If you look down on us like that, we’ll chew you up and spit you out.

Ryūnosuke Tanaka (Japanese: 田中 (たなか) 龍之介 (りゅうのすけ) Tanaka Ryūnosuke) was previously a member of the Karasuno High volleyball team. For the majority of the series, he was a second-year student and a wing spiker on Karasuno's team and its up-and-coming ace. After graduating high school, he became a personal trainer and married Kiyoko Shimizu.

Appearance

Tanaka has a shaved head with a widow's peak and sharp blue-grey eyes (golden brown in the manga colored illustrations) which lead many to mistake him as a delinquent. Back in his first year at Karasuno, Tanaka had short fuzzy hair dyed in a light color.  He is average in height and has a lean, but strong build. He tends to make intimidating faces to try to scare others, which Daichi scolds him for.

Personality

Loud, hot-headed, and easily angered, he is no stranger to picking fights. He is also somewhat of a slacker, shown by his less-than-stellar work ethic in school and his usual lateness to practices. Despite all this, he is shown to be caring and supportive of his teammates, and even protective of his underclassmen. Tanaka doesn't take kindly to people who belittle others, as shown when he grows upset at Kei Tsukishima for trash-talking others during their first 3-on-3 match. In addition, he gets very excited and is easily won over when an underclassman calls him "senpai".

Once he gets fired up, he is usually unstoppable on the court and also uncontrollably loud, as demonstrated by his over-the-top cheering after he scores or pulls off an incredible move. He also has the tendency to take off his shirt and spin it over his head when he scores a point in practices.

Tanaka is also someone with strong mental fortitude, not letting himself be brought down by things like being targeted or getting blocked during games. He seems to know that he can be an easy target to some people and has a lot to improve on, but instead of letting those things bother him he gets fired up and keeps trying no matter what. However, even for Tanaka, things can be too much and every six months or so he starts to think he is nothing but mediocre. But, he tells himself that thinking like that is just a waste of time.

Tanaka has a large interest in girls, as shown in the numerous posters of female idols that are posted up in his room. One girl in particular who he has a large interest in is Kiyoko Shimizu. He often approaches her and tries to talk to her, though his advances are usually ignored, which he claims turns him on. Tanaka usually looks out for her, alongside Nishinoya, especially during the Tokyo training camp and official matches when other teams take an interest in her. 

Background

Back in 4th Grade, Tanaka was schoolmates with Kanoka of Niiyama Girls' High. The latter was always bullied by boys due to her height while Tanaka would say she's awesome that way and would always cheer her up[1]. He introduced Kanoka to volleyball[1], which the latter struggled learning but was still cheered on by Tanaka[2].

Tanaka later transferred to an unknown school in 4th Grade and eventually advanced to Ōjitsu Junior High[3]. Despite both being from Miyagi Prefecture, the two only reunited at the Spring High National Tournament in Tokyo[4].

Back when Tanaka joined Karasuno, he had short, frizzy hair in a light color. He claimed to have fallen in love the very moment he laid eyes on Kiyoko and proposed to her right on the spot[5]. Kiyoko rejected him immediately, but that did not stop Tanaka from pursuing her. As a first year, Tanaka was much more volatile and impulsive. He couldn't stand the unfair treatment the volleyball club was getting from the school and the trash-talking by other teams. Tanaka originally wanted to retaliate but became more mature once he saw the determination and maturity of his upperclassmen. He shaved his hair the following day, claiming it was to help him feel refreshed[3].

Plot

Karasuno High Team Formation Arc

Tanaka, Daichi, and Sugawara greet Hinata and Kageyama.

Tanaka is first seen in the hallway with Daichi and Sugawara on the first day of school[6]. As Kiyoko approaches them with the new members' registrations, Tanaka compliments her beauty, though she ignores him.

At the end of the day, the three upperclassmen head down to the gym to begin practice and see Hinata and Kageyama already at the gym. Tanaka at first tries to intimidate the first years, especially Kageyama, whom he remembers as the conceited setter from Kitagawa Daiichi. Engrossed with this powerful addition to the team, the upperclassmen fail to notice Hinata until he calls out for their attention. Tanaka immediately recognizes him as "that number one shortie" and enthusiastically compliments him for his confident playing style, despite his clumsiness and lack of height. However, his good mood is ruined when Kageyama and Hinata start fighting, interrupting Daichi and catching the vice-principal's attention.

Tanaka hastily tries to calm the first years down, but they ignore him and start their own mini-match. The match goes astray and the vice principal wounds up getting his wig knocked off. Tanaka starts laughing, though he tries to suppress it.

Tanaka watches on fearfully as Daichi gives his speech.

After Daichi speaks with the vice principal, Tanaka stands with the others and face him quietly, getting intimidated when he realizes that Daichi’s angry. As Daichi starts to explain Karasuno’s goals, Tanaka adds a complaint about their nicknames. He quickly gets annoyed at Kageyama when the latter notes that there are plenty of other teams with the same goals as Karasuno, but stops when he sees Daichi’s face. He remains quiet until Daichi kicks the two first years out. Listening to the two argue outside, Tanaka begins laughing again.

3-on-3 First Years Match

At the end of practice, Tanaka remarks to Sugawara that the two first years may resort to challenging them to a match to win their admission and to his surprise, they actually do. Tanaka laughs at them right away, but refuses to team up with them. However, he’s easily convinced by Daichi and he runs to the first years enthusiastically, even hinting to them later on to meet up early in the morning the next day to practice.

The next morning, Tanaka arrives at five am and greets the two first years waiting outside the gym. He shows them the key and loudly tells them to call him senpai. As he unlocks the gym, he thinks back to Daichi’s words and seems to agree with the captain that the two first years can learn to work with each other. However, he’s quickly disappointed when he sees them arguing over who enters the gym first.

