Anime Spotlight: Haikyu!! To The Top

Haikyu!! To The Top is the fourth season of the anime adaptation of the Haikyu!! manga. The season was produced by Production I.G and was directed by Masako Sato. The first half of the season aired in Japan from January 11-April 4, 2020. The second half aired in Japan from October 3-December 19, 2020. As of this writing, Sentai Filmworks holds the North American license for Haikyu!! To The Top.

At the beginning of the season, Kageyama is invited to the All-Japan Youth Training Camp, which is a camp for promising 15 and 16-year-old players to participate in. Tsukishima, meanwhile, is invited to the first-year only prefecture-wide training camp. Hinata, in a fit of jealousy, sneaks into the first-year training camp. Of course, since he showed up uninvited, Hinata is not allowed to participate in the training camp as one of the attendees. Instead, he is allowed to stay and serve as a ball boy. At the All-Japan Youth Training Camp, Kageyama meets other talented players, and as is revealed a little later, Kageyama will encounter some of these players at the forthcoming Nationals tournament.

The first five episodes focus on the training camps. Over the course of this season, the audience gets to see how much Hinata picks up on and learns while serving as the ball boy at the first-year prefecture-wide training camp. While Kageyama shows growth as well, Hinata’s growth is more noticeable and is picked up on by the audience earlier in the season. But let’s be honest about something here. Between these two characters, Hinata had a lot more room for growth than Kageyama, so it would be easier to see Hinata’s character growth and development as a volleyball player. Near the end of the season, the audience also picks up on some growth that happened to Tsukishima through his training camp.

After Kageyama, Hinata, and Tsukishima return to their team, they have a practice match against Date Tech. Both the Karasuno members who went to training camps and those who practiced on their own get to show off new skills or growth in their skills during this practice match. Not a lot of time is spent on this practice match, though, because within a couple of episodes, the story has moved on to Nationals.

Karasuno’s first match is against Tsubakihara Academy, and two episodes are focused on this match. It’s pretty close, but in the end, Karasuno pulls out the win. The focus is taken off of Karasuno for roughly one-and-a-half episodes, and the audience gets to see Nekoma and Fukurodani playing in their respective matches.

The final episode of the first half is just getting the match between Karasuno and Inarizaki High going when the season stopped for an expected three-month break. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the production, it was decided to delay the second half of Haikyu!! To The Top from the Summer 2020 anime season to the Fall 2020 anime season. While it couldn’t be helped, it was still a little frustrating to have to wait in order to see the matchup between Karasuno and Inarizaki High.

Most of the second half of Haikyu!! To The Top focuses on the match between Karasuno and Inarizaki High. The Miya twins, Atsumu and Osamu, are an important part of this section. This is one of those times where it’s so close that their matchup had to go into a third set in order to determine who would advance. However, sprinkled into this section are flashbacks that helped to develop new characters such as the Miya twins and Inarizaki’s captain, Shinsuke Kita. In addition, we also got a break from the Karasuno and Inarizaki matchup to see Nekoma in their match against Hayakawa Technical High School. We only got two episodes for this one, but it was still rather intense. Poor Kenma was being targeted and wearing himself out, but I was happy to see him pull off what he needed to do in order to help his team win. Once I saw that Nekoma had won, I knew that Karasuno would have to somehow win their third set against Inarizaki.

The next six episodes focus on the battle between Karasuno and Inarizaki. And let me just say that this final set was intense and a major nail-biter. The scales kept tipping back and forth as it could have been either team’s game. Emotions ran high for me as a viewer, because one minute there would be a sense of euphoria as it looked like Karasuno would break through and win, but then a huge sense of disappointment as Inarizaki would block the momentum. The final play was such a nail-biter, and the tension for that final play was perfect. The sense of relief that came over me when Kageyama and Hinata succeeded at scoring that final point was something I had never experienced before while watching an anime.

Overall, Haikyu!! To The Top seemed to focus on the topic of growth. As I said earlier, Hinata’s growth was the most obvious. Kageyama and Tsukishima had some growth, but there were other characters who displayed some growth during this season as well, such as Tanaka and Kinoshita from Karasuno, and Kenma from Nekoma. While there has been growth and change in some of the characters in the previous seasons, it felt like “growth” was a running theme in this season. I was very glad to see it, though.

The final episode gave the audience a perfect opportunity to destress and catch a breather after such intense episodes. It also set the stage for the upcoming “Battle of the Garbage Dump” at Nationals between Karasuno and Nekoma. Even though, as of this writing, I have no idea when there will be another season of Haikyu!!, I am still looking forward to whenever it comes out. It’s going to be interesting to see how the growth that Hinata and Kenma experienced during this season will come to fruition in the match that their teams will have against each other when the next season of Haikyu!! comes out.

Additional posts about Haikyu!!:

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