I didn’t mean to skip last week’s Haikyuu!!, but it worked out pretty well, since “Cats vs. Monkeys” and “Trap” both focus on Nekoma’s second match against Sarukawa. Both episodes concentrate pretty heavily on Kenma and feature quite a lot of backstory, so if you’re a fan of Nekoma, you were probably in heaven.
I was never really a fan of Nekoma. I don’t dislike them – there are very few teams in this series that I actively dislike – but they weren’t ever really one of my favorites. And while this is the timing that was in the manga, it feels odd to have such a dramatic break in the action by switching away from the Karasuno/Inarizaki match. It will be different once all the episodes are out and you can binge them all, but being away from the main match for two whole weeks seems very long. Still, I understand why Nekoma is so important to Karasuno, and therefore to Haikyuu!!. And “Cats vs. Monkeys” and “Trap” both reminded me why people are huge fans of them.
“Cats vs. Monkeys” reveals that Sarukawa’s main strategy has been to tire out Kenma, who is admittedly the brain of Nekoma’s team. It’s unsurprisingly effective, because anyone who knows anything about Kenma will know that he is not, what you call, athletic. The flashbacks to him as a first-year were great at showing just how little stamina he has – he’s always a lap behind when they run, it takes him longer to do his weight lifting. (I could not stop laughing at Kenma’s rant against gravity. It was so relatable.)
However, what Sarukawa has neglected to take into account is how perceptive Kenma is, and how much he wants to win. When I saw that the title of this week’s episode was “Trap”, I assumed it was referring to Sarukawa’s strategy. I’d forgotten that Nekoma realized what they were doing and came up with a counter-offensive.
Last week’s episode may have been a little bit flashback-heavy for some people, since it only featured a few minutes of actual volleyball, but it was important to establish both Kenma’s character and his dedication to his team. It’s also important to get the audience emotionally invested in Nekoma as a team, as this week’s episode sets up a for real Battle at the Garbage Dump. That probably should be considered a spoiler, but given how much they’ve been hyping up that much, you had to assume that it was coming.
Despite the fact that it breaks up the flow of the Karasuno/Inarizaki match – especially after that super hype moment from Tanaka that ended “Broken Heart” – I really enjoyed these episodes. It’s the most amount of time we’ve spent with Nekoma probably ever, and I’d forgotten just how great their team dynamic is.
I loved Kenma’s early relationship with Yamamoto, where he told Kenma to call him Tora because that’s what his friends called him, and Kenma asked if he had to, only to immediately cut to Kenma yelling “Tora!” during the match. I have also decided that I am going to marry Fukunaga; I burst out laughing when he threw the water on Kenma and Yamamoto. (The translation was not exact; they tried to regionalize it so Americans would find it funny.)
I’ve said it many times before, but one thing that Haikyuu!! does so well is humanize Karasuno’s opponents. You become as much a fan of them as any of the Karasuno team members (sometimes more – when was the last time Narita said anything?), and episodes like “Cats vs. Monkeys” and “Trap” are excellent reminders of why.
Still, it will be nice to get back to Karasuno, and by the brief shot of the scoreboard when Hinata was hitting that spike (Inarizaki was up 13-7), it looks like they’ve got their work cut out for them.
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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