Tanaka starts practicing with the two, but they argue the entire time[7]. Fed up, Tanaka pauses and pulls them aside. He starts by telling them that Daichi is usually kind, but when he’s angry, he’s terrifying so if the two don’t quiet down, the others will find out. Suddenly, Sugawara enters and greets Tanaka, scaring him.

Tanaka immediately asks how Sugawara found out and Sugawara simply replies that Tanaka’s never on time for practice so the fact that he’s asking for the keys is suspicious. Since Sugawara decides to help the two first years, the practice is split with Tanaka practicing with Kageyama and Hinata with Sugawara. As Tanaka trains with Kageyama, he admits that the first year’s good, but he dislikes his attitude.

Tanaka spends the days leading up to the 3-on-3 match practicing with the other three. Daichi almost catches him at one point, when he notices that Tanaka and Sugawara have been looking tired lately. Tanaka also meets the other first years, but he dislikes them right away. Sugawara points out that he doesn’t like anyone he meets.

The day of the 3-on-3, Tanaka gets ready with the others, but gets distracted as Kiyoko walks by him. Tsukishima then announces loudly that he’s going to crush the other team and brings up Kageyama’s past. Instantly, Tanaka jumps to the two first years’ defense and retorts that they’re going to pulverize Tsukishima.

The match starts and Tanaka easily blows past Tsukishima’s block. Hinata has more trouble and Tsukishima constantly insults him, causing Tanaka to attack back, though Daichi stops him. Tanaka reluctantly backs away, but to his surprise, Kageyama replies to Tsukishima that he’s scared of what happened in junior high. Hinata then jumps in and adds that he doesn’t care about Kageyama’s past and Tanaka smiles approvingly.

The next move, Hinata and Kageyama perform a quick and Tanaka rushes to the two, surprised at their coordination[8]. When Hinata replies that they didn’t plan a quick, a confused Tanaka tries to reason with him. Kageyama initially refuses to try it with Hinata, but decides to do it after Tsukishima insults Hinata again. The setter vaguely explains a quick to Hinata, who says that he understands, but Tanaka doesn’t believe him.

The quick fails the first time and as Kageyama starts to argue with Hinata, Sugawara steps in. When the third year brings up his own faults, Tanaka yells that they’re not true, but Daichi stops him. After Sugawara’s talk, the two first years try again and succeed this time. A shocked Daichi reveals that Hinata had his eyes closed and Tanaka yells in disbelief before running to Hinata and praising him.

Tanaka welcomes the first years into the team.

Tanaka scores the last point for the first set and gives the finger to Tsukishima while challenging him. The other second years then tease him and call him “baldy”, annoying him. In the end, Tanaka’s team wins and he goes straight to Daichi and Sugawara afterwards. Incredulous, Tanaka asks if the two had known that Hinata and Kageyama would be able to synchronize like they had during the match based on the third years’ initial statements, though they deny it.

Now that Hinata and Kageyama have won their way into the club and made up with each other, Daichi allows them admission and gives them their jackets. Tanaka grins happily as the first years line up and then proceeds to teach Hinata and Kageyama how to pose with their uniforms.

Aoba Johsai Practice Match

On the bus to the Aoba Johsai’s campus, Hinata throws up on Tanaka out of nervousness, but Tanaka does not blame him and just takes it easily. Tanaka overhears Yahaba and Kindaichi talk badly about him, as well as Karasuno’s other members, right before he creeps up in front of them. Tsukishima and Kageyama behind him are quick to intimidate the two, which satisfies Tsukishima and Tanaka. When entering the gymnasium, Hinata is impressed but also rather scared. In an attempt to make his junior feel better, Tanaka rambles on and accidentally talks about how he would still have to deal with not messing up his serve on his own, which makes Hinata even more nervous and he runs to the restroom. Tanaka stands up to his team once more when he sees Kindaichi complain about Kageyama.

With Tanaka’s newfound rivalry with Kindaichi, when Kindaichi scores the first point of the match and taunts Tanaka about it, he gets angry. When Hinata hits Kageyama’s head during his serve near the end of the first set, Tanaka and Tsukishima both laugh at Kageyama for this. After Kageyama yells at Hinata, Tanaka boldly tells Hinata not to mess up if what he wants is to stay on the court. Additionally, he reminds his junior that Karasuno is here to help him, but also asks Hinata to call him senpai multiple times. During Hinata and Kageyama’s second successful quick set, Tanaka is quick to congratulate his junior and cheer for him excitedly.

Not long after, Hinata is used as a decoy of Tanaka to score, which goes smoothly, and Tanaka gets back at Kindaichi for his taunt. While watching the match, Irihata notices that even though Hinata and Kageyama’s combo may seem intimidating, Tanaka is still something that Aoba Johsai should be wary about, as well as the other teammates. When Oikawa appears and Tanaka sees his prince charming-esque personality, Tanaka quickly gets angry but is surprised when Kageyama tells him that his personality is even worst than Tsukishima’s. As the girls watching the match get impatient for Oikawa to play, Tanaka gets even angrier, but it motivates him to play his best. When Oikawa comes to see Karasuno after Aoba Johsai’s loss, Tanaka tries to confront him, with Hinata hiding behind his senior.

Asahi and Nishinoya’s Return

Nekoma Practice Match

Before Nekoma and Karasuno meet, Nishinoya successfully attempts to provoke Tanaka by saying that Ennoshita might replace him as the team’s starting wing spiker in order to motivate them both. When meeting Nekoma, Tanaka gets provoked when seeing the two teams interact and is about to get into a fight with Yamamoto before Sugawara and Yaku stop them.

During the match, Kageyama makes a line shot, which frustrates Tanaka because he is able to do pull off so many successful plays. When Hinata apologizes for failing his every attempt to open his eyes when doing his quick set, Tanaka is supporting of his junior and assures that he and Asahi would carry his weight. Shortly after, Tanaka and Hinata end up next to each other in the rotation and as a warning, Tanaka tells Hinata to concentrate all his courage into his hands. As Yamamoto spikes in front of them, Tanaka is able to block his rival, which is followed by a cheer from him. In a following rally, however, Yamamoto would score past Tanaka in turn and demonstrate his power as Nekoma’s ace.

