Haikyuu!! The Significance of Losing

art by @Ruttika_Shin on twitter

Comparison of polar opposites

When you compare two different entities, chances are that you’ll find yourself with polar opposites. Humanity is prone to see in black and white as well as good and evil.

Opinions get thrown from one side to another because everyone believes they are right until proven wrong.

Warmth and cold are on two sides of a gradually moving scale and everything between is valid just as every human being’s opinion is. The flexibility of it all is what makes us humans so complex. We never know what goes on behind the curtains with another person and self perception is the only way to know what someone else is like.

Most things in life are rather fluid and not stagnant, such is its nature. Change is just as inevitable as time progresses because we live in a  constant stream of ideas and innovation as well as emotion and expression. We are bound to find out new things about ourselves, experience life and change while doing so.

Still, one of the most preconceived notions that are drilled into our heads since our life started is the concept of winning and losing.

While everything else seems to be a matter of opinion, it is still normalized to believe that winning is the only option, and losing is failure.

The urge to win

Winning is what is good, losing and failure are unacceptable, why is that so?

It mostly starts small and in young age, as parents are pressured to show their kids a lot of things to prepare them  for school. Competition starts with which baby starts to speak first and how many words they use at what age. Children are already competing without knowing how to properly speak.

It gradually moves on to parents encouraging their children to win their play fights, their friendly competitions or show them off in front of others for being so “talented”.

Some may be stricter than others, parents can already begin to enlist their kids in activities they find nurturing. Mostly fun is the first priority, as competition is not yet a concept children can grasp properly. What they can understand though, is praise from people around them when they have done something satisfactory. 

Preschool and elementary students already know subconsciously “If I do this well, I’m good”. 

What is the reaction to failure? 

Again, as not every person, household and environment is the same, I am generally talking of the norms of society, but failure starts quickly as something to desperately avoid.

It is no longer about the experience one might get, but even encouragement has its underlying meaning.

“Next time you’ll be better”

“It’s okay, you’re still young”

Underlying motives that even if met positively, a child might develop their own meaning from them, registering success as correct, and failure as wrong.

After moving from a smaller scale to a bigger scale, school is tied with academic success.

Good grades, trophies, exams, competition in education and in extracurricular work lead to competition existing wherever you are. 

Kids are forced to be faster and stronger and smarter by their main education system for at least a decade in most countries. Even though the satisfaction of good grades is high, if nothing else is accepted, everything can become a chore and lose its appeal.

The same goes for sports and hobbies that started to be a fun activity and turned into a field of rivalry and pressure. There isn’t a place for everyone on the soccer team or the cheerleading squad, so getting in and trying out is hard enough as it is, but the competition doesn’t stop there.

Working hard to get better and keep up while maintaining the fun in the action isn’t easy for everyone, some people thrive in it but others can just as easily drop because of it.

Why win?

There are multiple reasons to want to win.

If someone puts the pressure on themselves and has high experionats to perform that can be the first stepping stone into outleading pressure.

Winning can be the breath of air after a whole lot of hard work, or even the only satisfaction for even working that hard. 

Because if all of that hard work only resulted in failure what was it all for?

While the satisfaction of working hard is great, we must also consider that especially in sports there are always requirements that build on preconceived notions such as f.e. the height of volleyball players. 

Unfair standards can dull the gratification one gets if there are naturally gifted people around you that dont even need to work as hard as you do to be able to steal your spot.

If the urge to win doesn’t come from your own pressure, it might come from parents or other units that have supported one from the beginning. In this instance winning is what must be done and there is no other option. This way, winning becomes a satisfaction for the other parties and not for oneself, because failure is not an option and the actual joy of the sport or hobby is inconsequential.

Another reason to only have winning in mind is for progress reasons. 

In competition it is only logical that the winner gets more chances and the one who succeeds is the one who advances. In all kinds of tournaments the first ones to go home are the ones who are crushed from the get go, which the ones to prevail work to keep their place.

While being good at what one does is important, there is always someone who is better and they will catch up to you, so working harder and winning continuously is the only way to stay in the game.

Pressure to win leads to linking your own value to your success, which then can result in low self esteem issues and the feeling of inferiority next to your peers.

Why lose?

First and foremost, what does losing mean?

