Haikyuu!! is back, baby, and the hype is real! Yes, we had to wait a little bit longer than we were supposed to – due to that whole, you know, world on fire thing – but we are back on the court for Karasuno vs. Inarizaki, and Karasuno is in for a fight. You thought the last episode ended on a cliffhanger? How about the ending of “Rhythm”? I knew what was coming and still gasped!
“Rhythm” gives us a little bit of a recap of where we stopped before the hiatus – Atsumu’s intense control of the crowd during his serve, and Hinata’s attempt at a super jump making him forget to spike the ball – before diving back into what is quite possibly my favorite match from the manga. Something this episode also did was remind me of how annoyed I was by the Inarizaki team, particularly the cheering squad.
What an aptly titled episode this is to highlight that an important factor in a lot of sports is getting into a rhythm. When you get into one, it’s important to stay in it, and it can be extremely detrimental if someone disrupts yours.
That is the essence of this episode. The Inarizaki cheering section, by clapping, chanting, and pounding drums, is doing their level best to set the pace of the match while Karasuno is on “offense”. It’s messing with the team, getting in their heads, making them serve faster than they want to.
Enter Saeko Tanaka and her Japanese Taiko club. In the manga, this reveal came at the end of a chapter, so naturally, in the anime, it comes right at the mid-episode break. (I’m still not a fan of the animals, but at least there’s now a Kageyama crow!) One thing this back-and-forth battle does is, for those who come from countries who have no concept of cheerleaders, shows just how into it some cultures can get. Japan is a lot like the US in this regard.
I loved this moment in the manga, and I clapped when she showed up. Haikyuu!! has fantastic secondary characters, and Saeko has always been one of my favorites. The best thing about this reveal is that Saeko’s Taiko skills aren’t just cropping up out of nowhere. That fact was given to us in Season 2, when she was introduced.
This whole sequence hits so much different animated and with sound. As someone who has attended a lot of live sporting events, it wasn’t that much trouble imagining what this sounded like, but it’s just so much better in the anime than as flat panels on a page.
With Saeko and her Taiko club battling the Inarizaki cheering section, things are on a more even footing, allowing the Karasuno players to catch their breath and get their feet under them.
However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still in for a fight. This is Nationals, and Inarizaki is a championship team. Even without their cheering section’s duplicitous actions, they are more than skilled enough to take command of the match just by playing volleyball.
This is evident in the way that the Inarizaki team messes with the tempo of the match. While their cheering section can be drowned out by Saeko’s drums, it’s a little more difficult to offset a team that alters their pace from serve to serve. From Osamu, who takes every second he’s allowed before he serves, to Suna, who serves right after the whistle, to Atsumu, who can wield either a normal jump serve or a floater, Karasuno is scrambling to acclimate themselves to a rhythm that keeps changing.
I love that Hinata’s and Kageyama’s super quick still shocks people, even on the national level. But “Rhythm” ends with the Miya brothers copying their quick. You may have noticed that it’s much closer to the original quick from Season 1, but it’s a little frightening nonetheless. As I said, I knew this was coming, but I still got chills. Inarizaki certainly knows what beats to hit to leave Karasuno reeling.
The side characters certainly get their time to shine in Haikyuu!!, with so many of them watching the match. Bokuto and Akaashi, Hoshiumi, and Suguru provide much-needed color commentary that is both informative and hilarious. Akaashi is just as analytical of other matches as he is of his own, and Hoshiumi speculating what kind of serve Hinata was going to hit after all that build-up – only for him to do a normal one – is hysterical in any format.
I am also a big fan of both the new OP and ED, though I must admit that the new OP doesn’t make me quite as hype as the last few. However, the new ED more than makes up for it, showcasing Karasuno’s defeated opponents gathered around, watching Nationals together, and training for next year.
I am so excited that Haikyuu!! is back! I have missed this show.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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