Haikyu!! – The Limit Switch of Karasuno and Aoba Johsai


Limit Switch is the finale of the Karasuno – Aoba Johsai semifinal in the Miyagi prefectural tournament, a title used in both the manga and the anime. As the match reaches its ultimate climax, the switch is flipped as both teams resolve to give everything to win. The winner will face Ushijima Wakatoshi and Shiratorizawa in the final, with a chance to go to the national championship.

This culminates in one of the finest sequences in sports anime, as the tension is brought to a boil in an astounding clash of animation, voice work and music.

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The final rally takes more than an entire chapter in the manga and over three minutes in the anime. It’s an incredible sequence which proves to be the perfect finale for the series’ second anime season.

The rally begins with Sugawara putting in a simple serve. Throughout the series the third year is a pillar, a calming presence that Karasuno relies on in the most difficult of times and, when the stakes are at their highest, their second setter pulls through once again.

As Karasuno seem to move as one, you see the result of all of their hardships and training;

almost all of the cogs have fallen into place.

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Everyone has grown and improved, even those who are yet to have their ‘moment’ and yet this is also true for Aoba Johsai.

One of the best things about Haikyu!! is that Furudate does an incredible job at humanising the teams that Karasuno face; they’re just so bloody likeable. You really get to know them, from Oikawa’s incredible work ethic to Kyoutani’s struggle with isolation and wanting to be part of the team; you get to know their hopes and fears, what drives them as players.

This is one of the things that makes this sequence so incredible, it genuinely makes you question who you want to win.

As I’ve written before, the audience is drawn to Oikawa because he represents ‘non-genius’ players; someone who forces out every ounce of talent he has in order to stand among those blessed with more innate ability.

On one hand, this could be Oikawa and Iwazumi’s final chance to defeat Ushijima and go to nationals, but the same can be said for Daichi, Sugawara and Asahi.

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One set of seniors will end their high school volleyball careers in this moment and that realisation is bittersweet. That’s the great effect of Haikyu!!’s characterisation;

in an idealistic world, both teams would win and everyone would be happy. However, that’s not the reality of competition; there are winners and losers, only the strong get to stay on the court.

You’re both happy and sad at the end of every game, because the characters in this series are so candid and relatable.

That’s the greatest thing about this entire match; whereas their tournament match in the first season was very much Kageyama verses Oikawa, this match is two complete teams going all out.

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For me, the shining moment of this whole sequence is Oikawa’s cross-court toss to Iwazumi.

The point to Iwazumi is such an incredible statement of intent.

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To deliver on the toss, despite the dangerous position Oikawa put himself in, speaks volumes about the setter’s confidence in, not only himself, but also his best friend.

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You see the desperation both Iwazumi and Oikawa have to win, as Iwazumi puts everything he has into one final spike and Oikawa rushes to get back onto the court after crashing through a table.

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None of them deserve to lose, but one team has to and that’s what makes this final rally such a defining moment in the series.

Play goes back and forth at a lightning-quick pace, with every hit threatening to end the match and all of the players simply refusing to give in.

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Last-ditch receives, Sugawara and Tanaka making blocks with their faces; this rally is desperation volleyball in its purest form and yet it’s never made to seem sloppy or amateur.

Your heart can barely keep up as every moment looks like it could be the last.

The soundtrack ‘Direct Confrontation’ (or ‘Makko Shobu’ in Japanese) perfectly fits the intense flow of the action, complementing the frantic cheers of encouragement from the court-side players.

Of course, the final play itself is also a great ending-point to the match. Kageyama, once again, puts all of his faith in Hinata in a play that mirrors the final play of their first tournament match against Aoba Johsai last Winter, a match that ended in crushing defeat for Karasuno.

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In this moment you’re reminded of the struggles that Hinata and Kageyama went through at the beginning of the season, the literal fights they had and the realisation that, as they were, they just weren’t good enough.

They both had to completely deconstruct their play. Most people can relate to this frustration, having to take two steps backwards in order to move forwards. It’s so emotionally fulfilling to see all their effort pay off when it matters most.

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This time, Hinata and Kageyama are stronger, smarter. Hinata knows that Oikawa will position himself perfectly to receive his spike, so he wipes the ball against Kindaichi’s block in order to offset Oikawa’s receive.

Hinata has gone from spiking with his eyes closed, relying only on Kageyama’s accurate tosses, to actively controlling his spikes with precision. His growth as a player is perhaps the most apparent in the entire series.

The deafening silence that follows only serves to emphasise the gravity of the situation, in regards to both Karasuno’s triumph and Aoba Johsai’s defeat.

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Karasuno have taken huge strides since their prefectural loss against Aoba Johsai, with almost every single player having a pivotal moment in this tournament (sorry Tsuuki, you’ll have to wait until the final!) and they now have a chance to reach the national stage.

In contrast, Aoba Johsai have reached the end of their national tournament campaign. Oikawa and Iwazumi will retire from the team, having never defeated the genius Ushijima.

As Oikawa himself states, six who are strong are stronger. Despite their efforts, Karasuno were stronger.

Karasuno’s euphoria and Aoba Johsai’s devastation, occurring mere feet away from one another, is such an emotionally conflicting juxtaposition. It’s a beautiful summation of the contrast between winning and losing, providing a fitting end to the most developed rivalry in the series.

That is why the final rally between Karasuno and Aoba Johsai is one of my favourite sequences in the entirety of Haikyu!!

No longer flightless, the flock of crows now soar the sky in search of bigger prey.

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