Tenma Udai (Japanese:
During his time in high school, Udai appears to be around less than 170 cm in height and has messy curly black hair similar to Hinata. In Saeko's flashback, he is also seen with dark grey eyes.
Saeko Tanaka described him as a mischievous person and one of the "bad kids" whom she would've gotten along with; however, in the anime, she also claimed that he didn't stand out. When on the volleyball court, he radiated an intense aura of confidence and pride in being his team's ace whose teammates could rely on in games.
In the current day, he seems to be more relaxed and easy-going, possibly as a result of mellowing out in the past few years. He doesn't show a strong attachment to his past title of the "Little Giant", and freely admits that he wasn't as strong as he used to think he was, and that players such as Kōrai Hoshiumi are better than he ever was. While watching the game between Kamomedai and Karasuno, he mostly exhibits a light-hearted enjoyment of both sides' abilities without appearing too concerned about the outcome of the match.
Udai is an alumnus of Karasuno High School and its former Ace. According to Keishin Ukai, Karasuno was at its peak when Udai played for the team. Because Hinata was inspired to play volleyball after seeing the "Small Giant" play on TV, Udai is indirectly responsible for all the events of the story.
Initially, the Small Giant used to frequently get blocked, but halfway through his second year, his abilities started developing and he figured out a way to get through the blockers and hit the ball from above them every time they tossed to him.
There was one time in the past when he was not doing so well during a practice match. In the middle of the game, he was benched and went outside to the hallway to vent. Saeko Tanaka, who was watching the match, was standing near the lockers at that time. She observed as Udai kicked things around and banged his head against the lockers until he suddenly turned around and made eye contact with her. Saeko was taken aback by his intense expression and even now, remembers it vividly. She confessed it almost made her fall in love with him.
Tokyo Nationals Arc
Karasuno vs Kamomedai High
Udai is revealed to be the Small Giant when he attends the Spring Interhigh as a spectator after hearing about Karasuno making the quarter-finals. He manages to spot Akiteru from the crowd and accompanies the rest of the Karasuno alumni to the arena. Saeko introduces him to Hinata, who eagerly greets him and inquires about his current volleyball activities. However, Udai admits that he had stopped playing volleyball after he graduated high school due to other interests as well as not being invited to join a college team.
He was blocked constantly during his first year and didn't develop his set of unique skills until his second year at Karasuno. However, after he improved his abilities, he became peerless in mid-air battles. He has been said to have incredible jumping ability. Since he was no match for the blockers in height, he developed a play style using block-outs, where he intentionally aims for the small gaps of a block and the blocker's fingertips so that the ball would ricochet. That was how he conceived his battle against other blockers.
In the past, Ukai Ikkei gave the Small Giant additional training to help him develop other skills to make up for his lack of height. Karasuno had the best team in its history when the Small Giant was around.
- Udai (宇内) - Within the cosmo/sky.
- Tenma (天満) - Fulfilled heaven.
- "I also thought that I was strong." - To Akiteru Tsukishima, Volume 39 Chapter 343
- "Throughout all of middle school, high school, and at a prefectural level, I felt that I was fairly good. I had the self-awareness and self-confidence that I was the ace. But at the Nationals, the higher you go, the bigger, faster, smarter, your opponents become. It thought that to make up for my lack of height, I'd fight with technical ability. But whether you're big or small, those who spent time polishing their technical ability were the ones who had skills and the feeling where you meet someone bigger or stronger than you, and for the first time, you realize how small and how weak you are." - To Akiteru Tsukishima, Volume 39 Chapter 343
- "Understand your own weakness and take it in. Carefully, carefully hone all of the weapons you do have. That is the little giant." - To himself, Volume 41 Chapter 362