Haikyuu!! Characters as Witnesses to Growth

Haikyuu!! has a great number of brilliantly written, well-rounded, unique characters. Even opponents we saw play only one game were given a personality, an impactful past, hopes and dreams for the future. Furudate made it clear that everyone has their reason for being here, and their reason to win. Every character is constantly adapting, learning, growing. No one is stagnant. We are always changing.

What I as a reader find fascinating is how Furudate is able to pull this off without making the story overly busy or overwhelming. The flow from one character’s story to another’s, from one point of view to another is so smooth. Just watch Karasuno’s first official match against Aoba Johsai and the way we swivel right over to Oikawa’s story mid-match.

I believe that part of the reason this works so well is that almost every major character in Haikyuu!! has what I call a “witness to growth”. Some have more than one. Hinata as the main character has almost every other major character as a witness, but even he still has a single primary witness.

We as the readers / audience experience each of these character’s growth and journey through the eyes of their witness as a default.

I’ve written before about how Akaashi Keiji is Bokuto Koutarou’s witness and the role that plays within the story as a whole. But there are other character-witness pairs that I find very interesting.

Let’s start somewhere kind of obvious:

Yamaguchi Tadashi’s witness is Tsukishima Kei. Tsukishima is not his only witness as Shimada Makoto is also another important one, but Tsukishima has known Yamaguchi the longest, knows where he started, knows the kind of person Yamaguchi is, and looks on proudly as he grows into an incredible force on the Karasuno Boys Volleyball Team.

Manga screencap of Tsukishima looking back on his relationship with Yamaguchi and Yamaguchi's growth. The first panel is Tsukishima walking away from a crying Yamaguchi at the playground where they first met. The second is Yamaguchi chasing after him, both in Karasuno school uniforms. The third panel is Tsukishima and Yamaguchi standing side by side on the court before an official game. The fourth panel is Yamaguchi running ahead of Tsukishima up the hill during the training camp. The fifth panel on the far left is a vertical panel of the moment Yamaguchi yelled at Tsukishima for being 'pathetic' during the training camp.

Similarly, Yamaguchi Tadashi is Tsukishima Kei’s witness. While others are present and comment on Tsukishima’s growth, Yamaguchi is the most invested in it and the one to confront Tsukishima when he gets stuck.

Azumane Asahi’s witness is Nishinoya Yuu. He’s seen Asahi’s weaknesses and his potential. Like Yamaguchi he was the one to give Asahi the push he needed to discover his passion for volleyball.

Interestingly enough, I would argue that Yachi Hitoka is her own witness. Her growth in the story is seen from her own point of view, we get to see her thought process throughout it. But Hinata Shouyou is also a witness of her growth and celebrates it with her — not to mention he’s also the catalyst for it.

But what about the main characters? You might see where I’m going with this by now. Let’s see if we’re on the same page.

Hinata Shouyou is the main character, watching the Adlers vs Black Jackals match it’s quite obvious that almost everyone is a witness to his growth. He’s even got witnesses in Brazil! But even Hinata has a single primary witness, and that is Tsukishima Kei.

From the Miyagi First Years training camp to Hinata’s debut as a pro indoor volleyball player, Tsukishima Kei is the main point of view we watch his growth from. He’s there for the major moments of learning and transformation. He’s the one we watch for reactions. And it’s his point of view that creates the impression of Hinata as exhilirating, awe-inspiring, a little irritating, and completely ridiculous.

What about Kageyama? It’s not Hinata, I’ll start there.

Kageyama’s primary witness is Kindaichi Yuutarou, and to a slightly lesser extent Kunimi Akira. They’re the two who have seen him at his lowest point, and while they’re at a different team and don’t get to see his growth on a day-to-day basis, they see it from the outside, they see the big picture. At first it makes Kindaichi angry, because why couldn’t Kageyama have grown while he was with them? Perhaps he dislikes the implication that he could have made a difference, but the fact is they all hurt each other as teenagers often do, it’s best to move on.

Hinata actually cannot be Kageyama’s witness, because he’s never had a deep understanding of where Kageyama came from or what those flaws were to begin with. To him, Kageyama has always been an incredible setter, an incredible opponent to overcome, and eventually an incredible ally — the pinnacle of what a setter is and should be. He can’t see Kageyama’s growth the way Kindaichi and Kunimi can because he has always only seen Kageyama’s highest potential, to the point where he demands so much of him because he believes that if anyone can do it, Kageyama can.

Obviously this isn’t comprehensive or necessarily completely cohesive, just my thoughts on the role witnesses play to how we as the audience watch these characters grow throughout the story.

What are some other character-witness pairs you’ve noticed in Haikyuu!! ? Have you seen this dynamic in other stories as well? Leave a comment, I’m interested to know!


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