Haikyuu Manga Special One-Shot Review: “Nobuyuki Kai’s Nightmare”

Haikyuu!! has returned in manga form for a special one-shot chapter, “Nobuyuki Kai’s Nightmare”. It’s meant to tie into the film Gekijōban Haikyu!! Gomi Suteba no Kessen (Haikyu!! the Movie: Decisive Battle at the Garbage Dump), which comes out in Japan next week. “Nobuyuki Kai’s Nightmare” takes us back to the iconic match between Karasuno and Nekoma at Nationals.

I’m always excited to get more Haikyuu!! content. I’m still bitter that they’re choosing to cram 100+ manga chapters of content into two films, rather than giving the anime at least one more season. But I’m always happy to return to this world and the characters that I fell in love with. It’s like a warm hug.

This is the second special chapter released since the manga ended in 2020. The first, “A Party Reignited”, was released in April 2022 and was basically fan service to the highest degree. It featured fan-favorite characters coming back and sharing the screen, some of whom had never even met before in the story.

“Nobuyuki Kai’s Nightmare” goes back to the final moments of the match between Karasuno and Nekoma through the eyes of Kai. Kai was a member of the Nekoma team that we didn’t spend a whole lot of time with, so it’s nice to see that we can get into his head a bit here. And it’s a surprising bit of meta, with Kai being fully aware that the match is over, yet unable to help himself from going after the ball. 

He wonders if his volleyball career will flash before his eyes, and he basically wills that montage into existence. There are snapshots of Kai with his teammates and players from other schools, moments we never got to see in canon because the series is focused on Hinata, Kageyama, and Karasuno. But in the end, the match is over, and Nekoma has lost.

After the match, rather than being devastated, the Nekoma players start wondering what would have happened in Kenma had been able to properly set the last ball. Kenma treats them all to an imaginary scenario where the final rally with Karasuno is never-ending, featuring last-minute saves from Nishinoya and Sawamura, among others. Naturally, Lev and Tora are riveted to this retelling of moves that never happened.

Kenma’s FACE, I can’t even.

But in the end, he didn’t set the ball. They lost. The game is over. Nekoma shares a good laugh at Kenma’s reaction to a rally that didn’t happen. I thought this was a really nice moment that I found pretty realistic. Who hasn’t, after something like this, wondered what could have been? And a core part of Kenma’s character was how far ahead he thought in a match, and that was a huge factor in that match. So it makes total sense to me that Kenma would be able to predict what would happen.

It says so much about Nekoma as a team that they were able to take their loss on the chin and still have a laugh about what could have happened. I always liked Nekoma, although they were never my favorite team. They always had a fantastic dynamic, and you could tell that they all really loved each other. It was honestly wonderful to see them together again.

And then we jump forward to now, with Kuroo, Yaku, and Kai all out to dinner, talking about the high school nightmares they still have. Kai’s is that last rally against Karasuno, which just keeps going until he wakes up exhausted. I can relate to this so hard; I still have high school dreams even as someone in my 40s. It’s about those moments that solidify themselves in your brain. I imagine it to be like something out of Inside Out, where there are all these core memories.

I love the idea of these characters still being friends and hanging out together. One of the things that hooked me so hard into Haikyuu!! was the characters, and I’m always going to be happy when we get to see them again. 

Gekijōban Haikyu!! Gomi Suteba no Kessen (Haikyu!! the Movie: Decisive Battle at the Garbage Dump) premieres in Japan on February 16.

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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