Remember how I said I wrote an essay breaking down Tendou's character? Well here it is
So let’s talk about Tendou Satori. When he was first introduced, he was automatically deemed as a villain. Although, as the season commenced, bits and pieces of his back story were unveiled, revealing as to why he could be seen as malicious. Many people still portray him as such, although, he’s far from it. Tendou Satori is broken. He’s been hurt all his life up until high school. Tendou Satori is broken, but he’s brave, he’s shattered but he’s strong. Tendou Satori is arguably the most complex, enigmatic character in the whole show, and it’s about time someone cracked the enigma.
When Tendou Satori was in elementary school, presumably when he was nine or ten, he was bullied. Before the scene begins, you get a little visual of young Tendou. The audience can already infer what kind of child he was. Naturally, he’s awkward. He’s gangly, has wide eyes and a tired face, a bowl cut, and undeniably looks a little bit like a horror movie child, but you can’t help but love him, because any sensible person knows what this child is going through, if your first thoughts of him were negative. Riddle me this, how do you expect a nine year old child to react to someone more powerful than him referring to him as a monster? How do you expect a mere child to handle years of torment, years of being cast out of doing something he loves because of who he is? He breaks. This torment was the first shatter in Tendou’s heart, and by far, the largest fracture. Of course, it isn’t implied, not much is implied besides the fact that he is bullied, but we can infer that Tendou took this bullying rough. You can expect tears, and tantrums and trauma. To many, being cast out and bullied away from a sport or hobby would overall make said person hate said activity, but Tendou didn’t quite give up. It isn’t shown, but somehow, Tendou got his way into playing a match against his bullies and presumably, he won. Can you imagine Tendou Satori, the nine year old boy who has been bullied for so long, finally feeling a sliver of power? He knows the pain these people have put him through. The tears, the deprecation. The nine year old boy who was learning to hate himself far before he should ever start feeling any insecurity. To finally, finally see the slightest bit of pain in the tormentor’s eyes was enough to make up for all the pain that dwelled in his. He was happy, of course, who wouldn’t be? In that moment he knew what these kids would do, only because he’s done it so many times himself. They would go home, upset. They’d drop their bookbags by the door then storm to their bedroom and cry. They’d cry out the frustration, the embarrassment, the welled up hate. For Tendou, imagining other people finally experiencing relative torment was better than any apology. This is the first turning point in Tendou’s personality, that Guess Block of his. Tendou got a feeling of pride after this, and of course, naturally, he was going to hold onto the only thing that made him feel powerful. The Guess Block. The wonderful, magnificent move that would bring him to power. Right?
As Tendou moved onto middle school, it is evident that he has been accepted, but only in the slightest. During his last year, it shows that he has styled his hair differently. Automatically, its remorseful. His demons haven’t abandoned him, and to be accepted, Tendou tried to fix the only part of him that could be easily fixed, his hair. Although, fixing his hair doesn’t bring him to acceptance. He keeps the Guess Block close to him, after five years he still uses it as his crutch, and people don’t like it. A woman, presumably his coach, yells at him for it. Tendou tries to argue that it’s helping them score points, but she disagrees. This doesn’t get Tendou down, though. The Guess Block is the only thing he takes pride in, and like hell anyone is going to take that away from him. As his coach yells at him, he smiles. To him, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this block, and because of it, the coach gets frustrated, and ends practice early. The episode then cuts to a scene of Tendou walking up to a storage closet. Inside, there are two other boys, his teammates, talking behind his back. The first thing they say is a blatant attack at his looks and personality. In that moment, you can see Tendou’s mood just drop. Unlike the Guess Block, there’s absolutely nothing about his body or mind that he can take pride in. That deep crack in his heart from when he was a kid shatters just a bit more. Now it wasn’t just complete strangers, bullies who he was trying to fit in with. These were his teammates, people he was supposed to get along with, work with, play with. Now that his own teammates were calling him that same taunting name ‘Monster’, Tendou feels more betrayed than before. The teammates continue, saying things such as how he doesn’t cooperate, and how practice “always ends early when Tendou’s around.” This was a jab at his Guess Block. Although his views of it didn’t change, you can see that later on, he was starting to get a bit insecure over the thing he loves most.
When Tendou applies for the Shiratorizawa volleyball team, his nerves are evident. After the whole incident in middle school, he had began to grow a bit wary of the Guess Block, although he’s still very confident. If he wasn’t confident, he wouldn't’ have put a suit and tie on, marched down to Washijou’s office and requested to be put on the team, but he did. He did because he was confident. During the meeting with Washijou, Tendou looks sullen talking about his Guess Block. For a moment, he expects an immediate rejection, although, when he’s greeted with acceptance, he’s shocked. There was a look in his eyes that scared me. In that very moment, dressed in uncharacteristic clothes and sweaty palms, his nervous gut roiling and walls that felt like they were going to close in on him, he felt free. This has probably been the first time in Tendou’s life that he had been accepted by someone outside of his family. He was not only being accepted for his Guess Block, but him. He was being accepted for Tendou Satori, the nine year old boy who couldn’t play volleyball because he looked like a monster, the fourteen year old boy who was stabbed in the back by his own teammates. He was being accepted for him. Can you imagine the wave of happiness that rushed over him? He hadn’t quit, he never gave up on this sport. Tendou Satori loves volleyball, and now, after fifteen years of never playing it with pure happiness, he finally will. Acceptance into Shiratorizawa was a giant plaster over all the wounds in his heart.
