Karasuno has their full team back together, but there’s still plenty of work to do before the inter-high qualifying tournament as the Crows head into a tune-up game against their old and fated rivals at Nekoma High.
It’s time for training camp, and now that Karasuno has their full team back together the gang is feverishly preparing for the inter-high qualifying tournament. With some luck, Takeda-sensei is able to get a practice match with the powerful Nekoma High, a former rival of Karasuno and one of Tokyo’s powerful teams, to put his burgeoning team to the test. Although the competition is fierce, the two teams realize they might not be so different in their search for a rival they can count on to push them. Afterward, Karasuno heads off to the inter-high qualifiers, but if they want to finally lose their reputation as the “clipped-wing crows” they’ll have to break through the unbreakable blocking wall of Date Tech.
How Was It?
Haikyu!! thus far has been primarily focused upon the internal challenges faced by the respective members of the team in coming together to play volleyball, with volume 3 capping this off by exploring Nishinoya, Asahi, and Hinata’s internal drives as they all resolve to compete. Accordingly, volumes 4 and 5 mark the team turning their focus outward towards competition as they work towards competing for the first time as a team, and Karasuno’s process of learning to walk forward as a team for the first time becomes a prime focus as they take on a much more polished team in Nekoma. One of the things that I continue to be impressed by is that this series never loses sight of the smaller character-building moments that show the effect being part of the team has on its members, and we see this emphasized in moments such as Hinata receiving his jersey for the first time and promptly freaking out, or in Sugawara’s appeal to Coach Ukai to give him playing time. We see just how meaningful volleyball is to the respective members of this team in their own way, and this gives an extra weight to the game against Nekoma and later on in volume 5 during inter-high qualifying games.
The bulk of volume 4 is taken up with showing Karasuno’s game against Nekoma, and again this game does a great job showing the development of the team. The stakes aren’t particularly high here – Karasuno is clearly outmatched, but what makes this game stand out is that much of it is seen through the eyes of Nekoma’s crafty setter, Kenma. We see his process of dissecting Karasuno during play shown in his inner monologue, and this was fascinating because we then get to see the other side as Hinata and Kageyama are forced to respond. This brought a psychological edge to the game that wasn’t present before, and I really liked that this let us learn more about Karasuno’s style of play by virtue of their competition. Satisfyingly, we see Hinata struggle on and really grow over the course of the game because of his determination, and this development feels even weightier because we have this additional context from Kenma opposing him. This also makes the action quite a lot of fun to watch because we really get a sense for the first time of the strategy of volleyball at play, and this is again portrayed extremely well by Furudate-sensei’s paneling which does a great job keeping all of the action in view. This game really emphasizes the thrill of competing well on both sides, and it was cool to see both teams energized by what would have otherwise been a relatively meaningless game in their grand scheme of things.
It’s also worth noting that Haikyu!!, particularly in volume 4, continues to be absolutely hilarious in terms of the smaller character moments built into the proceedings. These balance out the intensity of the actual games quite well, and it was particularly funny to see this play into the rivalry of the two teams as they realize they have a little more in common than they originally thought. One of the things that make the humour so effective is that jokes are frequently introduced earlier on before recurring later, and an excellent example is a standout thread following the imagined rivalry between Tanaka and Nekoma’s resident self-proclaimed tough-guy Yamato. The set-up begins much earlier in the volume in a scene showing Yamato worrying feverishly if Karasuno will have them beat by having a beautiful team manager before later confronting Tanaka after being love-struck by Kiyoko to bashfully ask for her name. This, along with the humour coming from Hinata and Kageyama’s stupid (as described by their teammates) bickering and competition, is absurd but incredibly endearing because of the way that it rounds out the characters outside of volleyball.
Volume 5 marks Karasuno’s first real competition as they enter the inter-high tournament, and this definitely succeeds in the early going by drawing upon some of the rich themes that this series has brokered so far. In particular, we see the meaning of winning in relation to competing being emphasized again after first being introduced through Hinata’s painful defeat at the hands of Kageyama in his only game of middle-school. This time, this theme is drawn upon to dial up the intensity and cement the stakes facing the team as they attempt to run the gauntlet to book a trip to nationals. The idea of having to win to continue playing helps to provide a strong thematic pillar which the entire competition is based around, and I was really impressed by the way that it is used to humanize not only our heroes on Karasuno but also their competitors. This plays out in a really poignant way as Karasuno takes on another much weaker team while Karasuno’s girls' team also plays simultaneously. Hinata and Kageyama come out victorious in a game that is never really in question, and Hinata notes joyfully that they get to continue playing while recalling his previous defeat. Meanwhile, we see the contrast starkly put as the team they defeated exits the court in painful tears at the same time that Karasuno’s girls’ team is knocked out, and we see the corresponding anguish of the other side portrayed extremely powerfully. I thought this was a fantastic way to show the true intensity stakes at hand in this tournament while really placing Hinata, Kageyama, and the rest of Karasuno’s sheer motivation for victory in full context in a strongly cohesive manner thematically.
With that intensity already established, the remaining portion of volume 5 turns to Karasuno next game against Date Tech. This marks the continuation of Asahi’s story as he takes on the powerful blockers of Date Tech’s Iron Wall that previously drove him from volleyball heading into this school year, and much of the match focuses around Karasuno’s attempts to break through that defence. I continue to love the simple fact that no game is ever just a game in this series – there is always another driving plot at hand, and in this case Asahi’s personal struggle in tandem with that of his teammates gave the beginning of this game a lot of weight. The dramatic pacing is excellent, and again Furudate-sensei’s art is fantastic at showing the action in a clean and clear way. The emphasis on the sheer impact of many of the shots is also really cool, and I particularly loved the way this, along with the game itself, built into a strong tenor before releasing in a cathartic moment for Asahi that definitely made me cheer internally as this volume ended with the game half over.
I also need to mention that a scene in the fifth volume showing Kiyoko presenting the team with their banner is downright hilarious because of the reactions of everyone involved. It was also a really cool way to bring their training to a close as they went off to inter-high qualifiers, and I had a silly grin on my face through that entire sequence.
Haikyu!! continues to be an exceptional exploration of Karasuno’s process of coming together to finally compete as a team, and this is strongly emphasized as the team faces Nekoma before moving on to inter-highs. While the struggles of the team remain strongly in view, I continue to be impressed with the way that the series never loses sight of the real human side of its characters through their own individual storylines. We see the driving motivations of each character carefully set out and explored in little moments that really add to the cascading intensity of the volleyball games, and after five volumes of exceptional character-building I can’t wait to see how the efforts of the team continue to come together as they progress through this tournament.
Haikyu!! Vol. 4 and 5 were translated by Adrienne Beck and published by Viz Media on October 4th 2016, and November 1st, 2016. Created by Haruichi Furudate, the series began in 2012 and runs in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. The series has an ongoing anime adaption produced by Production I.G., with season 3 currently airing.
Date of Publication: October 4th, 2016, and November 1st, 2016.
Author: Haruichi Furudate
Translator: Adrienne Beck
Editor: Marlene First
Publisher: Viz Media