Kenma Kozume (Japanese:
Kenma is depicted with an average height, a small build, and has an unsteady posture. He has many outstanding features, including his cat-like golden eyes and blond hair with black roots (sometimes referred to as "Pudding-Head"). He dresses casually, and his Nekoma uniform is the standard black and red jersey. He is usually seen carrying a portable game console and a cellphone with him.
He had dyed his hair in his first year of high school, claiming that he did not want to "stand out". As shown in a Haikyuu! extra, Yamamoto claimed he looked like Sadako while gaming with his black hair covering his face, much to Kenma's dismay.
Kenma has a composed and analytical personality. He hardly ever loses his cool and usually never gets excited or fired up about anything (except Hinata, video games, Lev - in The Arrival of Haiba Lev (OVA), which Kuroo points out, and Yamamoto in the past). He is quiet and reserved and does not often voice out his opinions since he is afraid of what others might think of him, and hates standing out or being noticed in any way.
Kenma is not very approachable and doesn't make friends easily. His manner of speaking tends to be shy and reserved. He also has a disdain for pointless authority and doesn't just blindly expect his juniors to respect him, unlike others.
Kenma rarely shows emotions; as such, he usually ends up giving a cold impression to others, but it is shown that he does care about his friends and notices small upsets in their behavior. An example is when they were younger Kuroo badly lost a volleyball match and was feeling down and Kenma noticed this feeling and despite not caring for volleyball asked if Kuroo would like to practice and "level up" to which he agreed eagerly. Another can be seen later in the manga when he admits that he tries hard to win for his friends.
Apart from Tetsurō Kuroo, his next-door neighbor, Kenma hasn't befriended anyone ever since he was at elementary school. Despite his modest personality, Kenma is quite skilled in volleyball, with his extraordinary game sense, technique and strong analytical abilities, which makes up for his slight lack of power, speed, and stamina.
Although he seems somewhat apathetic about it Kenma is the type of person to only do things he enjoys, and would therefore quit volleyball if he didn't enjoy it someway, which according to him was the aspect of improving his skills (kind of like a video game). However, despite having a tough time admitting his feelings, the real motivation behind his continuation of volleyball are his friends. Kenma is also shown to be quite competitive.
After the time skip, Kenma can be described as having a good head on his shoulders. Even after being a successful stock trader, pro-gamer, Youtuber & the CEO of his own company, he doesn't spend his money lavishly except for on video games.
When Kenma was younger, he was shy and unable to make friends on his own. His only friend back then was Kuroo, who was around his age and lived next door. Though the two seemingly had little in common but their age, they spent a lot of time together. Then one day instead of playing video games, Kenma asked Kuroo what he wanted to do for fun, Kuroo was timid, but excited, as he introduced Kenma to volleyball.
Although Kenma did not like sports back then, he found that volleyball was somewhat fun and especially enjoyed watching it. Eventually, Kuroo convinced him to come with him to a practice session, and even convinced him to be a setter by telling him it was a position where you didn't have to move much (which was a lie) and later on Kenma joined the junior high volleyball club where he received the number 4 on the team.
When he joined a volleyball team in high school, Kenma thought of quitting at first because of the pressure that the third years put on him. They often left him out specifically and made him run longer than the other members did. However, Kuroo convinced him otherwise, reminding Kenma of how amazing he is and that Kenma is now the official setter for the team.
Around his time as a first year, he also ran into Yamamoto and was quickly annoyed by his overzealous behavior and constant talk about "willpower". Yamamoto in return was annoyed at Kenma for being good despite his lack of passion or enthusiasm. At one point Kenma noticed Yamamoto was feeling down about a bad practice match they had where he hit a lot of "net outs" and due to Kuroo's advice about making more of an effort to get along with others, gave Yamamoto a piece of advice which then quickly turned to a clash of ideology, causing Kenma to yell for the first time in a while and ended with Fukunaga splashing water on the both of them to stop them from fighting.
Later on, Yamamoto realized that while Kenma is a "lazy sloth", he hates losing, and during a match against another school, was thankful that his analytical prowess was on Nekoma. Afterward, Yamamoto told Kenma to call him "Tora" as a sign of friendship, which Kenma replied with "Do I have to?" but is what he calls him to this day.
