Don't you DARE look down! Volleyball is a sport where you are always looking up!

Keishin Ukai (Japanese: 烏養 繋心 (うかい けいしん) Ukai Keishin) is the current coach of Karasuno High boys' volleyball club. He is also an alumnus and former player on the team, playing as a setter.

Appearance

Ukai has dyed blond hair with brown eyes and wears a head-band. He has two piercings on his left ear. He has been told by Nekomata that he resembles his grandfather, the former Coach Ukai. In his youth, Ukai had a dark brown buzzcut, but otherwise looked the same.

Post-timeskip, Ukai appears to have allowed his hair to return to its natural dark color.

Personality

Ukai's behaviour is fairly typical of a man in his 20's. He smokes and drinks and is willing to speak casually about alcohol to minors, using terms like "a first gulp of beer" to explain a volleyball tactic to Karasuno. He is quite competitive, agreeing to coach Karasuno only so he could beat Nekoma in the practice match and then staying on because of challenges he made with Nekomata. Ukai appears lazy and cranky, spending most of his time at work reading a newspaper with his legs on the counter or yelling at people for being too loud.

However, he's shown to have strong coaching skills and is a hardworking individual. Ukai chose to change his work schedule to a much earlier time in the morning to make up for the time he takes off to coach Karasuno. It's also been noted that in high school and college, Ukai excelled in mentoring underclassmen and had strong analysis skills of opponents. He also said that he wasn't very good at studies to Hinata, when he asks Ukai to help him study. While at work, Ukai would yell at high school students and remark that he's out of a product without bothering to check, but he does have a kind side as he gave Tanaka, Kageyama, and Hinata free energy bars.

Background

Ukai as a setter in his high school years.

Keishin Ukai is Coach Ukai's grandson. He is an alumnus of Karasuno High and was a setter on the Boys' Volleyball Club eight years ago, having the number 2. He had said that even he became a regular in his 3rd year because there were other setters as regulars in his 1st and 2nd years. He continued playing volleyball in college and after graduating[1], he works at Sakanoshita Store, a family business he inherited from his mother's side.

Plot

Karasuno High Team Formation Arc

S1E8 Ukai Takeda.png

Ukai makes several background appearances in the beginning as a cranky clerk at the Sakanoshita Market[2]. He later receives calls from Takeda, who persistently requests that he becomes the new coach for Karasuno Boys' Volleyball Team only for Ukai to decline each request; stating that he would not make a good coach like his grandfather. When Takeda confronts him at the store, Ukai asks if it's just the "Ukai" name that Takeda wants and after Takeda confirms it is part of the reason, Ukai seems to think over it. Despite that, he rejects Takeda again, claiming that he doesn't want to babysit high school boys. He later reveals that he doesn't want to go back to Karasuno because of the nostalgia it invokes in him. However he's eventually convinced when Takeda reveals that Karasuno has an upcoming practice match against Nekoma High, and that the a former player of the team that Ukai knew has now become one of the coaches. Not wanting Karasuno to look bad against Nekoma, Ukai agrees to be the coach only until the end of the match[3].

Asahi and Nishinoya's return

Ukai attends Karasuno's next evening practice after scheduling a practice match against the Karasuno Neighborhood Association to test the players' skills, strengths, and figure out their weaknesses. He is introduced to the players as having formerly attended Karasuno and is the grandson of the previous coach; something that causes some of the players to be nervous. When Hinata points out that Asahi is outside the gym, Ukai quickly ushers the ace inside before he can protest. Like the Neighborhood Association members, he is stunned when he sees Hinata and Kageyama's freak quick attack for the first time.

As the game continues, Ukai helps Takeda understand how certain technique and plays work and how some things might not be possible for them to do; such as Nishinoya attempting to receive every blocked spike due to the speed at which the ball travels. When coming to the conclusion that receives will be the biggest problem to correct, Ukai watches Hinata and Kageyama perform the quick attack again. He is utterly stunned at wanting to know how the two first years managed the quick attack without using any kind of signals only to hear from Hinata that he jumps wherever he wants because he knows the ball will come to him. Although he doesn't fully understand this, Ukai believes that the attack is so successful due to Kageyama's overwhelming talent.

When Hinata is eventually matched to block Asahi, Ukai learns from Takeda that the first year came to Karasuno with the hope of becoming like the Little Giant. Ukai admires Hinata's desire to become like the famed ace, but feels that Hinata may not be much of a match for Asahi; comparing them to a full grown adult going against a middle schooler. Once Shimada begins using a jump float serve, Ukai explains to Takeda how the serve works and the difficulty of trying to receive it.

Once the Neighborhood Association team wins the match, Ukai addresses his concerns with the team about receiving being the thing they need to work on most. During Golden Week, Ukai continues to help the team address problem areas. Even with having seen Kageyama's remarkable skills, Ukai also takes into consideration that Sugawara has a better relationship and sense of trust with some of the older players. This leads Ukai to the difficult decision of who he will use as the setter for the game against Nekoma. Takeda comes to believes that part of Ukai's hesitance in picking may stem from the fact that Sugawara is a third year and this will be his final year on the team. Ukai understands Takeda's point and recalls how he himself, even in his third year, never got to play until the official setter, who was younger than him, had gotten injured and Ukai was finally able to play. He admits that it had been frustrating that he had been overlooked for someone younger than him to be the official team setter but, now that he is a coach, is aware that he cannot relay his own feelings into the current situation.

Ukai is eventually confronted by Sugawara about who he should pick to be the setter for the practice match and is surprised to hear Sugawara say that Ukai should choose Kageyama as the younger setter could possibly help Karasuno advance further than they have ever been. Surprised by Sugawara's confession and willingness to allow Kageyama to be the starting setter, Ukai vows to do all he can to allow Sugawara and everyone else to continue moving forward. Thanks to Sugawara's sacrifice, Ukai is finally able to decide on the starting line-up.

