Go watch/read Haikyu!! if you haven’t already. I’m about to ruin one of the coolest parts in this article! You’ve been warned!!
Yes. I’m back to Haikyu!! and before you ask, no. It probably won’t be the last time.
Tsukishima is one of the most interesting members of the Haikyu!! cast. Initially, he seems like a typical Shounen antagonist. He’s Hinata’s opposite in every way: he’s calm, witty, highly intelligent, very tall (that’s the main one), doesn’t seem to care about volleyball, and he’s a total dickhead. If this were a typical Shounen, he’d be the force Hinata needed to defeat for an arc, then either team up with him or disappear forever.
But Haikyu!! is anything but a typical show. Sure, Tsukishima initially plays a very direct, antagonistic role. However, as the story progresses, he slowly begins to take on more of a rival’s role. Unlike everyone else, who sees Hinata’s abilities and seeks to use them for the sake of the team, Tsukishima is much more determined to defeat the aspiring Little Giant.
Which begs the question: why? Why is Tsukishima seemingly so apathetic? Why does he have such a grudge against people like Hinata and Kageyama, whom he also antagonizes? What makes Tsukishima tick?
Well, it took a while to get those answers. But when we got them? God damn, did this character climb up the ranks! He’s now a fan favorite, starring in one of the most popular scenes of the entire show! His character arc is easily one of the best in all of Haikyu!!
Let’s break it down, shall we?
The Want: Climb Over the Sun
For the first few seasons, Tsukishima was a character wreathed in mystery. As I mentioned earlier, his actions compelled the audience to ask questions. But most mysterious of all: what did he want? Everyone else had a clear goal: Hinata and most of the team want to go to Nationals, Yamaguchi wants to earn his place on the team, Hitoka wants to be a worthy successor to Shimizu, so on and so forth. Tsukishima didn’t seem to want anything.
As the story progresses, however, Tsukishima’s goal became clear to us. He didn’t just hate Hinata because he was annoying. He saw in Hinata someone that Hinata himself aspired to be: the Little Giant. And because of that reason, Tsukishima follows one goal: to overcome Hinata in any way he can. To defeat him.
But that begs another question: why? Why does he hate the Little Giant, and Hinata along with him? Well, in all fairness: he actually has a pretty good reason. A pretty sad one, might I add.
The Wound: A Brother’s Lie
When he was a wee little boy (that was still significantly taller than everyone around him), Tsukishima only had one hero: his older brother. And why wouldn’t he? His brother was a middle-school ace! And, according to him, he was just the same at his new high school, Karasuno!
But then he actually attended a game. And there, he saw his brother. In the stands. Cheering for his team. And in his place was Karasuno’s true ace: the Little Giant.
Understandably, he wasn’t exactly pleased with his helping of reality pie. He became disillusioned with his elder brother and grew a deep hatred for prodigies like the Little Giant and Kageyama. It became one of his favorite pass-times to torment them; that, or just to watch them fail.
Not that he ever actively sought it out. At least not beyond a few ill-mannered jobs. In fact, he didn’t actively seek anything out.
The Lie: It’s Just a Club
Passion is Karasuno’s bread and butter. Everyone in the club has a passion-boner for volleyball. Even mild-mannered Yamaguchi gets hard for it! Tsukishima, however, is about as flaccid as you can get in that department.
Don’t ask me what that analogy was; it completely got away from me. Point is, Tsukishima didn’t care.
He was very much a realist when it came to his position in the club. As far as he was concerned, he was only on the starting lineup because of his height. He was only a member of the team just to pass the time. The club, as far as he was concerned, was just that. A club. The results of the match didn’t matter. He didn’t need to give it his all. None of it mattered.
Yet, everyone he met contradicted that. Prodigies were a given, sure, but even normal people like him were getting abnormally into it. Why did they care so much about something that didn’t matter? Was he missing something?
Turns out, he was.
The Need: The Moment
To light a fire, you must first have a spark.
Everyone else in the cast had that spark. Hinata’s was watching the Little Giant and spiking the ball for the first time. Yamaguchi’s was the realization that he was being left behind. They’ve all got it; Bokuto straight-up tells Tsukishima about his. He even tells him that he needs to find that moment himself.
And then the coolest moment in anime history happens. Tsukishima manages to shut-out the greatest spiker in the prefecture.
When this moment happens, Tsukishima initially tries to deny it. To avoid getting emotional. The last time he did that was when his brother let him down and he was not eager to let it happen again.
But here’s the thing about fire: if you don’t snuff it out before it can catch anything else, it can quickly grow out of your control. And Tsukishima couldn’t do it.
Tsukishima needed that one special moment. That one play to get him truly hooked on volleyball. He didn’t need a moment of catharsis where he tore Hinata or Kageyama down a peg. Just a simple moment that ignited a true love for the game.
And god damn, was it satisfying when he got it!
Tsukishima is the perfect example of how to flesh out a hatable character. Sure, he’s still a dickhead to everyone that isn’t a) older than him, b) someone he never talks to or c) Yamaguchi. But he isn’t just a one-dimensional asshole! He’s an asshole with some depth!
I probably should trim all this sexual shit out during editing. But I won’t. Cause fuck you, I do what I want.
I am curious to see where his character goes from here. Will he learn to finally get along with Hinata and Kageyama? Or will he just remain a total asshole until he’s written out of the show? Only time will tell!
Or maybe my manga read-through will do it. That’ll probably be the one.