Haikyu!! To The Top: Episode 20 – “Leader”

The episode begins with Inarizaki High swapping in their team captain, Shinsuke Kita. It turns out the guy is actually quite talented, but he usually isn’t on the court. Because of this, Karasuno never saw him in any of the videos they watched… which makes him an unknown quantity. However, we see that Kita’s mere presence on the court whips his team into shape.

We quickly get a couple of flashbacks that show the audience the type of person he is. He has a blunt way of speaking, and analyzes situations with a cold logic. Even with this, though, it’s shown that he does care about his teammates. The scene of him scolding Atsumu for trying to practice while being sick with a cold is a great example of his care. In the flashbacks, it’s made clear that his teammates see him as being like a robot, but are quite surprised when he sheds tears of joy when he’s chosen as the team captain.

But seeing these flashbacks and how they introduced and flesh out Kita’s character, it makes it clear to the audience that he’s going to be an important character. The series isn’t going to waste time focusing almost half of an episode on flashbacks to develop a random or minor character.

After the flashbacks, we see that the team had their reasons for bringing Kita out onto the court. Thanks to him, Inarizaki manages to break through and win the second set. There’s concern over how Karasuno is going to handle this, since they lost by eight or nine points… especially since the set didn’t end on a more positive note for Karasuno. Fortunately, we see that while the team members have some regrets over how the set went, they don’t feel like they’re down for the count.

The third set is just getting going at the end of the episode, and it’s pointed out that Karasuno has made an important change to their rotation lineup in order to better handle the Miya twins’ weird quick. The audience is just starting to see the effects of this change when the episode ends.

I’m happy to say that after the terrible animation that permeated last week’s episode, this week only had maybe two or three shots where a character looked off-model. Which I’m very happy about, especially since this episode spent a lot of time on Kita’s backstory. It almost makes me wonder if the animators were cutting corners last episode so they could get it done a little faster, so they could focus more of their time on this one. But it’s a shame that last week’s episode was so off-model, because it seemed like it would have been an exciting one to watch if the bad animation hadn’t distracted from the action.

Kita definitely added a new dimension to the second set, and it’s going to be interesting to watch how Karasuno’s teamwork and plays evolve because of the introduction of this unknown variable into the other team.

At this point, it appears we’re down to the final five episodes of this season. Will all the remaining episodes be focused on this final set? Or perhaps four of them will be on this match, with the final episode focusing on the aftermath? Just as long as the set remains exciting and doesn’t feel like it’s being stretched out, I think it’ll be OK.

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