Despite Karasuno seeming as if they fared well against Nekoma, Ukai finds Karasuno to be inexperienced compared to their opponents, so he resorts to telling the team to brute strength to win. When hearing this, Tanaka recklessly yells to remarking that it is his style of playing nevertheless.

After the three practice games are held, Yamamoto reaches out to Tanaka. The latter, thinking that he wants to provoke him, is immediately on guard. Despite this, Yamamoto nervously asks him Kiyoko’s name. At this, Tanaka loses his temper but the two starts a friendship after Tanaka learns that Yamamoto doesn’t have the courage to speak to Kiyoko and simply wants to learn her name. After their interaction, they both wish to see each other again at nationals. Eventually, Tanaka and Yamamoto find themselves in tears when parting ways.

Interhigh Arc

Karasuno vs Tokonami

Tanaka plays in the match against Tokonami High. Kageyama selects him to make the first attack in the match as he believes that Tanaka was the perfect choice to strike fear into their opponents as well as boost the team morale. When he scores, Tanaka and Nishinoya celebrate so loudly that both Daichi and the head referee scold them. Karasuno would win the match without much trouble.

Karasuno vs Date Tech

As Karasuno gets on the court, Hinata notices Date Tech’s giant cheering squad and Tanaka admits that he’s a bit jealous. When Tanaka sees Nishinoya’s sharp receive, he congratulates his teammate but mocks the move’s name. Not far into the match, Tanaka does a back-row set with his bump, which surprises Oiwake as they were not doing such three months earlier. Not long after, Tanaka fails to score past Aone but still wins the rally thanks to a net foul, however, this unsettles him. At one point, Tsukishima is rotated into the court and an argument between him and Kageyama breaks out. Tanaka looks at Daichi for the captain to do something but ends up breaking up the fight himself. After a time-out from Date Tech, Tanaka slams the ball into their court and gets cheered on by his teammates. Tanaka would once more score past the enemy defense not long after.

Karasuno vs Aoba Johsai

As the match is about to begin, Tanaka instantly becomes infuriated that Oikawa has caught the attention of numerous female fans. Though Karasuno is able to put up a good fight right away, Tanaka and the others becomes frustrated by Oikawa's direct spike and then changing from a spike to a set at his next play.

When Aoba Johsai is ahead in the score by five points, Tanaka is able to score and boost the team's spirit in the process. However, Oikawa is able to turn this around when he puts in to play a plan that causes Tanaka to get blocked. Tanaka is then targeted by Oikawa's serve and he is unable to properly receive several of the serves which causes his frustration to build. When Karasuno is forced to take their final time-out, Tanaka apologizes to the team and is able to bring himself out of his state and back on track. He receives Oikawa's next serve with his chest and calls for the set at Karasuno's next chance ball. With his mind clear, Tanaka is able to land a clear straight shot while Ukai notes that Tanaka possesses the mental fortitude and power in order to become the team ace.

Some time after Sugawara is switched into the game, Tanaka and Nishinoya call to make a receive on Oikawa's serve but both hesitate to make the receive, thus resulting in Oikawa landing a service ace. When the team is trying to break Oikawa's serve, Sugawara entrusts Tanaka to make the spike that will stop the Seijoh setter as a way to continue getting him back to normal from earlier in the first set.

For most of the second set, Tanaka mostly receives and spikes but does celebrate Tsukishima tricking Aoba Johsai's blockers with numerous feint shots and then executing a spike that the opposing libero was not able to receive. Tanaka would then instantly tease Kageyama when the first year setter struggled to compliment Tsukishima.

In the third set, Tanaka continues to receive and spike but compliments his teammates when they make excellent plays and score. After Yamaguchi failed in his jump serve, Tanaka feels that the pressure of the set has been lifted and he is able to play like he normally does. This unfortunately does not last long as he becomes nervous when he is up to serve when Aoba Johsai is at match point. Still nervous, he makes a receive on Kindaichi's spike with his shoulder.

At the end of the match, Tanaka is one of those seen trying to save Hinata's blocked quick attack. During the line-up, Tanaka looks frustrated and afterwards tries to keep Hinata from feeling bad. During the dinner Ukai treats the team to, Tanaka begins shedding tears like many of the others.

Loss and Decisions

During class, Tanaka is seen being upset about the loss against Aoba Johsai. The second years gather together and go over what they plan to do for the next tournament in August. Tanaka tries to encourage them that they don't have time to be upset from losing. When the third years reveal that they will be staying with the team, Tanaka is shown to be thrilled by the announcement. 

Tokyo Expedition Arc

Spring High Preliminary Arc

Karasuno High vs. Ohgiminami High

Before the match begins, Tanaka and players from the Ohgiminami team try to intimidate one another but Tanaka is able to be more successful when he shows how much power he has in his spiking. During the match, Tanaka mostly is seen recieving and spiking.

Karasuno vs Kakugawa

Tanaka and the rest of the Karasuno team at first have trouble handling the height and power of Hyakuzawa, first shown when taking part in the triple block from the first rally that the goliath is easily able to spike past because of his extremely tall height. When Hinata and Kageyama do their new quick set, Nishinoya and Tanaka both bounce in excitement, which results in in in Daichi telling them off. When Karasuno reaches match point, Daichi speculates that their current rotation (consisting of him, Tanaka, and Hinata) must look pretty pathetic compared to Hyakuzawa’s tall height, which provokes Tanaka.

In that same rotation, Tanaka assists Daichi and Hinata in deflecting Hyakuzawa's spike and is able to send Hinata the last hit that would win the match for Karasuno. After the game concludes, Tanaka and Nishinoya playfully tease Hinata about the sound he made when receiving Hyakuzawa’s spike but get intimidated when Ennoshita scolds them about their studies.

