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In Junior High, Shouyou Hinata gained a sudden interest in Volleyball due to seeing a match on television, which featured a star player he nicknamed "The Small Giant" and yearned to follow in his footsteps to become a volleyball ace despite his short stature. Hinata starts his own volleyball club, which no one joins and practices rigorously by himself. Eventually he convinces enough people to make up a rag-tag team consisting of a couple of members who haven't even played volleyball before just so he could compete in a tournament. His team is quickly annihilated by Tobio Kageyama -"The King of the Court"- and his champion team. After suffering a miserable defeat, Hinata vows to defeat Kageyama and surpass him as a Volleyball player.Upon entering Karasuno High School —the school "the Small Giant" attended, Hinata learns that he's now on the same team as Kageyama. The two must learn how work together, so they can restore Karasuno to its former greatness.This story is written and illustrated by Haruichi Furudate, and is currently being published in Weekly Shounen Jump. An anime adaptation aired during the Spring 2014 Anime season for two cours produced by Production I.G, and has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks in America.
Haikyuu!! provides examples of:
The Ace: Kageyama is considered an amazing Setter because of the precision of his tosses.
Nishinoya is a phenomenal Libero. He can keep even the hardest balls in play.
Asahi for Karasuno.
The Small Giant was this when Karasuno was at its strongest.
Ushijima for Shiratorizawa.
Lev claims to be Nekoma's Ace, though Yamamoto (and most likely the rest of team) disagrees.
Mainly Ushijima this for Oikawa, whom Kageyama believes to be this for him, even though Oikawa himself admits that he is no match for him in terms of talent, and Kageyama could yet again be seen as this for Sugawara.
Animal Motifs: For the Karasuno team it is crows, and for Nekoma it is cats.
Nekoma has this inside their team, with the "Inu" in Inuoka meaning "dog", fitting to his role as Hinata's 'chaser' during the practice match against Nekoma, and Lev meaning "lion" in Russian, much to his large build and seeing himself as Nekoma's ace.
Fukuroudani is this with owls.
The 'Shiratori' in 'Shiratorizawa' means 'swan'. Interestingly enough, Ushijima is being shown symbolically with an eagle.
A Day in the Limelight: In the later chapters, Tsukishima gets a couple of chapters that focus largely on him.
Opposing teams almost always get this as well.
Yamaguchi gets this during the second match against Aobajousai. It doesn't end well. And in the latest chapters, related to Tsukishima
Ennoshita gets one, when Daichi gets injured in the middle of a match and has to be replaced
Attack! Attack! Attack!: With the exception of Daichi and Nishinoya, Karasuno members tend to have laughably weak receives. To compensate, their offense is very powerful especially with the addition of Hinata and Kageyama, and much of their games rely on their attacking power to score points.
Backstory: A whole lot of them, starting with the main characters, ending with players from a team that has only appeared for 3 chapters, you can bet that every character who says a few lines has got some sort of backstory.
Benched Hero: Sugawara used to be Karasuno's primary setter. However when Kageyama joins, he gives up his spot as a setter to him. Eventually though, they become a sort of team and Sugawara is put in games as a backup for when they need him..
Birds of a Feather: Tanaka and Nishinoya, and also Tanaka and Taketora. The latter duo even clashes initially, due to their similar habit of picking fights with opponents over trivial things. They then bond over their admiration for Shimizu.
Bishōnen: Oikawa, who has girls cheering for him, even during practice.
Actually, quite a big portion of the male cast can be considered this, thanks to the art style.
Book Dumb: Tanaka, Hinata, Kageyama, and Nishinoya are this. It causes Kageyama and Hinata to miss the first day of the practice games.
Boring but Practical: Daichi's playstyle doesn't stand out much, but he's a very good all-rounder and probably the most stable player on the team.
Nekoma's entire play can count as this. They have no outstanding moves but the steadiness and precision of their receives make it hard to predict who the ball will be tossed to.
Break the Cutie: When Yamaguchi fails his serve when he is switched in during the Aobajousai match.
Sawamura, Ikejiri and Michimiya went to the same middle school and are shown to still be good friends.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Happens whenever any high school volleyball team faces Shiratorizawa Academy's players.
Hinata’s first match against Kageyama counts as this as well. Hinata’s team was composed mostly of amateurs, while Kageyama’s team was the championship favorite.