Karasuno High Team Formation Arc
First Meeting with Hinata
Nekoma leaves their hometown, Tokyo, and heads out to Miyagi for a practice match against their fated rivals, Karasuno High. Upon getting there, Kenma becomes lost and ends up playing a mobile game while sitting nearby a neighborhood fence. Coincidentally, Hinata also gets lost during a race with Kageyama and approaches the setter, trying to start a conversation. Kenma is more absorbed in his game until Hinata points out that they are both volleyball players after spotting a pair of volleyball shoes in Kenma's bag.
Hinata asks him countless questions, not stopping until he discovers that Kenma is a second-year. Kenma tells him not to worry since he doesn’t like status formalities in athletics. Hinata proceeds to ask Kenma whether he likes volleyball or not, and he replies with neither. Kenma explains that he doesn’t hate the sport but dislikes getting tired. Yet his friends play it and probably can’t do it without him. After finding out Kenma's position as a setter, Hinata reveals that he is a middle blocker and wonders if it's weird since it's a position for tall guys. Much to Hinata's surprise, Kenma replies it's not since he receives similar comments as someone unathletic playing the position reserved for the most talented player on the team. Hinata asks if Kenma’s school is strong, and he replies that it was strong in the past and had declined, but lately, it’s been pretty strong. Before Kenma tells him the name of his school, his teammate Kuroo arrives and interrupts them. As he's leaving, he tells Hinata that he would see him soon, confusing the latter.Afterward, Kuroo and Kenma head to a training match against Tsukinokizawa, who starts making snide comments about Kenma being small and unsteady during the warm-up. Kuroo defends him, saying that he is the backbone, brain and heart of Nekoma High. Nekoma dominates and wins in straight sets, leaving their opponents confused about the reason they lost. The Tsukinokizawa players note that none of the Nekoma players are geniuses at offense or defense but are strong, nevertheless. Later that evening, the players discuss if Karasuno has a female manager or not. Yamamoto asks Kenma about his opinion, and the latter replies that he doesn’t care but is kind of looking forward to the match, much to the shock of his teammates.
Karasuno Practice Match
The day of the practice match between Nekoma and Karasuno soon arrives. With both teams line up in front of each other, Hinata is shocked to find Kenma a member of Nekoma. Hinata approaches Kenma after the team greeting and questions him why he didn't mention he played for Nekoma. The latter explains that it was because Hinata didn’t ask, and he knew he’d see Hinata again after he had noticed 'Karasuno High School' written on Hinata's shirt. When Kageyama asks Hinata about Kenma, Hinata replies that he is Nekoma’s setter, which piques Kageyama's interest.
Before the match begins, Kenma tells Kuroo that his pre-match speeches are embarrassing, but then trails off as the rest of his teammates take Kuroo’s side. The referee whistles to signify the start of the match. Before he takes his position to serve, Kenma informs Hinata that Nekoma is strong because of the entire team, not just because of him. Kageyama and Hinata perform their signature quick strike right off the bat, which leaves everyone traumatized, including Kenma. He approaches Hinata and tells him he’s shocked, and that their move was amazing.
As Karasuno keeps their fast attacks, Nekoma asks for a time-out, where Kenma suggests that all they need to do to stop Hinata is by narrowing his range of movement; they merely keep repeating the same fast move, and all Hinata does is striking where there are no blockers. So he tells Inuoka to chase him around; even if they can’t clear the first round of the game, he will get used to his movement.
