Haikyuu!! To the Top 2nd Cour Still Meets Expectations – Review

Haikyuu!! To the Top 2nd Cour Review

Season aired: Fall 2020

Number of episodes: 13

Genres: Sports, Comedy, Drama

Thoughts: Haikyuu!! To The Top’s second cour begins exactly where its first cour left off. Having made Nationals, Karasuno now braves the large courts against some of the most powerful volleyball teams in Japan. Facing off against Inarizaki, a powerhouse  team that earned second place in the Nationals the prior year, the Karasuno team faces their most challenging foes yet while learning to grow and improve.

While the first cour of this fourth season spends its time on character development in a manner reminiscent of the second season’s training arc, the second cour resembles the third season by being wholly dedicated to a single battle. However, it takes longer this time around for the anime to find its power and inspiring feeling.

I know many people blamed the animation for this reason, and while the animation quality certainly dropped in particular episodes, due to the tight schedule and the unprecedented pandemic, I don’t think it happened enough for me to resolutely say that those instances took me out of the story. One particular episode got animated poorly, while another episode had some wonky moments, but the majority of the show still had detailed movements during the matches and memorable facial expressions. I know the drops in quality still disappointed fans who had become accustomed to Haikyuu’s impeccable animation throughout its first three seasons and the first cour of the fourth, but considering the uniqueness of the situation that the team operated in, I don’t find it unreasonable to give the animation team some slack for what they’ve accomplished in the set timeline. 

Nekoma caught my attention first

Having said that, I do think that Haikyuu!! To The Top’s second cour lacked in something. Although it’s hard for me to pinpoint what it was, if I had to guess, I would have to say the beginning storytelling style didn’t sit well with me. Haikyuu had always excelled by integrating intense gameplay with either the opposing teams’ exploration of motivation and history or Karasuno’s growth and dreams. However, in the first half of the second cour, most of the episodes felt like nothing more than straight gameplay. As a result, while the first season and the third season games always left me hanging on the edge of my sheet and hands covering my eyes, this fourth season cour didn’t leave me with that same game excitement and anxiety. It was a bad sign when I found myself more invested in Nekoma’s match than I did in Karasuno’s.

However, once the cour resumed the integration of gameplay and character development, things started to pick up and return to the emotional heart-tugging narration that is the series’ strength. Ironically, the protagonists’ rivals save the show, with this shift happening with an episode focused on Kita, the captain of Team Inarizaki. While Kita isn’t particularly known for any flashy attacks or amazing defense moments, his stability and concentration keep Inarizaki’s more passionate players in line. In addition, his consistent hard work comes not from a desire to reap rewards, but rather to simply maintain that consistency to have a sense of safety and comfort in return. It’s a simple backstory, but when the Inarizaki coach chooses Kita to lead the team over his much more passionate or talented teammates, causing Kita to shed unexpected tears, I felt myself reacting in the same way. The episode served as a strong reminder that despite initial missteps, Haikyuu ultimately hadn’t forgotten its main theme: that strength comes in all shapes and forms — flashy and loud, or quiet and simple — and no matter what, those strengths will be recognized and rewarded.

Kita got things back on track

Every episode from there on caused pride and joy to swell up in my chest, and there were moments where I found myself screaming my actual lungs out. The setup for Hinata’s growth back in the first cour finally got its pay-off in the second half of the second cour. While Yuki Hayashi returns with his impeccable soundtrack, the moments that felt the most intimate and most meaningful were when the court just goes silent. It proves that the production team still knew exactly how to utilize the anime’s music with its storytelling.

It might’ve taken Haikyuu!! To The Top’s second cour several episodes to find itself, but it still pulled it off in the end. With emotions pouring out of every seiyuu’s performance, a perfect soundtrack, and wonderfully-crafted character development on both sides of the court, I found myself only yearning for more when the last episode dropped on Crunchyroll.

Rating

 

Plot: 8 (Multiplier 3.5)

Characters: 8.5 (Multiplier 3.5)

Voice acting: 8.5

Art/Animation: 7

Soundtrack: 9 

FINAL SCORE: 82.25

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