Art by @nanaboodraws on twitter
A story’s components and flow are determined by the little puzzle pieces of plot devices that authors drop along the line for us to grapple onto.
The entirety of a series is made of small arcs that are embedded into the story, sometimes longer sometimes smaller, they all make sure to show us all kinds of details that are pursued by the cast.
In anime, story arcs are mostly very long especially when the anime is ongoing and has a lot of episodes. One Piece is a good example, a high grossing anime that is still ongoing with over 900 episodes and counting, in which we often use the names of the story arc we are referring to to examine parts of the plot.
Now why are story arcs so significant to the plot? Why are they often talked about?
The answer to that is simple.
A story arc is of course embedded into the entire plot, yet in itself it is still closed off. That means that the experiences of the protagonist are explained in chunks and after an arc is over, the cast moves on to the next adventure.
The memories and experiences stay, but the overall setting mostly changes completely. The only one who has them in mind while continuously watching is you, the viewer.
“Oh, remember what the protagonist did in that one episode?”
“Yeah! Wasn’t it after the war arc? I mean it’s only natural he felt that way after that happened!”
A story arc is a good way to organize what the characters in the anime have worked through and what is lying ahead of them, what goals they have accomplished and which ones are still unattainable. It’s a way for the author to organize what plot devices he wants to use, what he wants to show the viewer and which characters make what kind development.
The key to all of this is the evolution all of the characters go through, because if it is one thing that stays with them it is the experience they all gather.
Especially in shounen anime, it’s often a running gag that after the main characters have beaten the ‘force that is going to ruin the world’ having a relaxing story arc afterwards, they just tend to find some other horrible thing they have to slay.
Story arcs are what tie the whole plot together, and they have a good purpose for us as the viewer.
So let us get to the part where Haikyuu!! gets involved!
Haikyuu!! so far has four seasons of the anime and a finished manga that ends at 402 chapters.
As a quick reminder, this blog will be dealing with the plot of the first three seasons and the beginning of season four. Read at your own discretion!
Our main protagonist is Hinata, as the story starts with his narration and is from his point of view, but as the Karasuno team is a huge part of the plot we can also say that the crows are generally our main characters.
As we all know, Furudate still makes sure that we know the stories of all the characters at display, meaning that we also know the perspectives and feelings behind a lot of other characters as well.
With the usage of the plot arcs, we get fed slowly and thoroughly throughout the anime, learning about Kageyama’s and Hinata’s past in the first seasons of the Karasuno team formation arc for example.
We also learn about other teams such as Nekoma, Seijoh, Fukurodani and many others, all of them slowly growing to the characters we know today. As story arcs are often tied to the perception of the viewer and not everyone defining them as another person might, it is important to keep in mind that the names of arcs or plot points are often fan interpreted and have no right or wrong.
Some interesting examples for often used story arc names are the training camp, interhigh prelims and nationals arc.
Today, I want to talk about a very specific story arc indeed.
The ball boy arc.
For those of you who have watched the anime so far or read the manga beforehand, you might know that the first part of season four is often called the ball boy arc, due to Hinata’s sudden infiltration of the Miyagi training camp.
Why is this arc so important though?
Well, in this blogpost we will find out together why Hinata’s embarrassing faux pas is actually a huge step for the Haikyuu!! plotline.
First things first, even though Hinata is the main protagonist and the one we focus on most when it comes to Haikyuu!!, his individual dream next to his peers is widely farfetched.
He doesn’t have a certain goal in mind except for beating every player that is in front of him until he can become just as successful as a small player as the little giant.
Hinata is on a pursuit of greatness, a goal that is huge for someone like him, and he meets smaller goals in the meantime. Adamant on climbing the ladder of success higher and higher, he doesn’t falter when it comes to his ideals.
Nothing is too hard, nothing is impossible.
Hinata is shown from the very start to be determined and hardworking, extremely versatile and something nobody has yet seen before.
In his pursuit of this so-called greatness, he meets people all around him constantly. It all starts with the first match he plays in his middle school career, in which he promises Kageyama to beat him.