After repeatedly chasing Hinata, Inuoka manages to touch the ball multiple times, which concerns Kageyama. In this same attack, Hinata attempts to block a fast attack by Nekoma, but surprisingly, Kenma dumps the ball and scores a point for Nekoma. After that, he keeps analyzing the rest of the Karasuno players, and notices that Tsukishima is an intelligent player, unlike Hinata; he observes and thinks carefully before making a move. Then he fools Tsukishima at the next serve by glancing at his right before tossing to the opposite direction, which proves his theory that Tsukishima is observing him as well. At the benches, Nekomata comments about Kenma’s character not being good with people, hence he’s constantly concerned about what they think. Therefore, it makes him good at observing people and coming up with interesting theories about their opponents. Meanwhile, Takeda notes that Kenma doesn’t stand out at all compared to Kageyama, but he is capable of incredible things. Ukai replies that it’s because of Nekoma’s stable receives that Kenma can show his real skills. As the game progresses, Inuoka gets used to Hinata’s spikes and manages to block him. However, Hinata starts spiking with his eyes open, and after multiple failures, he clearly sees a pathway through the blockers and aims for it, surprising Kenma and everyone else.
Tokyo Expedition Arc
Kenma’s phone vibrates, alerting him a message; Hinata is asking him to do his best at Tokyo prelims. He texts back asking Hinata if he’s coming over to Tokyo, and the latter challenges him, saying he’s gonna win this time. The day after that, Hinata shows Tanaka and Nishinoya another text message from Kenma that they already made it through the first round of prelims.
When Karasuno team arrives at Tokyo, Kenma sounds confounded at Hinata’s absence, but Taketora explains that Kageyama and he are only late for having supplementary exams. Soon after the training matches start, Nekoma faces Fukurōdani Academy, wherein Bokuto spikes the ball and Kenma dodges it even though he was jumping for a block. After being yelled at by Coach Nekomata, he explains that his arms are going to break, considering Bokuto’s strength.
Back at Nekoma’s camp, Kenma is sitting and is playing on his video game when Hinata asks him about their middle blocker. Kenma introduces him as the first year Lev Haiba, a half-Russian and half-Japanese blood who was absent at their previous match because he only started volleyball at high school. He says that it was difficult when they were first paired; their timing was off no matter how hard Kenma tried, but gradually, he started to get used to him. He adds that Lev is so special that he couldn’t read him easily, but he is still a powerful asset and an honest but not a bad guy, even though he’s too honest at times. He suddenly stops playing and remarks that Lev's passing basics and serves are worse than Hinata’s, which angers Hinata for being a reference for bad playing. Their conversation makes the rest of the Nekoma players overwhelmed that Kenma is talking to someone without being shy.
Next morning, during Nekoma's training match, Lev asks Kenma for an unplanned side hit. Kenma tosses him the ball, and they manage to score a point. Then Kenma tells Lev that he can’t keep asking for a side hit out of nowhere since he can’t always keep up. This conversation surprises Hinata and Kageyama, because they had managed to score even though it wasn’t planned.
Spring High Preliminary Arc
Nekoma vs. Fukurōdani
Kenma takes part in the game against Fukurōdani Academy for a chance to represent Tokyo for the Spring Tournament. Before the game begins, Yamamoto tries to get Kenma more fired up and vocal but Kenma instead tricks Yamamoto into thinking that Lev's older sister, Alisa, was watching Yamamoto. The Ace believes Kenma and becomes distracted, leaving him to miss a receive and get scolded by the coach.
Half way into the first set, Kenma notices how Bokuto is excelling in the game with his straight shots. He devices a plan for the Nekoma blockers to cut off only the cross shots in order to get Bokuto into the habit of hitting straight shots. Eventually, Kenma is put in charge of getting Lev on track; something Kenma was not fond of but quickly chastises the middle blocker for continuing to make mistakes on things he had been repeatedly told not to do. Because of Kenma's scoldings, Lev is eventually able to get into a groove.
Kenma's plan to limit Bokuto is successful and Bokuto begins to hit nothing but straight shots due to his body having gotten use to it and the Fukurōdani ace falls into one of his depressed moods. However, it does not last long as Akaashi is able to bring Bokuto out of his slump and back into the game to eventually win the match.
Nekoma vs. Nohebi
In Nekoma's match against Nohebi, Kenma is able to pick up that the Nohebi players are baiting Yamamoto and Lev into self destructing by teasing the two with things they don't want to hear or constantly mess up on. When Nekoma looks to be concerned about how their match is going, Kenma brings them back to high spirits when he says he believes they will be fine.
