The latest episode of Haikyuu!! 2 surprised me—not because of a plot twist or a character’s outrageous new volleyball skill, but because it focused on Karasuno’s new manager, a first year named Yachi Hitoka, and I actually cared about her. I rarely care much about the managers in sports anime. At best, they’re a pleasant addition to the cast and are properly appreciated by the team. Usually, they’re forgettable. At worst, they’re annoying. If we learn anything about their past, it’s usually because they’re part of another character’s backstory. Yachi is a rare exception. She has a few manager stereotypes—she’s helpful and cute. But she knows nothing about volleyball, and she’s very insecure. Her insecurities have a history, which we’re introduced to, and her mother’s already had more screen time than any of the athletes’ parents. Oh, and she doesn’t have a history with or crush on any of the club members.
She’s an independently developed manager-character who I actually like. I hope she continues to be this interesting. For now, at least, I find her relatable—especially when it comes to insecurity about trying something new.
In this season’s first episode, the volleyball club’s manager, Shimizu Kiyoko, comes to the first-year hall in search of new members. They only recruited four first years at the beginning of the semester, all of them athletes. As a third year and the only club manager, Kiyoko feels responsible to search for new members, but she doesn’t have much success at first. Finally, Yachi Hitoka takes a flyer and visits the club. But Yachi isn’t easily convinced. First of all, she’s starstruck by this beautiful, confident third year. Yachi even expects Kiyoko to have a violently jealous fan club, so she’s pretty jumpy until she realizes the boys around Kiyoko are benign.
The volleyball team intrigues Yachi, especially once the initial intimidation wears off. Hinata and Kageyama ask her for help with their studies, so she gets to know the personalities and mindsets they bring to the sport. But even that is a little intimidating. Yachi has never felt the kind of thirst for victory that they describe. She hasn’t even felt like an important member of a team. In her eyes, the volleyball club members are on a completely different level of passion, knowledge, significance, and abilities.
In the third episode, she explains, “I’ve never tried to do something on my own, or had someone need me for anything. Even in drama club, I’ve always been an extra, like Townsperson B or a tree.” To her, it’s incredible that beautiful Kiyoko asks her to be a manager.
Later in the episode, Yachi’s mom finds out she’s considering volleyball club. Her response isn’t exactly encouraging: “That’s fine and all, but joining passionate people when you aren’t going to give it your all is the rudest thing you could do.” She actually just wants Yachi to become strong, but the negative way she says it reinforces her daughter’s doubts. The question isn’t just “Can I measure up?” but “How could I help? Won’t I just be a burden?”
Kiyoko can tell Yachi is wavering, so she shares her own history: Kiyoko played other sports before high school, but she had no experience in volleyball or management. That’s a little surprising to hear. After two and a half years with the volleyball club, she seems like she was born in the role. She explains,
“I don’t think everyone has to like something before giving it a try. I don’t think you need an unwavering will or lofty motive just to get started. Sometimes things that you started on a whim end up becoming very important to you, too. To get started, I think you just need a little bit of curiosity.”
I think Kiyoko’s right. Actually, I have to believe she’s right. I don’t have an unwavering will. For example: I’m a writer, but I’m not as strict with myself about writing as many of my friends, and the more rituals I tell myself I should adopt, the harder it is to start any type of regular writing. I’m hesitant to commit hundreds of hours developing a story that might not go anywhere—that I might not even like. Sometimes, I feel sheepish identifying myself as a writer, as though I’m not faithful enough or worthy enough to join those ranks (yes, I blog weekly, but I’m a creative writing major, so in my mind, that’s not enough). It’s not even like I could hold others back, because writing is fairly independent.
Soon, I’ll graduate. I should be applying for jobs right now. I’m paralyzed just thinking about finding a way to enter the literary or publishing world. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in six months, or even what I want to do—except, somehow, work with words. In my mind, I know I just need to follow the process, ask questions, be diligent, and pray. I also know that when I start to apply, I’ll doubt myself: “I’m not experienced enough. I don’t know if I’ll like it here. I’m not passionate about this kind of editing, so they’ll probably hire someone who already loves this work…” You’ll notice that the first and last doubts aren’t for me to evaluate—the potential employer knows what they want. I have no idea how many people will apply, and for all I know, I’m exactly what they’re looking for. It’s not fair to anyone if I cut myself out of the process before they do.
This is something Yachi needs to understand. “For an amazing team like this,” she says, “a Townsperson B like me with no knowledge of sports is just going to get in the way.” Kiyoko’s smart. She knows Yachi is inexperienced and insecure, but she also knows she’s honest, available, curious, and teachable. She and the rest of the team are excited to share their passion with the younger girl, and they’re already getting a little attached to her.
Sometimes, strangers are better at seeing potential in us than we are. We might think, “Yeah, but they don’t know my weaknesses. They don’t know my past.” True. But unless they’re completely delusional, they don’t expect you to be perfect. New people get to see our strengths in a new light. You might take your good qualities for granted, but others get to appreciate them for the first time. That certainly happens with Yachi. The team sees soemthing in her that she can’t see in herself. Her academic ability, which she doesn’t think much of, is a huge blessing to the desperate Hinata and Kageyama. Kiyoko seems pretty happy to have another girl around. And by the end of the third episode, Yachi realizes she has another skill that will prove useful, one Kiyoko didn’t even know about. Yachi helps the team raise funds by making a poster—something she is uniquely qualified to create, because of her skills and her mother’s advice. I look forward to seeing her blossom and take more initiative in the coming episodes. I’m sure passion will come, too—passion is infectious like that.
When I helped found an activist club on campus, I wasn’t very passionate about the cause. I cared, but I thought other, more outgoing and energetic people were better suited to action. I certainly didn’t feel equipped for any kind of leadership role, or any responsibility besides showing up on a weekly basis. I had only three qualifications: I sat close to the founding president in class, I agreed with the cause, and I would be faithful to the club. Surely a dozen other students would be better leaders. But my classmate needed more members, so I signed on as vice president. I became more passionate and made new friends. My leadership skills improved with practice. I quit after a year and a half to focus on school, but that time enhanced my understanding of myself and others.
I’ve learned through my own writing and club experience that sometimes, you just need to get started. If you wait until you’re a passionate expert, you’ll never try anything new. It’s scary to take that first step—what if you fail? What if you overestimated yourself? What if others find you burdensome? What if you end up hating it? Well… what if? Worst case scenario, you’ll have more experience under your belt.
If you’re still hesitant to try something new, here’s what helps me: I pray and ask advice. If people I trust don’t see any glaring reason for me to hold back, I know I’m clear to move forward. And I ask God to use me to bless others, wherever I am. My longterm role is as his servant. He could use me in unexpected ways and places. Even if I don’t love the next job or activity I’m involved in, and even if it doesn’t seem relevant to my dream career, my mission to love the people around me remains the same. That even applies to interviews that don’t pan out. That’s comforting.