ukai tells the team they’re going to eat as they leave the gym, which confuses the players. Ukai lectures them on rebuilding their body’s strength and taking care of their muscles, but he’s also letting them know that it’s okay to let their emotions run.
The Interhigh Perlims ended with an emotional loss for Karasuno (even though they made the Top 16), and honestly, the character growth was fairly well done. While it was fun watching the practice matches and the training camp, seeing all of the skills that the team had and how they’ve come together as a cohesive unit, seeing them lose was even better. It showed how vulnerable they are to certain people, it showed how much they have to learn in respect to their own position, and it showed how one can overcome adversity in the face of a daunting presence such as Date Tech’s Iron Wall.
All-in-all, while the Interhigh Prelims only lasted three matches and ended season one of the anime on semi-sad note, I think it was a well-done aspect to get the growth of some characters and show that they can get even better than they currently are. They have a lot of learning to do, and in that respect they can learn more about each other and how they can increase the level of their play.
Next, though, are the Spring High Miyagi Prefecture Playoffs, the tournament that will get the Miyagi winner into the Spring High National Tournament!
That’s all for this post! Thanks for reading!