What makes a character likable?
Obviously, everyone has their own preferences, and some archetypes typically attract more fangirls/boys than others, but in one show everyone will probably have one favorite and one… not-favorite, if you will.
Haikyuu!!, on the other hand, makes life very difficult for its viewers by instilling all its characters with an easy, likable charm. Choosing a favorite character thus becomes infinitely more difficult. Everywhere I go I always hear, “Everyone in Haikyuu!! is so likable! I can’t choose a favorite.”
And actually, when I try to choose a favorite, I can’t. First I say Nishinoya, cause of how he manages to be suave and dorky at the same time, but then there’s Kageyama and his expressions and Hinata, who’s basically a hyperactive puppy, and then there’s Oikawa and his smirking and pretentiousness and the list goes on and on…
See, when people evaluate whether a character is good or not, they always point to the “depth” and “dimension.” Do they have flaws? Are they realistic? What about dat tragic backstory? And I’m inclined to agree. A character with more depth is almost always a better character.
Haikyuu!!, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily go into that sort of depth with its characters. We don’t know much about Hinata or Kageyama besides the fact that they play volleyball, and they remain pretty true to their defined personalities. Hinata is /always/ hyper and sort of insane in that shounen protagonist way. Kageyama is as tsundere as ever. We never really get an indication that anything else beyond what we see is going on in those heads.
But is that a problem?
There’s a difference between “likable” and “realistic.” Real people are messy. You can meet people and understand why they are the way they are, but that doesn’t mean you’ll like them. You can hate someone and never understand what’s going on beneath the surface, and you can like someone without ever discovering their true colors. In real life, you’ll probably never fully understand another person. Good luck even understanding yourself.
So does it matter that Hinata has about as much complexity as a prokaryote cell so long as his effusive energy captures the hearts of viewers? Does it matter that, really, the only thing Daichi does is to be the steady solid captain fella? Because we love them regardless. Or maybe we love them because of that. Chew on that.
I’m certainly chewing on that. Like, the only reason why I even watched Kaichou wa Maid-sama is because I’m an Usui Takumi fangirl. And the only reason why I’m an Usui Takumi fangirl in spite of him being a cardboard Gary Stu is because he makes my inner self that wants to be swept away by some snarky hot guy swoon. And the reason why my inner self wants to be swept away by some snarky hot guy is cause… uh, I’ll stop there.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is–what makes the Haikyuu!! characters so damn likable? They’re not particularly realistic or complex in the way we like our characters to be. If Shinji Ikari is a multi-layered onion, then Shouyou Hinata is a runny egg yolk with nothing to hide. Is it wish-fulfillment? Escaping from reality? Projecting our desires onto characters?
Or is it possible that maybe, just maybe, characters don’t have to have five million layers to be considered “good” or “realistic”? Are there things Hinata does that only Hinata would do?
If I’m honest I don’t really have an answer to the questions I’m posing in this post. But what I do know is that I can’t look at the characters in Haikyuu!! without loving them for who they are.
It’s a strange little dance viewers have with their characters, huh?