Karasuno vs Johzenji

To practice for the qualifiers, Tanaka’s cross-shot gets out of bounds and hits the water bottles, which is something he blames himself for. At this, Daichi and Asahi mock his attempt. As Karasuno enters the Sendai Gymnasium for the qualifiers, they encounter Terushima. On sight, Tanaka and Nishinoya immediately leap at him for what he did to Kiyoko but are interrupted by Misaki who apologizes for Terushima’s actions. Sometime later, Tanaka becomes slightly shy about having been friends with Kanoka, which causes his older teammates to mock him.

As the match begins, Tanaka becomes shocked when Terushima manages to score from a distance. As Futamata does a let serve, Tanaka successfully lunges to save it. Ukai then uses his play, and Hinata and Nishinoya’s next wild plays in that rally as examples of players who can counter Johzenji’s untamed style. Sometime later, Kageyama would get impressed at Tanaka’s perfect line shot but is surprised by Numajiri being able to bump it nevertheless. Johzenji surprises Tanaka once more when Futamata, Johzenji’s setter, spikes past him instead.

As the first set approaches its end, Terushima scores a service ace. At this, Tanaka displays his annoyance over uncontrolled cocky excitement but gets offended when Narita tells him that they are rather similar. During the second set, Tanaka follows Ukai’s advice of telling the team to rather focusing on digging Johzenji’s shots rather than blocking them. When overhearing, Misaki lecturing Johzenji and using foul language, Tanaka and Nishinoya offer Kiyoko to do the same for them, however, she refuses, much to their dismay.

Karasuno vs Wakutani South

Early in the match, Daichi is able to get Tanaka more into the game when he purposely declares that Hinata is stealing the spotlight from the other players. Tanaka hears this and right away becomes more intimidating to the Wakutani team. Near the end of the first set, Tanaka makes a dive for a ball at the same time Daichi does. The two collide and Daichi was rendered unconscious for a short period of time. When he eventually came to and had to be removed from the game to get medical attention, Tanaka tried to apologize but Daichi took the fault by saying he didn't notice Tanaka until it was too late. Despite this, Tanaka blames himself for Daichi's injuries until Ennoshita and Asahi express relief that he himself did not have to be removed from the game as he is one of their most reliable players.

Tanaka is able to join back in the game and at one point gives Hinata great praise when he performed a rebound that allowed Tanaka to get a clean spike in; the praise Tanaka gave Hinata was so great that Bokuto felt the sensation at Fukurōdani Academy. Although Karasuno struggled more in the later part of the game, Tanaka sees that Ennoshita is trying to play like Daichi and helps him to realize that he should play as himself instead. Thanks to this, Ennoshita was able to settle into the rhythm better and Karasuno would eventually go on to claim victory.

Aoba Johsai vs Date Tech

After Karasuno’s match against Wakutani Minami ends, the team watches the match and Daichi tells his teammates not to stuff themselves, and Tanaka is one of them. When Koganegawa smashes the ball past Aoba Johsai’s blockers, Tanaka is seen being intimidated at Koganegawa’s sheer strength. Additionally, he admits that Iwaizumi surpassing Date Tech’s triple block looked really cool.

Karasuno vs Aoba Johsai

Like the rest of his team, Tanaka is both excited and nervous about facing Aoba Johsai. However, when Yachi accidentally becomes more nervous when trying to help Yamaguchi settle his own nerves, Tanaka himself felt less nervous as they tried to help the younger manager stay calm. Karasuno was able to keep the momentum early in the game and Tanaka was able to score one of the first points. Although excited about this, Tanaka becomes flustered when Saeko's cheers for her brother overpower others.

During the second set, Tanaka begins to form a rivalry with Kyōtani. As Ennoshita would later confirm, Tanaka and Kyōtani would purposely ricochet balls off one another and land narrow shots past one another in a manner of provocation. While Tanaka wasn't as affected by Kyōtani's attempts, Kyōtani started to become more unstable in his plays to the point that he had to be temporarily removed from the game. During Yamaguchi's numerous successful float serves, Tanaka would give great praise to the first year pinch server. When Tsukishima appeared to have been critical of not being surprised at Yamaguchi's serves, Tanaka begins to scold the first year until Tsukishima reveals that he was not surprised because he had seen how much work Yamaguchi had put into perfecting his serve. Tanaka would happily celebrate with the team when Karasuno won the match.

Karasuno vs Shiratorizawa

When Tanaka sees that Hinata’s former volleyball team members come to cheer him on for their match against Shiratorizawa, Tanaka is informed that Sekumukai was on Yukigaoka’s soccer team, which explains how he saw someone with good footwork when he went to watch the match. Despite the team’s demotivation when seeing Shiratorizawa’s such big cheering squad, Tanaka tries to cheer Nishinoya by pointing out the cheerleaders. Tanaka would once more show his enthusiasm by cheering when the announcer calls his name.

Tanaka exclaims that he would receive Taichi’s let serve but it leads into a campfire with Asahi. When Sugawara yells at them to be calm, Tanaka expresses how frightening his upperclassman can be. Tanaka scores Karasuno’s first point of the match. As Ushijima’s left-handedness proves to be a dangerous enemy, Tanaka remembers back at how he once practiced with a lefty in the past and how hard it was. After Nishinoya manages to receive Ushijima and Tanaka scores past Shiraotrizawa’s blockers, both he and Nishinoya happily high five each other. During the start of the second set, Tanaka scores with a chest receive but falls over.

As Tanaka thinks that he’s about to score against Tendo, Ushijima abruptly scores against him. Despite this, Tanaka leads Shiratorizaa into a campfire shortly after. Near the end of the second set, Tanaka performs a block-out and gets complimented by the spectators, being surprised at his unexpected level-headedness. When Karasuno is one point away from winning the set, Kageyama uses Hinata as a decoy for Tanaka to score, which fools even Tendo. After continuous attempts from his teammates to bump the ball, Tanaka finally manages to do it cleanly and follows it up by joining the team’s synchro attack. When Tsukishima wins Karasuno the second set after blocking Ushijima, Tanaka and Nishinoya leap in joy to congratulate their underclassman. Despite this, he jumps to Hinata’s defense when he sees Tsukishima insult him.

