Last week I noted that 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team struck me as the series that would happen if Haikyuu!! and Battery had a baby. Well, this time around it definitely leaned into its Haikyuu side more, for better or worse. In fact I sort of feel bad even mentioning that name over and over in these posts, because as I said after the premiere this show deserves to be judged on its own merits. But there is that massive shadow that’s impossible to miss…
If we’re honest, 2.43 isn’t making it any easier. I don’t know specifically where this story is going of course, but it strikes me as unfortunate that this series chose to build around a cheery and naturally athletic spiker and a moody and demanding genius setter. There are some major differences already – Yuni is far more self-doubting that Hinata was in early days, for starters, and he’s a tall drink of water rather than a jumping bean chibisuke. Even so, though – cutting the two boys from this cloth is kind of asking for trouble.
With that said, there is the potential for something potent in the exploration of the two lads’ relationship, whether it develops into something romantic or not. Perhaps not coincidentally 2.43 seems to fare better the closer it veers to the Battery side of the equation. Yuni is a pretty straightforward and simple boy it seems to me (though unusually big – you don’t see many 180 cm middle schoolers in Japan), and he’s trying to do right by Kimichika. That means resisting his cousin’s urgings to ditch his former friend, and making up his mind for himself. But Yuni is a kid, and subject to lapses in judgement, and that comes back to bite him this week.
As for the club itself, they round into form surprisingly quickly under Haijima’s leadership. And to his amazement the road is a lot easier in Fukui than it is in Tokyo (is that true in karuta too?) – Manshiro need only win 4 matches to make it to nationals. The first they breeze through with Yuni soaring like a pubescent albatross, dominating zaku opposition. But with a tougher opponent in the second match the moment begins to get to Yuni, and he more or less taps out completely – blowing a serve on a time violation (I didn’t even know that was a thing – not even a warning?) and generally rendering himself useless. Kimichika is therefore forced to carry the team himself – which, being an elite, he’s able to do.
Let me be clear – Yuni is certainly primarily at fault for what happens next. But I don’t think it should be ignored that it really points up Kimichika’s shortcomings too. He may be an elite player but he’s no real leader (sound familiar?). He doesn’t really make much of an effort to get Yuni back on track, and Yuni is so totally inexperienced that what happens to him isn’t all that surprising. Even so calling his teammates to bitch about Kimichika and using Itoko’s minor accident as an excuse to basically blow off the semi-final match (which Manshiro loses) is not a good look. Being the total noob he is Yuni may very well have thought Haijima could carry them to victory again, but that’s certainly no excuse.
We know that the bulk of 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team will take place at high school (it’s in the title), and this show is only 12 episodes so it needs to happen pretty soon. I like it well enough – it’s entertaining and the major characters are engaging, even if things aren’t terribly subtle so far. The trick, I think, is going to be what it can do over these next few episodes to distinguish itself – to show definitively that it’s more than a derivative of something famous and successful, and has a compelling reason to tell its own story.
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