There are three types of volleyball players Furudate writes in Haikyuu!!, and the difference between the players in D1 and D2 is important to the overall tone of the story. But I think the players in the last category are the ones that make the biggest difference in creating a hopeful narrative for all readers.
The ones left behind are the players and teams that lost, the ones that never made it to nationals, the players that stopped playing volleyball — whether they stopped in high school or college.
Furudate begins writing the narrative of these players really early on in the story. We start with a string of losses in the Interhigh Qualifiers.
We watch the Karasuno Girls’ Volleyball Team lose and deal with the heartbreak of that loss, and the knowledge that their own choices led to that outcome.
We meet Ikejiri in the game against Tokonami, and watch him pass the torch to Daichi.
There’s a sense of presence, even this early in the story, of these players wanting to leave their mark somewhere on the court, in these tournaments. A desire to say “We were here”. Especially for those that know it’s the end of the line for them. They won’t keep playing volleyball after graduation.
And then Karasuno loses against Aoba Johsai in the third round. The wildly evolving Karasuno loses to the steadiness of Aoba Johsai and Oikawa’s leadership. And there’s that heartbreak to deal with.
But the message there is that if you want to, you can keep playing. Perhaps this tournament is cut off from you now, but there will be others for those that keep playing. And if you want to win those games and keep playing, you’ll have to get stronger.
Losing in a game of volleyball always has a reason. Sometimes it’s not enough practice, or a bad decision. Sometimes it’s a mismatch of players on a team, sometimes it’s bad timing. Sometimes it’s just bad luck that leads to an injury.
But regardless of the reason for losing, for being forced to close that chapter whether or not you were ready for it, the efforts, love and passion put into the game are never worthless.
To all those players left behind by the narrative, their time on the court was always, always worth the time and effort put into it. It was something treasured, and something they will carry with them forever.
And those monsters standing on the International Court carry those memories with them too. Because in Haikyuu!! losers get left behind, but they’re never forgotten.