From the Back Cover: It’s the middle of the quarterfinal round of the Spring Tournament Qualifiers, and Karasuno’s captain, Daichi Sawamura, is injured! With their most reliable player out of the game, the only one who can replace him is…Chikara Ennoshita?!
Suffice it to say the Wakutani match turned from being one of my least favorites of the series to one of my favorites. That’s really no thanks to Wakutani; instead it’s Karasuno that makes this match interesting. I’ve been saying for a while I wanted to see more depth regarding the interactions among the Crows, and boy did this volume deliver.
Tanaka and Daichi’s collision from the end of last volume results in Daichi being pulled from the game due to injury. As Oikawa comments, Daichi is Karasuno’s unnoticed foundation. Lately we’ve really seen him pull the team together and keep everyone operating at maximum capacity, so now with him out of the game Karasuno could be looking at crumbling. This focus on Daichi, indirect as it may be, really speaks to his character. He is certainly one of the team’s most important people, possibly only rivaled by Nishinoya or perhaps Kageyama, so the writing decision to have him removed from the game is a strong one with heavy implications for Karasuno.
I was sure Sugawara was going to replace Daichi, but it turns out the second-years had some behind-the-scenes discussions on the upcoming team captain. The majority supported Ennoshita due to his calm nature, and that’s just who Ukai decides to substitute in for Daichi. It’s been about twelve or so volumes since we have seen Ennoshita in action, and he never really had any sort of spotlight on him. So seeing him enter the fray under such dire circumstances really speaks to the trust his teammates have in him despite him not standing out. He struggles to fill the hole left by Daichi’s absence, but over the course of the game he settles into his role as substitute captain, which is honestly a real treat to see. He’s got a lot riding on his shoulders, and for someone who cast volleyball away previously, he manages to carry that burden with real determination.
Beyond Ennoshita’s moments, Yamaguchi is this volume’s second star, quick as his role may be. Yamaguchi enters the game as a pinch server, and he narrowly avoids screwing up his serve again. When he’s given a second, potentially game-ending serve, his mind quickly melts into panic mode as he weighs the value of a safe play versus a strong play. His decision is understandable, and it ultimately works out for the team, but his cowardice still results in a scolding from the coach and sends him into a depressive spiral. He may have won the battle, but the war still rages on within him. As Ukai says, he has no skills to bring to the table other than his serve, so if he cannot even deliver his special serve, there is no reason to put him on the court.
This was an excellent volume exploring the inner dynamics of Karasuno’s teamwork. Ennoshita and Yamaguchi steal the show, but the rest of the cast is enjoyable as well. Even the other team manages to be fun, despite being somewhat underwritten compared to past opposing teams. Next up will be Karasuno versus either Blue Castle or Date Tech (and I’m pretty sure it’s obvious which one it’ll be), but I do hope that match isn’t glossed over, as it’d be nice to see those two teams duke it out first.