From watching the Little Giant play in Nationals on TV to playing on a national stage, Haikyuu!!‘s Hinata has grown tremendously since he was in middle school. It’s hard to imagine that this is the same boy who once took balls to the face. Over the course of the series, he has evolved into a volleyball player who commands attention with his undeniable strength.
Hinata has always chased after his dream of becoming the next Little Giant but in some ways, that dream has dragged him down, too. Slowly, throughout his first year in high school, Hinata grew in leaps and bounds as a volleyball player. In the end, Hinata didn’t become the second Little Giant but he did make a new name for himself as the Greatest Decoy.
Part Of A Set
Upon entering Karasuno, it was obvious that even though Hinata had the passion, he didn’t have the skills. He was lucky enough that even though he wasn’t tall, he could jump extremely high and was quite fast. Even with those physical attributes, his technique was still sorely underdeveloped: He couldn’t serve and he couldn’t receive. Nevertheless, he was determined to become the second Little Giant and score points despite his height making him more suitable to be a libero.
It was during the three-on-three try-outs that he discovered a way to fight in a battle of height — with Kageyama’s wicked fast and accurate toss and Hinata’s speed and jump, they could evade the blockers with their “freak quick.” However, in order to do this, Hinata is entirely reliant on Kageyama. All he has to do is trust that Kageyama will be able to send the ball his way and jump — he even has his eyes closed when he jumps and hits. But he’s cognizant of the fact that he is in Kageyama’s shadow and if it weren’t for him, he wouldn’t even be on the court as a starter.
A Reluctant Decoy
Because Hinata’s one and only chance to play volleyball in middle school lasted 31 minutes, all he has ever wanted was to play volleyball, which is why he’d leap at any and every ball that came his way. And it’s because of this that many of his opponents were often tricked into jumping at him to block even when the toss isn’t for him. Hinata has such an overwhelming presence on the court that it affects not only just his opponents but his teammates. Kageyama bestows the title of decoy onto him because of this, which came as a huge disappointment for Hinata.
His hunger to be the ace resulted in him colliding with Asahi during a practice match in perhaps an unconscious effort to take that role from him. However, he does later grow more comfortable in his role as a decoy. He realizes that he can still score points by acting as a decoy, such as in the match with Date Tech where he lured Aone to jump while Asahi scored from the back. His overwhelming presence on the court with his formidable speed and jumping height makes him perfect as a decoy.
The New Freak Quick
The loss to Aobajohsai was a turning point for Karasuno but especially for Hinata in his growth as a volleyball player. The freak quick that had been their ultimate weapon had failed and it forced him to realize that he couldn’t rely on Kageyama anymore: Hinata knew that his only choice was to start opening his eyes so he could have control to battle in the air. He and Kageyama had a fight with Kageyama in which he told him there’s nothing for him to fix, resulting in a temporary falling-out.
Kageyama was able to do a “floating” toss wherein the ball seemingly stops in mid-air. This gave Hinata more options to execute the best attack. He could now fight on his own — he was no longer the oni‘s (demon) club as he was once compared to by Nekoma’s coach. Instead, he and Kageyama were oni and oni.
A Third Evolution
Hungering to train and to become stronger, Hinata snuck into the training camp Coach Washijo was offering to all first-years who he thought had potential. Coach Washijo told him that he sees no value in having Hinata there without his setter but he does let him stay on as a ball boy. He’s not allowed to participate in the training itself, but this allows Hinata to gain some valuable skills. By standing on the sidelines, he’s more perceptive and observant, allowing him to analyze his opponents’ plays.
It’s here that he learns how to receive balls and think about his next attack while receiving, as well as how to read the spiker’s form to predict where the ball will land. When he returns to Karasuno, he receives Kageyama’s spike — to the utter surprise of everyone except Nishinoya. Hinata had always moved purely on raw instinct but suddenly, he could shape that instinct into intuition.
The Greatest Decoy Is Here
After graduation, Hinata switched to beach volleyball for training purposes and because of the unpredictable and unforgiving conditions of the outdoors and sand, he learned how to jump higher and faster, leading him to hang in mid-air longer. By the time we see Hinata in the pro-league, he’s virtually an unknown. In the Adlers versus Black Jackals match, the audience wonders why he’s there until he scores his first point and makes his presence known by announcing “I’m here!” Hinata has said this ever since his first year in high school but it always had an undertone of desperation — he wants people to not disregard him and not see him as just part of a set with Kageyama. This match is a proclamation of strength and a demand for attention: “I’m here! (Look at me; look how far I’ve come).”
We really see how far Hinata has come as an athlete here. From once serving a volleyball into Kageyama’s head to doing jump serves and receiving Kageyama’s powerful serves. Hinata has grown out of being unconsciously used as the decoy of his team to deliberately luring the opposing team’s players into hitting the ball exactly where he wants them to. Hinata baits Romero’s dink and Hoshiumi’s endline shot. In other words, he’s acting as a decoy for himself.
Hinata once said that “being good means being free.” All of the matches and training that he went through gave him the skills and freedom to make his body do what he wants it to do. This was what got him to a place where he can proudly be called the Greatest Decoy in Haiykuu!!.
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