Nekoma Practice Match

Before the match against Nekoma begins, Ukai reunites with Naoi and they playfully tease each other's appearance having changed or stayed the same since they last saw each other. Ukai then is greeted by Coach Nekoma and lightly teased about holding such a strong resemblance to his grandfather.

As Karasuno takes an early lead, Ukai begins to feel a sense of unease and senses that Nekoma may be studying the Karasuno players. After Nekoma's first time-out, Ukai starts to see that Nekoma is using their blockers to try to contain Hinata's movements and make it easier for Inuoka to block him. When Takeda points out that Kenma doesn't stand out like Kageyama, Ukai explains that Kenma has a team that is stable in receives which allows him to show his own skills in a different way. A few points into the second set, Ukai senses that Tsukishima is staring at him and silently wondering why the coach is not bringing Hinata out of the match as he is continually blocked by Inuoka. Ukai admits that he would switch Hinata out if this were an official match but wants to use this opportunity to allow Hinata to figure out what to do. However, he quickly called a time-out when Hinata noticeably kept his eyes open at the next quick attack. He soon requests Kageyama to start giving Hinata a softer toss to allow Hinata room to change his attack while in mid-air. Even though Hinata is clearly struggling with making this work, Ukai does point out that the first year has great balance and is doing a decent job of returning the ball. As he continues to watch Hinata, Ukai is reminded of the Little Giant and how his grandfather had a saying of 'Man has no wings, so he must find other ways to fly'.

Once Kuroo moves to the front row, Ukai watches as Hinata and Kageyama perform their usual quick attack instead of the slower version they had been trying. He calls this a wise move on Kageyama's end since it appeared the setter was aware that Kuroo was a highly skilled blocker who could have easily stopped a regular quick but not the super quick. As the next several plays go by, Ukai comments how stable Nekoma's plays are and is further impressed when Kuroo performs a delayed spike. Hearing Takeda become concerned about what Karasuno can do since Nekoma is able to keep the lead, Ukai states that all they can do now is continue to push forward without holding back.

Ukai promising to get revenge on Nekoma

Despite their best efforts, Karasuno lost the first match and continued to lose several more re-matches. As Karasuno is preparing to head back home, Ukai is taunted by Nekomata for still being a beginner when it comes to coaching and looking so much like grandfather. This angers Ukai enough that he vows to one day get revenge on Nekoma. When Takeda points out how Ukai had only agreed to stay on as coach until the practice match, Ukai states that he cannot allow Nekomata to have the final word and vows to get his revenge on the grand stage. Takeda happily thanks Ukai for agreeing to continue coaching the team.

Interhigh Arc

Just before the Interhigh Tournament begins, Ukai continues to help the team during practices. One night, he goes over teams that will be participating in the tournament and warns the players of the ones they will need to be most cautious of; such as Date Tech, Wakutani, Aoba Johsai, and recurring champion team Shiratorizawa. Even with explaining how these teams are some of the strongest, Ukai tries to get the team to not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by their reputations but to also remember that each team that will be at the tournament will have done their own intensive training with the sole purpose of winning.

During another evening practice, Ukai suggests to Asahi of attempting back attacks. When Takeda notices how tired Ukai appears, the new coach reveals that he began harvesting early in the mornings since he didn't want to take advantage of his families business. At hearing how much effort Ukai is giving, Takeda declares that he will gift the coach with a bottle of sake. After this, he and several of the players go over new attack formations they could utilize during matches.

Karasuno vs Tokonami

Karasuno is able to the win the match without much trouble or Ukai needing to give much input. At one point during the game, Ukai notices that he and the team are being studied by the coaches of Aoba Johsai. After the match, he hears how Hinata is being talked about amongst the other teams and finds this to be to Karasuno's advantage as Hinata not only gains more of a reputation but he will also catch the attention of opposing blockers more easily.

Karasuno vs Date Tech

As Karasuno prepares to face Date Tech, Ukai keeps in mind that Karasuno had lost against Date only three months prior and that the third and second years most likely still remember that loss. Luckily, Nishinoya was able to help put the players at ease by promising to do all he could to give them as many chances to attack as possible. As the game starts, Hinata had to change his spike at the last moment in order to get it past Aone. Ukai explains to Takeda that Date Tech is a team that relies heavily on read blocking, meaning that they will wait to see where the set goes before getting the block up. Because of this, Date's blockers will be much harder to trick with decoy attempts but also Aone's height and muscular build will add strength to Date Tech's Iron Wall. Ukai continues to see Aone's talent as a blocker when he later jumped twice in order to block Hinata; stating to Takeda that Aone's physical build not only contributes to his blocking but also that Aone's remains focused without losing sight of everything else around him.

After Karasuno won the first set, Ukai decides to change the starting positions for the second set. Since Hinata had been matched against Aone so much, Hinata wasn't able to score as much as they would have liked. With Karasuno's rotation starting two positions ahead, Hinata wouldn't be faced with Aone's blocks as much but this also meant that the other front row attackers would be marked. This would prove to be troublesome for Karasuno when Asahi became the target of the blockers more than the others. Despite this, Karasuno would eventually win in straight sets. Ukai appears especially proud of the way Asahi was able to face the Iron Wall again and was able to fully redeem himself.

