The Karasuno Volleyball Team has cleared some crazy hurdles for the Miyagi Prefecture Spring Tournament qualifiers. After beating Aoba Josai (aka Bluecastle) and Kageyama’s long-time rival Tohru Oikawa, our boys have wiped away the stain of their previous defeat. Now, however, they’re going toe-to-toe with Miyagi Prefectures’ reigning champion: Shiratorizawa, headed by their ace (and juggernaut) Wakatoshi Ushijima.
Throughout Haikyu!!’s run so far, Karasuno’s has accepted that there is no "I" in "team." However, many of the first years in Karasuno’s lineup has dealt with their share of issues. (Y’know, cuz teenagers.) But like Hinata and Kageyama’s unbeatable setting combo, each teammate has always brought out the best in the others.
The team they're up against, Shiratorizawa, is the best team in the prefecture. Each player is a fantastic and talented athlete with the advantages of height, skill and strength with Ushijima being their star player.
Ushijima alone can do through raw talent and power what Hinata and Kageyama never could—carry the entire team. Shiratorizawa’s other players just default to giving him the ball, and as we saw in the last volume it took everything Karasuno had to block even one of his spikes.
Shiratorizawa is even more of a foil to Karasuno than Bluecastle. During their match, victory came down to which setter could lead their team to victory. Oikawa himself was an absolute contrast to Kageyama, as he relied on his team and his carefully-honed skill to overcome Kageyama’s raw talent and isolationism. Now that the opponent is Shiratorizawa, it’s Ushijima who’s Hinata’s challenge to overcome.
Like Hinata, Ushijima has talent to spare. However, unlike Hinata, Ushijima is huge, overpowering, but calm and collected. It’s quite the irony then that Ushijima’s also one of the few people who takes real offense at Hinata’s unflagging confidence. Guess someone’s a bit rattled that his opponents refuse to even consider surrender!
Halfway through, another nasty opponent takes center stage on the Shiratorizawa side—one Satori Tendo, an ace blocker. He’s tall, strong and fast…and so good at instinctively analyzing a player’s body language that he’s been nicknamed “The Guess Monster." But maybe his most dangerous trait is how easily he can get under another player’s skin with taunts and mockery. Kageyama and Tsukishima get a taste of just how annoying this guy can be. He’s the kind of arrogant bully you just want to see get what's coming to him.
The pacing and artwork in this volume are stellar as always. So many panels frame the game with an endless sense of tension and energy, putting you just close enough behind the players to feel like you’re right there in their shoes, or right in front of wherever the ball’s going. Despite all the fun drama on the side, Haikyu!! is so grounded in reality that it’s easy to forget sometimes that the game isn’t happening as you read.
Due to the importance of this final match (and how much bigger a best-3-out-of-5 match is from the other 2-out-of-3 matches), this volume neither begins nor concludes the match. However, Haikyu!! is still amazing at keeping the reader’s interest and investment every step of the way, and this volume is no exception. (If nothing else, check it out for the hilarious poster at the end. Can’t say TOO much, but Tsukishima makes a better “boy wizard” than you’d think…)
Haikyu!! volume 18 by Haruichi Furudate is available here.
by Chris Turner
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