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If I couldn't bump that ball... the rally would end right there. All of a sudden... I realized that I was scared. Knowing that, there was only one thing to do. Face it.

Sō Inuoka (Japanese: 犬岡 (いぬおか) (そう) Inuoka Sō) is a first-year student from Nekoma High. He was initially one of the team's middle blockers but was later switched to a wing spiker.

As of 2021, he works as a childcare professional[1]

Appearance

Inuoka has a lean build and is amongst the tallest players on Nekoma's team. Hinata dubs him Lanky in their first match together before knowing his name. He has short, spiked upwards brown hair and identical brown eyes. In the manga, his appearance the same, with exceptions for his hair being blonde and his eyes being amber.

Post-timeskip, Inuoka mostly appears the same but his hair is noticeably shorter.

Personality

Inuoka has a very bright, bouncy personality that is similar to Hinata's. It has been mentioned by Coach Naoi and Kenma that he isn't a very quick thinker. Although he is very serious when playing volleyball, he is also really passionate about his position as a middle blocker and is especially enthralled when he plays against Hinata. He is also shown to be very caring and encouraging towards his teammates. Additionally, he is a very hardworking person, demonstrating this when he worked on his receives solely to manage to get a spot as a regular. Inuoka also does not appear to hold grudges as he does not appear too upset that he was later replaced as a starter by Lev and instead uses this as determination to not be outdone by his teammate.

Background

Not much is known about Inuoka's background, but it is known he played as a middle blocker during his time in middle school[2].

Plot

Karasuno High Team Formation Arc

Inuoka first appears during a practice match Nekoma has before their match against Karasuno. After the first practice match, Yamamoto tries to make a bet with Inuoka and Shibayama about whether or not Karasuno has a female manager. Afterwards, he shares in his teams surprise at hearing Kenma admit that he was looking forward to their match against Karasuno the next day.

When seeing Hinata and Kenma talking, Inuoka and Shibayama both get surprised at the two appearing to know each other. Shortly after, Shibayama and Inuoka rejoice at winning the bet and getting a Häagen-Dazs when Kiyoko appears and confirms that Karasuno has a female manager[3]. When meeting Hinata for the first time, Inuoka marvels at his short height. When the shorter blocker tells him to cease underestimating him, Inuoka assures him that he wasn't underestimating him at all. At this, Kageyama gets frustrated over Inuoka’s naivety.

When first seeing Hinata and Kageyama’s quick set for the first time, Inuoka becomes shocked and doesn’t know what to do. During the next rally, Inuoka is wary of Hinata’s speed, which makes him fall for his decoy trick. For Nekoma’s first time-out, Kenma has Inuoka commit to Hinata as he is the most agile on the team and therefore the best suited to keep up with Hinata.

As the match progresses, Inuoka manages to get his hand on Hinata’s quick several times but still isn’t able to fully block him. Despite this, it makes Karasuno cautious of the blocker as they notice he is starting to catch up to Hinata. After this, Nekomata comments on how Inuoka’s weakness is his lack of thought during a game but becomes a fearsome opponent when given a clear task to focus on. In the following events, Inuoka unintentionally tricks Hinata into making him think that he would do a quick set with Kenma but the setter instead goes for a setter dump.

Inuoka would later win Nekoma the first set when being able to block Hinata and Kageyama’s quick set for the first time, making him the first person being able to do that. In the first few rallies of the second set, Inuoka continues to effectively block Hinata. After blocking Hinata multiple times throughout the match, Nekoma thinks it would be about time to sub Hinata out for a more experienced blocker. Despite this, Hinata proves that he still wants to play and tells his setter that seeing Inuoka struggling to keep up with him every rally makes him want to continue pushing forward.

Once Hinata finally successfully hits Kageyama’s sets with his eyes opened, Inuoka, who now calls Hinata by his first name, is still amazed at his new friend’s reflexes and praises him for his impressive spike. Shortly after, Kenma uses Kai as a decoy for Inuoka to spike, but he is deflected nevertheless. Right after, Hinata goes for a quick with Kageyama, but Inuoka is able to catch up with his speed. As Hinata scores past the other rookie blocker, Nekomata finds Hinata and Inuoka to have both found worthy rivals in each other. When being blocked by Tsukishima, Inuoka finds himself impressed.

HinataAndInuoka.png

Following the practice matches ending, Inuoka is still full of energy when reaching out to Hinata. When conversing, the two end up talking in gibberish out of excitement. Despite having being opponents earlier, Inuoka isn’t afraid to admit being impressed by Hinata’s fast reflexes and speed and receives similar praise from Hinata as well.