Karasuno vs Aoba Johsai

The day before the match, Ukai tells his team that their game against Date Tech the previous day was like the first sip of an ice-cold beer after a long day of work, which confuses his team. However, after Takeda tells him to give an example that would be more understandable to minors, Ukai reminds his team that they already played Aoba Johsai in the past, so they would at least have an idea of what they would be going against. However, he also says that Karasuno would have to deal with Oikawa’s serving. But to have higher chances of winning, Karasuno would have to change their rotation tactics. To conclude, Ukai tells his team that even though they didn’t think they would’ve been able to win against Date Tech earlier that day, they still ended up being able to do so. Following this, Mori gives Ukai a recording of Aoba Johsai’s previous game, and Ukai thanks him. That night, Ukai spends it watching Aoba Johsai’s previous match and notices Watari, the team’s libero, setting, which shocks him.

During the game’s very first rally, Oikawa pulls a setter dump right away, and Ukai is seen twitching in irritation. After Oikawa serves and Nishinoya is able to receive it, Ukai explains to Takeda that he directed that serve to Nishinoya in order to break Karasuno’s spirit by being able to pull a serve that even their libero couldn’t receive, but Ukai laughs at Oikawa being beat at his own game. However, he speculates that Oikawa wouldn’t serve in Nishinoya’s direction anymore. Sometime later, Ukai notices that Kindaichi served where Kageyama would make it harder for Asahi to receive.

When Ukai calls for a time-out to check on his team, he tells Kageyama, who had pulled a dump out of panic, that they aren’t bad but that they are risky and should be used carefully. Additionally, he tells them that they aren’t just playing Oikawa, but the whole Aoba Johsai team, but that Aoba Johsai isn’t just playing against Kageyama but the whole Karasuno team. After Tanaka stops pressuring himself because of Oikawa’s plan, Ukai laughs at him and praises him for not surrendering to panic. When Tanaka goes back to playing, Ukai thinks to himself that Tanaka easily has the makings of an ace. Even though Kageyama is benched for Sugawara, Karasuno is still able to win points effectively. Noticing that Ukai next to him is worried that benching Kageyama would mentally mess with him, Takeda reassures him and says that even because although Kageyama can have his prideful streak, his drive to better himself is based on a foundation of great pride.

To prepare for the second set, Ukai decides to change the rotation so that they could have a chance against Oikawa’s serves. To do so, he places the team’s best receivers, Daichi and Nishinoya in the back row. Additionally, while watching Kageyama and Sugawara interact, Ukai tells Takeda that having Sugawara as a backup setter could not only benefit the team emotionally but that he could also throw their opponents off guard. When Daichi manages to receive it and Tanaka scores past Aoba Johsai, Ukai yells at his team to ‘grab on and never let go’. When Takeda requests a time-out, Tsukishima tells Kageyama to just put the ball up in one specific way, and Ukai tries to make his team understand what he means by this.

Ukai uses their last time out for the third set when Aoba Johsai surprises them. Tense, Ukai doesn’t know what to do until he sees Shimada and Takinoue cheering for him and sends Yamaguchi in.

Loss and Decisions

Like the team, Ukai was upset by the loss against Aoba Johsai. The day after the match, Ukai is speaking with Takinoue about the match and how they observed that the Seijoh players somewhat coached themselves most of the time and rarely needed their actual coaches to guide them.

Ukai would later join the team for afternoon practice and revealed to them that Shiratorizawa Academy won the Interhigh tournament with Seijoh as the runner-up team. While pointing out that there is a team stronger than Aoba Johsai in the prefecture, Ukai states that the only way the team can hope to win is to become stronger and sets the goal for them to make it to the Spring Tournament in January.

Tokyo Expedition Arc

Despite the new goal to qualify for the Spring Tournament, Ukai is still aware that the team is in need of more game experience but knows the difficulty of trying to set up practice matches. Luckily, Takeda announced that the team was invited to the summer training camp held by the Fukurōdani Academy Group thanks to Coach Nekomata.

When Hinata and Kageyama are forced to stay behind to take make-up lessons, Ukai sees how the team is without the two first years to help. The team would suffer several losses until the duo arrived and they were finally able to turn things around. It wouldn't be until Karasuno's match against Nekoma that Karasuno would start to have difficulty thanks to Nekoma's newest member, Lev, using his impressive height and quick reflexes to block Hinata's quick attack on just his second attempt and get one-touches on other spikes that would allow Nekoma to take the lead. With Hinata having realized that the normal quick attack was starting to get blocked much easier, Ukai, believing that the quick was fine the way it is, was hesitant on agreeing to the middle blocker's request of wanting to change it so he could handle the mid-air battles on his own.

After the first training camp, Ukai would take Hinata to meet his grandfather and Karasuno's original coach, Ikkei Ukai. Ukai would come to better understand how the team would need to utilize tempo's and new attacks in order to become stronger and would present Kageyama with the theory of a new way to set to allow Hinata better control of the quick attack.

During the second training camp at Shinzen High, Ukai would watch the team try their new attacks and carry out numerous penalty laps as they struggled to make things work. At one point, he would help Hinata and Yamaguchi understand the method of the Serve and Block after the two had watched the Ubugawa team perform the technique against Shinzen. About halfway through the camp, Ukai notices that Tsukishima was not putting in the work to improve himself and considered removing him as one of the starting players but held off on doing so with the hope of Tsukishima possibly becoming the core pillar of the blockers. Ukai fortunately did not have to be too concerned about this as Tsukishima had received inspiration and mentoring from Kuroo and Bokuto. However, he begins to notice the team is struggling with the lengthy camp and the intense heat that they're not use to. This becomes more evident when Hinata soon calls Kageyama out on an easy set in order to allow the middle blocker to score. Ukai sees that Kageyama had done this subconsciously from seeing how Hinata hasn't been able to get any clean spikes in and was becoming increasingly frustrated because of this. From seeing the tension between Hinata and Kageyama, Ukai decides to restrict the two to use only first tempo quick attacks.

While Nekomata drags Ukai and the other coaches out for drinking every night of the camp in the manga, in the anime Ukai is able to help Kageyama figure out how to make his new set work.

