In modern Media especially in anime there are a lot of stylistic devices that are used to convey certain messages. Creators use a lot of visual and linguistic devices to make certain points clearer to the viewer, build up suspense or tie the viewer in emotionally.
But what do these stylistic devices mean and why are they so important to the story? In this blog post we will discover what kind of stylistic devices reside in Haikyuu!!, what they mean and why they are so significant to the plot.
Although stylistic devices or rhetorical devices sound like really complex and theoretical structures they are actually just ways to show the viewer aspects of a story more clearly. There are numerous ways to tell a story in general. One could just tell somebody something and they will listen to you and register it in their brain or one could choose to show it to somebody with the means of different media and distinctive story telling. Anime is one of those media that relies heavily on auditory and visual rhetoric.
There are actually a lot of stylistic devices that we have seen throughout the history of anime and they are pretty easy to detect. To give you an example you might know of the infamous “crazy eyes” and the perspective of seeing only the eyes of a character just before they go lose their sanity. It is a very common and culturally accepted device that is easily understandable and recognized beyond the viewers of said anime.
Why are these stylistic devices so important you might ask?
In the course of time the more often stylistic devices are used the more approachable it becomes like the example I have given earlier. Whenever someone watches a new series if a metaphor or another stylistic device is used to convey something again it will automatically be linked to a certain emotion or understanding.
Examples for that would be a shonen protagonist having trauma from the start to develop or the infamous trio that is made off of two guys and a girl.
These repetitive tropes are slowly getting more and more accepted and are actually stylistic devices as well!
As anime is often written as a very idealistic narrative it is no surprise that messages and intentions are made very clear and very distinct throughout the plot.
Especially protagonists often have a catchphrase or an explanation they repeat to make their point clear to the viewer.
In this instance when we talk about Haikyuu!!, it is the infamous phrase that Hinata says in the first episode of the first season:
A tall wall looms before me.
We will look at this quote and instead of explaining it like we do for example in our quote time series, we will look at this more broadly and visually.
As “a tall wall looms before me” is a symbolism of an obstacle that has to be overcome, Hinata starts off by saying that the wall is too high for him to see the view behind it because of his height, but he ends the quote with insinuating that you cannot do it alone. This shows that he relies on his teammates so he can see the view behind the wall.
Here the wall is represented by the volleyball net and the middle blockers blocking his spike while “the view” represents the score or the point they will get when Hinata spikes. The reason why this symbolism is so important is because of Haikyuu!! often refers to the blocks as walls and the points as a saving action.
Hinata idealises the view beyond because he never got to see it before, asking himself if he will ever be able to do so.
The abyss behind/between them
Throughout the season we have multiple instances in which the main receivers of Karasuno have trouble receiving very difficult serves for example from the Tokyo teams or Seijoh. This is where we find another metaphor that is introduced by Daichi. While he explains how they only need to receive the next serve in a pinch situation, we as the viewer can see an abyss forming behind him on the court.
But what is that supposed to convey?
Of course this is only for visual purposes as only the viewer can see it because it does not exist but the abyss still shows the pressure the team feels when they need to receive.
Still, why is it an Abyss and why is it that only the court is a safe Haven while everything around them is a gaping hole of nothingness?
This metaphor insinuates two things: the first thing being that as long as the ball is received the game continues. Meaning, if someone on the court manages to receive the ball in some way or another, they are saved. But the other aspect is that Daichi f.e. knows that there is nothing behind him. He is the one who is backing his team up by focusing on receiving stray and difficult balls but the gaping hole behind him shows that there is nobody backing him up.
A similar metaphor to this is the visual representation of distance that is shown to us in the anime. Furudate shows us different ways of distance between characters. We see the distance that is being put between Kageyama and his team in middle school when they refuse to play with him. We see an Abyss forming between him and the rest of the players.
Where is the difference between the first abyss that is mentioned and this one?
It means that the distance between him and his former teammates cannot be caught up in this moment. It is impossible for Kageyama to now cross the bridge between him and his team members. This is the moment in which he realizes that there truly is nobody there for him, but he also realizes that he has left his team behind.
