Haikyu!! is a sports anime about volleyball. It follows two high school students, Tobio and Hinata, as they strive to raise their team back to it’s formal glory and qualify for the championships. There are a million things to love about this series, from it’s madcap cast of characters, to the realistic portrayal of both victory and defeat. If you are looking for a general recommendation, Haikyu!! is a 10/10.
One of my favorite things about the series is that there is always a sense that the main characters can (and do) lose. Every opposing team is given a reasonable amount of exposition explaining, and often times showing in condensed detail, the pedigree that allows them to stand before the main characters. However, as the stakes are raised and the consequences of are heightened, it gets harder and harder to picture the team losing it all. Enter Oikawa.
Oikawa is the setter for a team called Aoba Johsai. He went to the same middle school as Tobio and played alongside him. He has all the properties of a likable side-character, set up to be knocked down like a bowling pin by the unstoppable force of the main characters.
There is one scene, however, that turns the audience’s expectations on their heads. It occurs during the second to last episode of Season 2. It is the last game of the set. The score is 24-24, a deuce, and the first team to win two points in a row is the victor and moves on. There is the usual internal dialogue between all of the main characters about how much they want to win, and how much work they put into getting here. But then there is a flashback.
Oikawa stands in front of a former coach, frustrated that he will never be considered better than Tobio because he is not a “genius”. Then the coach turns to him and says”
“Have you found the limit of your abilities even though your technique, body, and mentality aren’t complete? Rather than despairing and giving up because you’re not a genius, believe that your strength is not limited to this and continue on the path right in front of you.”
This was a game-changer. This simple flashback gave more context than entire episode of training ever would. We have seen Oikawa’s reliability on the field. We have seen that he has sharpened all of the tools of his craft. He loves volleyball. He has done everything that he can. But…
With all of his tenacity. With all of his training. With all of the effort shown throughout the game and every badass save that he managed to make he still loses in the end.
This is a hard pill to swallow. Is the show telling us that effort will never overcome genius? No. Because Oikawa still hasn’t found his limit yet.
Jean-Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no errors and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life.” Oikawa is not weak because he lost, and Haikyu!! goes out of its way to show you this.
Oikawa is one of the best players to be shown in the series. He is respected, both by his own team and everybody he plays against. There is no doubt that he has every right to the championship, and the audience knows that. He serves as an inspiration and a hurdle for the main characters.
Haikyu!! is ultimately a show about achieving one’s dreams through hard work. It is not always possible to attain a dream that is outside of your control. Winning a championship is not due to individual effort alone. You could write a masterpiece and still not make any bestseller lists. Dreams must be something that can be obtained through the will of an individual. Oikawa didn’t win the match. But, because of the effort that he put in, he got to play in it.