Last week’s installment of Haikyuu!! contained a few of my favorite moments from the manga, but “Broken Heart” was by far the better episode. It absolutely nailed the manga-to-anime transition and exceeded expectations.
Honestly, the difference between “Broken Heart” and “Found” is astounding. I don’t dislike any episode of Haikyuu!!, really, and it doesn’t suffer that many missteps, but last week’s subpar character drawings and too-fast a pace were frustrating when I know how amazing this show can be. I expect a lot from this series, and last week was disappointing. This week, however, felt like a massive return to form.
Whereas last week crammed in several character moments in a manner that significantly reduced their impact, “Broken Heart” instead focused almost solely on Tanaka, who has gotten very little focus over the series. He is a solid, steady presence on the Karasuno team, and though he has gotten a couple of big moments in various matches, he hasn’t gotten the attention many of the other characters have.
That all changed this week, which not only gave us a blond-haired, baby Tanaka (who reminded me a lot of Kyotani, particularly when he was leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets), but also featured a pretty fantastic “redemption” arc. Now, I don’t think Tanaka needed redemption so much, but this episode did a pretty good job of reminding everyone that sometimes, nothing goes right. Sometimes, the other team is better.
Tanaka is actually a great character to use for this kind of story because he is always loud and energetic and doesn’t seem to let anything get to him. Yet in his inner monologue (which is the calmest I have ever heard him, and for the longest amount of time), he reveals that occasionally he does get down on himself. And of course, he does. He’s human, and it happens to everyone. The important thing is to not wallow in those feelings, to keep pushing forward, because if you give up, you’ll never get past it.
Not only that but even when he was starting to get down because he wasn’t performing as well, he was still yelling encouragement to his teammates. He didn’t want to let his slump drag the rest of the team down with him.
Also, how great was it that Tanaka’s set point spike was that steep cross he’s been working on since he saw Bokuto pull it off in season 2?
Speaking of Bokuto, he was barely in this episode but he was still probably my favorite part. I’ve said before how much I love the crowd reactions that we often get to see in Haikyuu!!. Before, they were random fans (and then we got Oikawa and Iwaizumi during season 3), but now a lot of the crowd contains side characters, and I love getting the chance to see them react to things. Akaashi’s annoyance that Bokuto is fully aware of how he behaves during matches was hilarious, as was Bokuto damn near fainting and Akaashi having to catch him. (By the way, the fainting scene was an extra sketch at the end of a chapter, so it was nice to see that included.)
And of course, you have the two blue-shirted guys, who a couple of episodes ago said there was nothing spectacular about Tanaka other than him being energetic, yet they were fully cheering him on in “Broken Heart”.
While we’re on the subject of reactions, Tsukishima’s calm “nice kill” after Tanaka’s spike, when the rest of the team enthusiastically ran over to congratulate him, was hysterical.
But yes, after last week’s episode, this one hit all of the high notes. Episode 15 was outsourced and it, sadly, showed. The character design was atrocious at times, the animation wasn’t up to snuff, and the pacing was too fast, blasting through peak moments without letting the characters react to them.
“Broken Heart”, however, was back on form. The characters looked like themselves again, and the animation was much better (the focus on the hands for that last point), but more importantly, the pacing was on point. In this episode, the dramatic moments had an impact in a way they weren’t allowed to last week. There was a tension in the atmosphere that wasn’t there last week, and I legitimately cheered when Tanaka landed that spike.
Now Karasuno has won the first set, but they no longer have the element of surprise, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who takes the next set. We, however, will be taking a bit of a detour and finally checking in on how Nekoma’s doing at this tournament.
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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