Kenma proves to be a problem to Nohebi when he successfully lands a setter dump and then a surprise back attack with Lev and Kuroo. Eventually, Nekoma is able to win the match and make their way to Nationals.
Tokyo Nationals Arc
Nekoma vs. Kiyokawa
Kenma plays in the game against Kiyokawa. Together with Fukunaga, they score the winning point that allows Nekoma to advance to the next round.
Nekoma vs. Sarukawa
In the game between Nekoma and Sarukawa Tech, Kenma is ultimately targeted as the main threat to Sarukawa Tech. He is made to run in circles and exhaust himself as part of Sarukawa's plan to break the setter. They know that Kenma is most likely not to succumb to mental pressure so they instead decide to wear Kenma down physically in hopes he will make errors. Sarukawa's plan works when Kenma uses an underhand receive to set to Yamamoto who ends up getting blocked. Inuoka explains to Lev that because Kenma used an underhanded receive, the timing was thrown off and that's why Yamamoto was blocked so easily.
Coach Nekomata and the rest of the Nekoma team eventually figure out that Sarukawa Tech is trying to drag the match out in order to wear Kenma down and are quick to adapt to counter their plan. Thanks to the efforts of the Nekoma team, Kenma starts to get back on track but does scare the team when he slips during one play.
During one of the later plays, Kenma tries to lure the Sarukawa blockers away from the left but the team catches on and stay in their current formation.
Nekoma vs. Karasuno
Final ArcDuring Hinata's conversation with Santana about the logo on Hinata's shorts, Hinata says that he was being sponsored by his friend's company.
In a flashback, Hinata is shown visiting Kenma's house, which had a gaming room packed with various gaming consoles and even arcade machines. Hinata comments that Kenma should have lived in Roppongi Hills. He dismisses the idea and says that Kuroo had said the same thing.
Later on, while they were under a kotatsu, Hinata asks Kenma why he had sponsored him to which Kenma replies that he had money to spare. Hinata thinks that he wants to be able to say that some day and Kenma warns him that if he gets boring, he'll stop.
Kenma is known as the "brain" of Nekoma for his sharp strategic mind and incredible ability to develop extensive plans against his opponents. He is naturally observant of others' behavior due to being overly concerned about what other people think of him. This helps him notice the tiniest details of his opponents, including their habits and personality, and use these traits to his advantage. Kenma would calculate his opponents' skillset before coming up with a meticulous plan for his teammates to follow. Most of his plans are unnoticeable in the beginning but become more effective as time progresses. As such, his opponents often fail to realize they have fallen into his trap before it's too late.
While Kenma excels at strategizing, he is unathletic and possesses low stamina. According to Coach Ukai, he, as a setter, is supported by the entire team's receiving power. In other words, Kenma can utilize his talents because of the receivers' ability to cleanly return the ball to him. More recently, he has become more active and would seek out offensive opportunities instead of solely relying on his teammates' perfect receives.
Like the rest of his team, he is flexible and good at receiving the ball.
Jumping Reach: 295 cm
- Ball Control: As a setter, Kenma possesses superior ball control. He can set with a clean form and minimal movements, thus making it hard for opposing blockers to read his intentions. Moreover, he has shown the ability to match his toss to a spiker even at a short notice as seen when he accurately responds to Lev's impromptu broad attack.
- Court Awareness: Kenma is very observant and keeps track of what's happening on the court at all times. He can understand quickly players' formation and deduce the path his opponents will take. This ability allows him to adjust Nekoma's defense accordingly and develop plans using serves to constrain a certain player. It is also mentioned that Kenma never returns a simple chance ball. He is always looking for holes in the formation and targeting the return ball to a difficult position to throw off his opponents.
- Glance Feint: Kenma uses a type of feint in which he would fake a glance toward a spiker before he sets to trick the opposing blockers. Once the blockers react, Kenma would toss to a different spiker usually opposite of his glance direction. Due to Kenma's minimal movements, every little action becomes a bigger distraction. This makes his glance feint even more effective because blockers can't help but read the slightest movements.