You can presume that Tendou continues his next three years of high school with happiness, although it’s evident his scars have yet to heal. Tendou is a beautiful person, he really is, despite his pent up persona of being a sadist. He wants nothing more than the happiness of other people. You can see this when he butts into Shirabu and Goshiki’s argument. He knows Shirabu is a confident, he should be, so his time praising him is limited. Goshiki, however, is somebody Tendou can read. Tendou sees himself in him, and although it’s subliminal, it speaks a lot. Tendou is fast to compliment not only Goshiki’s game technique, but his hair. Now, Goshiki has the same haircut as Tendou when he was a child, so naturally, it would tie to some bad memories. I think Tendou never really wanted to style his hair differently. If it were up to him, he would’ve kept it the same, he would’ve kept everything the same, really, but he had to change. He forced himself to change because he wanted to force his way into being accepted. Tendou doesn’t want Goshiki to end up in the same pit as he did. Tendou is going to be there to be the acceptance that Tendou never received. Other people on the team gently tease Goshiki for being so enthusiastic, but never once does Tendou put him down. If you look into Goshiki’s character he shows very positive signs when he’s being complimented, once even going as far as stating that he loves to have a fuss being made over him. Tendou never had that, so can you imagine the happiness he must feel seeing Goshiki feel proud over words he says? On this team, Tendou does feel a lot of acceptance. Him and Ushijima are good friends, amazing friends, at that, and thst can imply that Ushijima was Tendou’s first real friend. Despite the positive atmosphere Tendou is in, there’s one thing that still spikes his insecurity, his nickname. Although “Guess Monster” may seem badass, it isn’t to him. It enraged his everytime he hears it, although it isn’t shown. Its taking his rock, the Guess Block, and pairing it up with the very demise of his existence. It’s bittersweet. He likes to be recognized for the move he’s spent years perfecting, but when it’s tied to the very bane of his existence, it automatically becomes a negative term. Something inside Tendou is still very attached to that malicious child nostalgia. He becomes kind of a perfectionist. Although his Guess Block is either 0% or 120%, he always wants it to be at 120%. He feels as if it isn’t always perfect, isn’t always scoring points, he’s useless, even if it is one point. He was accepted on this team to score points, and if he can’t do that, he might as well be the awkward, nine year old boy standing on the side of the court, holding back tears while being called a monster. There are scenes in which Tendou says things that are familiar to me. I’ve been in situations like this where I try to play off my mistakes as a joke so people can look beyond them. The whole cry of, “I screwed up!” and trying to change the topic away from the move he guessed wrong are things I’ve done to mask my failures. I could tell you exactly what he’s feeling, embarrassment. It’s a cold sweat over his skin, his stomach tightens up and he hopes nobody, especially not his coach was paying attention. He wants people to forget he’s flawed, forget he can do any wrong. This cold sweat will keep breaking out until he redeems himself, until he’s back up at 120% again, and all images of deprecation subside.
After the final match with Karasuno ends, Tendou is seemingly calm, but he’s not. Tendou is a tempest, and enigma, somebody who’s built up so many walls to shelter his real emotions. He doesn’t want to be seen as vulnerable as he was back then. But he knows damn well the moment he gets home, he’ll break down into pieces. When Tendou says ‘Goodbye my paradise” this refers to many things. Firstly, it refers to the sport of volleyball itself. While stretching with Ushijima, Tendou tells the latter that he won’t be continuing volleyball after high school, and is going to leave that to Ushijima. In all honesty, the comment seems light hearted. This could be seen from the perspective that Tendou just doesn’t want to continue, that he doesn’t think he’ll be good enough for college, but that’s not it. Tendou Satori loves volleyball more than Ushijima, more than Hinata, more than Oikawa or Kageyama or anybody. To Tendou, volleyball is his entire life. The reason why Tendou has decided to drop volleyball is because he doesn’t want to dwell in that deep dark pit again. Shiratorizawa was Tendou’s safe haven, and inarguably the best three years of his life. Tendou doesn’t want to go back to vying to play volleyball or trying to be accepted all over again. He knows he won’t be as lucky with other teams as he was with Shiratorizawa. Tendou knows the moment he tries to get on other team, they’ll cast him out. Of course, he might have a title, people would definitely take him in, seeing that he was from the infamous Shiratorizawa boys volleyball team, but acceptance necessarily doesn’t mean acceptance. It would be like middle school all over again. The arguments with the coach, the hate behind his back. Tendou wants to leave volleyball with the wonderful experience he’s had at Shiratorizawa, and not another team that despises his very being. He wants to love volleyball for what he had, not what he tried to have. Volleyball at Shiratorizawa was his paradise, it was the place where he had first made friends, where he first was praised, where he first was able to play however he wanted, be whoever he wanted. “Farewell, my paradise” just shatters my heart. He’ll be going back into the real world, where people don’t accept him like people did at his school. The vacation is over for him. He’s bracing himself for the usual torments, the comments, the hate. Tendou, more than anyone, more than his pissed off coach, and sobbing Goshiki, despises this loss. That drop of the ball on his side of the court was the soft meding plaster that covered his wounds being ripped off fast and hard without warning. It stung.
Tendou Satori is an incredible character. He’s broken, beaten, bruised inside out, but until the very end, Tendou powers through it. Tendou Satori loves volleyball. He loves it through his pain, he loves it through his betrayal and begins to love it even more as his glory days arrive. Tendou, despite his portrayal as a sadistic, cold blooded villain, is soft. He’s human, he has more scars than anyone, and tries to mend these scars all he can. He’s absolutely incredible. He has a sadder story than everyone, even Tsukishima, Yamaguchi and Kageyama. He’s more powerful than everyone, even Hinata, Oikawa and Ushijima. He’s kinder than everyone, even Sugawara, Asahi and Akaashi. Tendou Satori is dirt caked and broken, but with polish, he’s ethereal.