What does it mean to fly?
As I’m sure any avid manga fan or anitwitter user will know, the Haikyuu!! manga recently came to a close with the publishing of it’s 402nd chapter. This makes it the third extremely popular shonen title to end this year–with both Demon Slayer and Promised Neverland ending only a few months ago. While I was a bigger fan of the other two shonen titles that ended overall, I can’t deny that when it came to endings Haikyuu!! actually nailed it–making me satisfied, joyous, and a little sad it was ending all in one go. So let’s break it down as to why I enjoyed the Haikyuu!! ending so much more, and what it means that it literally found its wings and soared at the end.
To begin with, I think that the biggest success of Haikyuu’s ending didn’t just lie in the final few chapters. No–the success came from that final arc. And you know what? That final arc was a time skip (something I feel like most manga are absolute shit at). This though? This WORKED. When Demon Slayer ended, the timeskip was so far into the future we saw the characters ancestors which just wasn’t satisfying. In Promised Neverland, the timeskip lasted like two chapters and was unclear how much time had actually passed. But Haikyuu? This time skip lasted at least 30 chapters–meaning that this final arc was fleshed out at a much better pace. During the time skip, which is several years after the events of the initial manga and after the teams loss at the quarter finals, we get to see what the team has been doing. Hinata, naturally, has continued with volleyball, but goes abroad to Rio de Janairo to learn how to play beach volleyball. The timeskip follows him not after he’s mastered his skills and become this great legend–no it continues to show the next phase of his development as he has to start over and learn how to play in this new field all over again. It’s great to see him grow, just as he always had been–and we get to see cameos of what others are up to along the way. For instance, Oikawa and Hinata end up meeting in Brazil–Oikawa having decided to go to Argentina to play for a team there. They work together and push each other to do better for what time they spend together, which helps Hinata grow and keep motivated. We see Kenma no longer plays volleyball, but instead sponsors Hinata (god I’ll never stop loving Kenma). After they help each other, Oikawa goes his separate way and Hinata continues to grow in Brazil with his volleyball partner. Then eventually he returns to Japan and joins a team that features other fan favorites from rival teams. When Hinata returns to Japan, we see a lot of the other characters and where they ended up–some kept up with volleyball, many pursued other things. But they all seem to still keep in touch somehow. Over the course of the arc, more and more is revealed of what past characters are doing. And then. Then we get the moneymaker.
The final arc takes us to something we’d been waiting for–no not Hinata and Kageyama back together again, but rather standing on opposite sides of the court again. This was like *chef’s kiss*. This was the ultimate, the Naruto/Sasuke fight, the Bakugo/Izuku fight. It was their showdown, but in this match, we saw how they each grew more than anything. We saw them as they finally stood opposite, new teams at their back, but each being able to truly shine with the skills they’ve been working for all this time. This match was just like so awesome. Like, Haikyuu!, being all about volleyball matches has always been super excellent about portraying them, but this one was just so good. It was truly a climactic last match to feature in the series. We don’t just get to see how Hinata and Kageyama push each other to be better, we see how they all encourage and inspire each other. And you know? That has always been present in Haikyuu!–no matter which side of the net you’re on–the players are always inspired to do their best by each other. They’ve all always been friendly rivals. Which is just like a fucking delight. I’m sorry, I feel really strongly about just how positively their rivalries are in this manga. They are the “I’m going to crush you because I hate you” type. They are literally all just “I think you’re amazing so I want to beat you”. It’s as refreshing as a glass of ice tea on a summer’s day. But you know, even after Hinata finally makes good on his promise and beats Kageyama, the story still isn’t over yet. No, because the last chapter ends with Hinata, Kageyama, and other fan favorites, uniting together as they play in the Tokyo 2021 olympics–our two MC’s reuniting again as a power duo.
So you can clearly tell I liked this ending and final arc. But I also know it kind of sucked for some fans. You see, before the time skip, we saw our team lose at the quarter finals and we saw Hinata get taken out of the game and not even able to be there when the match ended. It was a bitter defeat for that portion of their lives to end on and a lot of people were upset that they never showed the team trying again or succeeding the next year or anything. Especially when the chapter narrated “today you are the defeated, who are you tomorrow?” Many hoped for this to mean we’d see them continue to grow in their next year to return to nationals. I…didn’t mind this somber ending to their high school days and the time skip. I feel like improving the next year would’ve been all too easy, but so would the other teams. It could’ve gotten the manga stuck in telling the same narrative over and over until they won. And while it did that, the team would change as members graduated. It could have done this, but it would’ve been downright typical, and most of those character driven moments in matches would likely start straying from our original casts to the newer members. So I’m glad with their defeat, they took a chance and put a time skip. Because this truly allowed us to see who they were tomorrow. Who continued in volleyball, who pursued their other dreams? The entire events of the manga were pivotal in their lives, but they weren’t all destined or driven to stay with it forever. But I feel like they were all inspired to do their best with whatever they chose to do in the end–perhaps by their shared experience playing volleyball. Plus, Hinata didn’t get his time to shine at nationals, but he didn’t let it slow him down one second. Like always, he kept himself in the field persistently, no matter if he was knocked down or not.
In true fashion to the entire series, Haikyuu’s ending was inspiring more than anything else. To see Hinata and Kageyama playing at the Olympics, to see a child watch their match on television much like Hinata once did, to see the other characters from all the teams happy with their lives and doing their best, was so optimistically positive. It makes me want to push–to keep pushing–to never give up. To be able to fall and get back up. To see others and be inspired. To not be afraid to start back from zero. To, in true Karasuno fashion, fly.