During Karasuno's final match against Fukurōdani, Ukai encourages the team to do the best they can with their new attacks. He would later be stunned at watching Hinata perform a perfect feint shot. After Bokuto used his cross shot, Ukai sees how the ace's presence is inspiring Karasuno as the players begin playing in top form. Soon, he would be overjoyed when he sees Hinata and Kageyama finally perform the new set and quick attack. After explaining to Takeda the difference between the previous quick and the new one, Ukai comments how he will need to have his grandfather attend the upcoming tournament in order to see the new attack. After Bokuto falls into one of his mood's but Fukurōdani continues to push forward without him, Ukai comes to see that Fukurōdani is a team that isn't led by Bokuto but rather the other way around. At Asahi's final serve, Ukai notices that the ace didn't use a jump serve. After Karasuno lost, Asahi apologized for his serve and explains that he didn't want to chance his serve messing things up for Karasuno. Ukai is proud that Asahi admitted how he felt and realized what he did wrong while at the same time explaining that it is alright for them to feel nervous from time to time. He further explains that they should keep in mind how much they are attacked as it can influence how they continue to play. Ukai then praises the team for finally getting their attacks to work, especially against a team that has repeated been to nationals with one of the top ace's. Ukai also states that no one will blame the person who tries to go for a point winning serve.

As the team carries out their last penalty of the camp, Ukai points out to Takeda that the Spring Preliminary tournament will be different from the Interhigh as there will be new and seeded teams all trying to win the position of representing the prefecture for nationals. He also points out that several of the teams they faced previously will now be under the command of second years as majority of the third years have retired from their teams. This fact seems to get Ukai even more excited for the tournament to begin.

Spring High Preliminary Arc

Karasuno vs Ohjiminami

Ukai barely had to offer any advice as Karasuno was able to win the game fairly easily.

Karasuno vs Kakugawa

After struggling against the tallest high school player they have come across yet, Ukai would notice several things about Hyakuzawa along with Daichi and Nishinoya that would help them turn things around. They notice that Hyakuzawa is not capable of hitting straight shots and that he most likely has only recently started playing volleyball in the last few months.

Thanks to these discoveries, Ukai encourages the team to use their new weapons to their advantage. From that point on, Karasuno would have an easier time gaining the lead and would eventually go on to win the match though Ukai would acknowledge that Hyakuzawa would most likely become a great force to be cautious of in the future.

Karasuno vs Johzenji

Sometimes after the preliminaries conclude, Tsukishima asks Ukai about blocking anyone who might seem advantageous to him in any way. Ukai then explains that timing is one of the most important assets and uses Kuroo’s blocking as a good example of someone who uses timing to his advantage. When observing Hinata and Kageyama fail their quick set, Ukai does not blame them and instead urges the two to keep practicing.

Not involved much in terms of coaching, Ukai would mostly observe the team try to counter the wild and energetic Johzenji players. After Kageyama had to be removed to recover from taking a spike to the face, he would send Narita in for a while to allow Hinata the chance to watch Narita and Sugawara's plays and the chance to calm down from possibly getting caught up in Johzenji's flow. Karasuno would win the game in straight sets.

Karasuno vs Wakutani South

Ukai became more observant of things during Karasuno's game against Wakutani. Prior to the match, he was able to warn the team that Wakutani was on par with Nekoma when it came to receives and that they had their own Little Giant who would most likely give them the most problems.

Ukai was able to see that Nakashima was similar to Hinata in that he can tool blockers to do block-outs but noted that the biggest difference was that Nakashima's aim is not as precise as Hinata's since he would change the angle of his spikes. When Daichi became injured when he collided with Tanaka, Ukai temporarily left the game to escort the captain to the medical office. He later returned to the game and was about to scold Yamaguchi for his performance before Ennoshita stepped in to prevent that by pointing out Yamaguchi was already aware of what he had done. Ukai would inform the team that Daichi would be fine and just needed time to recover. During the third set, Ukai would see Ennoshita settle into the game and eventually take lead of the team. Ukai would be seen joining in the celebration when Karasuno eventually won the match.

Karasuno vs Aoba Johsai

Before the game begins, Yamaguchi goes to Ukai while he is smoking to request another chance to serve, which he accepts.

As the match begins, Ukai admits that Aoba Johsai is not a convenient match-up for Karasuno as they were the reason why they lost the Interhigh Tournament. However, he follows this by telling his team that they have improved from that previous match and that Aoba Johsai could be defeated. During the start of the second set, Ukai notices how harsh dealing with both Oikawa and Iwaizumi’s serves back to back is. Not long after, Kyotani manages a streak of scoring points but also a streak of losing them, and Ukai remarks that he of a double-edged sword as he is dangerous to both Aoba Johsai and their opponents.

Despite this, Kyotani soon gets back on track and continuously scores. Ukai admits to himself that he originally thought that Kyotani was just a gamble and that Aoba Johsai couldn’t increase the chances, but he had proven wrong. He also realizes that what Aoba Johsai is doing is to throw Karasuno in a loop and make Kyotani score a few points where he could all the while taking most of the second set just to get him warmed up. Shortly after, Aoba Johsai manages to catch up to all the points Karasuno gained thanks to Yamaguchi, and Ukai is impressed at how they did that like it was nothing. Seeing Nishinoya fail to receive Oikawa’s serve, Daichi decides it would be best to have more than two people to receive Oikawa’s serves. Ukai agrees and allows them to do so.

Near the end of the match, Oikawa perfectly sets to Iwaizumi. Seeing this Ukai notices that both players were so used to the court that everything on the court probably became instinctual to them.