Tokyo Expedition Arc

During the summer training camps, Inuoka is revealed to have been replaced as a starting regular by his teammate, Lev Haiba[4]. Because of this, he is now mostly seen supporting the team from the sidelines with the rest of the Nekoma team but has made it clear that he will not be so easily outdone by Lev.

During the barbeque at the end of the second training camp, Inuoka is mostly seen in the background eating a great amount of food.

Spring High Preliminary Arc

Nekoma vs. Fukurōdani

Shortly before the match's debut, Inuoka is seen admiring Fukurōdani’s band and cheerleaders with Lev. When Yamamoto attempts to attack Kenma when the setter had tricked him into thinking Lev's sister, Alisa, was watching him, Inuoka is seen holding the ace back to stop him. When Yaku digs an impressive shot from Fukurōdani, Inuoka and the other first-years are seen cheering. After Nekoma’s loss, Inuoka is seen attempting to cheer Lev up along with Shibayama.

Nekoma vs. Nohebi

During the match against Nohebi, Inuoka tries to keep the team in high spirits when they look to be concerned about how the match is going but doesn't appear to be very successful until Kenma helps. When with the other first-years, he is seen cheering with them as Nekoma scores points or make impressive shots. When both Yaku and Kuroo get injured, Inuoka helps with getting them medical attention. When Nekoma won, he joins in their celebration.

Tokyo Nationals Arc

Nekoma vs. Kiyokawa

With Shibayama and Lev, Inuoka praises the team for their receives against their opponent[5].

Nekoma vs. Sarukawa

During the match's first set, Lev asks Inuoka why an underhand wouldn't make things easier. Inuoka simply answers that it would be difficult to hit and further explains that an overhand pass is faster. Additionally, he cheers for his teammates throughout the match.

Karasuno vs. Inarizaki

Inuoka is referred back to when Ukai requests Hinata to mark Osamu as Inuoka did Hinata during Nekoma's first practice march against Karasuno. However, Inuoka does not seem to notice Hinata doing this as he watches the match. After Nekoma's victory against Sarukawa, Inuoka and Shibayama are impressed at Inarizaki's cheer squad. Seeing Atsumu's jump floater and before that, his silencing of the crowd, Shibayama, and Inuoka are intimidated.

Sometime later, Nekoma's middle blockers, which includes Inuoka, get prepared to see Tsukishima block Suna but he and Lev are proven wrong and are confused when Suna managed to spike past Tsukishima instead. Despite this, the two are impressed that Tsukishima was able to be in place with perfect timing. Inuoka would later admit to himself that watching this match made him realize that he would never be able to surpass Hinata if didn't practice his bumps.

Nekoma vs. Karasuno

During the game against Karasuno, Inuoka is subbed into the game during the second set to assist Lev in blocking Hinata. Following Kenma's warning of how Hinata is able to stay in the air longer, Inuoka is able to successfully block Hinata's spike although he accidentally bumped into Lev in the process. After Hinata is able to get a spike past the Nekoma blockers, Inuoka is shown to stay on the court instead of being subbed out right away. It's at this time that a flashback reveals that Coach Nekomata had approached Inuoka during Golden Week with the offer of having the first-year become a wing spiker since Lev was going to be given the regular starting position and Nekomata wanted to add more height to Nekoma's blocks. After this flashback, Inuoka bumps Tanaka's serve, which impresses Kai but he decides not to compliment the rookie opposite yet. This clean bump allows Lev to score, which Inuoka is seen congratulating him for later.

After Karasuno wins the second set, Inuoka is subbed back out and Kai is returned to the court. He is later brought back mid-way into the third set and again focuses on trying to block Hinata. However, he fails at a block when Hinata manages to shoot a spike through the open space between his arms; which Lev refers to as a Bonsai Block. Inuoka later nearly succeeds in gaining a point for Nekoma but Hinata eventually manages to get another point back and is once again subbed out later on. For the rest of the match, he cheers for Nekoma from the sidelines and cheers after Kuroo's short pep talk for the team to win the match. When Nekoma loses, he is shown crying and being comforted by Kai.

Final Arc

Inuoka is seen joining the Nekoma team at Kenma's home and expresses how he would like to go to Russia when talking about Yaku living there. After high school, he has become a childcare professional[1].

