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Bryson Baugus' Favorite Rival For Shoyo Hinata On Haikyuu!! Makes So Much Sense

"Haikyuu!!" remains one of the world's best-loved anime series, according to Reddit threads ranking the show. But it's not complete — and at this point, it's hard to know how producers plan to deal with the more than 100 chapters left of the popular manga that inspired the show. In August, the show's official Twitter account announced that "Haikyuu!! FINAL," a two-part film would be aired sometime next year, with a kick-off movie event taking place in August 2023. 

This title sounds ominous to fans, given how much more of the source is left and the lack of a current announcement regarding a fifth season — and also taking into account the pacing of previous "Haikyuu!!" seasons. The anime focusing on a high school volleyball team in Japan has been known to spread single games out over multiple half-hour episodes, so plays can be narrated in loving detail. In fact, Season 3's 10 episodes cover just one game: Karasuno High School vs. Shiratorizawa Academy. Of course, this pacing is perfect for a huge amount of characterization, one of the series' major strengths. But if there's really just one two-part movie left, that doesn't allow for much of what people love most about this anime. 

And given the attention to characterization, main characters like short, redheaded Shoyo Hinata have developed complicated rivalries, friendships, and grudges as they've competed against other teams. The actor who dubs the voice of Hinata into English is as opinionated as any fan about who his favorite rival is for the character he portrays. 

Actor Bryson Baugus' choice for favorite Hinata rival is a Nekoma player

Back in 2017, Sentai Filmworks released the first parts of the English-dubbed version of "Haikyuu!!," introducing its actors at the AnimeNYC convention that year. In an interview with The Geekiary, actor Bryson Baugus discussed the challenges as well as the excitement involved in dubbing such a well-liked character as Hinata. Baugus said he knew going in that the show had a big fan base, so in his portrayal of the teen with the quick spike that helps revitalize Karasuna's team he aimed "to match the energy and intent of what I see happening in the animation," he said. 

Baugus said he is a fan of the types of rivalries that involves people who are also really good friends. That makes one of the first rivals introduced for Hinata his favorite: So Inuoka, Nekoma's No. 7. While Baugus mistakenly described the character as a "spiky, gray-haired kid," he's clearly talking about the tall, brown-haired boy on the Nekoma High school team (as compared to Lev Haiba, the gray-haired guy who later took the focus off Inuoka). 

"Because they're constantly going at each other. He's trying to outrun his block, but then the blocker's trying to catch up to him with his fast reflexes, and after that game, they're not mad at each other," Baugus explained. "They're just like, 'Whoa, you're so cool, dude, that was so awesome.' And I just love those types of rivalries, where they challenge each other but they're super cool about it."

Nekoma and its players remain a fan favorite

This battle between Hinata and Inuoka is one of the earlier ones in the series. It plays out during four episodes (10-13) in the first season as Karasuna plays a practice match against Nekoma. Hinata first connects with Inoka in the 11th episode as the two are facing each other across the net. "Wow, you're so tiny," Inuoka blurts, leading a sensitive Hinata to retort, "Don't underestimate me." With seeming good humor, Inuoka replies that he's not underestimating him at all. Kageyama and Hinata's quick attack soon takes the other team by surprise.

Inuoka is able to adjust to Karasuna's play and starts blocking Hinata's quick attacks. This actually leads to some emotional and skills development for the first-year player, who tells Kageyama that he is no longer afraid of being blocked— instead, he's excited by the prospect of breaking through the wall Inuoka has created. And though he fails many times, Hinata starts to learn to hit his quick attacks with intention, turning his natural instincts and ability into a more calculated, effective strategy. Inuoka is very complimentary of Hinata throughout; and at the end of the game, the two adorably bounce around giving one another compliments. 

As Nekoma's coach Nekomata-san points out in the 13th episode, the two teams complement each other because they push each other to new heights. And Karasuno and Nekoma are each at the beginning of their journeys to dominate the high school volleyball scene. The wholesome connections made during these first season episodes (between all the players, not just Hinata and Inuoka) explain why Nekoma remains a favorite of "Haikyuu!!" fans, too.