Karasuno vs Shiratorizawa

After Karasuno’s match against Aoba Johsai concludes, Karasuno heads home. Takeda sees them fall asleep on the bus home but doesn’t blame that as they had to defeat two powerhouses in a day, Aoba Johsai and Wakutani Minami. He then thanks Takeda for helping the team get so far despite having fallen as a powerhouse themselves. After Daichi reminds the team of their goal to win nationals, Ukai confirms that his team already has the motivation to win nationals but ultimately warns them that if Aoba Johsai is considered as the most complete team in the prefecture, then Shiratorizawa is the most incomplete. He follows by explaining that because Shiratorizawa already has a rank of highly skilled individuals, all they are looking for is additions to such a team rather than the intent to multiply everyone’s abilities. To counter this, Ukai suggests not to indicate that they are intimidated. Sometime later, Ukai comes up with the strategy to lead Ushijima to spike where Nishinoya is.

Right before the match begins, Ukai reminds the team that Shiratorizawa’s players can still make mistakes and that those mistakes would benefit Karasuno. During the actual game, Shiratorizawa wins their first two points and Ukai is in hurry for his own team to win their first point and settle in. After the set is over, Ukai tells his team that even if Ushijima was able to score 11 points in that set, he is still human and can make mistakes, which can allow them to scrape a few points. Shortly after, Ukai notices that Shiratorizawa aligned themselves to have at least one middle blocker for each rotation, and he regrets not having come up with an anti-Ushijima plan. When Takeda asks Ukai about Shiratorizawa’s blocking, Ukai explains that there shouldn’t be any school better at blocking than Date Tech. However, his worries are explained when Tendo blocks Hinata’s quick without much difficulty.

Following this, Ukai reminds his team of Nekoma and Date Tech’s usage of read blocking. However, Tendo’s blocks aren’t like that, and he instead uses both reads and hunches, so his guesses can potentially be incorrect. When Ukai explains commit blocking to Takeda, Ukai tells him of his observations that Tendo seems to want to block everybody by himself. Upon hearing Washijo yell at his team, Ukai expresses how quiet he thought he was being. Additionally, he gets frustrated at how all of the schools that they encountered all had old, angry coaches. After this, he explains Washijo’s core ideology of always finding the best players and when he finds especially good players like Ushijima, he makes sure that the rest of the team stays out of the way.

During the second set’s final time-out, Ukai tells his team that they’ve got five sets to play for the game so it’d be a waste for the team to think of it as a slog to push through. As Karasuno is one point away from winning the second set, Ukai remarks that to win, teams will always need a massive burst of energy to reach out and take the back-to-back points needed. Ukai then tells the team to get those points fast enough even if they were too tired to continue. After Tsukishima blocks Ushijima, Takeda asks him if that was because of a mistake Shirabu had done. Ukai declines and explains that Tsukishima most likely led Shirabu to make a crack. Having been a setter himself, Ukai is impressed at how Shirabu managed to go back to being composed so rapidly later on. Near the end of the third set, Ukai tells Hinata to focus on his blocking. When Taichi is able to recognize where Kageyama was going to set, Ukai thinks of how complicated volleyball is.

To start the fifth set, Ukai decides to put in Sugawara as the starting setter. Before that set begins, however, Ukai tells the team to be aggressive and that he has confidence in them. During the start of the set, Tendo pretends like he’s going to go for a block, but instead tosses the ball to Ushijima behind him. Ukai remarks that Tsukishima (the one who was fooled by Tendo) doesn’t often make mistakes, but there are some occasions where he does. Shortly after, Ukai brainstorms for strategies but results in yelling at his team not to let Shiratorizawa take any point away from them.

Later on, Ukai remarks that the challenge really starts from when Shirabu is in the back row and Ushijima is in the front as this is when Shiratorizawa’s offense shines. As Karasuno starts to think they’ll lose, Ukai yells at them to look up, as volleyball is a sport where you have to keep your head up. As this happens, Tsukishima is back from the infirmary. When Narita is subbed out, Ukai praises him for being so calm despite playing against such a strong enemy. When focusing on Ushijima, Ukai remarks that his perfect form makes it look like he’s floating. After Karasuno wins, Ukai goes to Tsukishima and is proud of his player for being such a helpful ally throughout the duration of the match.

Tokyo National Arc

Preparation for Nationals

Ukai is initially furious when he learns that Hinata had decided to crash the First Year training camp at Shiratorizawa and calls the coaches to apologize but hears from Washijō that he is fine with Hinata staying at the camp so long as he does nothing other than be a ball boy. However, during a talk with the first year the next day, Ukai shows that he is understanding of Hinata's reasons for wanting to attend the camp. He then encourages Hinata not to underestimate the ball boy position and to find something there that only he can do.

During the week, Ukai continues to help the remaining members of the team prepare as best they can for the Spring Tournament. After the first years returned from their camps, Ukai would travel with the team to Date Tech High for a practice match[4].

Date Tech Practice Match

As the practice match is about to begin, Ukai warns the team that it's rumored that Date Tech has improved their blocking over the last several months. He advises the team to try to get use to Date Tech's blocks so they will not panic when faced with similar blocks at the Spring Tournament. At seeing how the blockers were able to easily block Asahi despite Hinata acting as a decoy, Ukai feels that this practice match may have the same pressure on Kageyama similar to the pressure Tsukishima applied onto Shirabu during the match against Shiratorizawa.

Ukai helps Takeda understand the difference and effectiveness of bunch blocking and spread blocking. At hearing Kageyama yell at Nishinoya for 'being in the way', Ukai is surprised at the setters tone. However, it would be cleared up when Kageyama explained that Nishinoya was blocking the path for the back row attacker and Nishinoya understanding his mistake. While he would later be surprised at hearing Kageyama snap at Asahi, he would see that Kageyama was now starting to demand more of his spikers after having adjusted his sets to accommodate their preferences. Despite this, he still reminds Kageyama that the best type of set he can give to a spiker is one that is easy to hit[5]. He is still curious if the other players will wonder how to make requests from a player as talented as Kageyama but is happy to see that Hinata is one person who does not hesitate to call Kageyama out on certain things. After Kageyama attempts to get Tsukishima to start spiking at a higher point, Ukai instructs Kageyama that he does need to keep the condition of his teammates in mind. As the match goes on and Date Tech continues to surprise Karasuno with their blocks and serves, Ukai comes to the conclusion that the most troubling team they will be faced with next year will be Date Tech.

