(Spoilers ahead, you have been warned)
As those of you who read my review or have talked with me the past few days have likely realized, I’ve fallen in love with Haikyuu!! I believe the show is an absolute masterpiece and there are so many different angles for which I want to praise this show. However, one of the strongest comes from a single scene from the show’s second season. The final rally of the climactic match-up between Karasuno and Aoba Jousai within the second half of the season will likely go down as one of my favorite scenes in anime. It is a spectacular vision of an appropriately epic finale realized through masterful execution in both the build-up of the scene within the episode and the show as a whole and the structure of the scene itself. There are a lot of different angles that make this scene spectacular, so let’s not waste any time in talking about it.
The Build-Up/The Rivalry
The rivalry between Karasuno and Aoba Jousai dates back to the very beginning of Haikyuu!! and even before, with the relationship between Aoba Jousai setter Toru Oikawa and Karasuno setter Tobio Kageyama dating back to their days in Junior High. The two teams meet several times over the course of the series and Aoba Jousai is built up from early within the series as the biggest rival to Karasuno. An early climax in the rivalry between the two teams comes in the ending portion of Season 1 when the two teams meet in an official match-up during the Interhigh Preliminaries. A hard-fought series between the two teams goes to Game 3 and deep into a deuce in the third game. In a crushing defeat for Karasuno, Aoba Jousai takes the victory with a final score of 33-31, leaving many of Karasuno’s players dejected and striving to improve in order to defeat their “sworn” rivals.
As Season 2 progresses, a large focus of the initial portions of the season push the idea of individual improvement among Karasuno’s players. Tsukishima works on his passion for the game and his blocking at the training camp through working with Fukurodani’s Bokuto and others at the camp, Kageyama ends up going to Oikawa for advice on his play and chemistry with Hinata, and Hinata looks to improve his own abilities. The entirety of the team look to improve themselves and the two teams meet once again in the semi-finals to the Spring Prefectural Representative Playoffs. After a hard-fought series with both teams breaking out new weapons and surprising their opponents as the series goes back and forth, a climactic Game 3 results in both teams once again in a life-or-death situation as the score sits at 25-24 and Sugawara serving for Karasuno.
The Final Battle
In order to realize why this scene is to tense and serves as such a fitting conclusion for one of the biggest story arcs of the series, we need to look in-depth at the course of the play in question. As Sugawara’s serve begins the rally, it is quickly received by Iwaizumi and set up to be returned over the net through a fast spike from Aoba Jousai’s Kyoutani. Kyoutani’s serve is blocked with both hands by Karasuno’s Tanaka as Sugawara and Kageyama switch positions. Sugawara sets the ball for a powerful spike from Asahi, which is narrowly dug out by Aoba Jousai. However, the receive sends the ball careening off the side of the course, where it is only received by Oikawa stepping out in order to receive it. In one of the most impressive moves in the series, Oikawa manages an incredibly fast cross-court set-up to be spiked by Iwaizumi, pointing him out from across the court as he crashes into a scoring table. Oikawa utters one of my favorite quotes from the series as he rapidly returns to the court: “Talent is something you make bloom. Instinct is something you polish!”. Karasuno’s Daichi narrowly receives the spike as the ball appears to be headed out of bounds, only to be received by a diving Tanaka. As Aoba Jousai declares it to be their “chance ball”, Asahi manages a spike from near the back of the in-bounds area which is sent careening back into the net on Aoba Jousai’s receive. Kyoutani swings his left fist up to return the ball across where Kageyama spikes it off a blocker into the face of Sugawara. Finally, as the scene reaches its climax, Hinata rushes forward calling for the set and pinpoints his target, deflecting the ball off the hand of a blocker as it heads for Oikawa, who is unable to direct it forward which ends the rally with Karasuno’s game-winning point.
That may have been an incredibly wordy description for the scene, but it needs to be retold in order to effectively attempt to capture the spectacle that this rally is. It makes for one of the most intense and hype-provoking moment of the series, as the advantage within the rally constantly bounces back and forth between Karasuno and Aoba Jousai. Several incredible plays and miracle saves, like Tanaka’s diving save and Oikawa’s cross-court setup, create for amazing and extremely memorable moments within the scene and the entire rally has this building tension which explodes with Hinata’s final spike and Oikawa’s unsuccessful deflection. As the crowd and team erupt into cheers after the final call is made, the scene has this huge payoff that makes me as a viewer want to cheer just as loud as the crowd within the show. It’s one of the best experiences I personally have ever had in anime and it’s a stunning thing to behold.
As intense and spectacular as the scene is in context alone, the execution within the show makes the experience even more complete by adding several memorable shots within the animation and striking imagery. As I used for the header during the “Final Battle” portion, Oikawa’s point is instantly recognizable and was striking in its contrast from the action going on around it. While the rally has been hectic and crazy, the lone image of Oikawa’s confidence as he points across the court to Iwaizumi is a striking example of Oikawa’s own pride as a player and his confidence in his own play. Tanaka’s dive to return a ball that could have tied the game shows the drive and ambition the entirety of Karasuno has exemplified throughout the entire match. The zoom-in and focus of Hinata as he rushes in for the set exemplifies his own drive to win and his fiery passion coming alive in the end of a hard-fought series. There are so many other fantastic and memorable shots within this scene than the ones I’ve mentioned that I could continue on for a while like this, but there is one other part of this scene that really seals it as the grand and epic moment that brings this intense rivalry to a height.
The soundtrack piece accompanying this scene, entitled Direct Confrontation, is an absolutely fantastic piece of music and easily takes a place among my top OST tracks of all-time. The track’s heavy driving orchestration gives the entire scene a grandiose and encompassing feel that really highlights this as the point the past two seasons have been building to. The strong sound of electric guitar works to drive the track forward even more as a fast-paced “final battle” theme. It is as fast-paced and “hypey” as you could possibly hope for from a track designed to accompany the highlight moment of the season, raising the scene from one of the best within the show to one of the best in anime overall in my opinion.
As I said before, this scene is absolutely emotionally charged. The build-up for the scene is fast-paced and yet nuanced, without ever breaking into the high-flying energy that the scene looks to accomplish. However, as soon as Direct Confrontation begins and Sugawara serves to begin the rally, everything changes and the motors kick in. From there, the entire scene is tense and keeps the viewer on the edge of the seat, watching closely to make sure they don’t miss the final moment. At several different points, the rally looks like it might end only to be saved in a clutch moment, creating for even more tension as the rally continues to carry on between the two teams. Finally, as Hinata lands the final spike and Oikawa’s receive falls, the musical accompaniment falls off and everything is silent for a moment, allowing the energy of the scene and the realization of its conclusion to sink in before the crowd erupts into cheers. Hinata and the team celebrate and the crowd bursts to life as the scene made me want to cheer along with the crowd. On the other side, however, absolute silence envelops Aoba Jousai’s team as the crushing defeat begins to sink in. Haikyuu!! and this scene in particular does a fantastic job of pulling the viewer in and making them feel the same way as the crowd observing the game.
So, I’ve gone on for over 1500 words about how fantastic a scene this is and yet, I feel it still deserves more. The final rally between Aoba Jousai and Karasuno is one of the most fantastic scenes I have ever seen in anime and it is executed masterfully in build-up, execution, accompaniment, and emotional payoff. There are so many spectacular things that this scene does right and it makes for one of the greatest moments of an absolutely incredible series. There are so many other fantastic scenes within the series worthy of similar praise, but this is among the best the series has to offer.