Near the end of the third set, Tanaka is part of the triple block that is in charge of making Ushijima hit in Nishinoya’s direction. Despite this, Ushijima is able to smash through the block. After Asahi saves the ball with difficulty, Tanaka manages to spike against Shiratorizawa. However, his body position didn’t give him a clear view of where he was spiking and Tendo blocks him easily. Sometime later, Tanaka silently calls for Hinata to come to deflect Ushijima and Tanaka offers his help in doing so. After this deflection, Hinata moves to the other side of the court. Kageyama then sets to Tanaka meanwhile the blockers are distracted by Hinata. Near the end of the fourth set, Tanaka sees Tsukishima and Kageyama getting into a conflict, but in an attempt to improve their attitudes, Tanaka pats their heads harshly.

During the fifth set, Tanaka cancels out Ennoshita’s and Kinoshita’s worries when he manages to dig Tendo’s spike. Shortly after, Tanaka’s legs start to fail him, but he still preservers onwards as he is desperate to be the one hitting the ball among Karasuno’s hitters. Ultimately, he does, and Karasuno’s players all cheer for him. Shortly after, Tanaka roughly saves the ball from out the court and joins the team’s synchro attack.

Tokyo National Arc

Several months before the Spring Tournament, the team begins their preparations for the tournament and first start with their height measurements. Tanaka expresses great annoyance when Tsukishima is discovered to have reached 190.1 cm and tackles the first year while ordering him to shrink. When the team is measuring their spiking height, Yachi notices that Tanaka is one of those who shows interest in what Hinata's spiking height is. When Kageyama is invited to the All-Japan Youth Camp, Tanaka heavily congratulates his junior and tries to comfort Hinata when he wasn't invited. When the team later hears that Hinata decided to crash the First Year Training Camp at Shiratorizawa, Tanaka is both amused and supportive of Hinata's decision. He would also encourage Hinata to learn as much as he can while at the camp since Hinata's skills still needed improvement.

In order to best prepare himself for the Spring Tournament, Tanaka began utilizing jump serves and the cross shot but initially struggled with both in terms of aiming and power. While his serve gradually got better, Tanaka still was not able to perfect the cross shot during the practice match against Date Tech. Shortly before that match begins, Ukai explains their opponents’ advanced techniques, and Tanaka requests for Karasuno to steal them and turn the tables, however, Ukai shuts down that idea. During the match, Kageyama harshly tells Nishinoya to move. Although Nishinoya then forgives the rookie setter, Tanaka, in an attempt to stand up for his friend, gets angry in turn, but has Daichi keep him in check. A few rallies later, Kageyama sets to Tanaka and he attempts an unsuccessful cross-shot, which he loudly apologizes for.  When Tsukishima and Kageyama start getting into their third argument of the match, Tanaka and Daichi, respectively, both push them away from one another. After Hinata declares that being king isn’t so bad after all and declares that he simply wouldn’t listen to Kageyama if they disagreed, Tanaka goes along with this logic.

When the team finally departs to Tokyo, Tanaka was thrilled to finally see the real Tokyo Skytree. Although he had believed the team would be staying at a larger hotel, Tanaka is still excited at staying at the Jaybird Inn when he believes it may be haunted. After the team has a practice session, Ukai presents the team with a video Takinoue made that shows all of their greatest moments from their previous games. Tanaka and Nishinoya would later fear they would forget the movie when they realize that Kiyoko was in the bath though Narita stated they could just watch the movie again.

Karasuno vs Tsubakihara

During the match, Tanaka helps keep the team going when Kageyama requested time to adjust to his surroundings. He would try to score with the cross shot but felt the power was still not to his likings. After Karasuno won the match, Tanaka and the others would briefly reunite with their previous captain Kurokawa.

When the team returns to their hotel, Tanaka has a brief conversation with Kanoka. After she left, Ennoshita states that Tanaka has a chance to have a girlfriend and how he noticed her behavior toward him before the opening ceremony; leading him to believe that Kanoka has a crush on Tanaka. Tanaka becomes stunned at hearing this and realizing all the times that Kiyoko has rejected his affections. Later that night, Tanaka is outside the hotel trying to calm his nerves when Kanoka finds him. The two talk for a while but Tanaka becomes nervous when he believes that Kanoka is going to confess her feelings to him and declares that he has his heart set on another. During his statement, he didn't notice another man approach Kanoka and right away believes him to be Kanoka's boyfriend. Thinking he misunderstood the situation, Tanaka races back to his hotel in embarrassment.

Karasuno vs Inarizaki

After witnessing the power behind Atsumu's first serve, Tanaka and the other defenders were noted to be tense and Ukai tried to calm them down. Tanaka would then try to get a spike through the block but Osamu was able to get a hand on the ball. When Tanaka was next to serve, he falls into the trap of the Inarizaki cheer section using negative influence and a quickening rhythm to affect his serve. Shortly after this, Tanaka looks relieved when Saeko arrives with her taiko drum group and they are able to help cover Inarizaki's rhythm. When the Miya twins were able to copy the freak quick, Tanaka is caught off guard from seeing it pulled off so effortlessly but later supports Tsukishima support when he was able to block the quick but become a little unnerved when Tsukishima admits that he's always wanted to be able to stop the freak quick attack.