Another stylistic device that is very different and very interesting and often used in Haikyuu!! is parallelism.
To give an example for a parallel in the story we can reconsider Kageyama’s backstory. That his worst fear is materialized when he sets to somebody and realizes there is nobody there.
This is not shown once but multiple times throughout the story and revisited multiple times in the first seasons. Now we have our protagonist Hinata who is very different from the teammates Kageyama has played with before. He doesn’t let Kageyama walk all over him and the standard for playing volleyball is very shallow because he just wants to stay on the court and spike as often as possible.
So in this case we have the parallel of “nobody was there” and “I am here” which are the words for the feeling Kageyama gets whenever he sees Hinata quickly jump awaiting his toss. The reason why this is so memorable is because in Haikyuu!! it is often stated that Kageyama is the lonely king and Hinata has never played volleyball properly as he had no team, so we have two characters who both lacked something that they needed and found with each other.
If we keep thinking about parallels there is one that was even mentioned by Yachi herself in season two and it is the polar opposite dynamic between Hinata and Tsukishima.
She even made a wordplay on the names saying that Hinata has “Hi” in his name which is the character for sun in Japanese and Tsukishima has the character “Tsuki” in his name which is the word for moon in Japanese.
A funny joke that Yachi makes in that instance but when we actually think about it makes a lot of sense. Even in the volleyball team rotation it is often so that Tsukishima has to replace Hinata’s attack strength which he wasn’t confident in. This mimics the cycle of day and night that repeats itself again and again but the parallel also shows that Tsukishima is reserved and quiet like the representation of the night and Hinata is outgoing and energetic like the representation of the day.
Most of the time these Dynamics are shown by visual representation in the anime. The parallel of the sun and the moon is shown as Tsukki standing in the shadow of Hinata.
Looking from the distance
Another visual stylistic device that is used very often by Furudate is when a character is shown only by his back.
This very often happens in situations in which rivals are introduced. This is how we see the top three spikers of the nation in season two for the first time because being unable to see someone’s face builds up distance to them.
Now this distance can mean different things.
If we look at it in a general way it could mean that these characters are extremely skilled and therefore reside in a different league than the people who are talking about them.
Which would make sense for the example with the top three, but as we know this can also show distance in darker tones. When Kageyama realizes that his previous teammates were terrorized under his lead but flourish under the lead of his rival Oikawa he sees their back turned to him which is not only a parallel to the first metaphor we talked about with the abyss but also a symbolization of the fact that they don’t need him anymore.
The air around them grows just as dark as in Kageyama’s first memories, but this time he can only see his teammates turned away from him, which only makes him wonder more about what he needs to do to win against Oikawa.
Speaking of the Aoba Johsai captain, we often see him with his back turned towards us in multiple flashbacks but also generally in scenes where he resides. It is also a common gimmick of his to turn his back to others, be it in a funny fashion or in high stakes games.
If we go back to the metaphor that Daichi presented, we can also see that it’s a typical thing for the captain to show their back. This also symbolises that they are shouldering their teams burden by pushing forward.
Oikawa is a character with high complexity but when we dip in a little bit into his story, we can see how often he distances himself from the people around him. This is why we often see only his back or only part of him in flashbacks or when he is mentioned by other people. It not only shows that he is distant and always puts up a friendly facade for others but it also means that other people’s perception of him is clouded or inaccurate.
We see a lonely back turned away from the world as he desperately tried to overcome and pursue the geniuses in front of him. Ironically enough, Kageyama chases after Oikawa’s back, believing he will never catch up to him at this rate, while Oikawa is fixed on Ushijima in front of him knowing that his highschool career is over after season two.
It is the small details and visual representations of metaphors in Haikyuu!! that gives us a more in depth explanation of tropes in the plot. As we have seen now, things that might be on the screen for only a couple of seconds could actually have a much more profound meaning to them, and if we look at them more closely we can find out a lot more about a character than first anticipated.
How did you find these symbols and rhetorics tha were described? Are there any other you would like to mention? If so, please leave it in the comment section below!
Well then, I’ll see you all in the next post!
*trips over the abyss*