The previous Haikyu!! seasons were 25 episodes each and focused on a variety of events, be it training in the gym, solo practice, practice matches with other teams, tournaments or even character developing. This season was only 10 episodes and focused entirely on one match, against Shiratorizawa.
Everyone watching this season has likely seen the previous ones but for a brief recap the lead-up to the match is shown where the announcer names all the players as they run on the court. Not only is this a nice way to quickly remind us of the players but it also gives a quick introduction to Shiratorizawa’s players, while giving them more of a chance to shine later, without swamping us down or stopping the action to introduce new characters when they pull off an interesting tactic.
After 50 episodes of volleyball I was worried how much could be added to the formula in order to not have this season long match feel really boring and luckily there was quite a bit to add. For one Shiratorizawa’s ace, Ushijima, is a lefty. This adds the issue of the ball coming from a slightly different position from the central body that Karasuno is used to causing constant misses. There were also many tactics attempted for the first time or without much practice from Karasuno which was a bit of an issue.
This happens more in the back half of the show but Karasuno uses the Synchro-attack way too often too quickly. Not only is it a bad idea because the opponents can (and do) learn to counter it but it gets boring.
There are also points that feel a little rushed (if it’s an anime issue why not do a usual 12 episode season?) as well. Round 3 doesn’t even have a full episode to itself and at one point a player gets injured and has to be taken off and replaced with someone we really don’t see as much of (I can’t even name him). While a decent amount of time passes in this situation we rarely see the new player actually do anything, mostly focusing on the regulars with him just there. Since the third years obviously won’t be able to stay forever this would have been a good chance to introduce and develop one of their replacements as a regular.
Backstory does happen to break-up the action a bit including for the third years and Shiratorizawa’s coach for some reason. We also hear commentary from audience members such as siblings, Karasuno’s volleyball team alumni, the girl’s team and even Oikawa.
The animation was what you’d expect from Haikyu with great, fluid looking moves and expressive characters. All voice actors return with one note. Coach Ukai’s seiyuu, Kazunari Tanaka unfortunately died while recording was happening and Hisao Egawa took over the role. Tanaka has a really unique voice making the transition standout even more. Despite only having two episodes to try I liked Eqawa’s effort and wouldn’t be opposed to him being in any future seasons.