Mid-way into the set, spectators take note of how each Karasuno player stands out for something unique with Tanaka being the only one without anything he is known for other than his lively personality. As the set continues, Tanaka is repeatedly blocked by Suna and a serve he tried to receive was instead received by Nishinoya. Despite this, Tanaka continues to try to stay focused and even tries to assist Tsukishima in blocking Suna. As Tanaka questions how much help he has been in the game so far, he attempts a straight shot past a triple block but the ball narrowly lands out of bounds. Although he is unaware of this, Ennoshita and Kinoshita express their belief that Tanaka will be alright as he is not only the strongest of the second years but also the only one of them who never left the club[9]. Soon after, Tsukishima is called upon to make an emergency set. Tanaka calls for the set but Tsukishima instead sets to Asahi. Tanaka still supports his upperclassman when he was able to score despite the obvious blow he suffered at being denied the set. Hinata would be able to help Tanaka overcome this pain when he moves onto the court and excitedly goes over how Tanaka tried to help Tsukishima block Suna; stating that middle blockers at times block alone and it makes it more comforting knowing that there is that extra support. Tanaka would immediately help Hinata with the block when Osamu attempted to spike and their block allowed Daichi to be in place to receive.

Just before the next set, Tanaka admits to himself that he is aware that he is average; especially when comparing himself to his teammates who have either surpassed six feet in height or is not the best at any one certain thing. While he admits he does not concern himself with such things, there are moments every few months or so when he completely breaks down and believe that he's nothing special. However, he realizes that he cannot use this as an excuse. During a flashback, it is revealed that he first encountered Kiyoko when he first joined Karasuno and was trying to join the volleyball club. While he was determined not to be underestimated, that appearance vanished when Kiyoko appeared in the gym and Tanaka right away fell in love and proposed to her; though his proposal was immediately rejected[5]. While remembering how he helped Kanoka with her serves by telling her to keep practicing until she got the hang of things, Tanaka calls for the set. Now out of his rut, Tanaka is able to get past a double block when he executes a powerful cross shot that lands right on the attack line and wins the first set for Karasuno. Tanaka confronts Tsukishima about denying him the set and asks if he did it on purpose. Although Tsukishima explains that he thought Asahi had the better chance to score at the time, he questions how Tanaka is always able to be so mentally strong and doesn't believe Tanaka when he says that he broke down during the end of the set.

Now able to use the cross shot, Tanaka causes problems for Inarizaki when he is able to get past them without much trouble. Ginjima soon makes Tanaka the target of his serves with the hope of causing Tanaka to break once again but his plan doesn't work when Tanaka is able to receive his serve. At one point, Tanaka tries to get past the blockers using the cross shot again but was blocked by Ren Ōmimi who silently labeled him as a 'poor man's version of Bokuto' from knowing that Tanaka was just now able to start making the cross shot work to his advantage[10]. At witnessing Hinata make a perfect receive on Aran's spike, Tanaka looks stunned. Soon after, he attempts a spike but it's picked up and Inarizaki eventually is able to gain the point for themselves. Karasuno immediately feels crushed by their hard work having been for nothing until Hinata is able to lift their spirits with his ever present determination to keep moving forward.

When Karasuno and Inarizaki becomes tied at 20-20, a brief flashback reveals that Tanaka had requested a decrease in sets from Kageyama for a short while. However, in a later flashback, Kageyama is shown to have denied Tanaka's request by stating that the team needed him to attack[11]. Because Kageyama believed that Tanaka was playing above average, the first year setter sent Tanaka a set close to the net antenna which Tanaka saw was a sign of Kageyama asking to be proven why he has so much faith in his upperclassmen. Tanka proves his worth when he lands an extreme straight shot. Tanaka continues to help his team when Karasuno and Inarizaki repeatedly switch reaching match point until Karasuno eventually is able to claim victory. After the team leaves the court, Tanaka receives praise from two volunteers although he was confused by their actions[12].

Karasuno vs Nekoma

As the match is about to start, Tanaka and Asahi hear how much support the Nekoma team are receiving and Tanaka is slightly jealous that they have so much local support. In the first rally of the match, Tanaka attempted to use a cross shot to spike past Lev and Kai only for Yamamoto to receive the ball. Mid-way into the set, Tanaka would against attempt a cross shot to get past the blockers but Lev and Kai would once more force him to hit his spike directly where Yaku was positioned to receive the ball.

Tanaka would later achieve a successful play when he is able to get through a triple block. However, Kuroo would completely stop him from achieving the same goal in the next rally. Later when Hinata suspects that his spikes are being saved more than normal, Tanaka tries to assure him that Nekoma is receiving everyone's attacks. When Kenma was later able to win the set for Nekoma, Tanaka would try to take the blame of not being able to make the receive but Daichi tried to take the blame instead. While the team is going over the set and that Hinata was purposely being targeted with serves to prevent the freak quick happening, he would find himself amazed at how much Hinata was being made to move to receive and then attempt his running approach.

Karasuno vs Kamomedai

As Tanaka and the team listen to Ukai as he points out facts about their next opponent. When Ukai mentions that Hoshiumi is a top caliber ace that attended the All-Japan Youth Camp and that the blockers of Kamomedai could be seen as a maximum level version of Date Tech, Tanaka is seen with a look of unease. However, Tanaka quickly overcomes this when Daichi points out that Karasuno has become one of the top eight teams in the nation[13]. As the team is later getting ready for their game, Tanaka and Nishinoya notice that the third years appear to have a different air about them.

As the match starts, Tanaka took part in trying to help Hinata and Daichi block Hoshiumi only for the Kamomedai ace to use his incredible jump to spike over the blockers. Tanaka would next try to get a spike in but Hirugami didn't fall for Hinata's decoy attempt and therefore was able to block Tanaka with ease. Tanaka would redeem himself by making his next attack count as Suwa was not able to receive his spike. However, Tanaka would unintentionally send his serve into the net.

Near the mid-way point of the set, Tanaka tries to keep Tsukishima in high spirits after he was surprised with a triple block. However, Tanaka noticed that Tsukishima didn't appear to be upset that he had been blocked and witnesses the tall middle blocker warn Kageyama not to 'run away'. Tanaka is amused when Kageyama quickly became enraged by the statement. When the score eventually reaches 17-19 with Kamomedai keeping the lead, Tanaka finds himself being marked by the opposing blockers but this was another attempt to fool the Karasuno players as the blockers went to block Tsukishima. Tanaka would next attempt to get a cross shot past a triple block but mistakenly sends his spike into the net and it noted by Akiteru and Ukai that he most likely had been too rushed in trying to score that resulted in his missed spike.

