Haikyu!! To The Top: Episode 17 – “Cats vs. Monkeys”

With this episode, the focus shifts from Karasuno’s set to a set that’s being played by Nekoma. Where we come in, Nekoma is ahead by two points. Sarukawa Tech is their competitor. It’s interesting to note that the coach is Sarukawa Tech is a former student of Nekoma’s coach, so the other team has an advantage of having a coach who intimately knows the coaching style of the other team. In the end, it’s going to come down to which coach will win: the teacher or the student.

A lot of this episode actually focuses on backstory for Kenma, especially after he joins Nekoma. It was just so strange to see him with completely black hair, especially since we get a lot of backstory of him in this episode. A big focus of the backstory is on how Kenma doesn’t like running around and working up a sweat, but still has a fierce determination to win. This creates tension between himself and his new teammate, Yamamoto (aka Tora). This builds into them finally becoming teammates that work together. I don’t think you can call them friends, but they at least know how to work together.

One of my favorite parts of the flashback was the first time we see Kenma running laps with the team. We see he’s not as fast as the others and tires easily, but he uses his imagination to pretend that he’s in a videogame world in order to help keep him going. I thought this was creative on Kenma’s part, and it was an amusing scene to watch. Another favorite scene is when Yamamoto and Kenma get into a verbal altercation, and one of their teammates throws water on them from a water bucket and references the character of Mr. Freeze. It’s even more amusing when nobody else on the team seems to understand the reference.

The big reason we get a focus on Kenma, though, is because the coach of Sarukawa Tech sees that Kenma isn’t someone his team can wear down mentally. However, the coach can tell that he can be worn down physically. We already see that Sarukawa Tech is making plays that force Kenma to run around a lot, and he’s already running out of breath. At the end of the episode, we see the players of Sarukawa Tech are psyched up to deal a final blow to Kenma. Since this is how the episode ends, and from what’s seen in the preview, the next episode will continue this set between Nekoma and Sarukawa Tech. I have a hunch that Kenma is going to find a way to surprise their opponents and help Nekoma win the set. I have no idea how he’ll do it, but I just have that feeling that Kenma isn’t going to react as they expect… especially since acting unexpectedly is one of Kenma’s character traits.

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