エースへのトース – A Toss to the Ace
It is very odd how one thing which brings so much happiness can also cause so much pain, and that is what we saw with Asahi and his relationship with volleyball.
In this episode, Tanaka-sensei finally managed to get Ukai-kun (grandson of THE coach Ukai and a senpai to the current members of the Karasuno volleyball team) to coach the Karasuno volleyball team. In true coach form, he arranged a friendly match immediately – Karasuno volleyball team vs the Neighbourhood Association team. Since the Neighbourhood team was short on members, Suga, Noya and (lo-and-behold) Asahi played on their side. That’s right, the premise was set for operation get-Asahi-back-on-the-team-STAT.
Being so skilled does have its advantages (obviously.. this is sports – no talent, no game, no play), but those skills also put Asahi at a disadvantage. I do believe that the crux of the issue was that Asahi was far too concerned with NOT letting his teammates down that he let this sense of responsibility get the better of him. Like I have said time and again, in team sports, it’s not ME but WE. Cliché, definitely. But it is the fact of the matter. Throughout the entire episode, we saw Asahi battling with his demons from the past – not getting even one spike through in that final match that Karasuno played. He blamed himself for the team’s loss and quit volleyball. But running away never really solves anything, does it? In fact, by avoiding his team he was actually hurting both them and himself. This was definitely true for Suga and Noya, who were evidently upset and disappointed as well as frustrated that Asahi chose to give up volleyball, to the extent that they even blamed themselves for putting Asahi in his rut.
However, in all dire situations, there is always a turning point. And this was the turning point for Noya, as he then took it upon himself to improve for the sake of his team. As Tanaka pointed out, Noya’s arms would always be blemished with new bruises every time he saw him. Noya then revealed that he had been practising a technique called block-follow (i.e. saving the balls that have been blocked). To Noya, his job was just to keep the ball in play. Simple as that. As proof of Noya’s determination to be the support for the team, we saw him successfully follow-up on one of the blocks (which Asahi spiked). With Noya fulfilling his role as the ‘connector’, Suga then supported with a beautifully easy-to-hit toss to Asahi (who actually finally CALLED for the toss). That’s right, upon seeing his teammates’ determination as well as unwavering faith in him, Asahi finally woke up from his state of post-loss shock and realised that he is not fighting the battle alone. They work as a team. Well, finally Asahi. That definitely took awhile.
Yes, it was all very dramatic; from the flashbacks to the internal struggles of each member, to the final ‘we are a team’ realisation. Each scene was punctuated with all that emotion, making it a rather heavy episode. But this did not put a damper on things, as in true Haikyuu!! form, there were occasional light gags to relieve some of that weight (looking at you again, Tsukki).
Of course, a large part of the enjoyment that I derived from this episode was listening to the seiyuu behind Asahi, Hosoya Yoshimasa, who has definitely stepped up as one of my favourites this season. While Asahi might not be the official captain of Karasuno, he is still their pillar of support and as such has a captain-y aura to him. Therefore, I can think of nobody better suited for this role than Hosoya, because his captain voice is just so CAPTAIN. I mean, look at his list of team captain roles: Kuroko no Basuke, Prince of Tennis, Diamond no Ace – definitely a captain seiyuu if there ever was one~~