Haikyuu Final Chapter Manga Review: “Challengers”
My fingers are shaking as I type this. I can’t believe it’s over. I never wanted it to end. But here we are, and the Haikyuu final chapter has been released. I will be emotionally compromised for a while. I may cry randomly throughout the day. With chapter 402, the globally popular Haikyuu!! manga officially has come to an end.
The Haikyuu final chapter is even more of a love letter to the fans, to the series, and to the sport of volleyball than the previous chapter. This chapter brings back so many beloved characters – including ones that we had yet to see post-time skip (there’s the rest of Nekoma and Aoba Josai!) – and gives everyone a send-off that isn’t really a send-off. Because this is a chapter that reminds us that, though the series is ending, the characters will continue, even if we as an audience won’t get to see them go on.
I’ll start with the end, because this series ends with the beginning. There has been speculation for months that we would make it to the 2020 Olympics. Furudate hinted that even years ago, and the timing seemed to line up. So when chapter 401 ended with a shot of Hinata and Kageyama in their Japan team uniforms, the fandom was ecstatic. So it makes sense that the final chapter features the Olympics.
However, we only get a glimpse of one game (day 12 would indicate that it’s a quarterfinal), and we don’t even see who wins, and the final pages show that we’ve progressed another year to the World Volleyball Championships.
There’s a simple kind of beauty in this. For all I obsessed for months about who won the national tournament, in the end, it isn’t about the victor. It’s about the game. Haikyuu!! is and always has been about Hinata. It’s been about his rivalry with Kageyama. But it’s also been about volleyball. And even though the manga is over, there will always be more volleyball. The Haikyuu final chapter is a celebration of these characters and how far they’ve come, and a poignant reminder that a person’s story is never really over.
And it warms my heart to know that Hinata and Kageyama will continue to play each other, even in different countries.
OK, it’s been, like, four whole paragraphs and I haven’t flailed about Oikawa, so clearly I must rectify that. I am so unbelievably happy that we get to see Oikawa again. I was so hoping that his guest-starring appearance in the Brazil chapters wouldn’t be the last time that we saw him. I was also hoping so much that we would see him at the Olympics. Though fans theorized that we would see him on an opposing team, I honestly didn’t expect to see him playing for another country!
But there was Oikawa, in all of his glory, playing for Argentina. It’s fantastic and heartbreaking all at once.
It’s fantastic because Oikawa’s hard work has finally paid off. Despite the fact that he was a demon in Miyagi, as the announcer says, he wasn’t really known outside of the prefecture because Aoba Josai always lost to Shiratorizawa and never made it to nationals. So for him to be standing on an international stage, being recognized for his ability, is something I’ve been waiting for.
It’s heartbreaking because I had so many fantasies that were IwaOi related, and knowing that they’re in different countries makes me sad. (But I do so love getting to see them play together again, even if it is on opposite sides of the court.) Someone on Reddit made me laugh by suggesting that Oikawa left the country because he refuses to set for Ushijima.
Hinata and Kageyama playing against Oikawa is such a fitting ending to this series. Oikawa was their first antagonist. He was the first mountain they had to scale; he was their first taste of the crushing agony of defeat. That they have another chance to face him is a wonderful kind of symmetry.
Something else that I really love about the Haikyuu final chapter is that we get to see the characters, now adults, going about their adult lives. I love that Satori is the one who gets to be the focus of a documentary, and Ushijima who makes an appearance. I love that the various teammates all get together to hang out – like Shiratorizawa gathering at Goshiki’s, or the Karasuno crew convening at Tanaka’s. I loved Yaku laughing hysterically at a billboard featuring Lev. I love that Asahi and Nishinoya are off gallivanting around the globe together.
The two-page spread of flashbacks in between Sakusa’s save and Kageyama and Hinata’s freak quick was just beautiful. It was a lovely homage to some of the more iconic moments from earlier chapters of the series. It reminds you where everyone began and how far they’ve come.
There are other callbacks in the Haikyuu final chapter, including the title. “Challenger” was the title of the first chapter, with Hinata and Kageyama facing off for the very first time. Now in “Challengers”, they are facing off yet again, and likely to play against each other many more times. Including panels like the kid on the bike stopping outside the electronic store to watch the match (which is how Hinata became interested in volleyball in the first place) show how much is still left to go. Moments like that make the series come full circle.
This is probably the most satisfying ending that could ever have happened for this series. Yes, there were setups that never seemed to come to fruition – like the Aoba Josai second years vowing vengeance – and I’m not sure I’ll ever truly be over the time skip, no matter how much I love where the story went after it.
But for the most part, we got to see what happened to every character, and they all got natural conclusions. Not everyone became a professional volleyball player, but they all stayed in contact and in some cases stayed close friends. They all seem to be happy with where they’ve ended up.
It’s hard for me to express in words how much this series has meant to me. Haikyuu!! was one of the first anime I truly fell in love with, and it was the first manga I read, simply because I couldn’t wait for the next season to find out what happened. I got into it late, but this series has been my constant companion for years. I subscribed to Shonen Jump so that I could read it from the beginning, and I eagerly awaited each new chapter with an enthusiasm I can’t really drudge up for much else in my life. This series owns a piece of my soul. And now it is over.
Farewell, my paradise.
P.S. See y’all in October when Season 4 returns.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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