Yes, I have been binging Haikyu!! in large, unhealthy doses. And now I’m all caught up. Which has left this great pit of emptiness inside me. So now I need to write this or I might lose my mind.
Haikyu!! doesn’t have a cast of exceptionally deep, interesting characters. They’re all fun, likable, and sympathetic, sure! But there isn’t much depth to many of them. You could explain most of them in one or two sentences! Hinata’s the energetic friendly one, Nishinoya is the loud pervert, Asahi is the gentle giant, so on and so forth.
However, there are a few exceptions. The most notable one being the topic of today’s analysis: Tobio Kageyama. AKA: the King of the Court.
When we first meet Kageyama, he’s established as an antagonistic force. He completely dismantles our hero, Shoyo Hinata, in his first and only middle-school tournament. On top of that, he’s a huge asshole, pushing his teammates to their limits without the slightest bit of support. So, when Hinata swears revenge upon him, we expect that to be the plot of the story. Kageyama, the so-called King, is our hero’s end goal. The final obstacle.
But then the author takes us for a ride by putting the two of them together on the same team at the same school.
From there, we see Kageyama develop from an antagonist to something closer to an anti-hero. He’s callous and proud, more than willing to get into your face and yell at you, even if the vocabulary he does so with is limited. However, he’s also honest, hard-working, determined, and more than eager to improve in any way he can. In just a few episodes, the would-be antagonist of the series transforms into a likable, compelling member of the main cast!
Not to mention one with his fair share of baggage. But we’ll get to that.
The Want: On the Court
In terms of a goal, Kageyama isn’t especially compelling. All he wants to do is be the best Setter he can and play volleyball as long as possible. He isn’t driven by some deep ambition. He just loves to play!
To be fair, this is simplicity does make him feel a bit more human. Not everyone has some grand goal in mind that will change their lives. Some people just want to do things because they enjoy it! Sure, it doesn’t make a great character. But in a story as realistic as this one, it works just fine.
And yes. I did just call Haikyuu!! realistic. I’ll leave a link to a video at the bottom to prove my point.
The Wound: When No One Was There
Kageyama wasn’t given the title of King because he was a great player. Rather, it was because of how he treated his teammates. He was rude and demanding, always screaming at them for the slightest mistake. Thus, his relationship with them quickly plummeted. With each game, he pushed them further away.
This came to a head during one of their final games in middle-school. After finally reaching their breaking point, the team abandoned Kageyama. They refused to spike any of his serves and even asked the coach to pull him from the team. His tyrannical attitude earned him the ire of his team. In the end, Kageyama suffered the fate he wanted the least: he was pulled off of the court and no longer allowed to play.
Things only got worse for him when it came time to go to high school. His first choice, a volleyball powerhouse, rejected him for his reputation. Thus, with no other practical option available, he made his way to Karasuno.
Where his fate would begin to change.
The Lie: I Am No King
After being booted off of his middle school team, Kageyama came to loath his title of King. When he came to Karasuno, he decided it was time to change his approach. Rather than acting the tyrant, he’d pull a complete 180 and become a team player. No arguing or bickering. If someone failed to hit his tosses, it’d be up to him to fix it.
But here’s the thing. By doing this, Kageyama essentially placed the burden of the team on his shoulders. Sure, the others did the receiving and the spiking. But as a setter, acting the goody-two-shoes only made his job harder. He only increased the stress on his shoulders.
Volleyball is a team sport. You have to rely on your teammates. Not only that, but they need to be able to keep up. Improving your own abilities is good and all. But your teammates need to do the same. And if you don’t criticize them, that process is going to be a lot slower.
The Need: Balance
Kageyama isn’t wrong when he demands perfection from his teammates. He was wrong in that he was an asshole about it. If he struck a proper balance, supporting his teammates while still criticizing them to help them improve, the team’s evolution would surely speed up!
Being the King wasn’t his problem. His problem was being a tyrannical king. What he needs isn’t to throw the crown away entirely. He needs to find the balance between the King and the Goody-Two-Shoes.
By finding this balance, Kageyama can become a true team player. Strong on his own and capable of boosting those around him, both during and in-between plays. By refusing to criticize anyone aside from himself for fear of becoming the Tyrant King again, Kageyama has slowed the progress of his team and only made the burden on his shoulders heavier.
Luckily for him, he has a certain pint-sized decoy to help him figure all this out.
Haikyu!! is a phenomenal show. The storytelling isn’t especially complex or deep, but it’s incredibly engaging and enjoyable! The cast is super simple, but that’s part of what makes them so memorable! Especially so for Kageyama!
And Tsukki. And Ryu. And Nishinoya. And all the Nekoma guys. And literally everyone in this show.
I can’t wait to see where Kageyama’s character goes from here! How will his skills develop? How will his relationship with his team, especially Hinata, change? What will he do during the Nationals? I’ll be watching this character like a god damn hawk going forward!
God damn, how can a sports show be this good?!