Karasuno may have defeated Aoba Johsai in a practice match, but they’ve got some serious holes that only a guardian deity can fill!
Hinata, Kageyama, and the rest of the Karasuno volleyball team defeated Aoba Johsai in a practice match, but they got a scare when returning BlueCastle captain Tohru Oikawa badly exposed their defence in the last points of the game. As it turns out, Karasuno has a defensive specialist, or libero, that would do just the trick in shoring up their defence. This guardian deity, Yu Nishinoya, returns from a week-long suspension from the team but refuses to play unless Karasuno’s former ace, Asahi Azumane, returns to the team. Hinata and the rest of the team will have to get Asahi to overcome his fears if they want to compete against their powerful rivals at Nekoma in their next practice game.
After two volumes which focused on establishing Hinata and Kageyama’s driving motivations in an incredibly strong manner, this volume of Haikyu!! largely devotes itself to rounding out the rest of the cast through the additions of libero Yu Nishinoya, wing-spiker and team “ace” Asahi Azumane, and coach Keishin Yukai. The result is a methodical and slower-paced story that hits all the right notes in providing some great characterization for all involved as well as giving us some appreciated context about the Karasuno volleyball club’s history before Hinata and Kageyama arrived on the scene. Nishinoya takes the centre-stage after his dramatic introduction at the end of the previous volume, and his spunky nature provided an excellent complement to the other distinct personalities on this team. I liked how quickly his character was established by showing his interactions with both the newbies as well as the veterans of the team, and we definitely get a strong sense of the layers in his personality in seeing his brash silliness contrasted with the absolute fire he has in trying to pick up for his teammates.
Haikyu!! has done a great job linking the struggles of each of the characters in with their positional role on the team, and this continues to be the case with Nishinoya as we see his primary struggle as well as he strength relates to his drive to bail out his teammates as a libero. Asahi’s introduction in this volume is the flip-side of this scenario because of his worries about letting down his team as the ace by failing to powerfully hammer the ball through blockers when needed. We see slowly over the course of this volume how this relates to Karasuno’s status as fallen champions, but more importantly we really get a strong sense through several flashbacks to ground Asahi’s decision to quit the team because of his insecurities. This connection between each character’s position and their respective struggles skillfully provided an introduction to some additional technical knowledge for us in terms of actual volleyball, but what really made this stand out for me was the way that this was accomplished in tandem with cementing each of their respective driving goals in a resonant manner.
Asahi’s storyline is strong on its own thanks to how well-contextualized his thoughts were, but an even stronger aspect of this storyline was the way that Hinata’s own continuing struggle to define his role on the team was layered into this to the benefit of both characters. Hinata’s longing to be the “ace” has been well-covered so far in the series, but we really get to see this take a more defined note when he is faced with Asahi, who is tall, strong, and everything that Hinata isn’t as a player. This storyline plays out effectively because we see the effect the two have on each other - Hinata longs to compete with Asahi, while Asahi slowly becomes affected by Hinata’s simple joy at playing the game. This is linked into motivations of the rest of the team as well, and I really liked that the perspectives of characters such as Sawamura were layered into to really create the feeling of the entire team struggling on together towards a common purpose.
The volleyball matches in Haikyu!! have so far been used masterfully as the stage on which the characters face their struggles in a defining manner, and this volume continues this trend poignantly as Nishinoya, Asahi, and Hinata’s respective storylines come together in this context. New coach Keishin Ukai organizes a game for the team to take on a group of municipal club players, drawing Asahi back in as a replacement on the opposing team with Nishinoya backing him up once again on defence against Hinata and Kageyama. The most affective (as well as effective) part of this sequence for me was in the way that each of the characters were able to really face their fears in the context of the events of the match, and I really enjoyed the way that various defining moments - from a brilliant save by Nishinoya, to a defining spike from Asahi - were able to have a powerfully dramatic effect both as turning points in the game as well as in outlook of these characters. The strength with which the struggles of these characters were associated with their positions gave these events an extra bit of resonance, and I continue to be extremely impressed with how thematically cohesive Haikyu!! manages to be by integrating this with the actual game of volleyball. The art here continues to be fantastic thanks to the combination of the expressive close-ups layered in with fluid panels depicting the movements of these characters, making this volume a joy to read as usual. The resolution in this volume is profoundly satisfying because of the way that we really get a sense of the Karasuno team coming together as a culmination of these individual yet connected inner triumphs for each of these characters. After all of this look inwards by Karasuno this volume, we end off with a tease as the team looks outward on the cusp of their match against Nekoma, and I can’t wait to see the revamped Crows get to work.
Haikyu!! Vol. 3 is a dense and richly layered read that continues to strongly portray the internal struggles of its characters in tandem with some meaningful and enjoyable volleyball action. Nishinoya, Asahi, and Hinata’s respective storylines are affective on their own, but the most poignant part of this volume comes when they are all mixed together on the court in a way that creates a distinct sense of meaning and excitement in the context of a volleyball game. The characters are extremely well-characterized in what could be seen as a slower volume, but this methodical and masterful development of these characters is extremely appreciated and has really created a strong foundation for this series going forward.
Haikyu!! Vol. 3 was translated by Adrienne Beck and published by Viz Media on September 6th, 2016. Created by Haruichi Furudate, the series began in 2012 and runs in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. The series has an ongoing anime adaption produced by Production I.G., with season 3 airing in October. Volume 4 will be published in English on October 4th, 2016.
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