Instinct vs talent
One of the most important scenes in the second season, a simple sentence yet so much behind it. The moment where both Kageyama and Oikawa saw eye to eye for the first time, not only as opponents but on a much deeper level that goes beyond their obvious rivalry.
The origin of Oikawa’s most famous quote stems from this very moment, “Talent is something you make bloom, instinct is something you polish.”
It’s not a topic that is limited to Haikyuu only, and especially not Oikawa Tooru. The difference between those Geniuses and Common people is always following us through our everyday life. May it be in studies, sports, arts or another aspect in life, once in a while you will find someone who is just simply and naturally better than yourself.
But what is the difference between instinct and talent that Oikawa mentions in that crucial moment, right after his flashback where he doubted his own abilities due to Kageyama’s appearance? The following input will be given all up to season three knowledge since I did not read the manga past timeskip nor did I watch season 4 yet.
First of all let’s look at the term Oikawa finds so annoying as he mentioned in the anime, Geniuses. In the anime Oikawa clearly says in season one before the first Seijoh vs Karasuno game that he thinks Geniuses are annoying.
Why would he say such a thing while he acknowledged Kageyama by telling Iwaizumi that when it comes to tosses he cannot surpass Kageyama?
Despite that it is a simple reason yet unmentioned in many other discussions, Oikawa and Kageyama are both exceptional players but they both differ in the way they approach Volleyball, especially their positions.
It’s clear that even the perception of what core values and tasks the setter has is completely different to Kageyama as seen in season 2 where he asks Oikawa for advice. Oikawa tells him that despite that Kageyama is thinking he is the focus of attack and controls the game it’s quite the opposite and that the setter is the one adapting to the spikers, bringing out as much potential as you can and that the spiker is the one leading the attack. Something that a Genius overlooks so easily because he is more reliant on his own abilities that he uses rather subconsciously than actively like Oikawa does, since he had to pay more attention to the details that Kageyama does naturally.
On top of that despite the work Oikawa puts in, the care and effort it doesn’t take much time for Kageyama to pick things up quickly, the difference in natural skills makes the gap between Oikawa’s hard years of work vanish in an instant by Kageyama sticking to his back taking less time than he did. Many would say there is nothing that can be done, but if you think of Oikawa’s perspective adding his inferiority complex that we already discussed in another blogpost, it’s much more frustrating having your place you worked really hard for taken by someone who is labeled with the Genius and naturally-skilled title and making it seem unfair that the difference in natural capacity of skills is the only reason why that person took your place.
And here follows the first part of the quote, “Talent is something you make bloom.” The realization that Oikawa has to work more than Kageyama or any other person for example Ushijima as well (let’s take Kageyama since he is a setter as well, matching their positions), concludes in Oikawa regaining the strength to keep-going and work even harder than before, since he has someone who rivals him and pushes him to his limits. Those limits you set for yourself doesn’t mean they are your real limitations but only a restriction you put on yourself, as seen in one of Oikawa’s flashbacks when a teacher was talking to him. In the critical moment of the last set Oikawa was reminded of those words followed by the former quote. Despite the fact that Oikawa already knew from the beginning that at some point Kageyama would surpass him he still fought hard to not lose to him, Iwaizumi mentioned in Chapter 60 of the manga that he is someone with athletic skills but then a prodigy appeared referring to Kageyama as the genius that is a threat to Oikawa.
Why does Oikawa use the term you make bloom?
It’s an interesting form of a metaphor used here, if we take Talent and see it as something that needs constant nourishment, a perfect environment and a lot of care. When something or let’s say here a plant needs to bloom it always involves a period of time it takes to give fruit or have its first petals, therefore over the whole time period nursing and nourishing it is only possible through constant work. It doesn’t happen alone and takes a lot of effort, as well as energy on both sides, the one who cares for it and the plant itself. In terms of talent, people who are not Geniuses make their talent bloom by working on themselves, actively nourishing the thing they want to make bloom.
In some of the Manga translations the term is translated as, “Talent is something that blossoms”, which has the same core meaning yet again blossoming has a more visual and beautiful ring. Something that blossoms is seen as a result you can be happy about and take pride in, moreover it gives off the vibe that you have to wait even longer to see it happen just like you wait for the cherry-blossoms for almost a year to come back in spring.
Not being someone who gets things easy or only through constant hard work is pressuring, frustrating and unfair yet people like Oikawa have no other choice to simply push forward making them into workaholics and develop negative feelings, especially when he gets the feeling he is mocked by someone. A process that you see as nourishing and nursing the Talent, it forces the one caring for the plant to always be observant and attentive despite the days where caring for it may be more difficult, due to bad weather, parasites etc.
We can see the negative feelings when they become too much as parasites or enemies of the plant trying to invade it when not taken care of, like in middle-school when Oikawa’s pent-up feelings and fears turned into a panic-attack that Kageyama triggered almost making him sway his arm at him, not because Kageyama himself but due to his state of feelings where he was blinded by fear and anxiety, the parasites invading his inner world, causing him to not see what was actually in front of him.