Ukai soon has Hinata begin to blend in with the rest of the team during attacks. However, he is clearly aware that, while most others would be caught off guard by the freak quick attack, Date Tech will react differently and may be more on guard of when it appears like Hinata will attempt the freak quick. Despite this, he still states that Hinata is the type of player that causes opponents to have 'information overload' since he can use any tempo he wishes and attack from anywhere on the court. As the match goes into the eighth set, Ukai has Asahi try to concentrate on keeping perfect spiking form at all times. When the score reaches 18-16 with Karasuno in the lead, Ukai decides to send a pinch server into the game. He sees how eager Yamaguchi is to be sent in but he decides to use Kinoshita instead; although he noticed the second year having tried to hide from the coaches view. When Kinoshita is subbed back out after his second serve, Ukai points out how the wing spiker has an uncanny ability to rack up points but warns that he will have Kinoshita sit next to him from now on if he tried to hide from Ukai again[6]. The game ended in a tie at four sets each. Ukai and the team return to Karasuno.

Karasuno vs Tsubakihara

Karasuno vs Inarizaki

Prior to the match, Ukai had warned the team that they would be facing the team that placed second in the InterHigh Tournament and were one of the favorites to win the Spring Tournament. During the team meeting the night before the match, Ukai passed on a great amount of valuable information that would help the team during the match; such as counting out the steps that Atsumu Miya would take from the end line in order to figure out if he would use a spike serve or a jump float. In a brief flashback Asahi has, Ukai was the one who helped the ace figure out how to best control his strength when he is serving during matches by clenching and relaxing his fist in order to ease his muscles and release any pent up energy[7]. Like his team, Ukai would be caught off guard by the Miya twins copying the freak quick attack but Ukai points out to Takeda that it was more of a minus-tempo spike while Kageyama and Hinata are able to use their super quick at any time from anywhere on the court which makes it the more effective quick attack.

During one play when Atsumu was able to accurately predict that Kageyama would set to Hinata but was able to block the first year, Ukai advised the duo to stay calm. Kageyama would claim that he was calm and this became clear during the next play when Kageyama again set to Hinata who was able to do a block-out against Atsumu's hand. Ukai sees that Kageyama was being truthful in his claim and is more concerned about delivering the type of sets his spikers need. When Kinoshita is later subbed into the match when Tsukishima is up to serve, Ukai easily sees his nerves and reminds the second year that the people he is facing are regular high school teenagers like himself. As the play is carried out, a brief flashback shows Ukai acknowledging that Hinata's blocks are still a work in progress but asks if he thought he might be able to block like Inuoka while commit blocking Osamu Miya. Ukai is seen with a surprised look when Hinata was able to block Osamu's attack and silently admit it was more like an ambush than a block. After Hinata was not able to beat Osamu in a joust at the net, Ukai sees that Inarizaki is starting to keep up with the freak quick attack and decides Karasuno should deploy the 'blend and distract' tactic.

In the second set, Karasuno would try to stop Aran when he attempted several spikes in a row and eventually was able to spike past Kageyama to end the rally. When Takeda questions if they should call a time-out, Ukai decides against it as he believes the team was aware of what they were and were not capable of doing during the rally. When Inarizaki decided to send Kita into the game and have Aran rest, Ukai becomes uneasy at this. Shortly after the Inarizaki ace is brought back into the game, a flashback reveals that Ukai decided to have Tsukishima try to block Osamu as well in order to try to prevent the twins from attempting their quick attack and also have Kageyama paired with Aran more with the plan of having Aran faced with a high block to keep him from getting into a groove. The plan is successful when Kageyama is able to block Aran at his next spike attempt.

At seeing Atsumu lunge into a low position to make an overhand set, Ukai would applaud the skill that Atsumu used to make such a set possible when most other setters would use an underarm set[8]. Ukai would then attempt to keep the team calm when they witnessed the Miya twins perform a reversed version of their quick attack by telling them that it was a possible one-off fluke.

When Tsukishima is able to narrowly get his serve over the net, Ukai notices that the players are starting to move at a faster pace. He desperately calls out to them to slow down but they are unable to hear him. He would not have to worry long when Hinata sends the ball high into the air and give Karasuno time to slow down. Ukai would greatly celebrate when Hinata and Kageyama were able to block the twins quick attack and win the match.

Karasuno vs Nekoma

As Ukai is introduced by the announcers as being the coach for the team, Ikkei Ukai proudly boasts to those in his hospital room that Ukai is his grandson and Ukai is noted to look just like his grandfather[9]. As the match is about to start, Ukai advises the team, Hinata indirectly, that they should be cautious not too waste energy with unnecessary jumps or movements.

After Tsukishima rotated onto the court, Ukai would be surprised to watch the Nekoma team execute a synchronized attack; a move that Karasuno had never seen the Nekoma team do before. He later expresses silent pride at seeing Tsukishima and Yamaguchi perform a perfect serve and block technique. Later when Asahi attempted a powerful block-out that ended up being received, Ukai becomes frustrated and concerned about this due to the fact that it was the first time that Asahi had performed the move during the match. At the end of the set, Ukai shares in the same stunned confusion as everyone else when Kenma was able to use Karasuno's rotation to cause a communication error and win the set for Nekoma. Although he himself is annoyed by this, he is able to get the team to move past it and focus on the next set.

