Faces in Failure (A Haikyuu!! Analysis)
With the second cour of Season 2 of Haikyuu!! approaching—and the more serious matches of the tournament with it—I’ve decided to take a look back and write about some details of the show thus far that will help hype me (and hopefully you) up! The episode that hypes up the second season the most absolutely must be the last episode of the first season. Let’s figure out what the last episode of Season 1 shows us about these characters and their emotions.
The episode opens with a montage of Hinata’s successes and failures from the tournament, which is mostly to refresh our memory and set the tone for the following sequence of classroom shots. We get to see every character’s state of mind the day after their loss. Some emotion is conveyed through their postures and expressions, but all of this is meant to be expanded upon later in the episode. This is mostly a groundwork. Let’s just run through a few groups of characters so that we’re on the same page:
Hinata and Tanaka are clearly aggravated, with their teeth clenched and eyes shaking. Fitting for how hot-headed they tend to be.
Yamaguchi and Tsukishima and both more absent-minded, though Yamaguchi less so given his lack of playtime. This is fitting for how Tsukishima puts on nonchalant airs.
Nishanoya is ignoring his work, but sitting attentively like the stalwart libero he is. We don’t know too much about Kiyoko from the first season, but she appears to be keeping her composure the best. Once again, this fits her manager’s attitude.
The third years are all semi-engaged in their work. Sugawara the most engaged (he played the least and has—arguably—the most positive attitude), Asahi somewhat engaged (he’s not an incredibly passionate player, but he certainly found his love during the tournament), and Sawamura just frustrated and not very engaged (he’s the captain, and was one of the players most determined to win).
Kageyama’s is perhaps the most interesting, as he’s completely resigned to his thoughts. The final spike of the game replays over and over in his head. The smack of the spike jars the viewer in contrast to the slow piano in the background, simultaneously jarring open Kageyama’s eyes. We learn his desk is neither empty nor filled with half-hearted work, but rather with the bracket from the tournament. Kageyama is absolutely haunted by his final decision to toss to Hinata—something expressed during his fight with Hinata the episode prior.
Later, we get my favorite shot of Season 1. An image of Oikawa flashes in Kageyama’s mind and then he stabs a straw into the Aoba Johsai-colored milk carton. After that, he crushes the carton with a glare and throws it in the trash. Simple but incredibly effective.
By this point, we know how every character feels, and there’s quite a bit of tension in the air. We have two things left to do: reach a conclusion for Season 1 and set up for the next part of the story. What that boils down to is giving each player/group of players an emotional release, and then setting the stage for how to proceed in a way that will avenge those emotions. Once again, we’ll take this one character (or group) at a time.
Yamaguchi’s release comes when he meets with an alumnus after the match. Yamaguchi barely played, but he failed during his one chance to prove himself. The alumnus understands how Yamaguchi feels, having been in the same position, and doesn’t try to console him with kind words. In order to be on the court—in order to enjoy playing and to play the way you want to—you have to practice and endure. Yamaguchi finds the resolve to endure this pain, even if it’s just to have his one moment on the court.
The third-years get part of their release when they meet up to discuss whether to continue playing or not. At the end of that discussion, they’ve all banded together, so they tackle the challenge of balancing school and sport as one unit—including Kiyoko. Similarly, the second years are ready to fight in the spring tournament, and are basing their own release on the decision of the third years. For all these players, moving forward is dependent upon the team sticking together.
For Hinata and Kageyama, things don’t wrap up so calmly. They both have the most fiery passions for victory, as well as some personal rivalries against Aoba Johsai. Hinata is incredibly emotional, and we know he brings out the most emotion in Kageyama. When he begins screaming and running around, he forces Kageyama to let loose his own frustration. These two have to release their anger and disappointment—they have to face it and feel it—before they can resolve to never feel that way again.
A final, united conclusion is reached once the team meets up on the court. Seeing that they’ve all decided upon the same resolution, Karasuno as a team is able to move past their loss and conquer their emotions.
As for setting up the next part of the story, that happens in just one scene. We learn Shiratorizawa beat Aoba Johsai, meaning there’s even stronger opponents waiting for Karasuno. It’s no accident that we run into Ushiwaka in the first episode of Season 2. Anyway, the next goal for the team, the spring tournament, is stated plainly by Ukai and Sawamura. Karasuno resumes practice to fight again in the spring…er, I mean Fall 2015 and Winter 2016.