Both terms make bloom and blossoms conclude that it’s a long process and need a lot of care to happen, as well as something that is not there yet but is about to become.
On the other hand when the term instinct is being mentioned in the same sentence he says, “instinct is something you polish.” To polish something means that there is an already existing thing that needs further cleaning and refinement, doing a little bit extra work to make it come out even more shiny and clean. It doesn’t need to go through a long process like something that blooms/blossoms and has an already good foundation to work on.
In this context it means the natural talent is there from the very start and from a young age, it’s easier to learn and to adapt to, but still needs refining yet has an already established level of skill that is easily manageable since the resources are available. Connecting this to Kageyama, he can easily achieve hard-to-learn techniques but needs the little push to do so or put in at least more effort for that. Unlike Oikawa who is already used to constantly and persistently working on his skills to perfect them, Kageyama relies on his foundation yet he doesn’t really polish them since he just thinks that what he has is already enough. Again the differences between Kageyama and Oikawa are clearly visible, Oikawa always adapts while Kageyama persistently stays in his own place for a long time.
Just like in the talent part, here as well in some Manga translations the sentence is not the same but has a similar core meaning when translated into, “sense is something you hone.”
Two things change a bit when we regard this translation, first the word sense used instead of instinct, and hone that replaced polish. It does have the same meaning or at least it goes into the same direction, but there is still a slight difference.
Let’s start with the sense part. Instinct is a rather vague word used in this context because deep down and all in all, every single person has instincts and it’s something much rather undefined when it comes to specific areas like sports. Instead sense is much more concrete and gives a lot more insight of what is actually meant. Sensing things or having a sense for something means that a person is naturally doing those things by relying much more on their senses. Instinct is often used for primal desires like humans and animals have may it be hunger, sleep etc. Even though it’s applicable too, sense is the more matching word.
In the manga Chapter 60 when Iwaizumi talks about the prodigy Kageyama, he as well uses the phrase, “His sense for things was overwhelmingly spectacular.” The word sense makes much more sense than instinct, because the message behind this very sentence is that Kageyama unlike other people understands things faster by simply doing them and out of his inner sense that is naturally connected to his Volleyball abilities.
The word hone is as well different than the word polish, if you hone something it does take a little bit more finishing touches than simply polish it. Polishing is the last process of cleaning up before you put it to show, but honing sounds like more work as if a piece of wood still needs the last finishing touches around the edges. Which means in a way it is almost perfect but needs more than cleaning to get done. Just like Kageyama’s abilities he may be a natural genius and just like Oikawa says, if it comes to tosses he cannot match Kageyama, yet there is still a big difference between his and Oikawa’s abilities.
Kageyama as well mentions that he wonders how he would ever surpass someone like Oikawa who can easily adapt to any player that is placed in his team, Ushijima being another person who shares the same thoughts. He has what it takes to be an amazing setter, but what Kageyama lacks is the finishing touches, honing his abilities instead of thinking of them as already perfect. How can you see he doesn’t work much more on doing so?
In Kitagawa Daiichi as well until to the point Oikawa gave him advice, Kageyama searched for someone to match his tosses instead of working more to adapt to other players. He doesn’t search the mistakes on his side and complains about the other players not adapting to him, unaware of the actual role that a setter should play.
Concluding that the whole sentence is a comparison of what each part should be used for, talent and instinct, or talent and sense are both different things that need different approaches and work methods to see improvements in the future. Yet there is another hidden picture in it.
The whole comparison of talent and sense, and the whole sentence “Talent is something that blossoms, sense is something you hone”, can be replaced by Oikawa standing for talent and Kageyama representing the sense part. Despite that both of them actually work hard on both sides and are setters, they are two different beings approaching different ways and therefore can’t use the same strategy to improve.
Something that Oikawa realized a long time ago, declining to show Kageyama his way of serving and instead of wanting to chew things out for him, he let Kageyama find his own way. Oikawa said he wouldn’t mold Kageyama himself to surpass him so early which some people criticise here, but a genius who can surpass much easier and the fear of someone who is not a genius to be surpassed finally, is not comparable.
In a battle where a genius has someone teaching him followed by the one teaching him never catching up since it takes more time to catch up again and much more work if you are not a genius. The unfairness of working so much just to get surpassed in less than half the time you needed makes one think what is next? Will he take my place next or even worse?
Those thoughts will still stick and cause fear, obviously Oikawa felt the same, but if he really held a grudge against Kageyama or didn’t want to help him at all he would have never given him the crucial advice that Kageyama needed so badly to develop further into a more fitting setter for his team.
Since Oikawa is on one hand Kageyama’s rival and on the other hand his senior and teacher he looks up to and aspires to surpass, the situation of not wanting to help your biggest threat is much more plausible and understandable, it’s hard to not give advice and at the same time it is hard since all your efforts to come this far are on the edge.
Because in the end, talent is something you make bloom yet instinct is something you polish. A genius and someone who is not a genius can never understand each other’s feelings, but Kageyama and Oikawa show us that they are still rivals that can see eye-to-eye despite that fact.