Our number ten is never intimidated by the huge talents he encounters everyday, instead he takes them on as role models and challenges them, climbing every step until he can beat every single one of them.
The second Hinata lays an eye on a great opponent, he not only challenges them but ultimately takes their advice and learns from them. He adapts to the pace they set and is relentless until he surpasses their level.
A perfect example for the role models he sets as goals for himself are Oikawa, Ushijima, and Bokuto. He actually lets Oikawa’s words and action linger in his mind, looking up to him as the great king ready to win against him at all costs. Ushijima has been defeated by Hinata in season three, but he also knows that his skills are not surpassing Ushijima yet.
Contrary to Kageyama, Hinata knows he has to improve on himself to actually move forward.
Kageyama is the first person he has elected as a full on rival, battling everyday with him to be better than him, yet they play on the same team so they have to adapt to each other.
Since the start of the anime, Kageyama and Hinata have found out that it was easier for Hinata to lean on Kageyama’s abilities rather than build up his own. With the freak quick that was made in season two, Hinata had his hands on the reigns, but still needed Kageyama’s perfect toss to achieve it.
That leads us to the moment Hinata realises he is being left behind, when Kageyama and even Tsukishima are invited to prestige training camps to evolve further.
But Hinata stays behind.
In a sense, everyone is always impressed by Hinata’s high jumps and agility. Even Kageyama who rarely praises someone acknowledges his stamina and tells him to work on technique, but since Kageyama as the genius setter was there to take the extra load before Hinata can hone his skills, when he infiltrates the training camp he realises something.
I am stuck.
We even get a visual of Hinata realising that, vines snaking up his ankles rendering him immobile.
While Hinata might be invincible with Kageyama on the court, when he stays all alone the spectators, scouts and coaches rather stay with their traditional volleyball principles.
Height. Technique. Game sense.
With the sight of other great players like Goshiki, Kunimi or Hyakuzawa, Hinata is shown again and again that his journey will be a lot harder than he thought.
Even one of his role models appears at the camp, asking him a very loaded question.
Then what are you even doing?
Does he give up?
Does he bail and go back home?
No, Hinata stays and funnily enough becomes the ball boy.
A lot of opinions have risen because of this particular arc. One might think that the embarrassment of Hinata showing up where he wasn’t invited is a mere short filler plotline, but one looks closer you might realise that the ball boy arc has huge significance for our little one.
The ball boy arc shows us Hinata in a whole new environment. Behind the court, scrambling to catch the stray balls and filling up water bottles.
It surely looks embarrassing, but Hinata takes on his role with newfound determination when he realises he can actually learn something.
The time he leaned on Kageyama for his sets and in the third years for the defense while he only focused on spiking was over. It was time for him to learn something new.
From that moment on, Hinata unravels himself from the fear and anxiety that holds him down and surges forward on his own, while picking up valuable information and experience.
He finds something only he can do and evolves not only in technique, but definitely in game sense as well. He analyses the plays of the other players and opens his mind to new ideas, as he gets the support from even Tsukishima in his own way.
Kageyama was right next to him, suddenly becoming a part of Japan’s selection of players and leaving him behind, but Hinata doesn’t falter and takes matters into his own hands. Yes, the way he did it might be a little embarrassing, but the bravery and strong will he exhibits later, as seemingly everyone around him beats him down for it is astonishing.
Coach Ukai’s supportive words and Washijo’s strictness are both forces that fuel Hinata, as he doesn’t back away from the challenge.
We see at the end of the arc that he has gained valuable experience, but also a lot of new pointers for his future.
Hinata is no longer stuck behind anyone, when he finds himself as the ball boy gaining a perspective he has never seen before.
The ball boy arc is not a useless filler, but rather a crucial stepping stone for Hinata’s journey to greatness.
Are there any story arcs in Haikyuu you find interesting? Tell us why you think so in the comments below!
Ah, I think the oysters were bad for my stomach…