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 3rd 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.

Asahi and Nishinoya’s Return

Nekoma Practice Match

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

Tanaka plays against Date Tech but is mostly seen taking part in making receives and spikes.

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 Hyakuzawa is able to spike clear above a block that Tanaka, Hinata, and Kageyama attempted. But once Daichi and Nishinoya figure out how to counter, Karasuno gets back on track. When Karasuno reaches match point, 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.

Karasuno vs Johzenji

Karasuno vs Wakutani South

Karasuno vs Aoba Johsai

Karasuno vs Shiratorizawa

Tokyo National Arc

Karasuno vs Tsubakihara

Karasuno vs Inarizaki

Tanaka, after having been targeted for the entirety of the first set, displays his trademark mental strength to win the set point with a sharp cross hit. 

Karasuno vs Nekoma

Karasuno vs Kamomedai

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

Original 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 mental strength gives him the qualities of an ace. Although he doesn't demonstrate it, it's been noted by Daichi that he does have pretty good game sense.

Height and reach, as of mid-November:

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

Skills

  • Inner Cross: After 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[9]. 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[10].

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 a sister like her.

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 at the annoyance of Daichi. Tanaka and Nishinoya both have a soft spot for Shimizu and often band together to keep other boys away from her. They also hate guys like Oikawa for getting more attention from girls.

Other Schools

  • Taketora Yamamoto: Tanaka and Yamamoto have similar looks and personalities: they're both loud and
    Tanaka and Yamamoto s4-e12-1.png
    delinquent-like. 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 Shimizu, causing the two to bond over their crush. They even cried and shook hands as two were separating. Since then they've exchanged numbers to become text buddies; Yamamoto once texted Tanaka for advice on how to talk to girls. During the summer camp, Tanaka hung out with Yamamoto and, together with Nishinoya, even formed a team with him during the barbeque to keep away other players from approaching Kiyoko.

Quotes

If you look down on us like that, we’ll chew you up and spit you out.
In volleyball...everyone on your team's side of the net...are NOT your enemies!
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!
Some times, I can see the opponent's block in slow motion in the air. It's just like light passing by.
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.
It's a senpai's job
To always be there and help
His precious juniors
C'mon! Stop tripping over your tongue, Kageyama! Geez, you seriously stink at giving compliments, bruh!

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!"[11]
  • Kiyoko Shimizu's Seiyuu says that her personal favorite character is Tanaka.[12]
  • In Haikyuu's first popularity poll, Tanaka placed 9th with 3,384 votes.[13] In the second, he dropped to 12th with 4,236 votes.[14]
  • Nomenclature:
    • Ryūnosuke (龍之介) - Assistance of a Dragon
    • Tanaka (田中) - Ricefield Middle

References

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