Karasuno's match against Datekougyou last year, in which even Asahi, the ace, couldn't fight their height.
Decoy Antagonist: In the beginning chapters, Kageyama is set up as The Rival. Flash foward to both Hinata and Kageyama showing up for volleyball practice in their new high school Karasuno.
Defrosting the Ice King: Kageyama is a male example. After what happened at his last Junior High Tournament; namely his entire team abandoning him, he realizes he needs to trust in his teammates more and not just do everything himself. He is slowly starting to do this with Karasuno.
Enemy Mine: The plot starts off with two bitter rivals having to compete on the same team, and learn how to work together.
Epic Fail: Jouzenji team trying to imitate Karasuno’s synchronized attack can come off as this, especially because the build-up hints that a really badass moment is coming… and they just fail spectacularly.
Eye Catch: Rotate around different ones each episode, and consist of players attempting to hit the drink bottle on the other side of the net with the ball with various results and reactions (such as Kageyama succeeding and getting excited about it, and Hinata failing to even get the ball over the net with Tsukishima and Yamaguchi snickering beside him).
The Faceless: "The Small Giant", who’s only seen from the back or with his face hidden.
Fallen Hero: The Karasuno team was considered to once be a remarkable volley ball team. However they soon declined and were considered less than stellar by the start of the manga. Individuals in series would refer to the team as "The Flightless Birds" and "The Fallen Champions."
Fire-Forged Friends: Being forced to work together as teammates is what causes Hinata and Kageyama to become friendly with each other.
Also Nekoma and Fukurodani, and more broadly the teams from Fukurodani Academy Group's training camp. Although being localized in the same region means they'll definitely play against each other at some point, they all seem to be in very friendly terms with each other.
Funny Background Event: While Sawamura gives a speech at a school assembly with the other members behind him, Tanaka can be seen throwing in a sneaky peace sign... only to be slapped on the hand by Sugawara, who doesn't even have to look to know what he's doing.
Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Iwaizumi does this to Oikawa after the latter loses it and tries to hit a younger Kageyama out of resentment for having lost to Shiratorizawa. It works.
Hard Work Hardly Works: Averted. For example, Oikawa would hardly be half as good as he is if he didn't practice as hard as he did.
Tsukishima seems to be a believer of this, but it was really played straight with his older brother, Akiteru.
Hoist by His Own Petard: A light example, but it's definitely there. Bokuto decides to teach Hinata a “special finishing move!” (a feint). Guess what technique Hinata uses effectively against Bokuto's team, Fukurodani, during the last practice match of the training camp, leaving everyone, including Bokuto himself, incredulous?
Hot-Blooded: Shouyou and Kageyama; Tsukishima even comments on it.
Oikawa is nicknamed 'Grand King' by Hinata, due to being Kageyama's senpai in middle school.
It's actually a very good pun. The original phrase is 'Daiou' which is a title often associated with Alexander The Great, whom Oikawa shares his birthday with. They are also both mentioned to have outstanding leadership skills, but a bad personality.
'Tsukki' is Yamaguchi's nickname for Tsukishima, though Bokuto and Kuroo both have used it in the recent chapters too.
Oikawa likes to add '-chan' to other people's names, most prominent examples being 'Iwa-chan' for Iwaizumi and 'Tobio-chan' for Kageyama.
Ushiwaka, which an abbreviation of Ushijima's full name: Ushijima Wakatoshi.
'Small Giant', the nickname which was given to Karasuno's ace at the time when the team was at its strongest. His real identity is unknown.
'The Strongest Decoy' for Hinata.
'Karasuno's Guardian Deity' for Nishinoya.
Ironic Echo: Kageyama delivers a pretty awesome one to Oikawa on Chapter 49 (Episode 19 of the anime). After the latter scores by delivering a dump shot (in volleyball terms, a bold surprise attack executed by the setter), he tells the Karasuno players to "pay attention, as he’ll be doing the same thing next time". Not long after, Kageyama also scores with a dump shot and repeats the exact same line to Oikawa.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A rather sad example. After losing to Karasuno in the preliminaries, Ikejiri comments that if they were in a work of fiction, those that won the preliminaries and go to nationals would be the protagonist, and those who lost and had their season cut short were just the extras.
