If nothing else I appreciate the poetic turnaround from the cliffhanger finish of the previous 2.43 episode to how this final episode opens. Haijima and Subaru found themselves not wanting this game to end, but by the time this entry gets underway, it already has. It's a stunned moment of uncertainty, a finish that leaves us and Haijima unsure of exactly what happened, in a way that he ironically has to have clarified for him in different contexts as the episode keeps going on: Shinichiro blocked Subaru's shot. Seiin won. They're going to the championships. Props to the show for making it feel like such a long, concentrated road to arrive at that singular point in a way that also merits using basically this whole episode as a cool-down for it. It's almost enough to make me forgiving of the fact that nothing else really happens in this season finale. Almost.
Yes, after successfully strongly portraying the game of volleyball for the past several episodes, 2.43's finish-line reward is to let itself go back to showing the players thinking about volleyball. There's plenty of fodder to start with that with Fukuho, anyway. Anyone who's lost anything can tell you about all the over-analyzing and second-guessing they'll do in the immediate aftermath of that, and even a hero like Subaru isn't immune. It's sensibly-placed, anyway, in getting the sad half of the story out of the way after writing did such an effective job convincing us of Fukuho's status as real characters in this narrative with stakes in it. It begs the obvious question of “Where do we go from here?” which ends up becoming something of thematic refrain as this episode goes on, just compelling enough to count as an idea for a finale. It's enough motivation to convince Subaru to get that knee surgery, at least, betting on the long-term to keep playing into college and for as much time as possible.
So 2.43 dangles that idea of long-term motivation there, then just soundly meanders for chunks of the episode through a somewhat disoriented Haijima taking in his team's victory and cruising through disjointed, preparatory timeskips. We already saw the whole team coming together for him in the previous episodes, so spending a ton of time on Haijima again grasping The Value Of Teamwork™ in the wake of their victory would seem a bit superfluous, but just a few seconds of him seemingly happy with that feeling before we skip past to him acting mopey again almost feels like too little for what was supposed to be the thesis of the show all the way to now. Seiin flashing their medals makes for a satisfying image, sure, but shouldn't that be just a prelude to seeing how they're going to take those and keep moving forward together? Instead the appreciable idea of advancing as a unit is sidelined to keep the focus statically stuck on Haijima, Kuroba, and somehow even Subaru, still!
Shin gets his moment on the side, thankfully, even if it's mostly as indirect inspiration for Haijima. His and Aoki's conversation is probably the most interesting part of this episode, if possibly unintentionally. 2.43's initial ambitions as a more down-to-earth, ‘realistic’ sports show seemed to have been left in the dust, with this last arc embracing the Cinderella-story presentation of its contemporaries. So to hear Aoki directly argue the point that ‘weak little teams’ like Seiin don't actually miraculously win championships in the real world almost feels like the show arguing with itself in the wake of its own success. I'm not sure Shin's embracing of dreaming big anyway rings as inspirational in this context; This shift in prospects works better as setup for a forthcoming second chunk of the story that I'm not exactly sure is a lock for getting animated. As-is, it just feels like the kind of 'Never give up!' ongoing speculation that 2.43 seemed to be directly interrogating before.
I feel like that's the main reason I have such a shrug of a reaction to this ending. After all the various real-life and sports-life struggles it took to get them to this point, 2.43's conceptual focus hardly seems to have progressed. Any family or social struggles that were holding Haijima and Kuroba back just kind of evaporated weeks ago, with the former spending a few minutes towards the end of this one meandering with simple uncertainty to his ambition. I always knew Haijima wasn't actually that smart outside of his volleyball IQ, but it's kind of remarkable to see here that it takes eavesdropping on Shin's conversation and getting a pep-talk from Subaru for him to come up with the revolutionary idea of continuing to play volleyball after high school. It appropriately fits with Subaru's long-term realization in the wake of his own loss, that after the resolution or dissolution of your previous ambition, you regardless can move on to find a new one. It's just that at this point, after that near-beautiful crescendo 2.43 reached right before this episode, it seems to have landed with much less ambition of its own. Far from the potentially-terrifying wild ride it began as, or the broad espousal of genuine team spirit it nearly grew into, we end up on just another mere story of a few focused-on friends wanting to play volleyball real good. That's an ultimate destination that makes me wonder, with as haphazard and exhausting as the run of this show could be throughout, what the point of all that actually was.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.