As the second set continues, Tanaka is seen repeatedly attempting to make serve and spike receives and at times making an emergency set to Asahi. Later, his block is used in an attempt for Nozawa to do a block-out but Tanaka is able to save the ball before it lands out of bounds. Tanaka would repeat this feat when Hinata is later blocked when attempting a center attack. Karasuno was eventually able to win the second set when Tsukishima performed an incredible feat by dodging Hoshiumi's spike. Tanaka would join his teammates in praising Tsukishima for his play.

During a play when Hinata was able to hold the attention of the blockers for a few second, Tanaka was able to get a clean attack through since the blockers were not able to make it in time to stop him. After Hinata and Kageyama were able to score with the minus tempo back attack, Tanaka praised Hinata for getting the point and went to help the middle blocker stand from where he was kneeling on the court. However, as Hinata reached out to Tanaka's hand, Tanaka became concerned when Hinata suddenly fell over and struggled to get up. At this point, Kageyama informs the others that he suspects Hinata is sick as he had noticed his hands felt hot during the second set but had originally thought it was due to the fact that Hinata had been more active during the match. He is proven right when Hinata's temperature is 39.1 °C. After Hinata tries to stay in the match since he isn't physically incapable of continuing, Takeda is able to get him to understand that he needs to take care of his health and the decision is made to remove the middle blocker from the match entirely so he can receive proper care. When Hinata begins to tearfully apologize to his teammates, Tanaka is the first to try to lighten the mood. After Hinata is removed from the match, the game continues with Narita taking Hinata's place on the court. As the match continues, Tanaka can be seen making a cross shot that Kamomedai's libero is unable to save. Kamomedai eventually reached match point. Nishinoya tried to save Hoshiumi's spike but the ball ricochets off him and begins to head out of bounds. Tanaka chased after the ball and desperately tried to keep it alive but did not make it in time.

In the aftermath of the match, Tanaka once more approaches Kiyoko and offered to carry the supply bag. Kiyoko finally allows Tanaka to carry it for her and he discovers how light the bag is, which Kiyoko claims she has stated all along. Later, the third years retire from the team and graduate. Tanaka is with the remaining members and fights back tears at seeing their upperclassmen leave.

Final Arc

Tanaka goes to the game between the MSBY Black Jackals and the Schweiden Adlers with Kiyoko. They are revealed to have married some time after high school and Tanaka now works as a personal trainer. Like others, Tanaka is greatly impressed at the skills Hinata, Kageyama, and the other players display.

Later, Tanaka is seen cheering for Kanoka as she plays at the Olympic's on the Women's National Team.

Statistics

High School Statistics
Power
 
5/5
Jumping
 
3/5
Stamina
 
4/5
Game Sense
 
1/5
Technique
 
2/5
Speed
 
3/5

He is a player who never gives up on the ball. According to Keishin Ukai, Tanaka is the second strongest spiker in Karasuno (Asahi being the first) and most importantly, his ability to perform when he's cornered doesn't deteriorate. He shows incredible mental fortitude during games, and this combined with his talent and physical ability caused Coach Ukai to note he could be an ace. Although he doesn't demonstrate it, it's been noted by Daichi that he does have pretty good game sense. Tanaka is often targeted on serves and spikes despite this he can recieve decently well and even when he's not in position to receive properly he will use his body to receive and ensure the ball doesn't fall. Tanaka has even been compared to Bokuto a top 5 ace, though he was called a weaker version than him.

Height and reach, as of mid-November:

  • Fingertip Height: 224 cm
  • Jumping Reach: 324 cm (spike) / 312 cm (block)

Skills

  • Inner Cross: After witnessing Bokuto perform a cross shot during the Tokyo Expedition Arc, Tanaka is seen working on his inner cross. Initially, he struggles with the control, but he ultimately perfects it in a clutch moment during the Inarizaki match. His inner cross has an extremely sharp trajectory and lands across the court before the attack line[5].
  • Straight Spike: Tanaka uses a straight spike that he executes off of a form meant to hit a cross. He tricks the blockers into thinking he will spike a cross with his run-up and spiking form. Then he spikes through the small opening left open by the blockers and the antenna on the side[14]. Tanaka's straight requires absolute precision as the ball trajectory is extremely close to the boundary line. This straight, combined with his inner cross, makes Tanaka a formidable spiker.
  • Jump Serve: Tanaka practices the jump serve just ahead of the Spring Interhigh. By Nationals, Tanaka has learned to perform a legitimate jump serve that can pressure his opponents[15]. He can also adjust his serve to make it stronger or weaker if he messes up his serve toss.

Relationships

Family

  • Saeko Tanaka:
    Tanaka Siblings.png
    Tanaka gets along well with his older sister. Saeko cooks him dinner and would sometimes offer help with his studies, though he often declines. Since the beginning of Spring High Preliminaries, Saeko has attended most of Tanaka's matches. She often cheers him on loudly from the bleachers, however, He sometimes can be embarrassed when she cheers for him. Nevertheless, she is a very supportive sister and Tanaka is grateful to have someone like her as he stops being embarrassed after the Shiratorizawa match due to her greatly aiding Karasuno's cheering squad to expand.