Loads and Loads of Characters: The author will name every player from every team that shows up with very rare exceptions, even if Karasuno only plays with them once (though sometimes they come back). They all have generally distinct faces and sometimes even backstories to boot.
Manly Tears: After the painful loss to Aobajousai, Ukai takes the Karasuno team to share a meal together. While eating, most of the team goes on a conjunct silent crying.
Also Oikawa and Iwaizumi shed these at the end of their middle school lives, while swearing to defeat Shiratorizawa in high school.
Odd Friendship: Between Kenma and Hinata. Kenma’s shy and lazy nature greatly contrasts with Hinata’s loud, extroverted personality (not to mention they’re from rival teams). Despite this, they get along surprisingly well.
Also, Aone and Hinata, despite also being in rival teams. They develop a very deep mutual respect for each other after Karasuno defeats Datekougyo.
Oh, Crap: Hinata, when he realizes he accidentally served the ball into the back of Kageyama's head.
Hinata: I already said I’m definitely going to be the one to defeat you! Until then, you’re not allowed to lose to anybody else!
Paper-Thin Disguise: Kageyama tries to go scout around Aobajousai in such an obvious disguise that it would only make him stand out more. Thankfully, Yachi convinces him to change to more discreet clothing.
Rousing Speech: Takeda is fond of using these and he's quite good at them.
Also Hinata running into people from opponent teams while going to the restroom before a match. It even gets lampshaded in chapter 108.
Sempai/Kohai: A very present trope in this series. Nishinoya and Tanaka are delighted to have -sempai added to the end of their names by Hinata and Kageyama.
Kenma seems to resent this kind of relationship, because his former sempai from the volleyball club used to ignore him and see whatever he had to say as impertinence, just because he was an underclassman. He even promptly stops Hinata from getting worked up just because he's an upperclassman.
Oikawa was also Kageyama’s sempai during junior high (and still considers him his kohai), but the latter currently addresses him mainly as "Oikawa-san".
Significant Birth Date: Almost all of the the characters with listed birthdates are significant in someway, listed here. Here are some that stand out:
Asahi and Nishinoya have mirrored birth dates (01/01 and 10/10 respectively) to fit with the theme of the two being complete opposites in every way.
Oikawa and Iwaizumi are born on Alexander the Great's birthday and day of death respectively. Oikawa is called the Grand King (which in Japanese is similar to Alexander the Great's title) and has exceptional leadership abilities. Iwaizumi's presence humanizes Oikawa as a character, much like death would to a king.
Sneeze Cut: To the point of becoming a Running Gag. Nearly every time a character, usually someone from Karasuno, mentions a player from another team, there’s a panel showing said player sneezing and a teammate suggesting they caught a cold, and then it goes back to the original scene.
Spoiler Opening: The first opening spoils that there are two more Karasuno players, Nishinoya and Asahi - when the 1st years join, Asahi had quit and Nishinoya was briefly suspended from activities because their Datekou match left Asahi depressed and Nishinoya accidentally hit the vice-principle when he got too angry about him leaving. Both come back.. Also spoils Ukai becoming Karasuno's coach, first as a temporary one after giving in to Takeda's pestering, then their official one after he becomes determined to win again Nekoma.
The second-years Ennoshita, Narita and Kinoshita dropped from the club at one point because they couldn’t take Coach Ukai’s training. They eventually came back.
Asahi and Nishinoya. Asahi quit after losing to Datekou and after Nishinoya's suspension for accidentally hitting the vice principle during his fit of rage against Asahi is lifted he refuses to come back if Asahi doesn't. A practice match convinces them both to come back.
The Stoic: Averted. Kageyama seems this at first. He isn't.
Throwing the Fight: Discussed only. Tsukishima offers this to Kageyama and Hinata upon meeting them for the first time, mainly to show his indifference towards the match in case. He isn’t taken seriously, of course.
Worthy Opponent: Nekoma's coach is hoping that Karasuno will be like this and vice versa like the old days.
Ushijima considers Oikawa to be the only one in the entire prefecture.
You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Kageyama, of all people, delivers (perhaps a rather rough) one of these to Hinata in Chapter 23, when the latter starts feeling that his power as a decoy isn't good enough compared to a real ace’s height and power.