WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 4, Episode 16 of Haikyuu!!, now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Karasuno takes the first set against Inarizaki after being forced to score a few extra points in classic Haikyuu!! fashion, with Ryu Tanaka scoring on the final play after being a non-factor for the entirety of the first. It took a lot of deep and intense emotional digging in order to seal the deal. Regardless, this time, he gets the job done and claims a momentary victory for The Crows in To The Top's latest episode.
Tanaka has never been one of Karasuno's main attractions as he doesn't benefit from the same incredible talent as his teammates do. Despite this, he always arrives at the court ready to give each play his all and it shows. At this particular moment, his spunky and energetic attitude isn't not going to be enough. Karasuno is at match point, and Tanaka has had plenty of chances to make an impact on the court. He's routinely blocked at the net, though. Inarizaki makes a point to target him, knowing he's the weakest link on Karasuno's court. It proves to be very frustrating, and on one occasion Nishinoya bails him out against one of Atsumu's powerful serves.
As he watches his teammates make fantastic plays to keep the team ahead, Tanaka begins to sulk and search through his resolve to build proper motivation as the pressure stacks up. Tanaka forces errors by Inarizaki's design, with everything he tries failing. He continues to celebrate his teammates while dealing with his lack of contribution and the pain it's causing him. This all comes to a head when Tsukishima declines to set the ball in his direction, and Tanaka feels he can't be relied upon.
Enter Karasuno's other spunky and energetic member, Hinata. The orange-haired spiker comes off the bench and the first thing he does is compliment Tanaka for his tenacity and assistance when blocking. Even if he doesn't get the block, it applies pressure. Tanaka puts those skills on display immediately and it causes less than optimal play from Inarizaki. Tanaka knows he's average compared to the rest of his team. He also knows he's a hard worker; determined and strong spirited. Daichi receives, Kageyama sets and Tanaka digs deep within his soul to find a reason to keep pushing through. Inarizaki comes for the block but it's no match for Tanaka this time.
Tanaka sends a clear message to Inarizaki. He's not just the energetic one; he isn't lackluster in any way, in fact. Tanaka is a core piece of the spirit if this team and Inarizaki isn't going to win if they aim to crush it. And it proves even harder for them to defeat Karasuno. Tanaka shows that he is just as important and viable as his teammates. He also sends a message to himself and his teammates: Everyone has moments when it seems like you just can't get it going and it's still possible to be valuable as long as there is a contribution. In that way, Tanaka is always going to contribute to his team no matter what happens.
Karasuno looks good going forward in this matchup. Inarizaki is undoubtedly a strong and experienced challenger, yet with Karasuno up 1-0 it seems this team's spirit is only more fortified than it was before. Tanaka's score is going to be something for Karasuno to rally behind and strengthen their mentality. This was a vital play in making up the difference in skill and experience between these two teams.