Statistics

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

Kenma has stated that Inuoka is the most agile player on the team. Because of these skills, Kenma managed to come up with a strategy for him to be the first person to block Hinata's quick attack. Nevertheless, he was replaced by Lev because of his shorter size. After switching to opposite, in the match against Karasuno, he even impressed Kageyama and Hinata with his speed despite having just entered the court. Initially, he was struggling with passes but after some practice he becomes flexible and proficient at receives and digs.

Skills

  • Blocking:
    Inuoka Hinata 1 s1 e12.png
    Inuoka is well known for his blocking abilities. Thanks to his agility and height, he makes for a challenging blocker. He is shown to be the first person to block Hinata's quick attack and is normally referred to when blocking strategies are discussed by Karasuno. Inuoka also appears to be one of the blockers that Hinata is most cautious around. Despite this, he still does make occasional mistakes; such as, during the match against Karasuno, he is seen bumping into Lev and Kuroo and at one time keeping his arms wide enough for Hinata to spike through.
  • Receives:
    Inuoka 1 s1 e13.png
    Like the rest of Nekoma, Inuoka is a capable receiver. Although he struggled with receives at first, after he was switched to be a wing spiker, he began working on his receives even more with one reason being that he wanted to be more prepared to battle Hinata.

Jumping Reach: 333 cm

Relationships

Nekoma High

  • Yūki Shibayama: Although their friendship is not shown much, Inuoka and Shibayama can usually been seen together when outside of matches which most likely indicates that they are close friends. Together, the two appear to be two of the biggest supporters for the team during matches.
  • Lev Haiba:
    Nekoma s4-e19-1.png
    Despite having been replaced by Lev as a part of Nekoma's starting middle blockers, Inuoka does not hold a grudge against Lev as he was aware this would be beneficial to Nekoma. As they are both in the same year and have similar personalities, the two are shown to get along quite well and can often be seen close by to one another both on and off the court. Inuoka is also known to help Lev understand certain tactics when he is shown to not fully understand due to his lack of experience. When playing in a match, the two work extremely well together and make for a fearful duo to their opponents.
  • Nekoma High: Inuoka gets along well with the rest of his team, especially with the third-years and Yamamoto. He is seen to heavily respect his upperclassmen as well as Coach Nekomata; accepting decisions he makes without question as he believes that Nekomata makes choices that will benefit the team overall. He also appears to be close to Kenma as he is said to be one of the people the setter isn't shy around.

Karasuno High

  • Shōyō Hinata:
    Hinata and Inuoka s1-e12-1.png
    First meeting at the practice match between Nekoma and Karasuno, Inuoka and Hinata quickly became friends as well as rivals. Unlike many others, Inuoka did not underestimate Hinata's height but was surprised at his abilities and speed. Despite the competitive but friendly rivalry, the two get along extremely well and typically talk in their own gibberish language. They can times be seen in each other's company during the training camps and outside of matches. Inuoka is one of few people who regularly address Hinata by his first name.

Quotes

  • "I finally gotcha!" (To Hinata, Volume 4 Chapter 29)
  • "I'm also going to work harder so that I can become a regular, too!" (Haikyū!! OVA)
  • "It hurt a bit. Getting switched over to wing spiker felt like being told... I wasn't as good of an mb as Haiba. But I didn't have to stew on that for long." (To himself, Volume 36 Chapter 316)
  • "If I couldn't bump that ball... the rally would end right there. All of a sudden... I realized that I was scared. Knowing that, there was only one thing to do. Face it." (To himself, Volume 36 Chapter 316)
  • "Watching Karasuno's game with Inarizaki made me realize one big thing. If I don't practice my bumps and digs a lot... then I'll never be able to beat Hinata" (To himself, Volume 36 Chapter 316)

Trivia

  • Favorite Food: Fried chicken and rice
  • Current Concern: "I'll eat and eat but still feel hungry!"
  • His birthday is Japan's Dog Day. It can also be noted that "Inu" can mean dog in Japanese.
  • His star sign is Scorpio.
  • Inuoka is the second oldest of the Nekoma first-years; only two days younger than Lev.
  • Inuoka was the first to block Hinata's quick attack.
  • In Haikyuu's first popularity poll, Inuoka placed 32nd with 360 votes[6]. In the second, he dropped to 38th with 621 votes[7].
  • Inuoka's English voice actor also voices Wakatoshi Ushijima, Ren Ōmimi, and Masaki Gōra.
  • Nomenclature:
    • Sō (走) - Run
    • Inuoka (犬岡) - Dog Hill

References

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