Sports is not a thing that usually gives me Feels.
In Real Life ™, I tend to find sports very boring. I would rather watch grass grow or paint dry than sit though football or soccer or baseball (live or on TV). Plus, sports kind of traumatize me, generally. I was a nerd all through high school. Participation in gym was required and so I suffered through it. Gym was always the one class this A-student was perpetually on the verge of failing. I always the worst at everything, always picked the very, very last because absolutely no one wanted me on their team. When Calvin of “Calvin & Hobbes” described gym class as “state-sponsored terrorism,” I felt a deep kinship.
Thus, it shocks me how much I love this manga.
I should definitely hate Hinata, Haikyu!!‘s main character. Often described as freakishly athletic, he’s nothing like me–well, outside of being short, but his character profile puts him at 5’4″ which is two inches taller than I am. He’s the kind of jock for whom the sport is LIFE.
But, Hinata is SUCH a shounen hero, I can’t help but love him.
Hinata is spellbound after catching a glimpse of a high school player called “The Tiny Giant” in passing on a TV in the window of an electronics shop. After that point, he pursues his goal relentlessly. Very shounen.
Hinata is so shounen, he’s even prone to giving in-game speeches to rally his teammates like this: “Listen, the most important thing to remember about volleyball is that EVERYBODY on this side of the net is your ally. NO EXCEPTIONS!” Which, because Hinata isn’t actually that smart, is literally something he’d been told by one of the upperclassman not five minutes ago. But, that’s the thing about Hinata: if you tell him a thing, he BECOMES it.
Like a good shounen hero, Hinata (or the entire team) will also get power-ups as needed during critical moments during a game. When Mason and I were first watching this anime, Mason mocked the heck out of this trope. He was actually almost a little turned off by how over-the-top some of this shounen stuff gets. Me? I ate it up!
Plus, look at these action shots!
Aitsu! (That guy!) Am I right?
But, what I love about Hinata is that, outside of these natural bursts of athleticism, he’s not actually very good at the game. He doesn’t really even understand all the rules, and certainly doesn’t have any sense of strategies. Hinata has mostly been practicing on his own, because no one in middle school was as into volleyball as he was.
A classic rivalry is set up when Hinata manages to get enough of a team together to play in a middle school tournament. It’s a disaster. Especially since they’re up against the team who has a naturally gifted “setter,” Kageyama. Kageyama has the nickname “King of the Court,” but for all the wrong reasons. It should mean that he’s the star, but his teammates all see him as a greedy tyrant who wants everything done his way. Even so, Kageyama’s team wipe the floor with Hinata’s.
Hinata vows to get better, because all he wants is to spend time in the game!
Of course, when high school rolls around, Hinata and Kageyama find themselves as teammates. A good portion of the first volume is them figuring out how to be allies, instead of enemies.
Can I admit something?
I’m enough of a sap that when we learn Kageyama’s origin story (basically he became such a tyrant that no one was there when he set up the ball) and Hinata vows to ALWAYS BE THERE, I might have teared up a little bit.
Look, I sign up for shounen because this is what I want. I want people fighting together, for each other, and giving it their all, and making vows to ALWAYS BE THERE, and Haikyu!! might be a little over-the-top melodramatic in its shounen-ness but that’s LITERALLY what I want from shounen.