Haikyuu is a shonen sports anime that is wildly popular with female viewers in addition to its male target audience. The men's volleyball team at Karasuno High School is looking to beat everyone in their prefecture and go to the national championships. As you would expect of a sports anime, they nurture their individual talents while learning to work as a team to take on increasingly formidable opponents. Not as much of a slice of life as swimming anime Free! but not as intense as basketball anime Kuroko's Basketball, Haikyuu has a good balance of character development, comedy, and sports action that has made its characters incredibly popular.
Even though the characters are designed to be more cute than bishounen, fans can't help pair off their favorites in this cute guy free-for-all. The most popular of these would be two new first-year players Kageyama Tobio and Hinata Shoyo, whose names are lovingly squished together into Kagehina by their dedicated shippers. Why is the shipping love for Kageyama x Hinata so strong? Here are five reasons why Kagehina makes us go "Gwaah!"
1. They're a perfect match.
In terms of personality and even volleyball ability, they don't have much in common. Hinata's excitable, sometimes nervous, and straightforward personality clashes easily with Kageyama's serious, tyrannical, and intimidating nature. To Kageyama's disappointment, Hinata lacks in-game experience and is considered to be too short for volleyball. Kageyama, on the other hand, was the star setter of his junior high team, one of the best in the scroll. After meeting once on the court in junior high, the difference in their skill levels was made clearly evident.
As much as they differ, they are similar where it counts. They have a passion for volleyball, victory, and self-improvement. This passion is the sole reason they can even agree to work together in the first place. Kageyama wants a road to redemption in the sport that was ready to throw him out. Hinata desperately wants to become as strong as Kageyama, proclaiming that he will follow Kageyama to any heights, even to the international stage.
Above all else, however, they fit perfectly as cogs in a well-running machine, as their club supervisor Takeda Ittetsu often puts it. Of course, as a setter, Kageyama coordinates with all the spikers on the court, but his particular combination with Hinata creates a one-of-a-kind attack formation that has us cheering every time they pull it off. Kageyama’s deathly precise pinpoint accuracy joins with Hinata’s superior speed and jump to make the flashiest and most devastating attack possible, and we want to watch it over and over in all of its iterations!
2. Are you sure this isn’t a rom-com?
Early in the first season, Kageyama and Hinata face off in Hinata’s first and last junior high volleyball match. After Kageyama completely destroys Hinata’s team, the two exchange fighting words and declare their newfound rivalry. Because fate can be a nasty customer, the two rivals end up at the same high school! They’re completely reluctant to work together but soon start seeing the good in each other. Before we know it, they’re connected at the hip!
Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the romantic comedy formula. Contempt in an unlikely situation turns into a surprisingly good outcome. Lucky for us, these characters are golden. Hinata automatically clashed with Kageyama’s personality, but he couldn’t deny Kageyama is a genius on the court. Hinata quickly finds himself depending on Kageyama’s strength to escape mediocrity. Kageyama also recognizes Hinata’s potential immediately but is reluctant to work with unskilled minions.
The turning point comes when Kageyama realizes he can bring out the best in Hinata’s natural talent in a 3-on-3 practice match early in the series. This sentiment culminates in the tenth episode of the first season when Kageyama proclaims, “As long as I’m here, you’re invincible!” From that point forward our genius setter goes through an amazing personal transformation, throwing away his bossy king-like ways and becoming a true team player.
3. Their fight broke our hearts.
Throughout the first season, we have grown accustomed to Kagehina’s playful bickering. Around Hinata, Kageyama often breaks from his calm and collected character and lets out his hidden immaturity. Kageyama calls Hinata a “dumbass (boke)” so much, Karasuno senpai’s joke is that Kageyama’s insult vocabulary is way too narrow. Even with all the back and forth, they are determined to keep working together no matter what.
Just as the wonder couple starts getting into a groove, disaster strikes. When Hinata starts to break away from dependence on Kageyama’s elite-level skill in Episode 5 of the second season, Kageyama is miffed. After all, Hinata is overly focused on becoming the team’s ace and is disrupting the balance of the team. Kageyama repeatedly scolds Hinata, but the young spiker doesn’t budge in his convictions. Unable to take any more, Kageyama unleashes with a severity never seen before. This isn’t their normal, everyday fighting. This is a serious break in their relationship.
