Haikyu!! To the Top Part 2: A Match of Ups and Downs

The pandemic wasn’t kind to the anime scene. Dozens of shows were put on hold, some of them mid-season. And when they came back, there was no guarantee that the production quality was the same.

You already know where I’m going with this, aren’t you?

Part two of Haikyu!!’s fourth season, Karasuno VS Inaraziki, did not come out of the pandemic untouched. While the writing and pacing is just as solid as ever, it does suffer terribly in the visual department. This season has some of the most rough, stiff, and at times hilarious, art and animation I have ever seen in anime.

Which is kind of a problem, given how integral great visuals are to making Haikyu!! work.

Don’t get me wrong, though, this season has more than a few impressive scenes. Particularly in the ladder half of the match. Once the third set starts, it does take a step up. Hell, some of the shit in here is more gorgeous than anything we got in the previous seasons! Tanaka’s killer spikes and Hinata’s receive are both downright gorgeous!

But then there’s… well… this.

Oh no! Daichi died! Again!

Now, quick disclaimer: picking on animation for janky looking frames in the process of the movement isn’t fair. Remember: animation is all about how it looks in motion. You can’t look at a single individual frame and complain about the shot as a whole.

But in this case? You can do just that. Because there are only about three frames per animation. And they all look… well, like that. And this.

Nishinoya the Super Saiyan.

This is where COVID comes in. You see, because of the pandemic, the original planned schedule for Haikyu!! To the Top had to be thrown in the bin. So, in order to meet deadlines, Production I.G. had to outsource certain shots/ entire episodes to other companies.

The result? Animation so stiff, janky, and unnatural that it takes you right out of the experience. Suddenly, you become intensely aware of the fact that you are, in fact, watching an anime. One that has not had the best time cooking in the oven.

This leads to one of the most skewed viewing experiences I’ve ever had. The first two episodes? Great! The last few episodes? Fantastic! Everything in-between? A rollercoaster with more lows than highs.

Thankfully, as I alluded to earlier, the story itself hasn’t been butchered. No key events are chopped out from the manga for the sake of brevity. This is an accurate adaptation of the original work. They even included the mid-match break for the Nekoma game! Which was easily the best part of the season!

You… you okay, buddy?

The new music is pretty sick, too! We get a fucking jazz song with a dubstep opening that is just so damn catchy! On top of that, the traditional orchestrated OST is just as good as it’s ever been. That, and this season has one of the better EDs of them all song wise. Though I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the OP.

That should just about wrap things up. All in all, this season was more than a little rough around the edges. It had its share of peaks, though, so I’d say it was worth powering through the lows. Still, I can’t help but hope that things go a little more smoothly for the production going forward.

Because of Karasuno VS Nekoma gets butchered, I’m gonna fucking riot.

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