Haikyu!! – Dethroning the King of the Court


Kageyama Tobio, the genius setter of Kitagawa Daichi middle school, was nicknamed the King of The Court out of irony and spite. However, that slowly begins to change during his first year at Karasuno high school.

Although I love both Hinata and Kageyama as main characters, I would say that, as of the end of season two, Kageyama has had much more character development in terms of his personality. You could say that it’s because he had more develop, being much grumpier and having more of an edge to his past than Hinata.

To borrow from another sports series, at the beginning of Haikyu!! Kageyama suffers from, what I’m going to call, ‘miracle’s syndrome’. That’s to say, being so good that no one else on your team can keep up.

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That’s not to say there was no challenge in volleyball for him, but a setter alone cannot carry a game like a player in another sport, such as basketball, might be able to.

Kageyama needed his teammates to keep up with him, because he couldn’t adapt his play to them like his senior, Oikawa, can. Kageyama needed them to jump higher, faster, because he could not comprehend spikers having a will of their own.

One of the most interesting things about Kageyama is that, for all his arrogance and controlling behaviour, he is never shown as being disrespectful towards his seniors, either at Kitagawa Daichi or Karasuno.

However, he is shown as having an incredibly low tolerance for his juniors at Kitagawa Daichi.

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An interesting notion, something that I lightly touched on in my article about Oikawa’s sense of pride, is that Oikawa may have had a hand in perpetuating this behaviour.

Rather than taking Kageyama under his wing, something an older player might do for someone of the same position, Oikawa pushed him away; terrified of being matched by the younger, genius player. He teased him constantly and refused to help him become a better player.

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As a result, nobody helped to teach Kageyama how to be a good teammate or a good leader. He could only stick to what he knew,

I’m playing as hard as I can, why isn’t my team matching me?’

He grew impatient with his teammates, unaware that everyone has different needs and skill levels.

The result of this was a huge gulf that formed between Kageyama and the rest of his team. He might have been the King of the Court, but that’s only because no one wanted to be anywhere near him.

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I’m not sure whether Haikyu!! will go this far into the future, but I think a big milestone in Kageyama’s character development would be how he treats first-years as a second-year at Karasuno.

It’s important to realise that Kageyama never liked his nickname. Even when Hinata calls him the King of the Court at the beginning of the series, he looks disgusted.

You can tell that it’s something he wishes would go away, but he has no idea how to fix it.

Every time he hears that name he is reminded of that crushing feeling of rejection, the feeling of everyone turning away and leaving him behind.

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He doesn’t take it in his stride, he doesn’t embrace it, he hates it.

I actually love this early exchange between Hinata and Kageyama, because they both say incredibly hurtful things to each other without realising it; Hinata thinks ‘King of the Court’ is a positive nickname and Kageyama doesn’t know that Hinata had no one to play volleyball with for almost three years.

It’s incredibly poignant because I think that Kageyama easily could have been the same as Hinata. Both love volleyball with all their hearts and are geniuses in their own way, but Hinata had no outlet until high school.

Although Tsukishima relentlessly teases Kageyama about his past in the beginning, with Hinata and the rest of Karasuno he has found a fresh start.

He has team mates who don’t care what he was, only what he can be.

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And so, Kageyama’s trust with his new team begins to grow. However, he risks regressing back to his old ways once he has to face his former captain and role-model; Oikawa Tooru of Aoba Johsai.

Much of the first tournament game between Karasuno and Aoba Johsai is about Kageyama trying to catch Oikawa and prove that he is stronger, his folly being that Oikawa stands with his team, whereas Kageyama thinks it’s a battle that he must fight alone.

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The battle between the two setters culminates in a physical struggle as both attempt to force the ball over the net, with Kageyama unable to match the strength of Aoba Johsai’s third-year captain.

Kageyama begins to lose sight of the bigger picture, losing his composure, and is substituted for Sugawara.

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Now on the sidelines, Kageyama begins to see, with Ennoshita’s help, how Sugawara is able to put the team at ease and cater to their needs with his tosses.

At the climax of the game, Kageyama has this brilliant moment of introspection when he sees his old team mate Kunimi smiling during a game for the first time; under Oikawa’s guidance, leadership and ability as a setter.

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He questions how he can possibly defeat someone who makes others enjoy volleyball so much, when all he has done is breed disdain and resentment. How can he possibly defeat a team, when he’s always been so alone?

It’s here that the voices of Hinata, Daichi and Sugawara cut through Kageyama’s isolation. He finally realises that he’s no longer alone.

He now has team mates- no, friends, who not only share his dream and love for volleyball, but also appreciate him as a person.

At the end of their first tournament game, Aoba Johsai stand correct; the six who are together are stronger. Kageyama’s shift came too late to sway the tide of the game. He had finally found people who he could trust and trusted him in return and that is what sealed Karasuno’s defeat.

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Despite their devastating loss, this moment is the beginning of a road that sets them up for victory in the future.

However, although he’s now no longer alone, Kageyama still thinks his quick tosses are the only way to win, whereas Hinata desires to grow stronger as a player and be able to fight in the air.

This results in their visceral fight during the Tokyo training camp as the two players struggle with their clashing desires; Hinata wishing to grow and Kageyama wanting to preserve their new-found balance.

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Kageyama goes looking for advice and, incredibly fortuitously, comes across Oikawa, the very person who he sought to learn from, from the very beginning.

We also see some development from Oikawa here because, despite still being incredibly childish, he finally gives his junior some advice;

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Oikawa warns him that If he stays on this path he could very well end up in the same situation that he did in his final year at middle school. It finally begins to click with Kageyama that the best toss is a much about the spiker as it is the setter.

This development carries over into their rematch at the end of season 2. Although it’s as much of a setter showdown as their previous game, the emphasis is much more on the entire teams of Karasuno and Aoba Johsai, rather than just Kageyama and Oikawa.

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The result is a game where both teams can give their all, regardless of kingship. In the end, Karasuno are stronger and move on to fight Shiratorizawa in the prefectural finals. Not only this, but Oikawa acknowledges that Kageyama has become strong now that he isn’t alone.

Poised to take on one of the top three spikers in Japan, Kageyama has improved as both a player and a person. No longer alone and no longer all-controlling, Kageyama Tobio has cast away his crown and now stands amongst the crows of Karasuno.

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