After rewatching Haikyū!! for the 3rd time, I must praise mangaka Haruichi Furudate for his impressive characterization of the series.
Two incredible characters I love the most are Shōyō and Tobio: hence, why I’m questioning who’s better between them.
Their character developments are subtly sprinkled throughout the series. You wouldn’t even guess when and where their improvements in their volleyball skills started!
But today, allow me to enlighten you on who is better between the two. Whose personal growth is faster? Who is better between Haikyū!!’s protagonist and deuteragonist?
Clearly, Tobio has been the rising star of Karasuno High since he joined the school’s volleyball club. He is better than Shōyō in many ways, even during practice matches against Nekoma High and Fukurōdani Academy.
In my honest opinion, I think Tobio Kageyama is a better volleyball player. But that doesn’t mean that Shōyō Hinata doesn’t have a chance to compete, surpass, and shine brighter than his rival!
Shōyō has never backed down when facing Tobio on the opposite side of the net. He has never run away from his opponent despite the losses he suffered from his “frenemy”.
Their frenemies/rivalries have been ongoing since they faced one another in middle school.
However, since they are receiving proper guidance from their peers, the wonder duo’s volleyball quick attacks, spikes, and serves slowly improved as they continue to face strong opponents.
How Did Hinata And Kageyama Become Rivals?
Shōyō and Tobio became rivals during the Yukigaoka Junior High and Kitagawa Daiichi Junior High match.
It was then and there that Shōyō humiliatingly and miserably lost his first official middle school match (a complete takeover by Tobio’s team: 25 to 8 points by Set 2).
After losing terribly, Shōyō challenged Tobio: “I’ll overthrow your ‘King of the Upper Court’ title and remain inside the volleyball court the longest.”
But Tobio only retorted to him, “Try growing stronger if you want to win!”
Tobio thought Shōyō had wasted potential when he saw the little guy jump incredibly during the match. Even if Tobio’s aware of this, he doesn’t consider Shōyō as a threat.
This first encounter was just a one-sided rivalry instigated by Shōyō (who has a long way to go before he can catch up to Tobio).
But over time, Tobio deemed Shōyō as a threat — someone he must constantly overcome and surpass if he wants to remain inside the court longer.
How Did Kageyama And Hinata Grow After Facing Aoba Jōsai High?
Karasuno’s most formidable foe during Seasons 1 and 2 of the anime is Aoba Jōsai High. Even if Shōyō perceived Tobio as a rival, this is an “on-and-off” status because they are also playing on the same side of Karasuno High’s net.
Tobio views his former teammate in junior high, Tōru Oikawa, as a rival too. Despite admiring his senpai, Tobio realizes he’s also jealous of Tōru.
Aoba Jōsai’s setter and Captain always brings out the best in his teammates. And this is something Tobio simply cannot imitate, let alone surpass when he compares himself to his senpai.
Tobio blames his insecurities when Karasuno lost against Seijō during Round 3 of the Miyagi Prefectural Inter-High Qualifiers.
Meanwhile, Shōyō is as stubborn as ever. He refuses Tobio’s apology when the latter admitted his tosses as a setter weren’t good enough to help Karasuno gain enough winning points.
But Karasuno made a comeback during the Spring Tournament Semi-Finals Qualifiers. It’s thanks to Tobio and Shōyō’s quick attacks and powerful spikes that made the “Great King” Tōru bow down to the “King of the Upper Court” — Tobio.
Shōyō and Tobio had many arguments before they perfected performing the “tempo attack” to beat Tōru. But it’s thanks to their feuds that allowed them to seek separate trainers.
Had they stuck together like glue, they wouldn’t realize their weakness, as well as the others’. They become a cohesive setter-spiker duo because they cooled off their heads with different people and in different locations.
How Did Hinata Grow And Improve When Kageyama Sets For Him?
While Tobio’s morale is breaking like a Twix bar, Shōyō is the same crybaby as ever. He’s been crying since Yukigaoka (his middle school volleyball team) lost against Kitagawa Daiichi.
He might be headstrong; but most of the time, his stubbornness becomes overboard, especially when he constantly puts up a front against his opponents.
On one hand, this is Shōyō’s coping strategy lest he breaks again. When his team loses a volleyball match, all Shōyō could think of is “Game Over”.
For Shōyō, not being able to play any longer means the “inability to stay inside the volleyball court”. Losing a game reminds Shōyō of his loss when he first encountered Tobio. (This is when he also made a vow to himself that he’ll be the one to stay within the volleyball court longer).
That is why he needs Tobio during Seasons 1 to 3 of all games (from Aoba Jōsai to Shiratorizawa Academy). Without Tobio, who will set for Shōyō?
It’s thanks to Tobio’s trust that Shōyō can even step foot as a spiker for Karasuno High’s volleyball club.
Tobio constantly tosses the ball to Shōyō because he believes in the little guy; hence, making the “I am a Believer” (3rd opening theme song of Haikyu!!) very reminiscent!
He’ll toss for anyone whom he believes is the key to winning. And no one matches that criterion other than Shōyō himself.
Shōyō adjusted to Tobio’s tossing needs as much as the latter adjusted to meet the shrimp’s spikes.
Their successful cooperation as a cohesive setter-spiker becomes even more prevalent when Karasuno wins back-to-back (against Seijō High in the Semi-Finals, then against Shiratorizawa Academy in the Finals).
Haikyu!! is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Haruichi Furudate. Its publication in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump began in February 2012 with 42 collected tankōbon volumes released.
Hinata Shoyo is a highly passionate boy who wishes to follow the steps of his idol, ‘The Little Giant’ in the field of volleyball. Hinata’s resolve is unbreakable as he faces gruesome defeat at the hands of the ‘King of the Court,’ a genius prodigy setter Kageyama Tobio in middle school. Hinata’s dreams take fruit as he enters high school.
He joins the declining volleyball team of Karasuno High and is appalled to find the very same Kageyama as his teammate. The story follows the revival of Karasuno High and the unity they maintain to pave their way for nationals.