It’s Karasuno High School versus Shiratorizawa Academy in the intense, white-knuckle third season of Haikyu!!
After 50 excellent episodes of anime adapting the hit Shonen Jump volleyball manga by Haruichi Furudate, you wouldn’t think there would be quite as much steam left in Haikyu!! and the team behind it. Like Shoyo Hinata and the other players on Karasuno High’s squad, the stakes dictate the level of commitment, and they’re higher than ever before in the lean but essential Haikyu!! 3rd Season.
This time around, rather than taking us on a more varied trip through a 25-episode season of ups and downs—uplifting wins and devastating losses to a handful of competing volleyball contenders—Haikyu!! 3rd Season zooms in on one very special match. The subtitle says it all: Karasuno High School VS Shiratorizawa Academy! Like any good sports series, though, it’s all about the characters that makes this particular opponent worth taking seriously, includ- ing the way they clash with the style of Karasuno and the always plucky and energetic Hinata.
Every big match in Haikyu!! has at least one towering wall to climb, and the challenge at the center of Season 3 is Shiratorizawa’s insanely powerful Wakatoshi Ushijima, whose name you’ll hear chanted from the bleachers on a regular basis thanks to his school’s dedicated cheer squad. Ushijima is a third year at Shiratorizawa Academy, acting as the team’s captain and ace, and it shows from his very first attack. Along with the likes of Itachiyama Academy’s Kiyoomi Sakusa and Mujinazaka High’s Wakatsu Kiryu, Ushijima is one of the top three aces in Japan.
Like many of the walls that rise above Hinata, Ushijima’s height alone puts him on a totally different level. He also happens to embody head coach Tanji Washijo’s entire volleyball philosophy. The thick-browed veteran tends to favor athletes who boast a combination of height and pure, natural power, scoffing at the ever-evolving tricks that are gradually turning Karasuno back into a national powerhouse. For further reasons divulged as the season approaches its climax, he also sets a particularly pointed target on Hinata, who is tasked with changing things up once again if he wants to succeed and move on to the Tokyo Nationals.
While there are definitely other members of Shiratorizawa Academy that stand out, the key player beyond Ushijima is the “Guess Monster” himself, Satori Tendou, a third-year middle blocker who stands out with spiked red hair and a deceptively drowsy expression. He earned his nickname thanks to his tendency to “guess block” rather than “read block” when facing off against his opponents. Read blocking is all about reading a hitter’s body language to anticipate their next move and up your chances of making a successful block. While this is a common technique, it doesn’t always cut it when dealing with quicks and other unexpected moves that call for lightning fast reflexes. Tendou’s high success rate with guess blocking— which nixes the traditional read in favor of on-the-fly predictions—makes him one of the most valuable and dangerous players on the team.
Adding to that danger is the thrill Tendou gets from soaking in his opponents’ desperation. There’s nothing he values more than sending rival teams into a downward spiral, so maybe there’s more to his childhood nickname of “yokai” than his unorthodox appearance.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
Unlike previous seasons, there’s a new level of confidence beaming through each member of the ever-rising volleyball club at Karasuno High. The nerves are still there, of course, but we’re far removed from the knee-knocking jitters of Hinata’s inaugural volleyball games. Haikyu!! 3rd Season sees them doing something much more interesting than perfecting Hinata and Kageyama’s iconic Quick; it shows that they’re willing to change and, in the face of impossible odds, dump everything they’ve leaned on in the past to focus on what actually works in this specific situation. With unclipped wings, Karasuno can finally forge the future they deserve.
After some growth and backstory in Haikyu!! 2nd Season, the biggest star turn once again belongs to first-year middle blocker Kei Tsukishima. Watching this bespectacled beast go from near robotic participation to genuine enthusiasm is one of the true joys of Haikyu!!, and he boasts one of a handful of moments in the third season that calls for the type of goose- bumps only sports anime can send shrieking through your skin.
The confidence and fluidity of Karasuno is reflected in the most concentrated way possible in the team at revered anime studio Production I.G, placing director Susumu Mitsunaka back at the helm. With only a few full directing credits—including a Professor Layton anime and the TV anime adaptation of Mochi’s Cuticle Detective Inaba manga—Mitsunaka comes off as remarkably comfortable in the creation of this high-energy sports spectacle. With Taku Kishimoto (Silver Spoon, 91 Days) once again joining the team as series composition writer, we essentially have a group of third-year players who have mastered the dynamic angles and dramatic pacing that makes Haikyu!! a continued success.
For those wondering whether or not they’ll be able to continue following Karasuno High’s exploits as they advance further into the high school volleyball rankings, there’s no need to fret. While we wait for Season 3’s eventual debut on home video, a fourth season is already in the works. Featuring new and returning characters from Nekoma and Fukurodani High Schools, including the Kazuyuki Okitsu-voiced Surugu Daishou, the next set will kick off its first serve in January of 2020.
In the meantime, those looking for some real sports anime excitement will want to hit the court and grab some prime seating for a volleyball battle of concepts we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Haikyu!! 3rd Season is available from Sentai Filmworks.