- Dump Shot: Due to his awareness of his surroundings, Kenma can tell when would be the perfect opportunity for a dump shot. Recently, he is seen using a dump shot as a feint before switching to a set to lure opposing blockers into a foul.
- Tetsurō Kuroo: Because of Kenma's lack of interest to make friends of his own accord, Kuroo, who was around his age when he moved into Kenma's neighborhood, became his friend just due to their similar ages. In the beginning they would just play Kenma's video games in silence, but once Kenma asked Kuroo what he wanted to do, Kuroo introduced Kenma to volleyball.
During their youth, Kenma being the attentive person he was even at that age, was sensitive to Kuroo's own shyness and often internally understood the latter's reasons for being so withdrawn at the time.
Under Kuroo's influence, Kenma joined the volleyball club in junior high and high school, and even talked him into not quiting and staying in the club during in Kenma's first year. Kenma has also admitted the reason why he hasn't quit volleyball is because he would feel bad for letting Kuroo and his other teammates down.
Kuroo is usually being seen looking after Kenma; he once brought Kenma back to the team when the latter got lost in Miyagi, and he made sure Kenma ate during the summer training camp. Kenma also calls Kuroo by his nickname "Kuro". In the Cross Team Match game, Kenma has stated that he had never failed a test because Kuroo teaches him before them.
They are still close friends post time-skip and even have talks of being in videos together.
- Taketora Yamamoto: The two started out in rough terms due to their completely different personalities but eventually became close and now comfortably rely on each other on the court. Yamamoto even asking Kenma to call him "Tora" instead. Yamamoto seems to also somewhat admire the fact that even though Kenma slacks off, and complains all the time he always sees things through to the end.
- Lev Haiba: In the Nekoma OVA, Kenma is seen to not be too enthusiastic about being paired with Lev due to not being able to match up with the middle blocker's timing and height of his spikes. He admits to not knowing much about Lev since he had joined the team but is asked by Coach Nekomata to work with him so the chance of syncing up will happen sooner. There are several occasions in which Kenma is asked to guide Lev along during games, being deemed the most fit to do such a task, and Lev always follows Kenma's instructions.
- Shōyō Hinata: According to Kuroo, Kenma has always shown some excitement and adoration when watching Hinata's matches, comparing it to his happiness when he gets a new game. Kenma also told Hinata that he was looking forward to having a real match with him and Karasuno, because he found them interesting, even though Kenma usually never gets excited about anything except for video games.
During the summer camp, Hinata spent most of his time when away from Karasuno with Kenma. He also got Kenma to toss to him five times, which is an incredible feat according to Kuroo. The two of them are good friends even outside of the court, texting each other and referring to each other by their first names. After the time skip, Kenma sponsored Hinata during his beach volleyball tournament in Rio, using his company: Bouncing Ball Corp. In a flashback, it was shown that Hinata had visited Kenma's house and asked why he had sponsored him. Kenma stated that he had some money to spare while also warning Hinata that if he got boring, he'd stop.
To himself, The Pudding-Head Story
To Hinata, Season 2 Episode 14
- Current Concern: Summer is too hot, winter is too cold.
- Kenma is shy around others except for Hinata, Inuoka, and Kuroo
- Favorite Food: Apple pie.
- He is an only child.
- He has the smallest appetite in the series.
- He dyed his hair blond to not "stand out" because Yamamoto had previously said that his hair looked like Sadako, which would draw attention from people. (Bonus chapter: 'Story Of The Pudding Head')
- He doesn't want to cut his hair because he gets anxious when his field of vision is too wide.
- His star sign is Libra.
- He neither likes nor hates volleyball; he hates getting tired.
- Up till middle school, he would easily get sick after practice days or matches.
- His nerves are always on edge because he doesn't want to be noticed.
- He considered quitting volleyball when he was a first-year because he was constantly targetted by his seniors. However, Kuroo talked him out of it.
- His username on his games is 'applepi'.
- In Haikyuu's first popularity poll, Kenma placed 10th with 3,256 votes. In the second, he still placed 10th with 4,863 votes.
- Kenma (研磨) - Polishing
- Kozume (孤爪) - Lone Claw