When Karasuno was able to get the first point of the set, Ukai sees that it wasn't entirely necessary for Kageyama and Hinata to use the super quick but realized that Kageyama did it as a means to send a message to Kenma that he would need to come up with a better plan if he wanted to contain Hinata.

Karasuno vs Kamomedai

As Karasuno’s match against Kamomedai is about to start, Ukai warns the team about Hoshiumi’s spike. However, he also says that they’ll have to keep watch of the team’s block as that they’ll be going against a max-level version of Date Tech. [10] After this, Ukai looks to the team captain, Daichi, to give Karasuno a pep talk, which he successfully does as Ukai watches with a smile on his face.

As the match progresses, Ukai notices that Kamomedai’s blockers are preparing themselves for a stack block. He finds it interesting because the last time that he had seen it was during Karasuno’s practice match against Nekoma but it was only to guide Hinata to where they wanted him to go. However, in Kamomedai’s case, they were using it to pick on specific hitters. Tanaka tries to try to surpass a triple block from Kamomedai by attempting to do a cross-shot but the ball goes into the net. Despite Tanaka's frustration, Ukai tells him to take things easy because he could tell that the point gap was bothering him.

When Hakuba wins Kamomedai the first set despite having fallen for Hinata’s decoy trick, KINoshita expresses his intimidation over their opponent. However, upon hearing this, Ukai tells them not to create vague reasons to scare themselves but gets surprised when that’s not what his team was afraid about. However, he still tells his team that even though the last rally was worthy of shock value, it wouldn’t be anymore once they figured out why they got tricked. He also adds that Kamomedai’s blockers are good, but they are still humans nevertheless and that if they have to process too much information, they’ll start stressing out and that’s how Karasuno can win. Right after, Takeda has a happy look on his face and when Ukai asks him why he was looking too cheery, he explains that it’s because he was proud of Ukai’s growth as a coach and mentor, and Ukai responds with his shock since he’d never expect to get a compliment from a school teacher.

When the second set starts, Ukai positions his player in a way that would be unresponsive to Kamomedai’s strategy, stubborn not to go along with their plan. Later on, Ukai thinks to himself that if they’d stuck to their normal rotation, Karasuno’s two best and tallest players- Kageyama and Tsukishima- would be right next to each other, and having them next to each other have saved Karasuno multiple times, however, even if Ukai had changed the rotation, it would still benefit the team since it would be a way to defeat Kamomedai’s wall.

Into the third set, when Hinata turns out to have a fever, Ukai is angry at himself for not noticing earlier. Hinata is stubborn to want to keep playing and Ukai does not know how to tell him to do until Takeda steps up. After this, the game resumes and after Kageyama tries to motivate his teammates, Ukai tells Takeda about how he’s always thought of great setters as great cons artists as well since they’d have also been able to hype up the team and ace in a dire situation. After this, the game resumes but Tsukishima gets a leg cramp. Not knowing who to sub him in for, Sugawara stubbornly tells his coach not to worry about not picking him because he’s a third-year and in the end chooses Yamaguchi. [11]

Back at the hotel, Ukai brings Hinata food to his room and tells him that it wasn’t that he lacked guts or didn’t want to win badly enough that he got sick and he just needs to work to push his limits higher.

Final Arc

In a coverage of events that took place after the Spring Tournament, Ukai is noted to have continued coaching the Karasuno team. When Hinata had made the announcement to switch to beach volleyball during his second year in high school, Ukai asked his grandfather and Coach Nekomata if they knew anyone who could help. Ukai and Hinata were eventually brought to Washijō who directed them to a former student of his, Lucio Kato. However, Kato was a coach currently located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Although Ukai was hesitant about the distance, Hinata still agreed to train under Kato and return within the two year time limit.

Upon Hinata's return to Japan and acceptance into the V-League, Ukai and Takeda attend the match between the MSBY Black Jackals and Schweiden Adlers along with the current boys volleyball team that he reminds to be on their best behavior as they excitedly talk about being able to see players like Kageyama and Bokuto in person. At this time, Takeda has become the head coach and Ukai is now the assistant coach as well as being the current owner of his families shop[12]. In the games first rally, Ukai and the others witness Hinata and Atsumu perform their own version of the super quick attack. Immediately upon seeing the attack, Ukai is shown to have a thoughtful look on his face. After the two perform the attack a second time, Ukai points out to Takeda that, although it's been a while since he had last seen the attack, he believes that Hinata's vertical jump has gotten higher. From theorizing that Hinata must have been working on strengthening his leg muscles while in Brazil, Ukai concludes that Hinata is not only jumping higher but also reaching his apex even faster.

In the early rallies of the second set, Takeda questions Ukai on why Kageyama and Hoshiumi don't attempt their own super quick attack. Ukai believes that Kageyama and Hoshiumi could come up with a quick attack but argues that the reason they don't is because Hoshiumi prefers the freedom that comes from being in the air longer and that he would most likely have to sacrifice this in order to have the kind of speed needed for a super quick. After seeing Hinata digging Ushijima's spike, Ukai realizes that Hinata has done more than obtain better skills. He sees that Hinata's balance had also improved and that, during the entire game, Hinata has always stayed on his feet[13].

Ukai is last seen at his grandfather's house with Takeda as they watch the Olympic match between Japan and Argentina.

Statistics

High School Statistics
Power
 
4/5
Jumping
 
3/5
Stamina
 
3/5
Game Sense
 
4/5
Technique
 
4/5
Speed
 
2/5

Ukai used to be a setter, but he was not a regular while in high school. This implies that he isn't an extraordinarily skilled player, a trait that he is often teased for by his grandfather. [14] As a coach, Ukai has very high abilities in analysis and tactics. He goes the extra distance to collect as much data on their opponents as possible in order to formulate an effective plan to counteract them.

