Welcome Back Grimms!
So I’ve recently been on a manga kick and have been rereading and catching up on various series. Of course that means lots of Haikyu and Ace of Diamond manga. This inspired me to write about what makes an Ace. Both manga use this term to describe the goal that both protagonists (Hinata and Sawamura) aspire to be but what exactly do you need to be considered an Ace?
In this post we will be looking at this question through the lens of Haikyu and I will be writing a second one using Ace of Diamond. I hope you are all ready for the ride!
The Wisdom of the Ace
In the manga Bokuto buys a shirt at Nationals describing the perfect Ace. Hinata of course wants to have it as Karasuno’s (hopefully) future Ace. We’ll be using it to see who falls into the Ace category. An Ace needs to have all three things.
Firstly, the figure of the Ace is one who inspires his allies.
I’m glad they listed this as the first rule because in my opinion it is the most important. Being able to inspire your team to do their best is part of it but it’s also the ability to have the inner strength that exudes the idea that everything is going to be fine because you have me on your side.
Asahi is good example of this. The team may tease him for his nature off the court but on the court not a single one of them doubt his skills. When he comes back to the team after suffering a mental beatdown courtesy of Date Tech you can see the increase in morale on the team.
Regardless of the promising first years the team has acquired Karasuno doesn’t have the dominating team vibe that they carry once Asahi takes the court. Even after beating Aoba Johsai in one set during a practice game Sawamura is forced to concede to Okiawa that there team is missing a lot and that had they played the full three sets they probably would have lost once Oikawa joined the fray.
However even facing that he is completely unperturbed because he knows the tides will change once Asahi rejoins the team and overcomes his mental block. That’s how much absolute faith Sawamura and the other team members have in him.
Having Asahi on the court helps them to feel confident but also pushes them to be better. Volleyball is a team sport and no one person is responsible for shouldering everything. To ease the burden Asahi feels each member fights to improve their skills. We see this very clearly with Noya who spends his suspension from the team training on receiving blocked balls.
Inspired by his Ace and wanting to support Asahi as much as possible Noya realizes that if he can receive blocked balls it gives Asahi the room to spike as much as he needs to knowing that Noya is always there to cover him when needed. This high level receiving serves to boost the whole team.
When the players are driven to do their best the whole team benefits.
This is why I still get so frustrated with Lev so casually tossing around the word Ace as if he’s even remotely close to having that title. The Ace is a member of the team who is highly respected for their skills as a player. Lev has so far to come skill-wise for him to think he’s in the same league as Akashi or Bokuto is laughable.
Bokuto may be a drama queen but the reason he’s able to be the way he is on his team is because they respect his skillset so much. Although you won’t catch Akaashi saying it seriously too his face! His head is big enough already.
For Lev to believe he’s the Ace because of how many points he scores just proves how far he has to come. Let’s be clear he’s been able to get where is at by height and natural instinct but that is only going get him so far as he begins to play against high level teams. I believe he started to learn this lesson in their match against Hebi and it became more pronounced as Nekoma battled their way through Nationals.
Nekoma recognizes Lev’s failings and plays to close the gaps he leaves. He is worth having on the court because of the points he can score through force of height and sheer luck but he doesn’t inspire them to be better. Covering for his constant mistakes is just a matter of course not a source of inspiration.
When Nekoma really needs to score Kenma isn’t going to leave that to Lev. He’s going to depend on Tora. An amazing Ace gives off the impression that if they couldn’t score no one could. If Kenma tosses it to Tora at a critical moment and he doesn’t score it sucks but the team has the feeling of, “We did everything we could if Tora couldn’t score than it just means the other team blocked well this time around.” If he tosses to Lev and he misses everyone is left with the feeling, “If only we had tossed to Tora we could have made it.”
That is the difference between the Ace and everyone else and I’m glad Lev is starting to see how far he has to go. Nekoma covers for him because they believe he has the potential to be great.
To inspire teammates the way Bokuto, Ashai, and Tora do requires the skills to back it up and gain the respect of the team. It isn’t just about the scoreboard.