Karasuno High

  • Yū Nishinoya:
    Nishinoya x tanaka.jpg
    The duo are shown to be good friends due to their similar rowdy personalities. Whenever they're excited, they tend to shout or celebrate excessively, much to the annoyance of Daichi. Tanaka and Nishinoya both have a soft spot for Kiyoko and often band together to keep other boys away from her, this behavior was especially present during the Tokyo training camp. They also bear a lot of hatred for those like Oikawa for getting more attention from girls. Additionally, the two are often seen cheering their team on when their confidence begins to waver.
  • Kiyoko Shimizu:
    ImageShimizuTanaka.png
    Tanaka and Kiyoko first met when Tanaka was a first year trying out for the volleyball club. Upon Kiyoko's arrival in the gym, Tanaka immediately proposed to her but was rejected. Despite this and many more rejections, Tanaka continued to try to obtain her affections throughout high school. Along with Nishinoya, Tanaka often acts as Kiyoko's 'body guard' and prevents other boys from getting in close proximity to her. Despite many failed attempts to impress her, Kiyoko finally accepted Tanaka's help in carrying her bag after Karasuno's loss against Kamomedai. Sometime after high school, Tanaka and Kiyoko married and attended the game between the Black Jackals and the Schweiden Adlers together.
  • Shōyō Hinata: Tanaka is shown to be a good friend and source of support to Hinata. He was impressed with Hinata's stamina and jumping abilities prior to Hinata attending Karasuno. Tanaka at times teases Hinata for his impulsive actions but still supports him and can also be protective of the first year; as shown when he was ready to defend Hinata from Yamamoto. Tanaka is also one of the people that Hinata greatly admires, especially for his durability and strong mindset during games. Tanaka first demonstrates this during Karasuno's practice match against Aoba Johsai and successfully rids Hinata of his pressure to succeed. This behavior is still present all the way to the Kamomedai match when Hinata finds out about having a fever, and Tanaka is the first to attempt to cheer the younger middle blocker up despite having shown a small crack in his strong attitude.

Other Schools

  • Taketora Yamamoto: At their very first meeting, they didn't get along well and almost fought. However, after the match, Yamamoto approached Tanaka and admitted that he likes Kiyoko and asked to know her name, causing the two to bond over their crush.
    Tanaka and Yamamoto s4-e12-1.png
    They even cried and shook hands as two were separating. Since then they've exchanged numbers to become text buddies; Yamamoto having once texted Tanaka for advice on how to talk to girls. During the summer camp, Tanaka and Yamamoto would often hang out with one another and later, with Nishinoya leading them, formed a team to prevent boys from other teams from approaching Kiyoko. Tanaka and Yamamoto have similar looks and personalities: they're both loud and delinquent-like. The two were also both specifically targeted and pressured during Karasuno's Interhigh match against Aoba Johsai, as well as against Inarizaki, and Nekoma's match against Nohebi. Another seemingly unrelated similarity they have is their past as first years and energetic sisters. After Nekoma's loss against Karasuno, Yamamoto did not hold a grudge against Tanaka and even supported his team in their next match.
  • Kanoka Amanai:
    Kanoka and Tanaka s4-e13-1.png
    The two have known each other since primary school, where Tanaka would often chase away people who mocked her for her height and turned this into something she could be proud of when he got awed at her being naturally good at volleyball. Despite Yonezawa being opposed to her liking a delinquent like Tanaka, Kanoka's feelings did not waver. Although Kanoka liked to talk about Tanaka frequently, Tanaka, on the other hand, was shy about his old friendship with Niiyama's ace, so when she was mentioned during the Interhigh tournament, Tanaka's teammates dismissed them actually knowing each other. Kanoka's feelings for Tanaka were still present all the way to high school and got heartbroken when learning that Tanaka already liked someone else. Despite this, Tanaka and Kanoka still kept in contact after high school, as Kiyoko and Tanaka were shown watching her match as part of Japan's national female volleyball team.
  • Kenji Futakuchi:
    Group s4-e8-3.png
    Because of their similar provocative personalities, Futakuchi and Tanaka don't get along and even attempted to intimidate each other upon meeting, though to no avail. Unlike with Yamamoto, Tanaka never really got along with Futakuchi and had their more responsible teammates have to get them away from each other to prevent violence after Karasuno and Date Tech's practice match concluded.

Quotes

  • "I'm sorry!...I didn't call the toss just now. I got scared for a second, damn it! I'll have all of my regrets after the match! There's no point in someone worthless like me bringing everyone down because I'm upset about my own mistake! I'll get it next time!" (To Karasuno, Volume 6 Chapter 52 / Season 1 Episode 20)
  • "Just sideline that self-reflection and those regrets if you've got them, right now. Hold onto the good feelings real tight, so you don't forget them, and then go out there and do it again next time." (To Yamaguchi, Volume 16 Chapter 139 / Season 2 Episode 22)

Trivia

  • In Season 3 Episode 6, Tanaka makes a haiku: "後輩を支えてこその先輩だ, It's a senpai's job to always be there and help his precious juniors".
  • Favorite Food: Melonpan
  • Current Concern: He tried calling out to a lost-looking first-year girl to tell her the way to her classroom, but she started to cry.
  • He is the only Karasuno member to play for the full length of every match they have had in the series. 
  • In the OVA, he asks his sister Saeko to drive Hinata and Kageyama to the Training Camp. When she refused at first, he counts his savings but finds that he doesn't have enough to pay for a ride. He persists in begging Saeko and even willingly kneels just to help his underclassmen. This shows just how much he cares for his teammates and underclassman.
  • Tanaka wears dark grey gym shoes with black accents.
  • He has exceptionally good hearing.
  • His star sign is Pisces.
  • Tanaka is the youngest of the second years.
  • According to Hinata in the bonus story Kageyama of Class 1-3, Tanaka is to be the next ace after Asahi.
  • Furudate gave him this name because "He’s Tanaka because he’s Tanaka-ish! I tried to give him a really cool name and that ended up being Ryūnosuke!"[16]
  • Kiyoko Shimizu's Seiyuu says that her personal favorite character is Tanaka.[17]
  • In Haikyuu's first popularity poll, Tanaka placed 9th with 3,384 votes.[18] In the second, he dropped to 12th with 4,236 votes.[19]
  • Nomenclature:
    • Ryūnosuke (龍之介) - Assistance of a Dragon
    • Tanaka (田中) - Ricefield Middle

References

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