Relationships

Karasuno High

  • Ittetsu Takeda:
    Ukai and Takeda s4-e9-1.png
    As the coach and advisor respectively, Ukai and Takeda work together to supervise the Karasuno boys' volleyball team. Initially, Ukai is annoyed by Takeda's persistent attempts to get him onto the team, but later expresses his gratitude for Takeda's efforts. The two have strong respect for each other and care deeply for the volleyball team. They would often commentate on the matches and solve problems concerning the team together. Despite Takeda's general polite and respectful attitude, it's shown that even Ukai would cower if Takeda's angry.
  • Karasuno High: Ukai has great respect for his alma mater, but he is initially resistant to become the volleyball club's coach due to his own nostalgic moments on the court. After personally watching a match and being tempted by Nekomata, Ukai becomes the official coach of the boys' volleyball team just like his grandfather. Despite calling the first and second years as the "hyperactive ones and simpletons", Ukai cares a lot about his players and is always trying to do the best for his team. He would give them advice on how to improve their play and what to eat.

Family

  • Ikkei Ukai:
    Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 1.55.31 pm.png
    Ikkei is Keishin's grandfather and Karasuno's former volleyball coach. Initially, Keishin claims that he isn't the same as his grandfather and couldn't coach, but he later disproves that with his sharp mentoring skills. On the surface, the two have a rough relationship with Ikkei flipping and arm wrestling Keishin whenever he finds his grandson failing to perform his responsibilities as coach. Despite that, Keishin has a lot of respect for his grandfather, going to him for advice when he needs help with his own players. Keishin is well aware of his grandfather's wish to see an official match between Karasuno and Nekoma and strongly wants to make it happen out of filial piety. Ikkei comes to watch Karasuno's matches in the Spring High preliminary rounds and is teased by spectators for watching his "dear grandson's" team, though Ikkei doesn't deny it. During the team introductions before the match against Nekoma, Ikkei is seen bragging about his grandson and feeling proud when others comment on their resemblance.

Others

  • Manabu Naoi: Ukai and Naoi were friends in high school because of their similar situations of being third years but not starting members due to being outshone by their underclassmen. Thus, they dubbed themselves the "Benchwarmers Club". However, it's implied that they haven't seen each other since then. When they meet again in the Nekoma practice match, they tease each other about their appearances and reconnect.

Quotes

  • "In this tense situation, he [Oikawa] still managed to find the smallest gap and pulled off a feint. His calm focus on victory is terrifying." (about Tōru Oikawa during the Inter-high tournament match with Aoba Johsai, Volume 3 Chapter 24)
  • "Eat...eat...a little at a time...but be sure...to grow stronger." (When Ukai takes the team out to eat after they lose against Aoba Johsai High during the Inter-high tournament, Volume 3 Chapter 24)
  • "'This is the final ball!' Think that at all times, and go after it! If you don't, then in the match, you'll regret the one ball you chose to ignore during practice!" (To Karasuno, Volume 5 Chapter 35)
  • "...if you only pay attention to what's 'above', you'll get tripped up from below." (To Karasuno, Volume 5 Chapter 35)
  • "I have no complaints about the morale of our team. Seijoh is vastly better in terms of experience and technique. There's no denying that if they get ahead again, it'll be extremely tough, but if we hold onto everything we've got, the momentum will turn our way." (To Karasuno, Volume 5 Chapter 35)
  • "It's only natural for everyone to feel nervous or hyped at the opening of the first match. So it's a matter of who breaks out of it faster!" (To Karasuno, Volume 5 Chapter 39)
  • "Ah, also, when you guys watched Aoba Johsai, you must've thought "crap, they're strong." But take the Datekou match, for example. If you'd seen it from that same audience perspective, you'd lose heart, thinking "what the heck, that block's seriously scary. There's no way we can win." And yet you competed against them and won. Tomorrow, you'll do the same." (To Karasuno, Volume 6 Chapter 48)
  • "Whoa! Whoa! What's with the grim faces? Loosen up, loosen up! You guys are still doing good, okay?" (To Tanaka, Volume 7 Chapter 59)
  • "Don't forget the frustration and bitterness you felt losing to Seijoh. However, you don't need to hold onto the feeling of losing. Hurry up and wipe that away!" (To Karasuno, Season 2 Episode 2)
  • "In the end, his blocking is reliant on personal skill. The problem is that his skill level is high. From what I've seen, he's very good at making some very sharp reads... and he has the reflexes for his body to keep up with his split-second reads." (To Hinata, about Tendō, Volume 18 Chapter 156)
  • "Don't you dare look down!!! Volleyball is a sport where you're always looking up!!!" (To Karasuno, Season 3 Episode 8)

Trivia

  • Favorite Food: Konnyaku dumplings
  • Current Concern: He's not even 30 yet but his parents are already telling him to "Hurry up and get married."
  • He owns a yellow car.[15]
  • Furudate gave him his name because of his nature: "Training crows and connecting hearts, exactly as it says.”[16]
  • His voice actor(seiyuu), Kazunari Tanaka, passed away due to a hemorrhage in the brain stem on October 10th, 2016; as for who will sub as him, the production said they will make changes since it's sudden. Above quote is his final lines of Episode 8 of Season 3.
  • He shares his birthday with Alisa Haiba.
  • His star sign is Aries.
  • He sang "Aobajou koi uta" (青葉城恋唄) in Episode 9 of Season 1.
  • In Haikyuu's first popularity poll, Ukai placed 17th with 1,535 votes.[17] In the second, he dropped to 24th with 2,084 votes.[18]
  • Nomenclature:
    • Keishin (繋心) - Connecting Heart
    • Ukai (烏養) - Crow Nurture

References

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