Our hearts are torn into little pieces and thrown all over the floor. Kagehina is equally devastated and can’t properly communicate anymore. In search of answers, Hinata defers to their coach Ukai Keishin for personal guidance, but Kageyama is seriously pushed to his limit. He goes to his biggest rival and former upperclassman Oikawa Toru for advice on getting along with Hinata. The results are truly magical. During the painful time apart, they train individually to later reunite stronger and more synchronized than ever.
4. Hinata brings out the best in Kageyama.
It’s easy to see that Kageyama’s immense talent is a catalyst to Hinata’s explosive growth as a volleyball player, but the little guy isn’t just getting a free ride. Kageyama is without a doubt a superb athlete, but he has his weaknesses. In junior high, Kageyama was often called “King of the Court.” This may seem like a great compliment, but the meaning is anything but good. Kageyama ordered around his teammates without remorse. His haughty attitude made him seem nothing less than an oppressive and unforgiving king. Ultimately, his team abandoned him.
Marked with an uncooperative reputation, the young setter was rejected by his top choice when applying to high school. To make matters worse, Kageyama was emotionally scarred by this junior high experience and became over-sensitive about being accepted by his new high school teammates. One of his biggest hurdles to overcome is communication. Kageyama struggles with asking his teammates about their spiking preferences, and he can’t even give high fives or compliment good plays properly.
Almost opposite to his setter, Hinata can have a good rapport with just about anyone due to his straightforward positivity. When Hinata explodes with praise after Kageyama finally pulls off an impossible “set that stops,” Kageyama can’t even bring himself to react properly. Hinata always faces Kageyama head-on, so when Kageyama starts to fall into his own worries or hesitates to push himself forward, Hinata is the first to scold him and remind him of the bigger goal. With Hinata’s support, Kageyama can always play at the top of his game.
5. Seriously, little to no romance exists in Haikyuu.
Let’s briefly rundown all the situations that could possibly be considered romance at Karasuno, even though none of them have panned out yet. Don’t worry. It won’t take long.
Tanaka and Nishinoya, along with Nekoma’s Yamamoto, generally treat third-year manager Shimizu Kiyoko as an idol, but she ignores them. In the second season, Hinata finally converses with her a few times and even saves her from being hit on by rival players, but he is extremely nervous and awkward around her. More recently, she briefly touches the captain Sawamura Daichi’s hand when both of them instinctively reach for his face, but that’s because he’s bleeding from the mouth after a face-first collision. Sawamura, on the other hand, has a good vibe going with women’s volleyball captain Michimiya, but they only seem to ever talk about volleyball.
For the first-years, pinch-server Yamaguchi Tadashi may have a small interest in the new manager Yachi Hitoka. He blushes when she introduces herself to the team in the second season. Later, he suggests her as a tutor to Kageyama and Hinata. After one of their study sessions, Hinata encourages Yachi to be more vocal to her mom. He takes her by the wrist and drags her to the subway station where her mom is, but the scene isn’t very shoujo-manga romantic, because Hinata runs so fast that Yachi is slightly frightened. Regardless, Yachi is arguably Kagehina’s biggest fan, just like us!
In the romance department, these boys just can’t seem to catch a break. So many girls are fawning over Oikawa at Aoba Josai, while the Karasuno bunch are utterly ignored, even by their own manager. By comparison, Kagehina has an innumerable amount of “gwaah” moments—cute, emotional, or funny interactions when the “gwaah” starts to well up in your chest. Every time Kageyama smirks in approval, every time Hinata reaffirms his trust in Kageyama, and every time they uncontrollably react in unison, our hearts just can’t take it. We just can’t take it, Kagehina!
If you’re a Kagehina fan, you’re not alone. From senpais to coaches to bitter rivals, the Haikyuu world is constantly treating the “first-year combo” as a match made in volleyball heaven. Even if you’re rooting for a different pairing, the electricity between Kageyama and Hinata is undeniable. Their setbacks are heart breaking, and their successes are inspiring.
Currently, the saga for Karasuno’s road to the national stage continues! We certainly can’t wait for the fast-approaching conclusion to Haikyuu’s second season. Let’s hope for more Kagehina and more “gwaah” moments in the current Aoba Josai nail-biter and beyond!