Ushijima Wakatoshi may be an antagonist, but he is not a malicious person
@shiratorizawa-headcanons’ recent post reignited the fervour and indignation I feel about popular fanon mischaracterisations of Ushijima, so here we go.
First thing’s first. Ushijima is an antagonist. That much is clear. He is clearly intended to provide opposition to the main characters of the series, pushing them to grow. Their goal has to be accomplished through defeating him.
However, antagonist is not synonymous with evil, or “bad person”. L from Death Note is the antagonist to Light Yagami, but I’m sure everyone knows who poses more of a danger to society between the pair of them.
More importantly, I feel the need to clarify and debunk popular fanon interpretations of Ushijima.
“You should have gone to Shiratorizawa” is a joke that probably everyone who watches Haikyuu!! knows. It’s gone from a slightly funny meme to a stale, overused, tasteless joke. While I do not condemn the use of it as a joke, it has affected the way people view Ushijima’s character.
And is it really accurate or relevant? Name one instance where Ushijima has actually physically said the words “You should have gone to Shiratorizawa.” to Oikawa. When? Yes, he has said that “He should have gone to Shiratorizawa”. To Hinata and Kageyama. And his reason? A powerhouse team like Shiratorizawa that actually makes it to nationals and has a chance of winning would be more beneficial to a setter of Oikawa’s calibre. There is nowhere in canon where he has stalked, harassed and haggled Oikawa, begging or forcing him to go to Shiratorizawa. All that is baseless fanon bullshit. There’s literally no canon evidence suggesting that Ushijima even thinks about Oikawa outside of volleyball competitions.
I’ll admit that Ushijima did tell Oikawa, “You chose the wrong path.” and that did cross the line. That does not, however, automatically make him a creepy, overbearing, obsessive stalker. People are allowed to interpret fiction differently (as a literature student I’m more than aware of that). But Ushijima’s words were an act of concern, rather than coercion or violence.
What people need to understand is that Ushijima, while a talented player, is terrible at predicting and understanding the effects his words and actions might have on people. He is a blunt, straightforward and honest person who says what is on his mind. The reason he feels that Oikawa should have gone to Shiratorizawa is because he respects Oikawa’s abilities as a player and sees Oikawa’s potential. His way of showing it might be odd, but it is precisely because he respects Oikawa as an opponent that he questions Oikawa’s choice. To Ushijima, being at Shiratorizawa would allow for Oikawa to fulfil more of his potential (of course, the validity of that belief is questionable considering the treatment of Semi Eita, but that is another argument to consider) He honestly just wanted to warn Oikawa not to “make the same mistake” again without realising that he was basically rubbing salt on Oikawa’s wound + being offensive by telling Oikawa that the decision he’s based the past three years of his life around is wrong, because he genuinely wants to see Oikawa fulfil his potential as a player.
Ushijima’s intentions are not malicious. He respects his opponents despite his thoughts on their abilities (or lack thereof), and when he realises that he’s offended someone he’s quick to apologise (i.e. when Hinata questioned Ushijima calling Seijoh “infertile soil”. Ushijima sweated nervously and apologised for causing offence.) Even Oikawa and Iwaizumi, the two characters who dislike Ushijima the most, acknowledge that “he’s genuinely being sincere” when Ushijima wishes them good luck in their final high school tournament.
Ushijima isn’t the type to deliberately rile up his opponents. He doesn’t look down on them either. Up until Hinata’s appearance in his life, he’s competed against no one but himself mentally. And when Ushijima questions Hinata on being an unskilled and short player? He’s not insulting Hinata for that either! His first impression of Hinata gave him high expectations - a challenge he looked forward to facing, and when he realised Hinata’s abilities were much lower than what he expected, he was genuinely curious, because Hinata had spoken so boldly (about beating HIM, a top 3 ace, and going to nationals) before!
Ushijima states that “baseless self-confidence is something I dislike”, so he certainly does not exhibit that himself. He obviously doesn’t expect someone he acknowledges (Hinata, in case I’m not being clear here) to be arrogant, because in his eyes, an opponent he acknowledges and respects should have a “good” attitude just like his. He does not dislike Hinata himself, but is nonetheless infuriated by Hinata’s “arrogance”, because Ushijima works hard. Yes. Here’s the thing. Contrary to popular belief, Ushijima did not get his accomplishments handed to him on a silver platter. He works hard to become a strong volleyball player. Shiratorizawa’s image of him is “The Super Volleyball Maniac”. He wasn’t just naturally good at it. He spent time and effort practising and improving his skills, just like all the other hardworking characters (Oikawa Tooru) you worship.
Remember that Ushijima does not have the luxury of viewing the events of the manga (or anime) from an outsider’s perspective. He does not know of Hinata Shouyou and his struggles. All Ushijima knows about Hinata is that 1) The boy showed him up at Shiratorizawa and proclaimed that Karasuno would defeat Shiratorizawa and go to nationals and 2) Hinata Shouyou does not exhibit the skills necessarily to back up that statement. Ushijima literally has no idea that Hinata had no proper volleyball team or training up until last year, so it’s entirely within his rights to be annoyed that someone with such crappy skills (which Ushijima would attribute to slacking off/not working hard enough) would claim that winning against Shiratorizawa was so easy. He could’ve been nicer about it, but hey, he wasn’t that hostile to Hinata off the court, as you can see with the training camp arc. At the end of the match he acknowledged Hinata’s abilities as a player. Then in the manga, he (and Tendou) was shocked that his coach did not see Hinata as a worthy player to invite to the Miyagi First Year Training Camp, and he encouraged Hinata to keep working hard, “What are you doing standing there?”
Obviously, people are allowed to dislike characters, and Ushijima has done/said things to grate on people’s nerves (as a Seijoh stan and Iwaizumi lover, his “infertile soil” comments do irk me at times). Nonetheless, your personal feelings towards him do not indicate that he is as bad person (especially not a stalker or a rapist, gosh) canonically.