Losing ultimately means that somebody was better even just a little bit, due to multiple reasons, for example their overall expertise, their performance, their work or even their luck.

There are a lot of people out there who gave everything they had and it still wasn’t enough, because they were overshadowed by someone with a natural talent to push them.

Hard work can get you anywhere, but sometimes it just won’t reach as quickly as the ones who are carried by their natural knack for something.

If you’re more interested in the concept of how instinctive actions work next to natural born talent, you should read Makii’s post “Instinct vs. Talent” here.

But what is the significance of losing? If winning is the priority, does losing have none? 

Are the experiences of people who lose of no merit?

Losing is not easy, but one shouldn’t  think that losing is of no significance in life, quite the contrary it is commonly known that losing puts everything into a different perspective.

If one only keeps winning, the success will lose its meaning, until you experience a defeat that shows you how much winning is worth. Therefore, there should always be a more reflective approach to losing, even if it is hard in this society.

Life is a series of ups and downs, and only through defeat can one experience a satisfying win.

Learning how to lose

How someone loses shows a lot about how they’ve experienced loss so far and what kind of person they are.

Losing is extremely frustrating, anger, hurt and sadness are expected to be felt after losing in something you love.

Someone who can hold themselves together after a crushing defeat is either used to being defeated or has great strengths and composure in them. Losing and being able to learn from that loss is a skill that is hard to acquire but will ultimately bring you further in life.

If one person takes even defeat as something they can learn from, they become invincible to the perils of life, as long as they keep fighting.

While that is easy to say, getting one loss after the other punched into you is no easy thing to take.

As Takeda sensei has said to Kageyama and Hinata after losing to Seijoh the first time, the one who loses and stands up again can continue to fight, but if you stay down that is what makes you a loser.

Haikyuu!! winners and losers parallel

Haikyuu!! shows us the aftermaths of loss and wins in almost every episode. Especially in the first season where the Karasuno team is still newly deployed with the first years, the team gets introduced and shown from every angle. 

Even smaller teams that don’t get another chance in the anime are given their recognition and time to shine, and the manga emphasizes that point even more.

Although it’s a natural reaction to first start to root for Karasuno since they are the obvious protagonists, seeing other teams work just as hard or even harder and then see them lose is a crushing feeling.

One cannot help to feel bad for whatever team lost if Furudate made sure to emotionally involve the watcher/reader with their story.

In the anime the episode 16 “winners and losers” shows us how the Karasuno girls volleyball team, as well as other people’s loss just after Karasuno’s easy win.

The episode ends with Hinata looking far off and ecstatic because his team won, but the tears of everyone around them having to go home and give up their dreams is a constant reminder that there is always a winner and a loser.

While it’s still hard to see minor characters get crushed by the protagonist, the more emotional part comes in, as the teams on the field are all ones that we know well or we have a connection to.

Dateko’s loss hurts just as much as Karasuno’s would, especially for fans of certain teams it might be a lot more defeating than seeing Karasuno lose.

Haikyuu!! uses the parallel of winning and losing again in the second recap movie that depicts the first season finale and Karasuno’s game against Seijoh. 

The game was exhilarating to say the least and Aoba Johsai was the victor in the end. Here we can see the importance of losing if you can pick yourself up again: not letting others intimidate you and working until you drop might be the way to victory.

Or not.

Because as we sadly know, everyone can lose against anyone, and anyone can win against anyone. So the tide shifts when Karasuno wins against Seijoh and Shiratorizawa to make their way to nationals.

In one perspective it is a great opportunity and amazing for Karasuno, but after seeing both sides of the story and especially getting emotionally involved with Seijoh, which we know since season one episode 4, their loss is just as bruising if not even more.

Especially for the captains as we see Moniwa cry after having to leave the volleyball club and their loss or Oikawa’s soul shattering thanks to his teammates after they realised they won’t make it to nationals together.

Winning and losing, success and defeat will forever stay sides of the same coin. Both go hand in hand and one cannot experience one of these in a healthy manner without getting a taste of the other.

After wrapping this topic up, I would like to know what maybe your opinion is on this matter and to leave it in the comments below. Do you think the same? Are there things you would like to add or do you disagree? I would love to see what you guys think!

Until then, let’s keep drinking our tea with determination!


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