Secondly, he should shatter any wall.
The power of the Ace! Looking at this sentence it is easy to think that in order to become the Ace you need sheer power to blast through any wall. It brings to mind images of Ushijima crushing blockers like they’re sheets of paper.
There’s more than one way to shatter a wall of blockers though! Bokuto is able to show Hinata this with his umbrella trick. An Ace’s job is to get through the blockers and score but that doesn’t necessarily mean on the first try. Bokuto explains to Hinata that when he’s in a position where he feels he’s going to be blocked he specifically aims at the blockers fingertips. This causes the ball to bounce back on his side so he can set himself up to spike again on better conditions.
The mental fortuity to keep trying to chip away at the blocks until you break through is a quality every Ace needs. It’s also about creating opportunities and playing to your strengths to create opportunities and points for your team.
Takeru isn’t tall but has still managed to become the Ace of his team through his ability to inspire his team and of course break through walls to score points! He gives Karasuno a real run for their money with his ability to use angles to hit off the blockers walls and score points. His play style is reminiscent of the Little Giant and becomes an inspiration to Hinata.
The ability to blow through any wall whatever it takes also leads to the Ace’s inner sense of confidence that radiates through the whole team. Anytime one of these Ace’s spikes are blocked they all get a look of true surprise. The reason is every time they go for a spike it is with the belief that they will score! They believe to their core that nobody can stop them and they can break any wall. This inner confidence spreads to the team.
Thirdly, he should hit any ball to his utmost ability.
While Hinata isn’t an Ace yet you have to give him credit for his ace-like mentality when it comes to hitting tosses. Having spent his entire middle school years without a volleyball team nobody appreciates the thrill of having a setter toss to them like Hinata does. No matter what is tossed his way he will do whatever it takes to hit it!
The Ace’s of Haikyu all share this mentality. Each of them considers it an honor to have a setter value their skills enough to trust them with the ball. As Kagayama has explained the setter is the epicenter of the court so if they think you have potential and toss it you that’s a big deal. It is telling the team and the Ace that they have faith and them. With that sort of thinking behind it you would have to be a pretty poor excuse for a teammate to not follow up with the best performance you can muster.
Kiryu from Mujinazaka becomes known for this ability on the court. Every spiker has their preferred toss but there are always going to be circumstances on the court that causes a setter to be unable to deliver. Things happen in a game! Even Oikawa himself can’t control everything. It’s up to the Ace to take those unexpected moments and turn them around for his team!
It doesn’t matter if the toss is to high, low, fast, slow whatever Kiryu is an Ace through and through and he’s going to do everything in his power to connect to the ball. It’s that sort of thinking that wins games. Let’s also not sell Kiryu short either. As an Ace it’s not just about hitting the ball, it’s about hitting it to your utmost ability. So in short it’s about never giving up on your team.
It doesn’t matter if the Ace is tired they still need to be the one performing the best they can every single time! There’s no room for slacking off or making excuses when you’re the Ace. It’s no wonder many of the Aces feel enormous pressure at one point or another. Even though volleyball is at it’s core a team sport it is clear that the Ace is the foundation of the team. That’s a lot of pressure! So to be able to brush aside the mental anxieties and shoulder the burden of always doing your best is a big deal.
Each Ace on the team isn’t always living up to these three things. They are human to after all and have their own doubts and mental blocks but the point is they each strive to live up to these ideals. Their commitment to giving it their all and pushing themselves forward each day is what inspires the rest of the team. I honestly think that even in life trying to live up to these teachings would make for a world of better humans.
Think about it.
If each day we all woke up and said, “Yes, today I will try to inspire the people in my life.” It would completely change how we interacted with everyone. If we stood up and said, “Today I will shatter any wall!” Imagine what we would accomplish by not giving up when obstacles slither into our path. If we shouted,”I will hit anything that stands in my way to my utmost ability!” Don’t you think we would have the mental fortitude to get through the tough times life throws our way?
I honestly think we would.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post and I’m sorry it was a bit late ❤ Forgive me Grimms! Have a great rest of your day!
*I do not own these images *